Monterosa Ski Area Monterosa’s ski area covers Champoluc-Frachey, Gressoney and Alagna, plus the smaller resorts of Antagnod, Brusson-Estoul and Bieltschocke-Weissmatten. There is not a huge number of pistes but they tend to be long and uncrowded, and the off-piste is world-class.
The Monterosa's three valleys are comparable to the Trois Vallees in France in terms of the physical relationship of the main resorts, but they could hardly offer a more different ski experience. Much of the terrain remains undeveloped and perfect for off-piste skiing. While the crowds arrive for the weekends and peak holiday periods, for the most part, the skiing throughout Monterosa is on amazingly quiet pistes. Alagna is legendary for advanced off-piste itineraries, but the area as a whole has something to offer skiers at every level, including those who just want family friendly terrain with plenty of mountain restaurants and magnificent scenery.
Intermediates and above should consider the Monterosa ski region as a whole rather than as three separate valleys. Looking at the piste map these valleys can be seen, very broadly and from left to right, as suitable for beginner to intermediate, intermediate and intermediate to advanced skiers. The on-piste skiing includes only 17km of black runs, none of which are particularly challenging, because whilst most of them have steep sections, they tend to be immaculately groomed with all the moguls removed. It’s the off-piste terrain that is the real magnet for experienced skiers from advanced to expert level. To get the best out of it, you will need a mountain guide.
At the head of all three valleys, above the pistes, is the broad collection of peaks and glaciers that make up the Monterosa massif. The entire southern flank is laced with off-piste itineraries reached by a combination of lift and legwork, or helicopter. The main starting point is from the ridge between Gressoney and Alagna - which is the real reason to base yourself in one of these two valleys if you come to Monterosa to ski off-piste.
Champoluc offers most of the gentle terrain and has plenty of sheltered runs and convenient meeting and eating points on the mountain. Most of the runs are graded red but they are not very steep. For those wanting slightly tougher challenges, the runs down from Sarezza are the steepest. This is where the valley’s only black run is, and one of the reds goes from the top all the way to the valley floor - a descent of nearly 1,200m. There is also interesting, and easy to access off-piste to the side of this run, and the C6 run that descends from Sarezza in the opposite direction but be careful as there are dangerous cliffs.
Just up the valley from Champoluc is Frachey, a small satellite village at 1623m. Unlike at Champoluc, there is no piste down to the village - you have to take the funicular railway down as well as up (unless you want to take your chances on some of the off-piste routes through the trees which require good snow cover). Frachey has quicker access to Gressoney and Alagna than Champloluc does, because it's closer to the Colle Bettaforce pass, so it can be a better base for advanced skiers who want to spend most of their time in the other valleys. However it's also a popular area for novices and nervous intermediates because of the long blue run down from Mont Ros to Ciacero.
Gressoney, in the centre, is well placed for access to both of the neighbouring valleys and also has plenty of terrain in its own right on both sides of its valley. On the Alagna side a lower region of tree lined runs is best reached directly from Gressoney La Trinite, whilst the higher slopes leading down from Passo Salati (2971m) are best reached from Stafal, although both areas are connected. Above Passo Salati the Punta Indren cable car rises to the highest point of the Monterosa ski area (3,275m). From here there are currently no pistes but normally the ungroomed trail down is marked out with piste poles. There are much longer itineraries from Punta Indren leading all the way to Stafal and Alagna, for most of which you will need either a guide or skins – and preferably both. On the other side of the valley there are blue, red and black runs from Colle Bettaforca at 2727m down to Stafal via the mid station of Sant Anna. There is also an offpiste itinerary down.
Alagna has its own small pisted ski area and is also well linked by new lifts to Gressoney. Due to its huge free-ride area and high mountain environment, it remains popular as an off-piste free-ride destination. Limited piste skiing in Alagna means heading into Gressoney each day for extra groomed terrain, which is great in fine weather, but less appealing, and sometimes not possible, in a snow storm when high winds close the lifts (although the pisteurs will sometimes help you return to your home valley by towing skiers behind piste grooming machines all the way up to Passo Salati). A new lift was also built in 2017 to serve the two blue runs coming down from Passo Salati to Cimalenga - previously skiers on these had to be picked up by the cable car which had a mid-mountain stop here. But Alagna is still a 'Freeride Paradise' where off-piste takes priority over on-piste. Descending back to the village by piste rather than lift also requires mastering a long black run then a long red run. Neither is particularly challenging for experienced skiers, but at the end of a day’s skiing they might be too much for beginners or nervous intermediates.
