Swiss powder, Italian pistes

5th February 2010, by Editor Watts

Edi celebrating clear skies and views of Monte Bianco after lunch

Edi celebrating clear skies and views of Monte Bianco after lunch

I spent Monday to Wednesday this week skiing with Italian ski instructor Andrea and his American wife Edi. The couple live in Villars in Switzerland and run a company called TRACKS European Adventures. They specialise in 3-country tours, taking their clients skiing in Villars and then on to Courmayeur in Italy and Chamonix in France.

I joined them for a truncated 2-country tour and Monday saw us skiing fresh light powder in Villars. Villars is best-known as a family resort but Andrea found us plenty of light off-piste powder in the trees from the previous few days’ snowfall and we had a fine time. The runs are mainly shallow and short – not the hardcore off-piste of Val d’Isère or Chamonix, but great for a first day warm-up.

Powder in the trees in Villars

On Tuesday we headed for the Super-St-Bernard ski area on the Swiss-Italian border and right by the Grand-St-Bernard pass (closed in winter) and tunnel. There’s one short draglift and an ancient gondola which takes you up 850m vertical and serves just two pistes (both black) and lots of off-piste back down to the base of the lift. Sadly, visibility was poor and the snow hard packed or crusty, so we didn’t see it at its best. But in fresh snow and good visibility it would be great for exploration with a guide. And it is normally very quiet; on Tuesday it was deserted – apart from a school group using the draglift, we saw only two other skiers all day! The idea had been to ski all the way from the top down a 10km off-piste run to Etroubles in Italy’s Aosta valley – but the crusty wind-blown snow didn’t look good, so we reluctantly decided to drive through the tunnel instead with Edi, who was in charge of transporting our luggage.

Maison Vieille in Courmayeur on Wednesday

Wednesday saw us enjoying the pistes and huts of Courmayeur. The resort was very quiet (many of the bars in town were closed because of lack of custom – it was the last week of low season Jan-early Feb). But the resort’s pistes were in great condition despite the lack of recent snow. And the strong wind and overcast conditions forced us to enjoy a long lunch at one of our favourite Alpine huts, the rustic Maison Vieille, which serves tremendous pasta (including a main dish which offers three different types – delicious). After complimentary prosecco, good red wine and a post-lunch teapot full of honey grappa, Edi celebrated the clear skies we emerged to with a cartwheel in front of the spectacular backdrop of Mont Blanc before we set off for a short but enjoyable afternoon of gentle cruising on the pistes.

For more on TRACKS, see

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