Great piste skiing in Livigno

14th March 2012, by Chris Gill

Lunch: the simple but excellent Berghütte, looking across to Mottolino

Lunch: the simple but excellent Berghütte, looking across to Mottolino

There is only one way to end the day in St Moritz, and that is to drive out to the 800m-vertical Lagalb cable car for a final run in the full afternoon sun. Which is what we did on Tuesday, at about 4pm. I was disappointed to find that this and the next door Diavolezza (nearer 900m vertical, and shady) don’t run as late as they used to, but they still run until 5pm, offering Austria and the USA a lesson in how to organise the skiing day. The excellent Giandas red piste on the front of Lagalb was in good shape, but the roundabout Bernina, which gets more of the midday sun, was closed.

And so to Italy. Had the southern pass into Livigno been open, we could have driven from Lagalb to Livigno in half an hour, but it remains firmly closed as usual. So as expected we had to go via the northerly 3.5km Munt la Schera tunnel – a bizarre one-way affair; even so, the journey took only an hour.

LIvigno was its usual animated self as we found our way into the heart of the pedestrian centre and the excellent hotel Bivio, our billet for the night. I like this place more each time I visit, but I have to say a central position helps.

The slopes looked gratifyingly snowy, and on Wednesday we had an excellent day exploring the pistes on both sides of the valley. Only at the end of the day did we encounter any seriously hard patches, and even then the final black run to the Teola chair on Mottolino was still very enjoyable. The slopes were pleasantly crowd-free, and we hit only one queue worth mentioning - 6 minutes for the Federia chair on the back of Carosello.

The big news this year, which of course the tourist office had not shared with us, is that the resort has undergone a radical conversion in its attitude to off-piste skiing. In recent years it has banned off-piste altogether. Now, amazingly, it positively encourages it by identifying six slopes on Mottolino as freeride zones, with access gates.

We’ll have more to say about this scheme in due course. At first sight it seems entirely welcome, but then at the first gate I checked out I found that it included a gadget to check that your avalanche bleeper is working. Does this mean the slopes are not avalanche controlled? I’ll be asking that question.

After a drive of almost three hours, we are now in Sölden, in Austria, and looking forward to getting up to its twin glaciers tomorrow in the company of various representatives of Ski Total, who this season opened a chalet-hotel here. This year’s edition of our book has an expanded chapter on this excellent resort, in the expectation that it will at last find an established place on the UK market.

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