Monday, December 17, 2012

Peuramaa vs. Chamonix

Evening in Argentiere, Chamonix

This is the burning question everyone has. Should you spend your ski vacation in Peuramaa or Chamonix? The Planetskier is here to answer this difficult question once and for all, as I was fortunate enough to ski in both places when they opened last week.

Peuramaa by night

Peuramaa is probably the best local ski hill near Helsinki. Even if small, it has the playground to do all kinds of fun things. I was in Peuramaa with my friends on independence day, a day after the ski area had opened. And Chamonix, of course, is the legendary mountain destination. I dropped by for the opening weekend...

Sunset in Chamonix


Meat doughnuts (lihapiirakka)
I'm hungry. Lets start the evaluation from food.

Peuramaa has a cafeteria with an ample selection of meat doughnuts (lihapiirakka). This is a traditional Finnish food item, a common item any teenager diet. It is a pie filled with minced chicken skin, bone dust, and other substances that help keep Finnish food at its low price level.

In Chamonix, I chose to sample food at the "Le Rider Café", located in the middle station of the famous Grands Montets ski area. As I entered the restaurant, my attention was drawn to the sides that they were offering in addition to the ten or so main courses. There was a good salad table. A selection of Italian meats. A dozen different desserts. And wine. Of course there is wine!

Meats and wines

Salad bar

Desserts a la Chamonix

And this is not the only restaurant in Chamonix, there are many excellent places. I also dropped by Café Resteaurant La Ferme in Les Houches. (But they were closed.)

In the evening I ate at the Le Caveau. This is another nice restaurant, recommended. Their kitchen is open later than in most other restaurants, so if you ended up working on your computer in the evening like I did, Le Caveau may still be able to serve your portion of frog legs. Tastes like chicken!

So nice food in France. Things are looking pretty dark for Peuramaa. But wait -  that is not all. Le Rider Café sells Coke products, whereas Peuramaa offers Pepsi Max, my favorite drink. Hmm. This may change the situation. But more importantly, I had spent the morning climbing up 350 meters from the highest open lift, and, exceptionally, I ordered a steak to replace the lost calories. After a lengthy conversation with the cook, I got my plate. The steak was practically raw. And cold. I guess I need to learn French to make more accurate orders. So far the only words that I know are "Piste Ferme", which seem to indicate a good ski slope.

Winner: Peuramaa. Meat doughnuts have never been served cold in Finland. And you can order in Finnish or English. Eller på Svenska.

Argentiere, Chamonix


Chamonix has numerous bars to entertain you. Peuramaa has... a dark, snowy field. With no people. If you drive out of the ski area, you can find some bars and restaurants. We wanted to drop by the nice looking restaurant 30 kilometers away, Haikaranpesä. But of course they close in the winter by 4pm. So no after-ski.


Winner: Chamonix

The Skiing

I guess that was all, or am I forgetting something?

Maybe I should mention the skiing. It is great in both destinations.

Steeps at Peuramaa

These ski runs are closed. For a good reason.

The slopes in Peuramaa are a bit dull in my opinion, particularly if they have opened only one of them. Fortunately there is plenty of playground in the areas next to the slopes. This time I enjoyed skiing through the trees next to the children's slope, descending the cliffs at the top of the same slope, and skiing through wild chervil fields on one of the closed ski runs. This was a lot of fun, as long as you remember to clean your bindings from all the grass at the end of the runs.

Beginner slope in Peuramaa

More beginner slope fun

The three days that I spent in Chamonix were equally inspiring. The crowds had not yet arrived, and it had been snowing the entire week before the opening day. So I spent most of my time skiing powder fields in Argentiere, under sunny skies. On the first day I had to rent skis, avalanche probes, and shovels, as the airline has lost my ski bag. There was half a meter of powder in the slopes, but I was not having fun.  Skiing was difficult, energy-consuming, and I kept falling down. A problem with the snow, equipment, or (gasp!) skills? I suspected the latter, but the next day when I got my own skis I noticed a world of difference. The rental skis were very similar to my own, but a bit shorter. This was enough to make me sink in the snow. With my own skis, I was able to surf on the top of the snow effortlessly.

A view from Grands Montets, Argentiere, Chamonix

Powdery descent from my off-piste tour

More powdery descents

On the third day the visibility was poor, so I opted to go skiing in Les Houches. This area is usually for beginners, except that when it is snowing it is also the best place to ski powder. The lower altitude and forests make it possible to see something, and get some protection for the harshest mountain elements.

Les Houches


Remember the after-ski opportunities in Peuramaa? The accommodation options in are either the same, cold field or a barn with horses. Whereas in Chamonix, there are nice hotels such as Hotel du Clocher, an inexpensive (60€) accommodation right in the middle of Chamonix. And with very friendly staff.

Hotel Du Clocher

Church, Chamonix

Winner: Chamonix.


Despite the lack of meat doughnuts and other issues in the food side, I have to declare Chamonix as an overall winner in the this contest. It has better skiing, duh! Peuramaa's 55 meters of vertical vs. 3000 meters in Chamonix. But if you want lihapiirakka, go to Peuramaa!

Random Fact of the Day

When researching for this article, I noticed that Wikipedia has a piece about accident likelihood in skiing:
"In alpine skiing, for every 1000 people skiing in a day, on average between two and four will require medical attention. Knee injuries account for 33 percent of injuries. Most accidents are the result of user error leading to an isolated fall."
That is a large number! Lets say three persons require medical attention per day, i.e., 0.3%. On my typical ski year, I'm on the slopes for forty days. (I'm ignoring the fact that many of these days are just evenings or other short visits.) If I calculate the likelihood of having had an accident in the last five years, it comes out to 45%. I guess I'm closing in on the likely accident at 50%... But I am actually a bit surprised that I've never had a major problem. Of course, I'm a very safe skier. Yeah right.

Issuet on remontissa. Mee takas ylös!


Enjoying the snow in the Les Houches chair lift

Photo and video credits (c) 2012 by Jari Arkko and Tero Kivinen

1 comment:

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