Stories

Welcome to our Stories, a special blog, where our friends write about their experiences and adventures in the Monterosa area. If you would like to visit Champoluc, Gressoney, Alagna or other villages in the Aosta Valley, trek or ski in the Monterosa, discover Sardinia or other places we offer, contact us!

Thanks Matt for submitting this thorough and great review of your stay in Champoluc!

Posted: Jan 24, 2014
Categories: Champoluc, Stories
Comments: 0
The below is caveated by saying Dayna and I were after a quiet ski holiday (so no need for bars / apres etc) and we're both very good skiers (have skied most major resorts both in Europe and US / Canada) and a fair few smaller resorts too. We love our skiing. Overall I'd give Chompoluc 4 stars out of five. Resorts that get five stars are the likes of: Whistler, Val D'Isere, Ischgl, Jackson Hole, Verbier, Zermatt etc. So 4 is pretty damn good. We really liked the quaintness of the town and the fact that it isn't overrun with non italians (a few brits a few swedes but that's about it).

 

The nice and warming sun at one of the top stations in the system.

We didn't notice any of the hoards of budget English ski tourists you find in eg. Chamonix. The lack of nightlife keeps them away I guess, which was great! Just nice families enjoying the Xmas break. It's civilised! The biggest drawback is the road running through the centre of the resort. It get's really busy. And though it isn't fast moving traffic, it becomes a bit of a scrum at the end of the day (at NY anyway). Apparently they regularly discuss building another road but nothing has ever come of it. Locals agree it would be great to build another road. Shouldn't be tough to do!

 

Skiing: 5*
The resort has seen some pretty impressive expenditure of late (last 3 years). The new lifts are great. There's a very good train / funicular that takes you up from Saint Jacques to one of the main hubs. From there you've easy access to ski over to Gressoney etc. And you can download on the funicular at the end of the day - you can't ski down which is annoying apart from on a cat track (don't do this at the end of the day as there are cats coming in the opposite direction! Then a 7 min bus ride from Saint Jacques back to Chompoluc. There are also 3 / 4 new high speed gondolas that have gone in recently.

These are 1st class. And really open up the ski area. There's sooo much skiing! For the good intermediate up. This is not a place for beginners at all in our view. There's another mountain nearby (can't remember the name) which is supposed to be better for beginners. But Monterosa is tough. Christmas / New Year especially so because Italians ski like they drive! The crowded pistes at the end of the day are seriously dangerous. I am told though that for most of the year, there aren't many people, so it's not a problem. But Xmas / NY is not for the faint hearted!

Here we are 'Skinning' up the mountain and had to take a little break.

The off piste is just fabulous. There are steeps, bowls, tree runs galore. And you can access a lot of it from the lifts. There's an amazing lift that takes you 3000m+. Off piste all the way down - and pretty steep. For the off piste though you HAVE to go with a guide / a local. Very difficult to know where to go and nothing is marked. We had loads of sun but I imagine in white out it becomes extremely dangerous. There are plenty of great guides though, so v easy to arrange.

Another thing that is great in Chompoluc and you don't see so much of in other resorts is "skinning". We did this for a day with a guide (hired the equipment - v easy to do). It was FANTASTIC. You strap material to the bottom of your skis and hike up a mountain for a day / morning / whatever you're fit enough to do. Masses of terrain to cover, you ski down in powder and have a late lunch in a fantastic refugio! You can make it as hard or easy as you like. Really nice thing to do to get away from the crowds at Xmas! And to burn off the excess Xmas pudding from the 25th!

 

Eating: 5*
Apart from Courmayeur (undoubtedly the best food of any ski resort!), Chompoluc food is GREAT! The Refugios on the mountain are mostly fantastic! Local food, cheap and delicious. And the refugios are in beautiful locations. Had 2 amazing experiences. There is a refugio on the way down the off piste from the highest gondola in the resort. Just a beautiful setting. Amazing it's there at all. All the produce is local and organic. Just delicious.

The second is a snow shoe (again a v popular thing to do) from Saint Jacques up to a Tibetan style restaurant in a secluded medieval village. Probably the coolest place i've eaten at in any ski resort. Quiet, tranquil, amazing food with spectacular views. You can ski to it - which we did - but you must be an expert skier to do so. Much better to either skin or snow-shoe up to it. Amazing on a sunny day.

