Skiing in Italy’s Powder Pocket

STORY BY
Andy Taylor
10th January 2017

It’s no secret that much of Europe had a rather dry start to the season.  Fortunately great snow in early November and mostly cold weather for snowmaking meant that conditions were still good at nearly all the big name resorts, which were able to open all, or almost all, of their ski runs, it’s just that there wasn’t much fresh snow about.

But some resorts did do better than others and whilst lots of ski areas were struggling to post 50cm of snow depth, a few, mostly on the French/Italian border, were looking much better in December, counting their snow in metres, not centimetres.

Among them, the Monterosa region in Italy’s north western corner with France and Switzerland, sometimes optimistically referred to as Italy’s 3 Valleys (it is big, with around 180km of runs, plenty for most of us for a week or two, but not the 600km of the world’s biggest ski area in France).  It’s not the best known of ski areas with Brits but it does have something of a cult status among hardcore skiers, with the ancient village of Alagna, one of half-a-dozen linked-villages on the Monterosa circuit, one of those classic off piste destinations like la Grave, Fernie or Jackson Hole, sitting as it is at the bottom of one of the world’s biggest lift-served verticals.

But over the past decade Monterosa has taken big strides in broadening its appeal beyond hardcore off-piste fanatics to everyone else.  Whilst being careful not to spoil some of its biggest attractions – genuine, friendly, locals; authentic communities and top value (all of which it compares to much more favourably with the French 3 Valleys), it has been installing some very nice modern lifts that make getting around on the slopes quicker,  easier and more comfortable.

Champoluc

My destination was Champoluc, two hours from Turin airport, the largest resort in the Monterosa region (although still not that big!) and also located in the Aosta Valley (about half of Monterosa is, as it straddles one of Italy’s provincial borders).  The whole Monterosa area is quickly accessible on skis from the Crest Gondola in the heart of the resort.

The resort is surrounded by scenic wooded terrain and boasts spectacular views of the region’s dramatic glaciers and peaks. It is popular with Italian weekenders visiting mostly from Milan but much quieter in the week when there’s a mix of visitors from across Europe and of all age groups.

It consists of the usual selection of hotels and apartments and there’s a wide choice of eating and après ski options at the end of the day’s skiing.

What’s most striking however is the new big new spa complex which has the length name: Champoluc, Aosta Valley & Monterosa Terme Spa and opened as recently as 2014.  It has four large hot spa pools, two large saunas and two large steam rooms among its many attractions and there’s a great massage treatments menu so this is a must visit on your stay. Basically there’s everything you could want to relax, workout and sooth aching muscles at the end of the day on the slopes.

The Ski Area

The ski area has some fantastic runs for all abilities spread over three valleys comprising of Champoluc, Gressoney and Alagna.

There are plenty of long cruisers for most of us recreational skiers and great nursery slopes and a friendly ski school for first timers. There’s extensive snowmaking for any occasions Mother Nature doesn’t play ball. For those who want to stay in the sun and brush up on their technique there is ample choice of red, blue and black runs where you can avoid the shadows of the mountains and ski all day in sunlight. For experts the area has a reputation for fantastic heli-skiing too as well as those off-piste opportunities when the weather and snow conditions permit.  Perhaps best of all, it’s all very quiet during the week when those Milanese are back in the big city, you’ll have it largely to yourself.

From the slopes it is possible to see many mountains over 4000m high including the famous Matterhorn and the highest peak Mont Dufour at 4633mtres.

The Hotel

I stayed in the cosy Chalet Hotel de Champoluc which is owned and operated by Inghams. Located just across from the gondola, only a minute away, the Chalet hotel provides both hotel and chalet services.  On the hotel side all bedrooms are en suite with free Wi-Fi and Sky TV and there are sauna, steam-room, comfortable lounge, bar and games room.  Then there is chalet catering with full skiers’ breakfast; afternoon tea/coffee with a selection of cakes and five-course evening meals with choice of menu, including pre-dinner apèritif, choice of complimentary wines with dinner followed by tea/coffee & chocolates six days a week. There’s also complimentary tea and coffee available all day and I found the staff very helpful, friendly and attentive.

Family Oriented

Champoluc is really well set up for families with facilities including, kids clubs, kids ski school, fun areas and play areas both indoors and out, and also crèche facilities. Child care was offered every day from 9am to 11pm, which included baby sitting and baby listening services.

To Sum Up: It’s A Great All Rounder

All in all I found Champoluc and Monterosa a really great ski destination.

Firstly, in these days of a weaker pound, prices still seem very reasonable, compared to UK prices.  For example a latte on the mountain was €2 or a main meal in the village €9, a pint of beer €3.  Even at the airport, I never felt over charged for anything I purchased.

Everything is very well organised right from arrival in Turin, with information provided on the bus then your bags taken up to your room for you on arrival at The Chalet Hotel De Champoluc whilst you enjoy a welcome drink and lunchtime snack before heading to the ski hire shop, which, like most of Champoluc’s attractions is very close, in fact just across from the hotel entrance by the gondola.

This is a really good value ski holiday where the hard work is taken out of it for you and where you never feel as though you have been over charged for anything. As well as good value, it’s a great place to improve your skiing with a huge variety of terrain, and heaps of room to spread out as the crowds are very minimal.

Champoluc Holiday Fact Box

Inghams (01483 79 11 14) offers the resort of Champoluc in Italy’s Aosta Valley with 7 nights at Chalet Hotel de Champoluc on a chalet hotel catering basis starting from £649 per person with a saving of £140. Price includes return flights to Turin from London Gatwick departing 25th March 2017 and resort transfers.

These are links for information on the Aosta Valley and the Monterosa Terme Spa

Mountain Warehouse, the UK’s largest outdoor retailer, offers an accessible range of ski wear for all. From first time skiers to those seasoned on the slopes, Mountain Warehouse has the products to match the skills.

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