A new trail at Steamboat Ski Area will serve as a venue for Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Alpine ski racers. Organizers hope the dedicated space and specialized snow surface can be a boost for the club's Alpine program. The club is hoping to raise a total of $2.35 million for the project. The new trail is shown in the rendering, all the way to the right side and lit by lights.

Courtesy photo

A new trail at Steamboat Ski Area will serve as a venue for Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Alpine ski racers. Organizers hope the dedicated space and specialized snow surface can be a boost for the club's Alpine program. The club is hoping to raise a total of $2.35 million for the project. The new trail is shown in the rendering, all the way to the right side and lit by lights.

Steamboat Ski Area, Winter Sports Club to build race venue

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— It’s an ambitious plan that will change the face of Mount Werner and, organizers hope, the fortunes of Steamboat Springs Alpine ski racers.

A partnership between the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club and Steamboat Ski Area will result in a new Alpine skiing training venue cut into the lower slopes of Mount Werner, just to skier’s left of the current See Me ski trail.

Construction on the project is expected to begin in spring 2015.

“This is one of the most ambitious undertakings the club has ever embarked on,” Winter Sports Club Executive Director Jim Boyne said about the project after finalizing a contract with the ski area.

About half of the $2.35 million the club is hoping to raise for the project already has been committed.

The end result will be a venue fitted to slalom and giant slalom training and racing, tucked in between See Me and the rarely used Christie III chairlift.

The changes to the area will be extensive and begin at the top of Christie Peak, where a starting hut has signaled the beginning of a race course for years.

Trees and brush will be cleared on the top, opening the way for a trail that will run down and meet up with what is now the See Ya trail, to skier’s left of See Me. The two trails currently are separated by a row of lights and snowmaking equipment. Those will be moved a short distance into See Me to widen the lane on one side. More foliage then will be cleared to widen it on the other side.

Lights and new snowmaking equipment will line both sides of the new trail, which will be closed to the public.

Ecosign, a Whistler, British Columbia-based firm, was hired to design the run, and it will be regraded to create an ideal race course and training ground.

Sitz and See Me long have been a race and training venue for Winter Sports Club athletes, but that training usually has been required to be wrapped up by 2 p.m. as runs served as a thoroughfare for skiers and snowboarders coming down after a day on the mountain.

The area always was considered an ideal spot for a slalom run by Loris Werner. Now it can be, ski area Vice President of Mountain Operations Doug Allen said.

“It was his dream of a slalom run,” Allen said. “When he had my position years ago, that was his vision for it, and we’re going to improve upon that greatly.”

A conversation about the potential trail has been ongoing for several years, but it only got serious about a year ago. It was one of the first things on Boyne’s plate when he joined the program last summer.

Several other locations were considered, but none offered the right set of lights, snowmaking and lift access that made the final option so appealing.

The Winter Sports Club then set about raising funds.

Caroline Lalive Carmichael, a Steamboat Springs Olympian in Alpine skiing, joined that effort. She became even more intertwined with the plans when she took over as the club’s Alpine director for Deb Armstrong, who was another a major player in pushing the plans to this point.

The biggest initial hurdle was convincing donors why the project was important.

The answer to that question starts not just with the dirt work that will make it a good, versatile giant slalom and slalom venue, or in the lighting that will allow racers to train into the evenings.

It starts on the snow itself. It will be heavier, wetter and harder than what skiers will find elsewhere on the mountain.

“A lot of people draw the analogy between a turf field and a normal field,” Lalive Carmichael said. “The surface the kids are racing on has a higher moisture content, and that will make for a much firmer snow surface.”

It hasn’t been possible to build or sustain such a surface in Steamboat as all of the places Winter Sports Club athletes train — at the ski area and at Howelsen Hill — also are used by the general public.

“No one wants to ski on an icy, really hard slope,” Lalive Carmichael said.

No one except ski racers.

Any Steamboat Springs marketing whiz can tell you snow isn’t always snow. Turns out, racing snow isn’t Champagne powder, and the fluffy stuff long has been a handicap for local racers who train in Steamboat, then travel to race on a style of snow that’s entirely foreign.

“There was a season I needed to do some training and I couldn’t come back here,” Lalive Carmichael said, recalling her days on the World Cup circuit. “I had to go train elsewhere, but this is my home. It’s a shame not to be able to come home to train.”

Lalive Carmichael was the last Steamboat Springs-based Alpine skier to compete in an Olympics, in 2002. There’s currently just one Steamboat skier on the U.S. Ski Team in Alpine.

A new venue, complete with a new snow surface, could begin to change that.

