Review of Cervinia

29th January 2011 by RSimpkinuk57 

About the village: visitors from Zermatt, skiing down the Ventina run to take the gondola back up, will see only the least charming aspect. Only at the bottom of the Cretaz chair could they appreciate what charms the place has.

Location matters: most of the skiing can be reached only via Plan Maison. There are 3 ways to get there: (1) direct gondola;(2) up the Cretaz chair then ski down to the gondola (red run); (3) up the Cretaz chair, the new Pancheron chair, then ski down to Plan Maison (blue run with a long, almost flat finish: boarders beware).

I think of the village as being like a three-tiered antler. You can stay along the stem (the road in as far as the bus stop and turning circle in front of the church). This is equally inconvenient for both the gondola (up a steep hillside) and the chair. You can stay along, or just off the (imperfectly) pedestrianised main street (the first left-hand branch of the antler): the most charming part of the village. This is convenient for the chair and nursery slope, but not for the gondola; for that you must walk gently down the street to the church then up that same steep hill. At the top, the gondola loads at the back of the building, up and down stairs and along a corridor; the piste-side entrance is easier, if you went up the Cretaz chair then skied down.

The other two tines of the antler branch left and right from before the gondola station (which is a cable car station too for extra/alternate capacity): right, up to Cielalto, is least convenient for both ski school (Cretaz) and après-ski. Left, the middle prong of the antler, is close to being ski-in ski-out with access to both the gondola and Cretaz, but an uphill walk at the end of an evening on the town.

To summarise: the main street area is best, because you can always go up the Cretaz chair as first stage wherever you are trying to get to; though if wanting to be first up the top each day, choose the Hotel Astoria beside the gondola station.

I myself stayed at the Hotel Breuil, on a little loop behind the church, effectively an appendage of the left-hand, main street part of the village – with a good view (from both the breakfast/dining room and the bar/lounge) of Monte Cervino itself. One can ski past the ice rink to a corner of the hotel itself, though not to a door. It’s about as good a situation as anywhere in the village.

A tip about lift passes: to ski Zermatt you can buy a whole-area pass (“International”), or you can buy one-day Zermatt extensions to your local pass. If you cross into Switzerland two days out of six then there is little difference in price between the two methods; if three or more days out of six then the International pass is better. I don’t know if you can buy extensions at the border (Plateau Rosa), across it at Trockener Steg, or only at Cervinia’s bottom stations.

To ski the whole of the long (two-part) Klein Matterhorn-Valtournenche run, you need the Zermatt pass or extension for the cable car to Klein Matterhorn. On a local-only pass you must shorten the run by starting that bit lower at Plateau Rosa.

If you are in Cervinia with Inghams, Crystal or associated brands (eg Thomson) then expect to be offered an excursion to Pila. A Cervinia local pass (3-day or more, as I interpret the English-language version of Cervinia’s web page) is valid in Valle d’Aosta resorts including Pila, but a Cervinia-International pass is not. If you are going to spend one day in Pila, then you must spend four other days of your week using Zermatt’s lifts for the 6-day International pass, plus a 1-day Pila pass, to be the better deal.

Buying an International pass for yourself, then swapping with somebody else’s local pass for the day of the Pila trip, would I presume be violating the Terms and Conditions of purchase.

I thoroughly recommend the Pila excursion to intermediate skiers who wouldn’t otherwise go there (not for a whole holiday). Pila offers about 70km of runs, typically 2km+ reds of about 500m vertical, north facing in trees above 1800m, wide and interestingly varied in gradient. A nice change near the end of a week in Cervinia. Good views across to Monte Cervino, and of Mt Blanc too. The coach goes to the gondola station down in Aosta town (city?) itself, where non-skiers, or skiers coming down early, can shop and sight-see.

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