The second ski trip of the year had a slightly different character than the first. This time we went to Cervinia in the italian alps. My wife and kids had to stay at home this time. Instead me and three friends of mine went away on what I hope will be the first annual alpic ski trip.
We were treated with fantastic snow, hard winds, some sunshine and a helicopter ride!
Cervinia – first annual alpic ski trip
At the very top of Italy, on the south side of Matterhorn, the city of Cervinia (or Breuil in french) is located. The village is situated at 2006 meters above sea level. It’s name is taken from Cervino, which is the Italian name for Matterhorn. The ski system consists of the areas Breuil-Cervinia and Valtournenche. All in all those areas gives access to 22 lifts and 47 slopes. By the stats, it’s comparable to the Swedish ski system Lindvallen which contains 36 lifts and 42 slops.
On the other hand, in Lindvallen the longest run is 1800 meters. In Cervinia the longest run is 22 kilometers.
If you feel like it, you can take the lifts all the way up and cross the mountain. If you do, you will end up in Zermatt, Switzerland. You have to pay an additional 80€ on your lift card to get that international ski pass. It might be worth it, though, since it gives access to an additional 360 km of ski slopes.
Traveling to Cervinia
We started our trip in Landvetter and after the mandatory Jägermeister we boarded the plane. The trip was booked directly by ourselves and we had chosen a plane based on time. We left Gothenburg at 14:00 on the afternoon. After a quick touchdown in Frankfurt, we arrived at the Malpensa airport in Milan at around 18:00. We had booked a rental car beforehand, and went to pick it up. My friend had a credit card which gave us a free insurance for the rental car.
However, they told us that the credit card insurance would not help us if we needed a towing if we ended up beside the road. We had heard reports of 50 cm of snowfall during the day in the mountains. After a short discussion, we ended up taking the rental car insurance anyway. This proved to be a good choice, since our car was hit by the garbage collectors truck some days later!
From the airport Malpensa it’s a 2 hour drive to Cervinia. The distance to Turin is about the same, but we chose Milan since the flight times were better.
The 2 hour drive is actually to the camping of Cervinia. From there we had a 400 meter difference in altitude to our apartment. Our rental car had summer tires and broken snow chains. I won’t have to go into details about this. In short – when we entered the apartment after midnight, we had said a lot of bad things about Italian people.
We had rented a private apartment in Cielo Alto, 200 meters to the north east of the village. That is, 200 altitude meters. According to the ad, the apartment would house 8 people. It might do that, but in that case you really need to like each other. As it was now, we all got our own beds. The apartment was said to have a ski-in, ski-out location, but since we received around 87 cm of snow during the week, skiing in and out needed an off pist specialist. Luckily, we turned into off pist specialists during the course of the week, but the first morning we had some troubles geting down to the lift.
The apartment was really modern back in 1980, and rather nice in 2017. The view from the window was incredible. The main image of this blog post is taken from our kitchen window. We had two bedrooms and two convertible sofas in the kitchen and just above the stairs. The bathroom was crowned with futuristic luxurious LED lights and soft music that was connected to the shower. When the shower was started, the light of the bathroom was shut down and a red light was lit in the shower. At the same time a soft guitar started playing a ballad. This was wonderful for 30 seconds. Then the timer switched of the electricity of the bathroom and you had to open the shower room door to activate the sensor again.
This thing with motion sensors that shuts the light after 30 seconds. What’s the deal? Wouldn’t 2-3 minutes be more appropriate? It can’t be that expensive with electricity?
The first day the sun was shining from a clear blue sky. The other day the weather turned and the wind started blowing. We had booked an off pist training course on the Tuesday and an heliski run on Thursday but both had to be cancelled due to the hard weather.
The ski system was lay out in two different levels. If there was any wind at all, the crossing to Zermatt was closed to make sure that you weren’t stuck in Switzerland. By getting stuck in Switzerland, the taxi will apparently cost around €500. If there was a bit of wind they shut down the upper part of the ski system and you were forced to stay on the lower levels.
For us, this meant that the mid-level lifts were closed on day three. We had received 20 cm of snow during the night, and there was a lot of powder snow next to the pists. Despite the decimated ski system, we had a great time skiing. The next day, the wind was more forgiving and so they opened up the upper lifts as well. The snow on the upper level was still left untouched and we got another day of perfect powder. All in all we had perfect snow conditions with around 20 cm of powder basically every morning.
On the Thursday when we had planned for our heliski, the whole system was shut down. They claimed that the wind on the highest point of the ski system reached a stunning 45 m/s. I can actually almost believe them. Down in the valley the winds were also hard, and by looking at the snow whirling down from the top of the mountain we could see that the winds were really unfriendly. At least the sun was shining, and there was no wind in the bar. We found a nice restaurant that gave us ham and bread every time we ordered a tray of beer. After a while, we were both full and happy.
Until the very end, we didn’t think that we would do any heliski, but the last morning just before leaving town it happened. It was a bit too warm to go, but they’ve had a difficult season so they sent us up anyway. At least that was our theory, and we were all a bit shaky considering the risk of avalanches.
During the week the avalanche danger levels had reached its maximum level, and the risks are higher if you go where no one else has skied. Well, when we went for the helicopter the avalanche danger level was at a moderate 3/5. We also had a lot of wearable technical equipment on us so we would be easy to find if we ended up in an avalanche.
We were flown to a small flat spot on the mountain side, about 3500 above sea level. When the helicopter had left us on the slope we had all the mountain to ourselves. We had a mountain guide with us – Jean-Luc, that pointed out the different parts of the mountains and told us where we could go. He only had one rule. Never ski below him on the mountain side. On the first slope we skied, we all stopped below him.
After yelling at us, he took us down the slope. The sun was shining bright from the sky and it was a lovely day. We were alone in the untouched snow and… Well, you get it. It was awesome.
We never reached the Zermatt side. When we were done heliskiing we had 3 hours before we had to take the car to the airport. We had to go to Zermatt and get up to Klein Matterhorn on an altitude of 38883 meters, looking our over the valley. It’s the highest peak in Europe that can be reached by cabin car, or by any other means of transport for that matter. We should have known better, but we took the lifts up to the very top and looked out over the majestic panorama. There is glacier on the top of the mountain, so there is snow up there all year. The snow in the pist was very crisp when we descended. It was well worth it to go up there.
But of course, we came down to the car way too late and we had to change clothes really quick. Then we too the wrong turn somewhere. We couldn’t find a gas station to fill up the gas tank. When we finally returned the car we had to write an accident report about the garbage truck incident. Since our ski bag weighed too much, we weren’t allowed to check it in. Way later we managed to convince them to take the skis and we ran over to the odd sized luggage drop. They told us that we didn’t have a Heavy sticker on it, and we had to return to the check-in disk to retrieve one. (The ski bag weighted 25 kg instead of 23.)
5 minutes before the plane took off, we ran through the gate as the last passengers. A stressful end of an otherwise calm journey.
Thanks for a magnificent week! I’m already looking forward to next year!