Allen was optimistic that the course could serve as a training venue for other teams, even other nations. Boyne and Lalive Carmichael said they hope it can provide a jolt to an Alpine program that’s produced plenty of quality skiers in recent years, but one that’s struggled to produce athletes ready for the sport’s elite level.

“It will continue to attract more and more people who are going to move their families somewhere for a strong program, like my family did,” Lalive Carmichael said. “We want to make sure we are in that top echelon of programs and are able to provide with this opportunity.”

The plan won’t be to abandon Howelsen Hill. Not in the slightest, Boyne said. Rather, it will free up much-needed elbow room there for the Alpine program as well as the Alpine snowboarding and Telemark teams.

If all goes as planned, with construction starting in the spring, the course could be ready to race by the 2015-16 winter season.

“In terms of the scope of the project and in terms of the fundraising, it’s fitting as we enter the next 100 years,” Boyne said. “We’re moving in with a vengeance. This is a huge project.”

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9

Comments

Kieran O'Halloran 1 month ago

I noticed last season the cat track under the Christie Lifts (Yoo Hoo) was not even being shown anymore as a run. Was it on ski area maps two seasons ago?

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rhys jones 1 month ago

Once I was a gatekeeper at a womens' FIS race at Howelsen; the whole world was there...

I was talking to a French coach, who said the face of Howelsen was the best slalom and GS course in the country -- that there was a good one at Waterville, NH, but Howelsen is the best.

I see Winter Sports Club jaclets pushing their way around Thunderhead all winter, like they own the place, a gang -- bunch of spoiled rich entitled snots, if you ask me -- and I think, Get outta here -- you've got your own hill -- go use it!!

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Dan Shores 1 month ago

This will be a really great addition to the mountain. Racing is a very important part of our sport, so congrats to Winter Sports Club and all who were involved in contributing to this valuable asset.

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rhys jones 1 month ago

Yeah, I'm just a bitter old curmedgeon. Just don't mess up See Me.

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Scott Wedel 1 month ago

This should trigger a reevaluation of the city's management of Howelson. Current management shows all of the weaknesses of government management which is lack of decisiveness, lack of promotion, lack of business plan and most important, lack of accountability for those issues.

It took a while before Denver finally accepted that their management was slowly killing city owned Winter Park.

Search Howelson Ski Area and you get a SB government website that states it is closed for the summer.

Search Winter Park Ski Area and you get a page on summer deals and promotions.

Pretty obvious which is run by a government that has no interest in running a business.

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rhys jones 1 month ago

Scott makes a valid point. I'd like to follow the money trail on THIS one.

WSC is a non-profit venture -- hence tax-exempt. They have several resources, benefits etc, not to mention steep membership fees -- eliciting my rich-entitled comment. I know people who went to scholl with Nelson Carmichael, said there were much better skiers back then, all else being equal. Then they had to go to work in gas stations or stores, while he continued on to glory with WSC. It's an exclusive club, for the rich and famous. Which makes me wonder if the city doesn't make a pretty penny already on Howelsen, off tax-free money. Money trail.

Speaking of non-profits -- I've got a beef with Boys & Girls Club. Their handler will herd 40 of the little angels onto a bus, however long it takes, squeezing out the tourists and commuters, and making the latter that much later to work... back when I was in Boys' Club, we had our own transit.

The counselor said they pay $1/hr each. Doing the math, this one group alone was worth $300 or so. Minus the $80+/- they pay the help -- times however many groups are running around town -- minus no taxes -- probably cash, largely -- WOW!! SOMEBODY is doing okay!! Can't they get their own bus?

Okay, puttin' the troll in his cage, got a pesky entry form to concoct...

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Scott Wedel 1 month ago

Does anyone have any doubts that Ski Corps is going to be silent on their ski training course? I bet they will be trying to recruit various national teams that currently do early season training at Copper. And they'll probably work with SSWSC to create and promote one or two week programs for aspiring ski racers to receive elite coaching. So young talented skiers from Denver can see if they might have the potential to become a top skier racer.

And I'd guess that SSWSC elite coaches deep down know that SB is generally too small of a pool to expect to find a great skier. That they know they need to dip into a deeper talent pool to expect to have potential world champions in SSWSC.

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Dan Kuechenmeister 1 month ago

Scott, If SB is "generally too small a pool to expect to find a great skier" and people bring their families here to put their children in SSWSC, why would you diss the local soccer community for playing to many games and not getting more training to find the next World Cup level soccer player. I am not aware of any families bringing their children here to be elite soccer players. How about a little consistency.

