I’ve ended up with a bit of stiff neck today after skiing in Cervinia. Not from the tumble I took in a brief venture off-piste, which left my mate Ian doubled up with laughter: but from constantly looking up at the mighty Monte Cervino (aka the Matterhorn), which looms over Cervinia and never lets you forget what a proper mountain should look like.
Our guide for the day was local ski instructor, Mattia Roncoroni, who advised us straight away that we’d struggle to find any decent off-piste skiing because of recent high winds that had created a hard, crusty surface on the snow (hence my wipeout).
My friend, Ian, is a big ski tourer so I was worried that he in particular might find a day on the pistes a bit tedious, but it didn’t take long to realise that in Cervinia you don’t really have boring days on skis, wherever your planks may take you.
This is in large part due to the spectacular alpine scenery. As you get off the Bontadini chair at the 3301m Theodulpass, the Premier League of 4000-metre European peaks parade themselves before you, including (in no particular order) Mont Blanc in the distance, Monte Rosa, Liskamm, Breithorn, Dent d’Herens and of course Monte Cervino/the Matterhorn. You don’t get the classic Matterhorn view here: that belongs to Zermatt, which shares this high rolling ski area with Cervinia. But even so, I think we spent as much time pointing ski poles in the direction of towering mountains as we did skiing.
Add to that a sparkling sunny day and Ian and myself, who studied geology together at uni, were indeed in a “Matterhorn glacier paradise” as the piste maps describe the area.
But how about the skiing? Would a resort that is not noted for its challenging skiing keep us happy for the day? Yep, it sure would. The thing about Cervinia is that it’s high and wide, it’s snow sure, it’s often sunny (as it was today) and at this time of year it’s quiet, so you can zoom along to your heart’s content, fine-tuning your technique or just enjoying the intense pleasure that comes from skiing in a magnificent setting with good company – which is surely what this sport is really all about.
Mattia followed the sun around the slopes on a selection of red and blue runs that would keep anyone smiling – I liked the fact that the relaxed terrain gave Ian and I, who only meet up once a year or so, the chance to enjoy some banter as we skied, which continued over coffee (at a very reasonable 2€ each) at Chalet Etoile right beneath Monte Cervino, before we set off to tackle Cervinia’s classic red run, the 12km Ventina (or Red 7).
There’s nothing especially challenging about Ventina. Any half-decent skier will be able to handle it. Its appeal lies in the fact that it just rolls on and on, seemingly forever, through the most glorious scenery. I commend it to you.
But there again, I’d commend pretty much any other red run in Cervinia to anyone who simply wants a fun day out in the high mountains. And something else I’d recommend is the truly luxurious Saint Hubertus Resort back down in Cervinia. I was fortunate enough to spend the night here before hitting the slopes, and the beautiful, handcrafted interiors and magnificent spa are almost enough to tempt you to spend the day luxuriating indoors. Almost, but not quite – after all, there’s the start of the Ventina awaiting 1430 metres above.
For more information about the Aosta Valley, visit aosta-valley.co.uk.