Decent piste skiing in Monterosa

28th January 2015, by Dave Watts

No-one was allowed up the top cable car without avalanche transceiver, shovel and probe

No-one was allowed up the top cable car without avalanche transceiver, shovel and probe

I’ve just spent three days exploring the Monterosa Ski area – Italy’s smaller-scale equivalent to the French Trois Vallées and in the Val d’Aosta region. I was staying in the largest Monterosa village, Champoluc, in Ski Total’s splendid new chalet-hotel Breithorn which I last stayed in around 10 years ago when it was operated as a very smart 4-star hotel and was the best hotel in town – more on the Breithorn and chalet-hotels in a future feature on this site.

Sunday was a brilliant blue sky day and the Milanese and Torinese drove up in their hundreds, meaning the pistes were crowded but queues were still rare. On Monday, the slopes were delightfully deserted and we frequently had pistes to ourselves. This is a key feature of the area – during the week the ski area is very quiet and crowds are only an issue at weekends (good weather weekends at that, because the Italians like to ski only in the best conditions).

We managed to ski all the pistes in a couple of days – guided by Simone Origone, a local instructor and mountain guide who is also a speed skiing champion and world record holder, having skied at over 252kph (157mph) in Vars in 2014. Fortunately he slowed down to our humble speeds for the two days he was showing me around. Monterosa Ski is not an extensive area but it does give you an enormous sense of travel as you go from valley to valley – the other main resorts, Gressoney and Alagna are each in different valleys to Champoluc. The area has not been blessed with huge snowfalls this season but the pistes were still in good condition apart from a few icy patches.

Simone Origone, speed skiing world record holder and Dave’s guide for two days

The off-piste though was wind blown and not to be recommended – a shame because this area has excellent off-piste for all ability levels. The top cable car to Punta Indren serves an itinerary and a vast amount of off-piste terrain which we decided not to tackle on Simone’s advice about the conditions. The authorities were also taking conditions seriously because a notice was in place at the start of the stairs to the cable car saying that avalanche beeper, shovel and probe were compulsory to ride the lift and a man was posted there checking that everyone did indeed have a working bleeper and backpack. And the piste map now warns that on the itinerary the cable car accesses ‘you will find ice and crevasses’. Admirably clear that the terrain was not to be taken lightly I thought.

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