Backpacking across Europe has become every young travellers dream. We all know someone who is dying to pack their things and galavant across this beautiful continent. You find yourself pining over photos of your friends cruising the blue seas of Greece, or soaking up the glorious Italian sun on the coast. You could spend hours flicking through photo after photo of Europe destinations and before you know it, you’re looking at trips to go visit these amazing places. With so much on offer, it’s completely normal to feel a little overwhelmed about how to plan a trip. Everyone encourages you to go over during the summer and boasts about all it has to offer. With companies like ‘Contiki’ and ‘Tourradar’ promising convenient travel with your trip all laid out in front of you, it can be hard to do otherwise. But what if I told you that a trip to Europe in winter planned completely by yourself can save you thousands and has so much more to offer than everyone thinks. By booking your holiday for the winter, not only will you avoid all the crowds, but generally save a LOT of money as the prices rise up for tourist season in the summer.
Booking your very own winter wonderland
At first when I was booking my one way ticket to Germany in December, I was a little hesitant about the weather conditions. Especially being from Australia where the average temperature for winter is a measly 15 degrees, compared to Germany’s winter average of about 3 degrees. I could barely brave the cold that lies in Sydney, let alone Europe. Regardless of the weather, I booked my ticket and I went. First stop – Frankfurt, Germany. My first step into germany was at approximately 7am and I must admit, I was absolutely freezing. The cold was even worse than I had first imagined. Fast forward a couple weeks and I had adjusted to the cold pretty well. Locals would be walking around in snow jackets and coats, and I was surprisingly warm enough with a hoodie, beanie and scarf. You will adjust to the cold I promise. My current destination and definitely a favourite, is the beautiful Switzerland – in particular, Nendaz.
Nothing Short of Heaven
The green fields, the snow covered mountains, the blue lakes. These are probably the first things that come to mind when you think of Switzerland. Unless of course you’re a food addict like me, because then cheese and chocolate would be the first thing to come to mind. Forget the picturesque green and blue for a moment, and focus on something else. The White. The layer of glistening white for as long as the eye can see, Mountains that seem to melt into the clouds, and the freshest most pure air you’ve ever inhaled. Switzerland for winter is an absolute dream.
Unless you’ve been fortunate enough to experience the serenity of the Swiss alps first hand, there is just no words at all in the English language (probably any language but I’m not talented enough to speak more than one) that can quite explain the feeling it gives you when you’re standing among it. If you’re lucky enough, and you get a day of clear blue skies, standing on top of the mountain and looking out for miles around, there is a magical feeling you get. It is an inner calm. It’s the feeling of being on top of the world, both metaphorically and literally. The silence is deafening.
If you ever find yourself in this position, I strongly beg of you to stand there and take the view in for as long as you can. I promise you won’t bore of it.
Shredding the Slopes
If you find yourself in Switzerland during the winter, the biggest mistake you can make is NOT hiring a snowboard. Yes, the view is amazing from the bottom, but you miss out on a good 80% of the scenery if you don’t board down the trails. Boarding down the trails allows you to get up close and personal with some of the most breathtaking parts of the alps. You’ll find yourself in the middle of what feels like nothingness, with the frosty trees surrounding you and the sun beating down across the valley if you’re lucky. And if you’re a fellow Australian who has been to Perisher Valley like myself, you’ll be prepared for lots of crowds and people all around. I was absolutely stunned to find how quiet, and at times secluded these trails in Nendaz really are! There are far less people and if you’re there on a good day, sometimes you get the trails completely to yourself. A good little tip in regards to lift passes – don’t fork out the extra money for a 4 Valleys Pass unless you have a car to get yourself around, or are willing to pay the expensive bus fares around to other valleys. The maps of trails are quite deceiving when it comes to size. The cheaper ‘Piste’ pass allows you to visit a smaller portion of the 4 valleys, though on the map it looks smaller than the entire area of Perisher! In matter of fact, the entire Piste area is MUCH larger than the whole of Perisher. The Piste pass is cheaper and unless you’re going for at least a week, it’s probably not worth it. The Piste pass allows you to ride more trails and lifts than you can even keep up with. I forked out the extra for the 4 Valleys pass in case I decided to go to other towns, but I didn’t even have a chance to do all of the Piste area in my 4 days there. If you’re still insistent on getting a 4 valleys pass, please also keep in mind that the weather there is COMPLETELY UNPREDICTABLE. On my third day of boarding, I was planning on making my way to the infamous Mont Fort which isn’t a part of the Piste area so I didn’t feel like I wasted my money quite as much. Just my luck -the third day had all the trails closed apart from three due to bad weather. Between the trails at Nendaz and Siviez, there is plenty of boarding to do! Also – passes include free shuttle to Siviez (score!) and back and each way is a half hour bus ride so keep that in mind when planning the day as lifts begin closing around 4, 4.30. To help make a decision, go to http://m.nendaz.ch/tourism/lift-passes-rates-2015-2016-796.html
I am definitely not denying that Switzerland is a beautiful country all year round and the summer definitely has it perks, especially when dealing with air sports like paragliding and sky diving. Though I strongly encourage you all to do a winter trip to Nendaz, Switzerland to get a real feel for the beauty this great mountain range has to offer.