Where to Ski and Snowboard – 2015 Trip report.
Gressoney , Monterosa , Aosta , Italy.
January 17th – 24th
Esprit – Hotel Valverde
We flew from Manchester to Turin with Jet 2, easy check-in and on arrival we got our luggage quickly and were
soon on the coach for the 1 hour 45 min drive up to Gressoney la Trinitie. Snow began to fall as we climbed up out of the
valley and was really heavy when we arrived at the Hotel Valverde where we were staying with Ski Esprit.
Had a large bedroom and sitting area with two single beds and a doorway through to a second bedroom with two
beds for the children. We had a small balcony looking down to the Punta Jolanda chairlift next to the Hotel. We had plenty
of storage/wardrobe space but a small bathroom which only had a shower.
The bar and reception
area of the Hotel was relaxing and pleasant, there was a kids quiet play area and lots of board games available too. The separate
dining area was bright and spacious.
Downstairs had the children’s nursery
as well as the boot room and the hot tub and sauna area which was lovely, clean and well maintained. Each room also had its
own ski locker and there was an access door out to the front of the Hotel where the kids would assemble each morning in their
groups to sing songs and do warm up exercise’s before skiing.
was good. Only 20m away from the lift or a 100m walk to ski bus for the drive up to Stafal (Esprit kids would be taken up
there each morning by minibus). Kids lessons all started up at Stafal where the snowrangers would take them to meet their
instructors for 10am. The snowrangers would ski with the ski class and help out when the kids needed clothing sorted or needed
toilet breaks and also stayed with them and helped out at lunchtime.
All the Esprit
staff were great and showed plenty of enthusiasm for their jobs, they were always very pleasant and spoke well when they met
you – asking about your day and what you had been doing. The waiting service at dinner was also of a very high standard.
Breakfast was plentiful, lots of cereals, breads, yoghurts, fruit, cheese and cold meats as well as pancakes,
sausage, eggs, bacon, beans etc to set you up for the day.
Usual chaos ensued just
before 9am in the morning when everyone descended on the boot room to get the kids all kitted up and ready for a day on the
slopes. It was fairly spacious though with benches along each side which made it much easier, could have
done with better lighting though. Once outside kids were entertained and done warm up exercise before being taken up to Stafal.
We would get the Punta Jolanda chair from outside the Hotel
and be on our way for the day, then after a full day out we could ski right back to the boot room door.
Italian ski school Gressoney instructors all seemed to speak decent English. Our children, Craig (8) and Anya
(5) were in groups with children older than them but they both really enjoyed the lessons and spoke highly of the instructors.
At the end of the week certificate/prize giving they were all very pleasant and easy to talk to.
of the things we liked on this trip was that the kids were taken to a mountain restaurant for lunch each day. The “Sittal”
is located on the edge of the Betta 1 red run just up from the Bellaforca chairlift. They would all sit at a big table and
have lunch together under the supervision of Esprits snowrangers. After eating and a toilet break they would then head back
out with the instructors for their afternoon lessons, or you could sign out your own children and take them skiing with you.
We only done this on the Wed afternoon as they were having so much fun, as well as learning in their class. They would finish
lessons at 3pm and would ski back to the Hotel where the snowrangers got them changed out of ski clothes and would entertain
them until the parents arrived, or till after children’s high tea. We would usually get our two at just after 3pm and
they would spend time with us before high tea at 5.15pm.
In the evenings the kids
Cocoa clubs ran from 7.30pm until 11pm or the younger ones could be put to bed and a member of the Esprit team would provide
a listening service outside the room. The adults then met up in the bar for canapes and a pre dinner drink.
The food was very good, especially the meat dishes, the venison, duck and lamb we had throughout the week was
all very well cooked and presented. Ate well all week and I was always too full to indulge in the cheese board back in the
lounge bar afterwards.
The small bar in the Hotel was open from 3pm to 11pm daily.
Not a great selection of drinks available. Draught Peroni on tap was €4.50 a pint. There was also a limited choice of
wines but they were reasonably priced from €12 per bottle. There were also children’s cocktails available. The
bar Manager was excellent and you could run up a bar bill and settle at end of the week.
We landed lucky with good snowfall just
prior to our arrival, and it then continued to snow for most of the week.
were good, hard packed powder on piste and plenty of untracked off piste.
The area has plenty
of snowmaking and this was often in use even though we had plenty of good snow. (Snow farming for later in the season).
