I have traveled extensively through the Colorado Rockies and have seen some amazing sights. I was just wondering how they compare to the Alps. Has anyone seen them both? If so, any comments?
Being a Colorado native now living in Europe I feel that there is a great difference between the two mountain ranges.
The mountain towns of the Alps have a very different feel of course and the beauty is very different for example there are no Aspen trees - so the color is much different (rock and trees). The Alps have a much more rapid increase in elevation but not as high as the Rockies. One of my favorite differences is the of mountain lakes where suddenly a vast mountain emerges in the Alps. In the Rockies there is always a slower decent. The snow season is shorter in the Alps than in the Rockies.
In my opinion the feel is very different - maybe it is the chocolate, wine and cheese versus the hamburgers and Mexican food followed by a cold beer.
I agree with John that they are very different. I, too, lived in Colorado (with views of the continental divide from my back deck) and I have traveled in Switzerland--even driven in Switzerland. June in the Alps is glorious with all of the lush green mountain meadows full of wildflowers. The Rockies are more rugged and are really considered high desert, thus not so lush. Each has its own appeal and it is worth visiting both.
We have hiked & toured in both places, & I agree with the others that both are wonderful. But there's just something about a mountain village festival in Grutchalp or Murren, with the cows wearing colorful flower headdresses & bells & looking contented as only Swiss cows can...folk dancers & singers & alphorns...raclette & fondue & bier....or stopping on the way back from a hike to Eigergletscher at a little farmhouse for fresh alpkase (cheese) & butter...or sitting on your patio in Wengen looking down at Staubbachfall & up at the Breithorn & the Jungfrau....that you just can't get in Colorado!
WOW, what a picture! Thanks guys, you've made me feel better about taking a couple days out of my Italy trip to go to Murren. We are driving and it seemed like such a long way just for a couple days. But it will give us a taste and then we can go back for a longer visit later.
We do the Canadian Rockies almost every year,, they are beautiful and you can never get tired of them, but, I agree with others, the Alps are amazing, they scream "Hiedi" at me, the chalets with flower boxes( really, not just on postcards, ) the cows in high meadows, the farmers out on hill sides raking their hay in by hand( a machine would tumble over I suppose) . I also liked the hiking we did around Zermatt, so many well marked trails, and I loved be able to go on my own for a days hike and not worry about the cougars or bears( it can be a bit of an issue( for scardy cats) in our Rockies, LOL )
I don't know where in Italy your going to be, but since you're driving, you may want to consider the Dolomites in northern Italy. Simply spectacular and in my opinion, like nothing else in the Alps! We have some photos at:
Very good websites on the area are:
The highest of the Alps are higher than the Rockies in Colorado with Mt. Blanc being over 15,000 ft, actually closer to 16,000 whereas the tallest in Colorado is under 15,000. I agree with Paul about the Dolomites. Although not as high as the Alps that are located around the French, Italian and Swiss borders they offer beautiful scenery and the afternoon colors are a sight to see.
I believe you would enjoy any part of the Alps. Murren and Wengen also offer oh wow views. Only been to the Colorado Rockies one time so I cannot give a fair comparison but my impression was the Alps are more vertical and have more breath taking views. That is just my opinion on a one time visit to the Rockies and I did not get to see the highest peaks so you my comparison my not be a totally fair one. The Rockies are certainly beautiful too.
I can only compare the Alps with several skiing resorts around the Vail area but IMO the valleys in the Alps are much more narrow and the mountains appear to be much higher, definitely steeper. It's a completely different kind of vegetation and thus the color scheme is different. But what's even more important: In the Alps every valley has different variations of food, cheese, schnappses, dresses, culture... because for centuries they were cut off each other. In winter weather made it impossible to "travel" and in summer you simply were too busy. So it's all about the people, customs, foods and sometimes even the style of music that's important to experience in the Alps. Also just outside Beaver Creek I found a giant Wal Mart and somthing like a huge Home Depot around a big parking lot with plenty of other fast food places. Unlikely you'll find that in the Alps ;-)
Being a Colorado native, and having been to Switzerland two times in my life---here you go:
The Colorado Rockies are higher, and thus dryer. The trees are different, and there seems to be more streams/waterfalls in Switzerland. Here in the Rockies, there are wonderful sights...same in Switzerland. Both are beautiful in their own way. It's fun to sit at the rockfall before the accent to 14,000ft and watch the pica and marmot playing in the rocks. I didn't see animals in Switzerland.
hiking in Switzerland, you come upon little cafes...not so in Colorado. Based on the area you hike in Colorado, you don't see a lot of glaciers...but where we hiking in Switzerland, it's almost a common sight (although they are melting at an alarming rate)
The high lakes are amazing in both places, and the snow capped Rockies, with miles and miles of mountains are wonderous. In Switzerland, you can hike from town to town, in the Rockies, that's almost impossible! Hope this helps just a little.
And then there are all those glaciers in the Alps.
I too am a Colorado native and have spent time in and around the Lauterbrunnen Valley. In my opinion there is no comparison! The only place in Colorado that comes close is Telluride (which is very beautiful). I would say the Rockies are a bit more rugged.
The mountains in Switzerland are much more dramatic. The higher villages are somehow pristine! You can be hiking and see dramatic snow capped peaks and closer in front of these are flower covered meadows with cows grazing with their cowbells singing! It's magical.
The Dolomites are my favourite mountains.
Have seen the most of the resorts of the alps and a part of the Rockies,
I have never found the variations of viewes like there.