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Scott Wedel 1 month ago

Dan,

After my initial pots on the topic I thought I accepted that local soccer wasn't about developing a world class player. Thus, since the focus is even more about learning to appreciate the game then it makes a great deal of sense to minimize travel and play 7v7 or smaller so players get to experience possessing the ball and have more open space.

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Dan Kuechenmeister 1 month ago

Scott, Just admit it. You are way too smart for this community. I say let the kids play and have fun. Are you volunteering your time and expertise to coach or are you just telling the Steamboat community how you think they should run their soccer program. I know you played soccer at the 8 - 9 year old level in CA. so you are the expert. Have you ever coached youth soccer. Here are my credentials, what are yours. Played High school, played college, played club soccer till 40, youth club coached at the highest level of youth club soccer in Minnesota. Actually I don't really care. I have tired of your posting on pretty much every issue. I will grant you that occasionally you make a good point, but in general you should shut it down

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Dan Shores 1 month ago

Another benefit of a new ski race training facility on the mountain is to further enhance Steamboat's reputation as a world class ski resort. As I said earlier, in my opinion as a professional, ski racing is an integral and very important part of our sport and I am glad to see this aspect being promoted. The addition of this new training facility will hopefully attract more racers, more coaches and families to Steamboat and bring more publicity and that is a good thing for all of us.

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rhys jones 1 month ago

Steamboat is not now, and will probably never be, "world class" at least by the classic definition -- because we can't host all the World Cup events. They'll have to go somewhere else to hold the Men's Downhill -- this hill does not have a run that qualifies, for length and vertical.

That was one reason for Martin Hart's big push to develop Catamount back in the '80's and early '90's -- the line is there. Where it will stay, undisturbed.

Not to split hairs -- just sayin'....

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john bailey 1 month ago

world class ? uh , no , don't be a homer , if not for the powder , this mountain is no more than a ski hill on the east coast. lets be real can we ?.....the Beav , now we're talking WORLD CLASS.

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Dan Kuechenmeister 1 month ago

I have to agree with John and Rhys. Don't think Steamboat can be considered "world class". And that is not meant to put my "home" ski area down. It is a great ski mountain and when the champagne powder falls there may be none better, at least in my experience. ( have had a couple days in Utah that were pretty good). How ever do not need to be "world class" to develop world class skiers. Hey Lindsay Vonn skied at Buck Hill in MN. (309 vertical drop) until she was 11. You get lots of gates when you ride a rope tow instead of a chair. So to Dan S. Point congrats to SSWSC for expanding the opportunities in developing opportunities for skiers. Don't forget your roots though. Howelson has been awfully good to you guys and girls

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Dan Shores 1 month ago

I have to disagree once again. Steamboat is definitely a world class ski resort. Second largest ski mountain in Colorado, consistently ranked at or near the top ten in ski magazine readers polls, unparalleled tree skiing, the likes of which cannot be found anywhere in the world, and some of the best snow quality of any resort anywhere. The mountain does have it's drawbacks of course, low elevation, west and south facing slopes, too many double fall lines, not a lot of steep and a little hard to get to which is the main reason we don't rank higher in the reader polls. Steamboat is consistently ranked at the top as far as being a family friendly mountain. The new race facilities will only enhance our reputation in my view. Dan K. is right that many top US racers grew up on small hills in the east and one of the reasons they are so good is that they are used to skiing on hard snow. Howelsen is a good slalom hill, but not so good as a GS hill. Having a good, long GS hill and the ability to control the snow surface will really be great for the kids and us old guys too.

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rhys jones 1 month ago

Our clients were ski areas -- Winter Park, Jackson Hole, Telluride, Deer Valley, and Snowmass, to name the biggies. No Internet yet; we did file transfers by phone. Slow processors; it could take hours to compile a big program. (I remember when we thought punch-cards were fast.) Often it was more efficient just to travel there for a week at a time. They could always be prevailed upon to provide a comp lift ticket, as we awaited the latest changes, logic being I could be home skiing the 'Boat on my own pass, were I not there helping them.

Wherever I was, I just couldn't wait to get home. We consistently had the best snow, by far. Not to mention my favorite run, though I found some fun others.

So we'll never host a World Championship. Big deal!! THAT'S why we voted down the '76 Olympics -- you can have the traffic, mobs, exposure, we don't want it. Let the Beav have it, along with the associated Interstate trash... I've grown partial to our little paradise.

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Chris Hadlock 1 month ago

No one in the industry has ever ranked higher in customer recommendation ratings that Steamboat did last year.