Away from the main connected ski area, there is further skiing in the Ayas valley a bus ride away from Champoluc at Antagnod (one short black run, two reds, two blues, and a nursery area). Skiing here starts at Area del Pino at 1780m and and the highest point is at 2307m.
Further down the Ayas valley from both Champoluc and Antagnod is the village of Brusson, which has skiing at Estoul from 1805m to 2235m (six reds, one blue and a nursery area).
In the Gressoney valley, just below Gressoney-St-Jean at Bieltschocke, there is the Weissmatten area. A single chairlift takes you up to a highpoint of 2023m, from where a mostly North facing red piste used for World Cup races, and a gentler blue run, descend through the woods to the valley floor at 1348m. There is also a nursery area for beginners, and in good snow conditions, some nice off-piste skiing through the trees. The main red run is also opened occasionally for night time skiing.
Finally, in a completely separate valley to the other resorts, is the ski area of Champorcher, with 21 km of slopes descending from the 2,500m Cimetta Rossa. Historically this has always been included in the area covered by the Monterosa ski pass but check before going there.
Monterosa Ski Lifts & Lift Passe
The Monterosa ski lifts are open from early December to mid April and the Monterosa ski lift pass covers all of the lifts across three valleys, including several small resorts not lift-connected to the main domain.
Monterosa Ski Lifts
New investment by the Aosta Valley Regional Government, has considerably updated the infrastructure in recent years, and just a few older lifts now remain. Low skier numbers keep the system running smoothly, and queues even on the busiest weekends, seldom exceed 10 minutes.
The Ayas Valley has two lifts into the Monterosa ski region, the Crest gondola from Champoluc village and the Frachey lift from the hamlet of the same name, 2km further north up the valley. Further down the valley are two separate smaller regions, Antagnod and Estoul, above Brusson. Both are covered by the Monterosa lift pass, but are not connected by lift to the main domain.
The funicular lift from Frachey (served by the ski bus) is also useful for slower skiers who would like to make the full tour to Alagna. Starting at Frachey saves time and is also an option for the return journey, if you don't get back in time to make all the lift connections back to the Crest.
At the head of the valley, Stafal gives lift access to both sides of the Gressoney valley. There is a large free car park at Stafal as well as some bars, restaurants, ski hire and a couple of new hotels. To the west, a cable car followed by a four seater chairlift reaches the Col Bettaforca, and from there, the Champoluc ski area.
To the east, a six seater gondola is followed by a bigger gondola up to Passo dei Salati and from there, the Alagna ski area. Departing from just below Passo dei Salati, the new Salati - Indren lift opens up a huge range of approachable off piste skiing. From the 3,275m arrival point choose between runs back to Gabiet or down to Stafal through the Salza Valley area of Gressoney.
The village of Gressoney La Trinite has a chairlift to Punta Jolanda - the easiest way into this lower section of the eastern side of the Gressoney Valley, when based in La Trinite. There's another chairlift from the main road between La Trinite and Stafal at Orsia, which also links into the Jolanda.
Gressoney St Jean has a double chair on the Weissmatten, an unconnected area (but covered on the same lift pass) to the south of the village; there is also a beginner's drag lift on the Weissmatten's lower slopes and a baby park with carpet lifts, on the opposite side of the road.
A gondola from the village arrives in Pianalunga (2,046m), from where there is a cable car to Passo dei Salati (2,971m) for the Gressoney area, or a chairlift to Bocchetta delle Pisse. The new high speed Salati - Indren cable car from just below Passo dei Salati on the Gressoney side, arrives at a height of 3,275m at the edge of the glacier. This lift opens up a vast area of off-piste skiing including the huge La Balma run, from the Bors glacier to Alagna.
