Ski Holidays in the Monterosa
Ski holidays in the Monterosa area of Italy offer the chance to experience one of the largest and quietest ski areas in the country. Named Italy’s very own 'three valleys', the area is made up of the Val d'Ayas, the Lys Valley and Valsesia in Piedmont, and includes the three beautiful village resorts of Champoluc, Gressoney and Alagna, all lift-linked. Each of the three resorts has a family-friendly village feel, with minimal resort development and traditional Walser buildings scattered throughout.
If you are looking for a busy and lively ski resort, this area is probably not for you as the après ski scene is limited and consists mainly of traditional Italian mountain restaurants and cosy bars. The area is perfect for families looking to experience a wide variety of piste skiing and to enjoy a relaxing traditional ski holiday. It is also suitable for expert skiers looking to explore the vast areas of off-piste terrain and heli-skiing opportunities from the Lyskamm Mountain (4,527m).
The Monterosa ski area
The area is fitting for all levels of skiers. However, with the majority of the slopes being red runs, the piste skiing is best suited to intermediates. The whole ski area makes up 180km of un-crowded pistes (19 blue runs, 41 red and 6 blacks) and includes the Gressoney-Saint-Jean black run – the most difficult in the whole of the Aosta valley. Lift connections between the valleys are at the Colle de Bettaforca and the Passo Salati peak – but be aware that the connections are fairly susceptible to closing when there are high winds.
Natural snow conditions are generally good, and due to the high altitude and extensive snowmaking machines on all pistes, there is plenty of skiing for a brilliant ski holiday. With the grooming of the pistes being incredibly thorough, the slopes are great for intermediates. However, most experts will be venturing off-piste to find more challenging terrain in the form of steep couloirs and long powder fields. Named the ‘Freeride Paradise’, the Monterosa area famously offers exceptional high altitude off-piste skiing with magnificent views and opportunities for heli-skiing.
'Freeride Paradise' - the off-piste terrain
For those wanting to explore the famously brilliant off-piste that Monterosa can offer there are plenty of great mountain guide options. Above the pistes of the three valleys are the peaks and glaciers that make up the Monterosa Massif – from where the area gets its name. The southern flank is covered with off-piste opportunities which can be reached by lift or helicopter. The Salati Punta Indren cable car enables access to the highest point of the Monterosa ski area (3,275m), from where there are incredible off-piste descents into both Gressoney and Alagna. The area is also good for intermediate skiers wanting to learn how to ski powder, as some of the southern flanks offer wide low angle bowls which are great for practicing before tackling the steeper terrain and couloirs.
Champoluc is the largest of the resorts and is perfect for families looking for a quiet ski holiday, with good nursery runs and quiet pistes. The gondola from Champoluc ascends up to Crest where there is a mid-mountain nursery area, which is easy for beginners to reach and includes two moving ‘magic carpets’. For longer, gentle runs head up the valley to Frachey, where there is a large variety of options as your skiing level moves beyond the nursery slopes. There are also great slopes for intermediates as the majority of slopes are red level runs. For the more expert skiers, there are a limited amount of tough piste runs, however, the main draw is in the off piste opportunities. Most of the lifts are fast chairs or gondolas and, like the pistes, are beautifully quiet during the week with the slopes only feeling slightly busier at weekends and peak holiday times.
Champoluc is a charming and relaxed village, with local bars and restaurants gathered around the gondola base, providing the best in Monterosa in terms of après ski. However, it is quiet compared to many other resorts in the Alps. As well as some lovely restaurants in the village, there are some great, genuinely Italian mountain restaurants, perfect for soaking up the views of the valley and taking a break from the slopes – the hot chocolates are unrivalled, or try a ‘Bombardino’ (one part Advocaat, one part brandy – served hot with a topping of whipped cream) if you fancy a slightly stronger afternoon drink! For non-skiers, there is not an abundance of activities in the village although there is an ice rink. Non skiers can also get a day pass for the main gondola so that they can experience the breath-taking views and the mountain restaurants.
In terms of accommodation, there is a good range of hotels, with noticeably lower prices when comparing to other resorts in Austria, France and Switzerland. For a luxurious experience try the secluded Hotellerie de Mascognaz which offers individual and beautifully traditional chalets and spa set within an exclusive hamlet above the main resort of Champoluc. Please note that access to and from the hamlet from either the resort or the ski area is via a skidoo service.
Gressoney is based in the centre of the Monterosa ‘three valleys’. The Gressoney valley is made up of two villages, Gressoney St Jean and Gressoney La Trinite. The main ski area is a further 3km up the valley from Gressoney La Trinite. While there are a few accommodation options in Gressoney St Jean this village is low key and small.
Gressoney La Trinite is home to the main accommodation choices, of which the Hotel de Gletscher should be noted. There are also several bars and restaurants but the après ski scene is quiet, making this resort ideal for families wanting a peaceful and relaxed holiday. For those looking for things to do off the slopes – Gressoney has a sports centre and local shops. There is also the Walser Ecomuseum which offers an informative and enjoyable visit, where you can immerse yourself in the Walser people’s culture – the first inhabitants of the Monterosa area in the 12th and 13th Centuries. Although there are some non skier attractions, Gressoney is better suited for a peaceful ski holiday with plenty of intermediate level pistes but limited après ski or off-piste attractions.
Alagna is the furthest east of the three villages in the Monterosa ski area. As with the other resorts in this area, Alagna is a beautiful rustic village which is still home to many traditional Walser chalets. It is virtually untouched by the tourist industry and offers a true traditional mountain experience with exceptional skiing. For both intermediate and expert skiers, this resort area is perfect, with plenty of empty red runs throughout the week and unrivalled off piste skiing for experts and freeriders.
The village sits at the foot of one of the world’s greatest lift-served verticals (over 2,000 metres) – creating a paradise for expert skiers searching for off-piste adventures – although there are no black runs there is a huge amount of challenging terrain found off-piste. In order to experience all Alagna has to offer we recommend hiring a qualified mountain guide. While the skiing experience here is magnificent, nightlife and après ski venues are limited, the small village consisting of family run restaurants and a couple of relaxed bars. If you are looking for a lively après ski experience, Alagna is not the best choice.
Getting to the Monterosa ski area
Turin-Caselle is the closest international airport to most of the Monterosa area. It is situated 16km north of Turin and is approximately one and a half hours’ drive from Champoluc and Gressoney. For Alagna, Milan Malpensa Airport is also just under a two hour drive. From Turin the journey is just over two hours.
If you are looking for a relaxed ski holiday with beautifully quiet pistes and unrivalled off-piste, the huge Monterosa ski area is a perfect choice.