The scenery in the Monterosa ski area is spectacular and you certainly feel a sense of travel and that you
are covering quite a vast area during the day.
The piste map in my view is not great.
The whole area is on one side and at times I found it difficult to read as the writing was so small, piste and lift numbers
are not easy to make out. A better idea in my view would be to have separate maps for the Champoluc sector, Gressoney/Stafal
sector and Alagna sector on one side and a whole area overview on the back. At present the back of the map has a lot of information
but it is repeated in 4 languages so takes up quite a lot of space.
Once you are familiar
with the area then the piste map becomes less relevant but when you head over to say Champoluc for the
first time it’s quite difficult to find your way around. Sign posting was not very informative and we were a little
unsure where we were going when we done the loop round Ostafa on the first day. Also the length of the pistes is so much greater
in reality than on the map as the scale is not good. After a day or two the piste map becomes irrelevant but I certainly think
they could make improvements to it.
Most of the marked runs are nice, wide and
cruisy, the majority are marked as red but tend to be on the easy side. The couple of black runs on the map are actually quite
tame, the Olen run from Passo Salati down towards Alagna has a couple of steeper sections but a decent intermediate skier
would have no problems with it. The views from down this side are stunning and there are a few nice little huts and restaurants
to stop at for a drink or a bite to eat then it’s a nice long run down to Alagna. From the edge of the village it’s
a bubble lift back up to Pianalunga then the large (often crowded) cable car back to the top. There is a nice, quiet and cruisy
blue run (Cimalegna) down to the mid station stop on the cable car, but it’s often a squeeze to get in for a ride back
to the top.
The place can be busy at weekends with the City crowds coming up from Milan and
Turin but during our week the whole area was very quiet Mon to Fri. Jill and I would quite often comment that it felt like
skiing in North America because of how quiet it was.
The Off-piste here is amazing and to get
the best out of it you need to hire a local guide. For the most part of this week we just cruised around trying to get to
know the area as much as possible. There were always nice areas of untracked powder from most of the lifts and we would ski
some of that before heading back onto the marked runs. Stopping for a mid morning coffee then a nice lunch each day was the
order of the week. We also liked to cruise around and find where the kids were skiing so we could watch how they were getting
on. The Esprit kids were all easy to pick out even from a distance as they all wore the distinctive pink bibs. As it was so
quiet Craig and Anya would often notice us and give us a wave as we watched them before they zoomed off again.
The lift from our Hotel door was the fixed speed Punta Jolanda triple chair, it is quite slow and long but
takes you up to the restaurant of the same name and from where a number of marked red runs take you down to a small hamlet
called Bedemie from where you get another fairly long chair up to Seehorn. From here it’s a flat (snowboarders be aware)
run to Gabiet and the link over to Alagna or the lovely Moos run down to Stafal. From Stafal there is the very long bubble
lift back up to Gabiet. We loved the area between Gabiet and Gressoney as it was always very quiet. At the end of the Moos
piste (narrow track then a steepish drop down to the village) you have a short walk (about 300m) to the bubble back to Gabiet
on one side of the valley or on the other you will find the Stafal – Sant Anna cable car, this lift runs regularly and
we had never to wait much more than a few minutes. It’s a short, steep climb to Sant Anna from where there is a short
(150m) walk over to the Colle Bettaforca detachable quad chair which has a windshield for the blustery days. At the top there
are long, wide and gentle runs back down to Sant Anna or over the other way and down to Champoluc.
The Champoluc area has a nice easy beginners area at Crest where there are also a few nice restaurants. The
Del Bosco red down to Champoluc is a lovey long run taking you back to the tiny bubble lift at edge of
the village. This lift is not the easiest to get in and out of and was certainly not designed for people over 6ft tall. The
area around Ostafa is beautiful and the really long red (Sarezza - Contenery ) C6 is a great scenic cruise. It takes you back
to the mid – station on the Lago Ciarcario – Belevarde chair and you can either head left and back towards Champoluc
or right to the Frachey sector and the link back over to Gressoney.
Restaurants and Bars.
During our stay in Gressoney
la Trinitie the Hotel Valverde wifi was out of service. We soon found the Faure bar/restaurant just around
the corner. The wifi here was very good and they had a bar with a really good choice of ales and lagers on tap. They also
have a fine wine selection. Downstairs there is a games room including a pool table and the staff were all nice and very welcoming.
