Monterosa Off-Piste

Alagna now styles itself as Italy’s Freeride Paradise – and for good reason. But many of Monterosa’s epic itineraries start off from the Gressoney valley, which has the highest lift, reaching up to 3275m. And there is easily accessible off-piste terrain in Champoluc too.

Before setting out, make sure you're properly equipped. Having an avalanche beacon, shovel and probe is now a legal requirement when skiing off-piste in most parts of Italy, and there can be spot checks at the Punta Indren lift and at Passo Salati. If you’re going onto the glacier, you should have a harness and ropes as well. 

Hiring a Monterosa guide is also strongly recommended. They can show you the runs that don't appear on any piste map, such as the Malfatta and Punta Vittoria descents from Punta Indren and Passo Salati, or various off-piste tours across the Bors glacier down to Alagna (most of which require skins), or the steep and narrow couloirs between Passo Salati and Passo Zube. There are also much gentler options such as the Valle Salza, a long and pleasant descent from Punta Indren to Stafal through the Lys valley. The first section crosses the Indren Glacier to a panoramic but hard to find Col, and involves a long traverse and a 15-minute climb.  

You don't need a guide to do the marked but ungroomed run from Punta Indren to Gabiet through the tricky Eagle Couloir (its shown on the piste map as a dotted line, and described in more detail in our Monterosa Advanced Skiing section) but if you have one, they can take you down some variations from the main route which will be less tracked. Another favourite which is not too testing is the run down from Stolemberg to Gabiet. On the other side of the Gressoney valley, there is an off-piste route running down from Colle Bettaforca to Stafal which is great fun but can be hard to find.  

Not all the off-piste in the Alagna valley is far away from the piste. As you descend the long Olen black run look out for freeriding opportunities on both sides. In fresh snow, there is also some fun to be had beside the red run coming down from Bocchetta Delle Pisse, but this is predominantly south-facing so it deteriorates quickly.

The off-piste in Champuloc valley is mostly easy to reach because it tends to be close to the piste. A good place to start is the long red run from Bettaforca to Ciarcero. There are several gentle off-piste variations to skier's right of this piste. For something steeper, try the area near the C6 Sarezza to Contenery red run. This is high and mostly north-facing, so the snow here is often the last to turn to crud. But be careful – there are cliffs. On the other side of Sarezza, there are moguls and other challenges beside the piste running down to Crest. 

In powder conditions there are good routes through the trees in the Gressoney valley at Punta Jolanda and in the Champoluc valley above Frachey. Perhaps the best tree skiing in Monterosa, however, is outside the main lift-linked area, on the Weissmatten mountain above Bieltschocke, just below Gressoney Saint Jean. It’s a low altitude area – the high point is 2093m and the valley floor here is at just 1348m – but it’s North East facing and so tends to have better snow than its height suggests. First ski the world cup downhill run from the top following the red and black pistes. These are quite steep and good fun anyway, but keep an eye out for possible detours through the woods. You can assess them from above as you ride the chairlift back to the top of the mountain. Remember the slopes here are often deserted which is part of their charm but this also means there may not be many people within earshot if you get into trouble.

For an expensive treat, one of the best heliski itineraries in Europe is best accessed from Monterosa. Starting from the Col del Lys (4,200m), the first descent is on the Grenz glacier to Zermatt, surrounded by the awesome Lyskamm, Castore and Dufour peaks.  From Zermatt a cable car reaches the Piccolo Cervino (Klein Matterhorn), from where the views are magnificent, and the descent back to Champoluc is through the gentle sweeping Cime Bianche valley. Guided, this route is within reach of most competent skiers with stamina, even if they have only limited off-piste experience. And whilst heliskiing in Europe  is never cheap, it’s more affordable in Monterosa than it is in Switzerland or Austria (it’s banned in France).

Ski touring is another option to consider - and not just in winter. From late Spring into July, the Societa delle Guide di Gressoney arrange expeditions from Rifugio Mantova (3498m) and other high mountain refuges to the 4000m peaks that surround the area on a 'walk/skin up, ski down' basis.

 

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