Invite everybody to visit this paradise. :)
Have you been to the Cascades near Seattle? The mountains there have more of the Alpine look. The Dolomites look completely different.
Aside from the look is the culture. European culture has lived in, traveled and traded through the Alps for centuries. It's a living geography lesson. The barrier created by the Alps is probably the biggest reason for different languages, looks and traditions. Weather North of the Alps is different than weather South of the Alps.
Because of the history, there are many small villages dotted through the Alps - way more services available to the traveler than the Rockies where you are in the middle of nowhere. Again comparing to the Cascades, on the west Native Americans look, speak and live similar to Alaskan Inuits (Eskimos). To the East, the Natives look, speak and live like the plains tribes.
So far the grand tetons here in the rockies have been much more spectaclar then anything ive seen in alps. I also love the drive from ouray to durango colorado through the san juan mountains and i dont know what your talking about the rockies near ouray are very green with huge knive sharp peaks...
We live in view of the Canadian Rockies and get out to hike or tour regularly. Yes they are different. The main difference for me is the culture: you just don't see the human influence over centuries in the Rockies.
The glacial lakes are more stunning in the Rockies imho - I have seen nothing like Moraine or Peyto Lake in either the Italian, German, Swiss or Austrian Alps. Haven't seen the French Alps though. Similar for the waterfalls. Sure there are some in the Alps as well but I haven't seen anything like Takakkaw Falls.
If you've never seen the Alps before please go and spend a few days. I'm not really a into Mountains so after seeing the Rockies and the Alps quite a bit I don't go out of my way anymore to spend time in Murren or similar places.
I have spent at least 10 days hiking and horseback riding in the Colorado Rockies each year for the past 10 years. Wonderful sites, rugged mountains, deer, mountain lion, bear, and elk, plus so many other animals. Have never seen wildlife in the Alps. The Alps are very beautiful and offer a very laid back style of living. If I had to pick a place to retire today, it would probably be somewhere in the Swiss Alps. I love the Rockies but just a different feeling comes over me when in the Alps. If you love the mountains, you must go see the Alps.
Scott, Have you been to the Lauterbrunnen Valley? I agree that the most beautiful part of colorado is the area between Ouray and Telluride, but IMHO they still don't come close to the Lauterbrunnen Valley.
We went to Rocky Mountain National Park last year to hike. Beautiful, rugged mountains, pristine mountain lakes, pika, marmot and yes--we ran into a black bear on the trail! But when we went to the Berner Oberland this year--NO COMPARISON! It has a charm and breathtaking beauty like nowhere else. And we saw ANIMALS there! Tons of marmots cavorting on the trails, ptarmigan up at the higher elevations, and we sought out chamois and ibex, although we did not catch a glimpse of either, I know they are there. Plus all the gondola rides, the cog wheel trains and funiculars that take you everywhere--that was half the fun! Gorgeous, colorful planter boxes hanging from every chalet, the fondue and rosti, and the achingly beautiful vistas-- wow! Also, I don't know where in the Rockies you can hike up to a mountain peak and stay overnight in a 175 year old hotel reached ONLY by hiking or by helicoptor. The Alps have it all-go!
What a picture you paint! I can't wait to go!
The first time I saw the Rockies in Colorado was 1982 and the first time I saw the Swiss alps was 1983. My first thought was "wow, they look just like the Rockies!".
But I agree with the others, that's just the first look. The feel and the atmosphere are different. Both are beautiful and breathtaking but different. Don't miss the chance to see the alps.
30 years ago, I lived and worked in Gstaad and Montreux, Switzerland for about 6 months. I hiked as much as possible on my off days and travelled about to places such as Mont Blanc and Zermatt. For the past 20 years I have lived in Calgary. Along with my family, we hike and x-c ski in the Rocky Mtns as much as possible on weekends and holidays. There are physical differences between the Alps and the Rockies ... if you take the Rockies and compress them together ... take out the sweeping, wide valleys and make more dramatic vertical walls, you might get something that looks more like the Alps. But to me the most startling difference comes from how you feel about human intervention on these great masterpieces. While there are any number of examples of the worst ways humans can damage a landscape, the Alps demonstrate that we can accentuate an already stunning environment with the best of old world culture and charm. As it is doubtful that North Americans will ever be able to replicate the delightful human touch in the Alps, I prefer to see the Rockies remain as wild as possible. This wilderness has its own undeniable attraction. Vive la différence!
I have still yet to make it to the Berner Oberland, and I expect it to be spectacular.
However, all alps are not made the same. The Zugspitze, Germany's highest mountain, on the border with Austria, is only 9720'. The parking lot at Loveland ski area, where was on Ski Patrol, was higher that that.
Last August I went over Brenner Pass, at 4500'. It was very pretty, but nothing like I've been over at home (Berthod, 11,307', Loveland 11,990. Trail Ridge, 12,183'). These are passes, mind you, not the tops of mountains. And we don't have sissy guardrails.
I guess the Brenner Pass highway does have guardrails, but I looked at it from below on the train. If you went over the edge of one of those viaducts, you'd have about 4-5 seconds to wish you had taken the train, then .
Just for your info, the Brenner Pass is one of the lowest of the Alpine passes. It's a MAJOR highway to boot.
You should give driving the Stelvio (9,046 ft), the Timmelsjoch (8,230 ft), Grossglockner (8,446 ft,) the Giau (7,324 ft) among others a try. As for the "sissy guardrails"... guardrails are pretty rare on the many passes in Austria and the Dolomites. You need to actually drive them before commenting on them. We've driven just about every pass in Austria and the Dolomites, some many times.