The Monterosa-ski area connects three different valleys: Ayas, where you find Champoluc, Lys, which is the name of the river crossing Gressoney, and Valsesia, with its famous freeride paradise Alagna.
Theoretically, it is possible to start in Champoluc and ski the whole way to Alagna, in an hour or two. And it happens quite often. That’s why I had planned to go by ski to meet my guests of this weekend. We should be with a corporate IT company we arrange all incentive ski trips for since some 10 years or so, and we wanted to meet our best Norwegian guests, coming back to Alagna for the 4th time this year. Happy for that! The problem was the wind closed the high Salati lift, which works its way up to 3000 meters to the Salati Pass, between Gressoney and Alagna. That meant I could not ski my route, but had to drive my van to reach my goal instead. And this takes more than 3 hours!
So, I decided to enjoy my tour and not to take any motorway, just to have a sightseeing of the countryside. There are many parts of Italy that are not well known at all for tourists, and the region I crossed Wednesday afternoon is one of those. From the end of the 18th century, the place developed the country’s most advanced textile industry around Biella. In our days there are still some of the best Italian textile factories here: Zegna, Agnona, Cerruti, to name a couple. Workers and industries need functional buildings, and the area I cross today is not a charming Italian countryside, but a flourishing and densely inhabited urban environment. Some miles at the right side of this stands the Monte Rosa and some miles at the left you dive in the blue waters of Lago Maggiore and Lago d’Orta though, much more suitable for touristic exploration.
We like Residence Mirella, the mythical B&B at the foot of the lift station in Alagna. Emanuela and Pietrino are incredibly kind as usual, and welcome us as if we were their best friends. Take your time and chat a little, but in Italian, better than in other languages. They will tell you all they know about Alagna and their inhabitants, there is no other better place to visit to get updated with the latest news. The hotel is extremely cosy, but genuine and simple. The breakfast is an experience not to forget, with Pietrino’s creations in the form of – you name it! Built in chocolate. The passion of the head of the family is a bakery.
After a couple of good days in Alagna I have to go back to my enchanted village in the Ayas valley. I drive all the way back on Saturday morning. My Milanese friends are on place, knowing it will be snowing.
The idea of taking the car to drive from our new base camp in Palouettaz, about two miles from Champoluc, to drink coffee with them is not pleasant at all, after all driving. So I look through my window: it is dark, it is snowing. Beautiful! I put my headlamp on and lots of waterproof clothes and I walk. It feels like skiing in powder: fluffy, silent, soft. Someone is cooking polenta on a fire in the snow outside the house. Amazing people still enjoy the real simple acts of the mountains!
Today I took my skins and went for a walk in the woods, which I do when I really need recreation here in my work place. People don’t understand when I say that this is a job for me, to ski every day and get out for dinner…but it is indeed! And I like to be for myself in the woods. Well, I wasn’t really alone if you consider the two great chamois I met on my way. The goal was Rifugio Ferraro, just to say hello to Fausta and her husband Stelio, and to listen to the latest trekking adventure she had been to – Base Camp Mount Everest this time…she is always doing a trekking in the Himalayas, when the rifugio here in Monterosa is closed. Mountain people like mountains, more than the beach to relax. As I do today.The place is off, but filled with hikers coming by snowshoes, ski mountaineering skins or simply by feet, with crampons for ice and the deep snow on the trail.
No beach for real mountaineers, but I had my swimsuit in my backpack… just in case! So I decided to end my adventure today in the wonderful brand new SPA in Champoluc: Monterosa Terme. A little crowded for a lone wolf as I am, but the bubble pool was great to relax my tense muscles after the morning walk.