This metric is a measure of "would you recommend the resort to your friends"

By that measure alone, I would say that Steamboat ranks in the category of "World Class"

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rhys jones 1 month ago

Now we're splitting hairs. Judging by the wide variety of lingos I hear spoken all winter, I would have to agree with you, Chris.

I'm just saying -- if you can't host a World Championship -- you are not, by definition, World Class. It's not my criteria, not my call.

That's why Martin Hart pushed Catamount so hard, so we could offer the whole package, they wouldn't have to drive somewhere else.

We won't miss the crowds...

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Dan Kuechenmeister 1 month ago

Funny. I googled "definition of a world class ski resort" It's like Rhys says - splitting hairs. Check it out even North Korea is talking "world class" ski resort

Ski Ten World Class Ski Resorts From Salt Lake City. The French Alps: World-Class Ski and Resorts New This Winter: “World-Class” North Korean Ski Resort http://www.samsoniteaustralia.com/blog/top-10-world-class-ski-resorts-from-around-the-globe/#.U_EaBCx0zIU Whistler-Blackcomb – A World Class Ski Resort Deer Valley - World Class Defined “World Class Ski Resort” 5 of 5 stars Review of Sun Valley Resort

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erich ferguson 1 month ago

Using the space for ski racing works for me..just hope it can hold snow in 10-20 years.. no eco - freako undertones implied.. and catamount woulda been sweet. ..

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john bailey 1 month ago

of course all this is subjective to ones preferences , now then , how many of you have been caught at the bottom when the gongi goes down? not pretty is it,? how many of you have been behind the walls of these buildings ? again not pretty is it ? the single base is an issue when the crowds hit , but then we locals know to stay away and let em have at it , they'll leave and we have all the room we want ,right ? don't get me wrong the snow is great even had the chance to ski "wild snow " talk about an experience WOW... my point over all in skiing , this mountain can't hold a candle to Aspen or a Vail ,Tohelluride or Copper look at the over all picture and Steamboat lacks in the "World Class " category . the race venue is great but what about the riders needed in the pipe line ? not all of the young care to ski , how bout boarders ? they'll have money to spend , or I hope they will , when they get older. if they can break away from their jobs at McDonalds LOL. anyhow back in my day I preferred the steeps ,long steeps like Aspen Highlands , Pali at Abasin , Alfs in Alta , that's were I am coming from. Steamboat doesn't have those kinda runs but for sure the lack of crowds for the most part are the best thing we have going.......as Rhys said......hula away

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rhys jones 1 month ago

Checked out your link, John, generally agreed (like I've been to all of those) was surprised to see Vail at #4 -- must be on amenities; can't be the mountain, big teddy bear that is. Aspen deserves higher than #10 -- four mountains, movie-star ambiance...

Our base area is atrocious, Ski Time Square a ghost town... I got LOST in the Sheraton, just this summer, or puzzled for a while, couldn't find my way out, it was all new... thought I knew the place, did decades ago... the thought occured, must be Vegas architects, odd angles; they WANT you to get lost, so you'll spend more money. And I digress.

Our main calling cards are a family-friendly atmosphere, Western hospitality, lots of intermediate terrain for the visiting masses, and usually the best snow on the planet, in a typical or good year. Never skied the western side of the Wasatch range; they can get slammed -- and a lot of good it does, if the lifties can't get to work. Which happens a lot, I hear. Classic case of sour grapes.

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rhys jones 1 month ago

One place on my to-do list is Grand Targhee. Being on the western slope of the Teton Range, surely they wring the best snow out of the passing storms, Jackson Hole getting their leftovers... and if they don't have the wind problems Jackson does -- constant, howling, -- maybe it's a downdraft thing or something -- they've got the terrain, and the potential...

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Dan Kuechenmeister 1 month ago

Of the 10, Zermatt the best, I have been fortunate to ski 5 of the 10. had the best ski day of my life there. If we ever get a chance to meet, ask me about it

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Dan Kuechenmeister 1 month ago

Rhys, You should definitely ski Targhee given the chance. Great powder bowls, and yes they get great powder.

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rhys jones 4 weeks, 1 day ago

Thanks Dan -- I suspected as much. I LOVE Idaho and western Montana -- the mountains north of Sun Valley looked awfully inviting and sparsely populated, I owe that area more exploration, given the time and money.

I spent a summer north of there, on a hunting guide's ranch, learning the trade and cowboy stuff, between 8th and 9th grades; he had a cute little box canyon ranch just off the Clearwater River, and we'd travel way back into the Clearwater Mountains, shoeing horses and mules for the Forest Service... What a magical summer THAT was!!