As you can imagine, this is not how it looked like in the restaruants.

At night you HAVE to book restaurants to have a chance to get in over Xmas. You can't just turn up. But the restaurants are cheap and very good on the whole. The best is meant to be la grange in Saint Jacques. We couldn't get a table :(. And there are meant to be great places up on the piste for dinner but again, we couldn't get in and had the all inclusive hotel package, so made sense to eat there most of the time.

 

Hotel: 4*
For the price, this place (Breithorn) was a great deal. I wouldn't spend an awful lot to stay there but it is definitely good. The best thing about it is the rooms are amazingly clean. And they give you fresh sheets / towels each day. They have a turn down service at night. The cleaners deserve some sort of award. The best of any hotel i've staid in i think. It makes a big difference.

They try VERY hard with the food. There's a lot of it. It is, however, not amazing. Much better to eat out actually. But it's a very nice setting. White table cloths each day. And a pretty good / reasonably priced wine list. Some very nice wines actually. The staff are mostly very friendly - especially the Italian staff. The spa is small but very welcome. And there are massages for 50 euros - not too bad.

 

Travel:
Dead simple. Fly to Malpensa (1.5 hrs), hire a car and it's about 2 - 2.5 hrs. V difficult to get lost (Italian roads are really well marked). And v beautiful when you get into the mountains. Make sure, if your car is diesel, to buy the anti freeze for the petrol. The resort can get v cold and you'll probably end up parking your car outside, so you don't want the fuel to freeze!

 

Overall:
The really good things about the resort are:

 

1. Value for money
- The prices (approx. 2/3 times less expansive than eg. Verbier). It is so nice to pay only a few euros for a really excellent meal. Rather than 30 euros for a really average meal in Switzerland - with awful wine!

 

2. The skiing
- provided you're competent. On a powder day, with a guide, there are probably few better places to ski in the world. - interestingly for really young children (3-5 year olds) i think the set up is probably pretty good. There are a lot of ski schools and the kids seem to have a great time.

There's a good area for them to learn at the top of the first gondola. - skiing over to Alagna takes a while - 2.5 hrs (and take note of the lift times as it's a 4.5hr drive back to Chompoluc if you get stuck there!), but is a nice day out. If you stick to the pistes, you can comfortably spend 4-5 days exploring if you're a decent skier. If you're good, you can ski here all season and not get bored! - heli-skiing. we couldn't do it as fully booked. But is meant to be excellent and affordable too for once!

 

3. Scenery
- it's stunning. The mountains really do turn orangey pink in the sun at the start and end of each day.

 

4. Food / wine (both on and off the hill)
- good quality, local (no really fancy places but down to earth and just what you want) - the local beer is good too!

 

5. Ski rental
- Tako ski and Ivan (who runs it) are brilliant. Friendly, good selection of skis, right next to the lift and they heat your boots for you every morning! What more could you want!

 

6. Friendly locals
- Italians are great

 

7. Other activities
- snow shoeing is big - skinning is big - cross country skiing is big - hiking with crampons is big - ice climbing too if that is your bag!

 

The less good bits:

 

1.
The road (per above)

 

2.
Beginners (though see above caveat)

 

3.
The infrastructure
- they've spent money recently but they could do sooo much more. For such a colossal ski area there are very few lifts actually. And there is not much going on in the town besides dinner. In fact - there is nothing going on come to think of it. A pretty terrible English style pub. That's it!

 

4.
It's not glamorous. Depending on what you're up for this can be good or bad. By that I mean you don't see Euro women strutting around in fur & chichi bars / restaurants. People watching is not a thing here. There is no pretence. Contrast to say Courmayeur up the road, where there's loads of that!

 

Given there's not much to do, best to spend 4-5 days in Chompoluc. Though think outside the box and you'll be happy here for a week or more (you'll be so exhausted form the days activities that you won’t want to hang out in a bar for apres!)

 

So there you go. We had a great time. Would definitely go back.

Happy after a great vacation!

Kind regards Matt
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