We had dinner in the restaurant here one night and it was really good. The total bill for 2 adults and 2 children was €86
including wine and a few beers. Draught beer was €5, Large pizza was around €8, wine was €2 a glass.
In the little hamlet of Bedemie the bar/restaurant of the same name is a small and very friendly
family run place. They do basic, tasty food at lunchtime which is excellent value, we had Lasagne for €7 and a large
beer costs €4 with a small one at €2.50. The old couple who run the place also fly a Scottish Saltire flag outside
as they have good friends from Scotland who come over regularly to ski. This was also the place where we liked to sit outside
at the end of the ski day with a drink as we watched out for the kids skiing past with their groups on the way back down to
(below Colle Betta chair on the Betta red piste). The kids ski classes would stop each day at the Sitten for lunch. This is
a large bar/restaurant with huge windows offering great views. The food was good and prices competitive. Cappuccino (€1.30),
Cheeseburger (€5.50), Goulasg and Polenta (€14), Sausage pasta (€9), bottle of Sprite (€2.50), Rum and
hot chocolate (€4) and a pint of beer (€4). Downstairs there are spacious and clean washrooms. We saw a lot of ski
instructors as well as the ski patrol eating in here at lunchtimes and that is always a good sign.
La Baita bar/restaurant is located
just below Pianlunga on the way over towards Alagna from Gressoney. It’s a small but warm and cosy place and an ideal
place to stop for a mid morning coffee and a warm up. A large Cappuccino cost €2 and a hot chocolate with rum was €3.50.
It was a nicely decorated place inside with a lovely bar.
Restaurant Edelweiss is located at Crest at the top of the gondola up from Champoluc. This is where
we had our best lunch of the week. You walk in to a large bar area then on through to the restaurant which is bright and spacious,
we got a table next to one of the large windows which offer superb views down towards Champoluc and across the valley to the
slopes of Antagnod. The food was really good and we had excellent , friendly service. It was also really good value. Ham and
Cheese Pizza (€8.50), Venison Tagliatelle (€10), large beer (€4.50), bottle of water (€1.50), Café
(€1), Cappuccino (€1.50). Total bill for two was €32, excellent.
Bar/Restaurant Ostafa. This is a cosy place above Champoluc
with quick, efficient service…..but plastic cutlery (or rather just a fork) is something that I don’t like. The
Penne Arrabiata at €7 was excellent though.
Restaurant Jolanda. This is a fairly large place at the top of the Punta Jolanda chair. It’s
got a great panoramic outdoor terrace with stunning views all around. You order and pay just inside the front door, you then
collect your drinks from the bar before finding a table outside where you wait on your number being called by the waitress
as she brings the food out. My order came out virtually right away but Jill had to wait another 20 minutes for her lunch to
appear and I was finished before she had even started ! The tall wooden bar stool that I was sitting on suddenly disintegrated
and collapsed underneath me, I fell to the floor and had about 60 other lunchtime diners staring at me – and that was
without a drink ! The waitress who earlier had been pretty unhelpful and non smiling was now all apologetic and speaking pretty
good English even though earlier on she did not speak a word, they must have been thinking I was going to sue them. Anyway
Jill eventually got her lunch and we had a laugh about it, the sun was shining and the bill was €28 for 2 pasta dishes
and fries and also a beer each. It would have been fine if we had both got served at the same time, the waitresses come out
shouting the order numbers in Italian (Myself and most of the others waiting to be fed do not know what No 56 is in
Italian), this caused a lot of confusion as they ran from table to table checking peoples receipts as the food was
getting cooler and cooler by the second. After all of the above I would still go back as the view from the terrace was worth
the money alone.
Summary. All in all it was a great weeks family skiing. Great Hotel, brilliant Esprit
staff and good location allowing us to explore the 3 main areas of Champoluc, Gressoney and Alagna.
My two main negatives were the piste map being too small and difficult to read and lots of plastic cutlery
in restaurants at lunchtime.
Next winter we will be
back to Canada and the USA. Planning on a 4-5 week road trip starting mid March. Plan to fly in and out of Seattle with Icelandair.
This offers us good flights (times and prices) from Glasgow via Keflavik. We will head to Red Mountain (not
had a good season this year) then down to Silver Mountain at Kellogg in Idaho, on to ski
Discovery Basin in Montana before heading west to Mt Bachellor near Bend, Oregon then up
to Timberline to ski Mt Hood and finally Stevens Pass, Washington and