My best run ever happened at Snowmass. I was terribly intermediate at the time -- bumps, powder, and/or steep would kick my butt. The 15" of new light powder was mostly skied off by the time I got there -- I went to Big Burn, that half-mile-wide intermediate area where the Indians tried to burn out the white folks way back when... all intermediate, couldn't get into trouble... kept hanging right, inexplicably... snow started getting less tracked, then virgin... it got steeper, turned into a V gulch, with no flat bottom... fell once; got out the trail map -- where WAS I? Garret Gulch.

I gulped and took off -- and I was WEIGHTLESS!! I could do ANYTHING!! I knew I was dropping, but it felt like I was RISING!! THIS is what they're talking about!! I whooped with joy, uncontrollably.

When I got back, it was skied off, choppy, not the same at all. I realized then I had enjoyed a rare experience.

I haven't found the right powder and steep combination on this hill, to replicate that feeling. It was TOTAL freedom!! Could be my fault; I'm not exactly an early bird -- but you'd think, after this long...

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Dan Kuechenmeister 4 weeks, 1 day ago

Rhys, Don't you love the way those memories stay with you. Helps cover some of the not so good memories. Here's to you making another one of those memories, maybe at Targhee.

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rhys jones 4 weeks, 1 day ago

That area intrigues me more than any, save Europe, which I can afford even less -- and I hear their snow isn't so good in recent years. Anything south of Aspen/Crested Butte gets Sierra Slop, from Mammoth east -- the northern Rockies corner the market for light powder. After the Sierras and Cascades have wrung the wet out of the storms. Our best storms last saw land in India.

You're right about memories, Dan: You never know when it's going to come, or how long it's going to last; it's over before you know it, leaving you with just the memory, that much sweeter for the rarity...

Sorta like the Thunderhead sunset, when I forgot my camera -- it won't be the same when I get back with it -- better just enjoy it for what it is, because it'll be gone soon enough.

Just like I'd better be, if I expect to make any progress. Ciao!!

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Dan Shores 2 weeks, 1 day ago

Each ski area has qualities that make it unique and draw a particular demographic. Vail is a huge mountain with the European town feel, and the back bowls. Drawback, crowds, long cat tracks, and believe it or not, many recreational skiers cannot ski powder, so the back bowls are of no use to them on powder days. The Beav' isn't really that great of a mountain in my view. Birds of Pray are fun but then again a lot of rec. skiers cannot ski that terrain. They do have the wealth factor and they do host a World Cup event. Same with Aspen Mountain. You get the town and the wealth, glitz factor, a great ski school and they do host a World Cup event. The mountain itself is small and again rather challenging for the average rec. skier. If you want steep it's Snowbird, Alta, Jackson Hole or even Mammoth Mountain in Ca. As for Steamboat, it's a family mountain. Safe terrain for everyone and as I said the trees and the snow quality are amazing and something you can't get anywhere else. The mountain is really big and not as crowded as some of the other resorts. We have held World Cup events and could hold more of them but the economics just don't work out. World Class? Definitely a huge YES by any measure!

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rhys jones 2 weeks ago

What makes a Ski Town for me is the heart. Does it have it, like Apen and Steamboat and Banff do -- or does it not, like Vail or Telluride?

You can chase up a conversation easily enough, here or in Aspen -- there is a heart of locals, unaffected by the surrounding money; they find ways to scrounge by -- unpretentious, and willing to talk to anybody anytime, sure, who are you, where ya from, having fun? From there it goes anywhere.

I took off a couple of years to Telluride, late '90's -- thought that might be the change I needed -- ha. I found that place to be as cold as any city; even more so -- clannish, snobbish, good luck breaking in. Walking the sidewalks, the locals wouldn't make eye contact or say Hi, so preoccupied with their company or thoughts. East Coat and California as hell. After two years of observing one salty local, finally ended up next to, quizzed why it was so hard to chase up a conversation here -- finally he deigned look at me -- said "Why should I waste my time getting to know you, when I know you're going to be gone in 8 months anyway?"

And so it was -- I didn't make it half that. We don't want to lock off our valley like they do. Sure, where ya from, how long ya staying?

And this place is one HELL of a lot better, in its current semi-cosmo state, than the cow town I moved to. The more the merrier!! Yet it retains its heart. As does Aspen.

I'd love to see some of the classic Alps areas, before the snow totally disapperars -- Chamonix, northern Italy, Switzerland... the old architecture, genuine, not faux... That's World Class!! Definitions can vary so widely...

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