Buongiorno! As a family we always look forward to our annual winter holiday but our time away was almost over before it began when our daughter, Freya, ripped half her big toenail off. We were heading to the Italian Alps courtesy of family ski specialist Esprit. Freya is almost nine years old and messing about with the hotel door resulted in a damaged digit which thankfully responded well to Calpol, a plaster and lots of TLC. We were travelling to Gressoney-La-Trinité in North West Italy which is part of the Monterosa Ski Area and covers Alagna, Stafal and Champoluc. We travelled with longstanding friends Gabby and Mark, their two children: Arianna (aged 8) and Isaac (aged 6) along with Gabby’s elder sister Roz. We also met up with Helen and Simon and their two children Erica (aged 6) and Merryn (aged 4). We all snowboarded with the exception of Roz, Helen and the children.
There were ups and downs throughout the holiday so what were the good bits, the bad bits and the downright ugly?
The Good: Gressoney is full of rustic charm and is super quiet which translates into uncrowded and, at times, completely deserted pistes which were a joy to ride. Snow conditions were good (it snowed the day we arrived) and powder was to be found. The food was delicious both on and off the mountain and significantly cheaper than in France and Switzerland. With a coffee costing just €1.50 it was great to sit in a deckchair feeling the warmth of the sun (spring really is around the corner) without worrying about the cost of a second cup. There was a beautiful 8km black run from the top of the Passo Salati at nearly 3000m to Alagna at 1200m which I took at a leisurely pace and the men powered down in 12 minutes! The best times were spent with the kids: we could all ride and ski together for the first time, and the children progressed to such an extent that I could not keep up with Freya. I guess I better learn to ride faster or be relegated to ‘back marker’! It was heart-warming to see their increased confidence and proficiency. For those who want to help their children venture into the snowsport world checkout the book, The Adventures of Monty the Marmot by Richard Liddle.
The Bad: on the first day Freya and Arianna returned from ski school with unexpectedly glum faces. They reported the instructor to be too strict and not much fun. I think the language barrier was a problem, and this did not improve as the week went on. The hotel was basic, albeit mostly clean and the bed was not as comfortable as ours back in ‘Blighty.’ If you are looking for extra-curricular activity, away from snowboarding or skiing, then Gresonney is not the place for you as there was little else to do.
The Ugly: many resorts have upgraded their facilities over recent years but Gressoney has retained its character and with it many original features such as ‘hole-in-the-ground toilets’ which were evident in the mountain restaurants and cafés. Both my eyes and nose were somewhat offended! This was not so much of a problem for the adults, but Freya and Arianna refused to use them, going all day without a wee-stop. The cable car at the mid-station which had to be caught to get up from Alagna was, at times, more like a stereotypical football crowd with pushing and shoving for 30 minutes. It was unpleasant and a bit scary but had to be endured rather than enjoyed. In a chalet hotel illness can spread like proverbial wildfire and coughs and colds abounded. Unfortunately, as a little holiday legacy, I have brought one of these home with me.
Although Gressoney-La-Trinité is not pretty like the Italian Dolomites it had its own charm with deserted slopes and off-piste powder aplenty. Best suited to intermediate snowboarders and skiers with mostly red runs and a handful of blue and black slopes, plus lots of flat sections, it was not really a beginner’s playground. But many people in the hotel were return guests as they favoured this area above others. As with most holidays there are good times and bad, but the good outweighed both the bad and ugly, and yes we would go back. Most importantly another family wintersports holiday will be booked for 2016 as the kids need their snow fix as much as we grown-ups need ours.
Ciao, ciao for now!