Guest Blog: Skiing the Italian Alps

15 Mar

By Stuart Elliott

Sharon has often been heard to say that skiing produces the best of times and the worst of times. Naturally I can’t agree with this but I thought I would highlight and lowlight our first few days in the Alps.

The Aosta Valley is one of the most gorgeous places on earth. We experienced breathtaking natural beauty, clear blue skies, snow everywhere and the warmth of spring sunshine. Add to that well positioned mountain restaurants with panoramic views and wholesome local fare. Then add the satisfaction of making a graceful turn on impossibly awkward shafts of aluminium, or in my case the thrill of hurtling down the mountainside at speeds well in excess of my age on the edge of control and catastrophy. This reckless abuse of my body has now resulted in what I fear are arthritic knees requiring early and long lunches to rest and numb the pain with large amounts of the local beverage. Unfortunately this then results in even more reckless and irresponsible behaviour post lunch which I really must put an end to.

Every late afternoon we were privileged to return to our mountain retreat, the Hotellerie de Mascognaz. It is a reconstructed 14th century Walser village, 500 meters above the resort, with the wooden school, church and homes carefully converted into restaurants, rooms and common areas and a spa. Watching the late afternoon setting sun cast its warm orange glow on the snow covered mountains whilst taking afternoon tea on the verandah was the highlight, or was it the gin and tonic in front of the roaring log fire? For some people the 3km ride in and out of the village by snowmobile would have been a thrill, but not for people with suspect spines.

And so to the worst of times in this privileged environment.

The French build a ski resort so you can do what most people come to do, which is eat and ski in that order. The local burghers of the quaint, but occasionally trying, village of Champoluc in the Aosta valley, delight in making their visitors trudge with skis on shouders and uncomfortable boots on feet between the end of a high speed descent and the slow mechanical ascent to the next peak. They also try to defy gravity with descents that actually go uphill; a nightmare for our young friends who choose one shard of aluminium instead of the conventional two (i.e. snowboarders).

During our brief sojourn in the Italian Alps we met people from all over Europe and they were invariably delightful and interesting people, especially those at our hotel. But skiers en masse can also be rude and unattractively hedonistic. There were the……

Englishmen and their offspring who decided to play a game, in a full to capacity cable car, of competing to establish which members of their group, who positioned themselves at opposite ends of the car, could shout the loudest. But that was okay really because it just confirmed what everybody already knew about the English.

The Italian who decided my about to be strapped on skis were in his way so he skied over them and broke my ski pole. But that was understandable because he needed to get to wherever he was going in a rush.

The Swede who compressed Sharon into the corner of the lift, as if she didn’t exist, so he could take a better selfie. However that was genuinely understandable because he was about 2 foot taller than Sharon.

Indeterminates who fail to acknowledge other mortals, especially those holding doors open for them. But that was okay too because some skiers are obviously superior beings.

Champoluc is a wonderful place and no doubt just as magnificent in summer. It is populated by charming, cheerful and helpful Italians, especially the cafe and restaurant staff. Hopefully their warmth and hospitality will rub off on their stressed out visitors.

(Photo note from Sharon: As you’ll see in the photo gallery Stuart has finally learnt the fine art of relaxation. Aosta is the perfect place to chill!)

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We drove from Lyon to Champoluc via the Mt Blanc Tunnel.

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Via St Martin de Belleville to collect skis and boots from Martyn’s chalet and a good lunch.

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Skidoos or landrovers ferried us up and down from our hotel.

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Had to get a shot of the Jerez Frst tshirt in the snow! And yes it was warm!

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Main hotel building with small deck for tea in the sun. Favourite spot of Stu’s.

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Guest lounge.

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Breakfast spread.

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View of spa and hotel chalet guest accommodation.

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There are some excellent walks from the hotel. Snow shoes available.

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Stuart loved the hotel dinners – ok for vegans if you like fried seitan but not great.

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Most of the hotel staff are from Sardinia. Just delightful.

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Swim and then eat some more!

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Mascognaz pure spring water.

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Meanwhile back on the piste…..

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The new, more relaxed Stuart.

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Ciao!

4 Responses to “Guest Blog: Skiing the Italian Alps”

  1. Jem Edwards March 15, 2014 at 9:04 am #

    beautiful

    • Sharon Tickle March 15, 2014 at 9:37 am #

      Yes, the camera does not lie Jem! Would love to come back in the summer. Sxx

  2. Michelle Noble March 15, 2014 at 6:16 pm #

    Wow and wow! What a week you chose for your winter ski holiday. It has been scorcho here too, though some weather coming in this evening. The set up (ski doo to hotel), hotel facilities and surroundings look beautiful, How do you manage to find these absolute gems?? Enjoy the rest of your holiday. Glad that Stuart is finally looking relaxed….M&B xxx

    • Sharon Tickle March 15, 2014 at 8:18 pm #

      Think the trick is, leave booking until the last moment then in desperation pay a shedload of money…that was Stu’s MO for Champoluc! Sxx

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