Madesimo – unspoilt and good for a short break

18th January 2016, by Dave Watts

This photo covers most of the Madesimo ski area

This photo covers most of the Madesimo ski area

I haven’t counted but I must have visited getting on for 1,000 resorts in the 40-years or so since I first strapped skis to my feet. So it’s rare for me to visit a resort I’ve never tried before.

But, persuaded by the lovely Lynsey Devon of Heaven Publicity, who does PR for the resort and has been trying to get me there for years, I eventually agreed last spring that I’d visit Madesimo (in Italy close to the Swiss border and St Moritz) this winter. The dates got put firmly in the diary and there I was at the end of last week.

I skied Madesimo on Friday and Saturday. Sod’s law: this season has been the worst for snowfalls in living memory according to locals. But thanks to modern snowmaking technology and largely north-facing slopes, Lynsey and I still had a great time skiing the 40km of treelined lower runs. These are wide blue and reds that suit intermediates best and we pretty much skied them out on Friday – they were delightfully deserted and you could hurtle along at warp speed without endangering anyone.

Saturday was more of the same but on much busier pistes and with a couple of five or ten-minute lift queues. The upper lifts were closed on both days due to high winds and lack of snow (snowmaking pretty much stops at the treeline).

That was a shame because the Canalone itinerary run from the high point at almost 3000m (in the top centre of the pic where the sun meets the shade) is one of the most famous runs in Italy and one that I wanted to try. There is also some good off-piste from there in normal snow conditions. Plus pistes off the back of the mountain. So I’m already planning a return visit in a year or two’s time.

The village itself is amazingly unspoilt and very quiet during the week. Most of the beds there are second homes for wealthy Milanese. But it gets busy at weekends. My advice would be to give it a go for a short mid-week break – the 60km of runs should keep most people amused for a couple of days and the transfer is around 2hr 30min from Milan Linate airport.

The hotels are friendly, family-run and comfortable but fairly basic. I looked round most and the best is the Andossi, where I stayed in a large, comfortable room. The wellness area with pool, sauna and steam looked attractive but I had no time to sample the facilities.

There are several attractive restaurants including two which serve traditional local food (such as Pizzoccheri – pasta with cheese, ham and pine nuts) in very atmospheric, ancient, wood-panelled buildings. Amazingly for such a small village, there’s also a Michelin-starred place – the unpretentious Il Cantinoni, which is only open in winter as the young chef, Stefano, decamps with his team to the Napa Valley in California for the summer. We had the tasting menu there on Saturday night and it was delicious. There are quiet bars and a great cocktail bar, too.

One startling thing about Madesimo is the very affordable prices. With double rooms from around 100 euros a night B&B, a high-season lift pass costing 38 euros a day, pasta at around 10 euros and very drinkable local wine at 15 euros a bottle at restaurant prices, it is a bargain.

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