Review of Champoluc

13th January 2009 by John 

Date visited: 4-11 January 2009

Hotel: Hotel Champoluc: the hotel was good and better than every other ski hotel or chalet I have stayed in, but note that the hot tub etc advertised in the brochure costs an extra 10 euro per person per session. We did not use it, nor could I find anyone who did. The village and views were beautiful, nay stunning, with every building covered by a metre of snow and miles and miles of mountain peaks as far as you could see. Alagna looks even prettier.

The skiing was mainly blue/red standard and the couple of blacks were bashed so smooth that I imagine that most skiers would have no problem with them - apart from other skiers hurtling down at great speed. The Monterosa area is famous for its off piste and this is reputation is well deserved. Even though the pistes are very wide they are pisted all the way across. I get the impression that moguls are illegal on piste in this resort so if you want to ski bumps then you must go off piste and ensure that your travel insurance covers you. To me this is the big drawback of the resort. After a few days blasting about on the piste I get bored with it and want to ski big steep moguls (no doubt why my knees are shot). Why don’t they leave half of the piste alone, like in Les Arcs for us skiers that like the bumps.

Memorable runs included Colle Bettaforca to Staffal: the top half is marked as red, but in most resorts it would be a blue (or green in Val d’Isere), then there is a short steep section marked as black which continues as a red. It would be good to do this non stop, but we always had a party regroup at the junctions. An even better run is from Passo dei Salati to Alagna a continuous drop of 1700m. One day we did it, it was empty almost all the way with 10cm of snow covering a hard packed base giving fantastic leisurely skiing.

One disappointment of the area is that, though the ski area is fairly large, if you look at the older piste maps it used to be bigger still. Most old piste maps show a lift to the Punta Indren (it is still there, but not used) with a ski network and a series of black runs coming back to the valleys. Even older maps show an area above the Colle Bettaforca with a black run returning to Frachey. When most ski areas are expanding the Monterosa is contracting. Curious.

At the end of the day, if we were back to Crest in time, we would take the two lifts up to the top of the Colle Sarezza; the run down to Champoluc is a delightful 1.2 km vertical drop. For reasons obvious to anyone who has been to the area, some of our party called the Colle Sarezza the pass of the horned beast!

When we arrived there was already a fantastic depth of snow and 30 to 50cm more fell during the week giving a couple of days of excellent powder skiing. The owner of the Alpen Stop restaurant thought the snow would last until June this year there was so much of it! There is snow making on most runs, even on the blacks, which is something I have never seen before. I suspect the resort doesn’t always get this amount of snow.

The Monday was quite busy but the next few days of poor visibility were very quiet. Then the crowds picked up again so that on Saturday the resort was busy again. With the speed that many skiers ski in the resort I would be amazed if there were not some very serious accidents. We saw the blood wagons out a few times.

Lift queues were generally not much of a problem, nor should they be the first week in January, but the second lift up from Frachey did catch us out a couple of times with 15 minute queues (I think this length of queue is unacceptable). Since this is a key linking lift from the Champoluc area to and from Gressoney try to avoid it as much as possible. Be warned and do not accidentally ski down to it. In Staffal and particularly Alagna there is quite a trek from the bottom of the piste to the lift back up, with over 500m in the case of Alagna.

For lunch the restaurants were by and large good. The Alpen Stop at Pianalunga , the bottom of Olen run, was a particular favourite - a bottle of water, a plate of pasta and out again in about 20 minutes and less than 10 euros worse off.

Most of our party agreed that Chamoluc is a very good resort and definitely worth visiting. They all enjoyed it immensely.

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