The world is a vast playground with much to see and do, and many subscribe to the philosophy that you should never travel to the same place twice. But what if you feel real affinity with a destination and are thinking about returning? Many say that second time-around is never as good as the first. Will those memories of your inaugural trip be tainted by a less enjoyable second one? Do rose-coloured glasses play tricks with our mind meaning our expectations are so high they can never be fulfilled? We have just returned from Gressoney-la-Trinité in North West Italy which is part of the Monterosa ski area, sitting in the Aosta valley, and covers Alagna, Stafal and Champoluc. We revisited the resort after first discovering it last year (see how we got on in 2015 here) and travelled to exactly the same hotel, Chalet Valverde, with the same company, Esprit Ski who specialise in family ski holidays. So why did we return, how did we get on and what are the advantages and disadvantages of going back to the same place?
We travelled as a group with the same families as last year, with the exception of Roz who declined to come this year, and the addition of Emma and Andrew and their two children. There were eight adults and seven children who ranged from five years to nine years old; six of us snowboarded and nine (including all the children) skied. Everything was done exactly as the previous year although we used my good friend Lizzie Adamson-Brown from Travel Counsellors to book the trip which took my planning headache away. We wanted to return for a number of reasons including:
Quiet pistes: sometimes we were the only ones riding, and it really is special and relatively uncommon to have beautifully groomed pistes all to ourselves.
Off-piste: this was plentiful plus it was easily accessible. However, you really needed a guide if you were straying further from the pistes as cliffs and rocks were abundant.
The need to fully explore the area: we felt we had just scratched the surface last year and wanted to get to know the place better. At the end of this trip we had ridden almost every run.
Location and feel of the hotel: the chairlift stood ten metres from the entrance of the hotel and it truly was ski in and out; great for the kids and adults alike. Plus the hotel had a cosy, family-feel where the kids could run about safely.
Good quality and great value food: Italy never disappoints and we had superb food both on and off the mountain including, this year, an evening trip in a snowcat to a traditional mountain restaurant called Morgenrot. This year we also discovered a daytime eatery called Campo Base near Champoluc which served an amazing curry.
One of the major advantages of returning to the same resort is the familiarity and security it gives the children. They knew how the hotel and ski school worked. Plus they were familiar with the snow club, recalled the pistes and felt comfortable in knowing what would happen whilst we were on holiday. The adults did not feel as pressured to rush and explore everything, and it felt more relaxed knowing how the pistes and chairlift systems worked.
On the flip side returning to the same place means you can get bored and tired. For us that was not the case and we thoroughly enjoyed our second trip in as many years. The group dynamics were different as we had another family join us which added a different dimension, plus I felt we explored the area extensively venturing as far as we could into Champoluc and going to different restaurants and meeting new people. The kids progressed hugely with Freya and Arianna starting to parallel turn, doing lots more off-piste and small jumps. Isaac was so fast on his skis that none of us snowboarders could catch him! I really enjoyed my time with Freya watching her develop, and despite the odd argument and tears she enjoyed it too.
In Europe we have the luxury of experiencing different cultures just by selecting a different resort: languages vary as do cuisine and attitudes. By travelling to different resorts we can allow our children a broader experience of what the world has to offer, but, as with everything, there is a balance to be struck. Maybe as adults we crave different experiences to add to our repertoire, but children often need to feel a sense of security and safety which familiarity can bring. What you do will depend upon the nature of your children and their confidence in experiencing new places and people. Despite enjoying our holiday, to visit the same place three times in as many years would be one return trip too far for us. We have not decided where we will go yet, but I love Italy, the Italians and this area so I will be back – just not next year.
Ciao, ciao for now.