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Canadian Rockies vs Swiss Alps

Montreal, Quebec...
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Canadian Rockies vs Swiss Alps

I've seen discussions comparing the 2 on the web, but there's a crucial question I did not see addressed yet: Price! How do costs compare? For the Canadian Rockies, I have no doubt you get around by rental car; in Switzerland, more likely by a railway pass; both forms of transportation are maybe similar in cost, but it's preferable to have the train conductor do the driving than myself. So folks, can someone please tell me what you think: food, budget accomodation, sightseeing costs (price of lifts, etc), and overall costs... how would you compare the two. (Let's not count airfare to get there - depends where someone is flying in from).

Back to the main comparison, I'm arriving at the following summary based on discussions I've read: (1) If you love untouched nature, choose the Rockies, but if you want fairy-tale villages set against mountains and pastoral settings, choose Swiss Alps. Also, no bears to worry about when hiking in Swiss Alps, unlike the Rockies (2)If you want user-friendly transportation system, and a backup plan in case of bad weather, choose Swiss Alps (there are ancient villages close at hand to explore in case of bad weather, whereas in the Rockies, you'd be stuck, outside of shopping in Banff). (3) For sheer drop-your-jaw stunning beauty, the Swiss Alps are ultimately the winner.

What do you think? You see, I am trying to choose between the two...

Calgary, Canada
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1. Re: Canadian Rockies vs Swiss Alps

Are you planning a ski trip or a summer holiday?

Also, I think there's jaw-dropping beauty in the Rockies too.

Jasper, Canada
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2. Re: Canadian Rockies vs Swiss Alps

I can't say about the Swiss Alps specifically, because I have never hiked there, but I have hiked in the Bavarian and Tyrolean Alps so I offer my comments based on that.

I am not sure I agree with your point #3 - I think both are spectacularly beautiful. I have been living in the Canadian Rockies for close to 35 years, and am accustomed to mountain hiking in pristine wilderness but what I found so interesting in the European Alps is how even though there are man-made "disturbances" on the landscape, it is still very, very beautiful. In fact, I find it fascinating that over the past few thousand years, people found a way to make a living in mountains that are every bit as rugged as the ones here in Canada.... there are towns and villages up high in the Alps that have a long, long history of settlement. However, in some locations, it was easy to see how human activities had also created some problems, such as steep, deforested slopes creating avalanche hazard that threatens villages and requires roads to be protected with snowsheds (thinking of the area near Vent, Austria, specifically but I'm sure there are others too).

Hiking in the Alps is not without its four-footed dangers... we had to abandon a hike and backtrack once because the trail took us through a field that was occupied by a bull that did not appear to be happy to see us.

There are many more choices in accommodations in the European Alps, including lots and lots at lower prices ranges, and as mentioned, with trains to get around, these two factors can make visiting there less expensive than the Canadian Rockies. However, it is much busier there too, so if you want solitude on your hikes, it's harder to find.

Toronto, Canada
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3. Re: Canadian Rockies vs Swiss Alps

Great discussion question!

Hull
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4. Re: Canadian Rockies vs Swiss Alps

whoa there tdsuperstar!

Like krp (~~) I haven't toured or hiked the Swiss Alps, majoring on the Austrian ones (and incidentally just back from the French variety), but it is IMO, a dramatic leap of confidence to assert that Switzerland has more jaw- dropping scenery than the Rockies. We need to know what drops *your* jaw?

As krp again being bang on the money says, the European scenery is 'prettier' in that the valleys and hillsides are peppered with very cute 'chocolate box' homes, not so in Ab. However, my limited travels using the Swiss Franc when I passed through after arriving at Zurich, and a return intentionally through the NW corner of said Alps, lead me to the definite conclusion that the real difference (and one on which, for me the Rockies is a clear winner) is the sheer scale of them. I often remark that whereas in Europe, the valleys are 30 miles long, in the Rockies, they are 30 miles *wide*.

Again, in my limited experience, 'urban' Switzerland has a plethora of deeply uninspiring concrete buildings (HRH Prince Charles would call them 'carbuncles').

As to mobility, you would find that, apart from the railways which go up and down certain mountains (and they are dramatic), tracks are concentrated in the valleys. You'd need a car IMO- definitely to access the dramatic scenery. This would allow you to broaden your trip into Austria/Germany, if time/inclination allows. Note you need a motorway toll sticker in Austria (cE10 for 5 days).

krp - you are well travelled! I did the 'walk' down from the Oertztal glacier to Vent a few years ago and one tiny stream crossing scared the living daylights out of me! I checked the map later and found the almost sheer drop to be over 2,000ft (700m)... We'd bought hiking poles the previous day...

Oh and I could never find Groestl in the Rockies.

Calgary, Canada
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5. Re: Canadian Rockies vs Swiss Alps

@ATSF: The OP is John K, not tdsuperstar :)

Hull
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6. Re: Canadian Rockies vs Swiss Alps

Eeeek! Apologies all round. I'm obviously a bit rusty.

Thanks C_W.

Calgary, Canada
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7. Re: Canadian Rockies vs Swiss Alps

"... For sheer drop-your-jaw stunning beauty, the Swiss Alps are ultimately the winner..."

================================

I would agree for two reasons...

The Rockies sit on a massive plateau that's already pretty high, the Alps rise out of elevations that are much lower so to the eye their vertical exposure is much higher than a typical mountain in the Rockies.

Also, you have the option to quickly/safely reach countless great vistas in the Alps via train and cable car much more easily than in the Rockies simply because the Swiss tourist infrastructure is so much more developed.

That said, I'd take the Rockies any day simply because it's so easy to get away from the tourist hordes. The Alps can be like Disneyland.

Cheers,

Terry

Montreal, Quebec...
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8. Re: Canadian Rockies vs Swiss Alps

Thanks much for all your replies. One of you suggested that Swiss Alps could be cheaper than the Rockies, because there are lots more options, but on another forum (fodor's), someone said that Switzerland is VERY expensive compared to Canada. I've seen tons of pictures, no doubt both are gorgeous, but if Canada (and neighboring US Rockies) would be much cheaper, than that will be a deciding factor. I know in Canada (and US), I would rent a car, sleep in a tent or cheap motel an hour or more outside the most expensive tourist areas, and eat supermarket food. Is there an option to do Swiss Alps and neighboring European countries on the cheap? How readilly-available are hostels, b&b's, etc, that is, sleeping for about $30 Canadian per night? Also, aren't those Europe rail passes pretty expensive? Someone suggested car rental in Europe... is this similarly-priced to car rental in Canada/US?

Again, thanks to all who replied.

Edited: 16 April 2013, 01:04
Calgary, Canada
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9. Re: Canadian Rockies vs Swiss Alps

"... How readily-available are hostels, b&b's, etc, that is, sleeping for about $30 Canadian per night? Also, aren't those Europe rail passes pretty expensive? Someone suggested car rental in Europe... is this similarly-priced to car rental in Canada/US?..."

=================================

You can easily Google all those answers, or post on the Swiss Alps forum.

tripadvisor.ca/ShowForum-g188077-i652-Swiss_…

Cheers,

Terry

Jasper, Canada
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10. Re: Canadian Rockies vs Swiss Alps

John, you don't necessarily need a rail pass to travel in Europe - point to point tickets are often cheaper, especially if you are not travelling long distances. There is a "Train Travel" forum where you can ask specifically about rail passes (or browse through past posts on the subject - there are lots), but my understanding is that rail passes only save you money if you are going to do a lot of longer train trips within a short time period.

I am not "up" on hostel accommodations in Switzerland or nearby countries (which is what I would expect for $30 per night) - and hostels might even cost a bit more... here, I believe they are about $32 per night now, plus tax. We stayed in small hotels/guest houses in several villages and towns in Germany and Austria for around 50 to 60 Euros per night, and could have stayed cheaper than that (as in 30 to 40 Euros) had we been willing to forego an ensuite bathroom. (This was September 2007, by the way. I'm not sure how much rates have changed in the meantime there; here in the Rockies, they've been pretty static over the past several years.) Those rates included breakfast too. I can't say whether they are comparable to Switzerland (but google will). It's also worth noting that these were not the cheapest options in those areas (we are middle-aged and wanting comfort!) ... when we arrived in each town on the train, we went to the tourist office, and they would help us find our accommodation. I don't know if Switzerland uses the same type of system, but the visitor centres where we were each had a database of local accommodations, and would take the dates and desired price range and then print out a list of suitable accommodation, and even make the phone calls for us. (Amazing service!) That type of system does not exist here, or at least not in Jasper - the Tourism Jasper visitor centre staff are required to promote the accommodations which pay into the marketing consortium, which excludes the budget accommodations (hostels, and private home accommodations); unless you specifically ask about those, you will not be given any information at all about them.

Some of that trip was done using self-catering accommodation. We shopped in supermarkets and markets for foods for our hiking lunches, and some of the guest houses where we stayed had units with kitchen facilities, so we cooked a few of our evening meals along the way. (We get really tired of eating in restaurants, nor can we afford it on longer trips - that one was a month long.)

In the Canadian Rockies, you will not find many (any?) options for cheap motels an hour away from the tourist areas (assuming your definition of "cheap" is under $100 per night). Yes, there are some hotels or motels that cost a bit less than the ones in Banff and Jasper (but do consider driving time and fuel cost when comparing), but both Banff and Jasper have budget-friendly accommodation too... hostels, camping, and in Jasper, you can get a PHA (private home accommodation) room for as little as $55 or $60 for two people per night in high season (that's actually cheaper than a hostel stay for two people), and probably $40 per night in low season.

But as Terry said, to do some direct comparisons on costs between the Canadian Rockies and the Swiss Alps, you'll have to do some googling to get specifics.

ATSF, were you up in the area where "Oetzi" was found? I had hoped to hike up there, but we were only in Vent for the day (we stayed several days in Soelden and took a bus to Vent) and so, with limited time, we hiked a trail up the slopes above the town. BTW, we made a point of including Vent on that trip on the recommendation of one of the DEs in Banff, who had been there on holiday.