The Monterosa lift pass covers the 180km of piste of the linked resorts of Champoluc, Gressoney and Alagna. It also covers the smaller unlinked ski areas of each of the three valleys. Non skiers can purchase tickets for the main gondolas out of the villages and there are also beginner specific tickets, which give access to the beginners areas and carpet lifts.
Children up to age 6 are entitled to a free lift pass where an accompanying adult buys one of the same duration, and children aged between 6 and 12 are entitled to a half price pass. Those aged 65 and over are also entitled to a reduced rate. Proof of age will be required for free or reduced rate passes. Lift passes can be purchased at all the valley bottom lift stations.
Other Aosta Valley resorts nearby include Pila, La Thuile and Cervinia and for those prepared to travel, the Val d'Aosta lift pass gives unlimited access to all Aosta Valley resorts, that's 170 lifts and 718km of pistes.
Monterosa Beginner Skiing
Monterosa has plenty of easy terrain for beginners and several good ski schools. Nearly 25% of the groomed pistes are designated blue for easy skiing, and with two thirds (120km) of ski pistes categorised as red runs, there’s lots more intermediate skiing for beginners to progress to.
Beginner skiing in Champoluc
Champoluc is the obvious place for beginners and is rightly popular with families; novices begin at the dedicated nursery slopes with two magic carpet lifts at the top of the Crest gondola. It's sunny from mid-morning onwards, high enough to have good snow and there are plenty of cafes on hand, with deck chairs and sunny terraces. The next step for beginners is the Del Lago blue run, which is best accessed from Frachey initially, in order to avoid the steep section of red piste from Col Sarezza.
Newcomers should note the one-way piste system around Col Sarezza above Champoluc. When skiing out of Champoluc towards Bettaforca and Gressoney, you have to tackle the run from Sarezza to Conterey, which is narrow and fairly steep at the top - tough for timid intermediates. When returning to Champoluc, the descent is to the side of this peak, on easier pistes. Though there is no lift connection from the Crest towards Bettaforca and Gressoney that cuts this section out, skiers from Champoluc can avoid it, by ascending with the lift from Frachey. For capable skiers it's a great run. The descent is through pristine terrain and is uncluttered by any lift infrastructure. It feels miles from anywhere, whether you stick to the fast, sweeping piste or explore to either side of the markers.
Antagnod, which is a 10 minute ride on the ski bus from Champoluc, has a small independent ski area with an enclosed children's section, and a couple of pleasant blue and red runs to progress on to.
Beginner skiing in Gressoney
Gressoney has nursery slopes at Stafal and an excellent area at Gabiet, where the snow is sure and the terrain offers improvers something to get their teeth into. Some of the terrain at Punta Jolanda provides the next step up, though there are some relatively challenging sections too. Down the valley at Gressoney St. Jean, there's significant learner activity around the Weissmatten drag lift and also in the area directly opposite, but it is mainly aimed at children, and no good for meeting up with friends skiing the main domain.
Beginner skiing in Alagna
Alagna nursery slopes and beginners area is at Wold area of the town. There is an enclosed area with a magic carpet lift, and a long drag lift with long, pleasant blue runs to either side, to move on to. There is a lovely blue run from the top of the Alagna cable car, but less adventurous beginners may prefer to choose a resort with a more gentle approach to the mountains!
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Monterosa Intermediate Skiing
Most of Monterosa’s pistes are blues and reds so intermediate skiers can relax and enjoy the long descents. Few of Monterosa’s black runs are particularly challenging: they have a few steep sections but are well groomed. Strong intermediates should also try some of the off-piste with a guide.
Intermediate skiing in Champoluc
Snow conditions in Champoluc and the Monterosa region are normally excellent with well-groomed pistes and extensive snow making, for those years when the snow doesn't arrive naturally. The pistes are typically long and varied and the magnificent mountain scenery, wild, natural ambience and quiet slopes make for some exceptional skiing. Be sure to check the last suggested return times, which are given at all the lift stations, as travelling by road from one valley to the other is long and expensive!
Two consecutive lifts from Crest to Col Sarezza (2,717m) lead to a magnificent downhill run back to the village. There are several options along the way, mainly reasonably steep, broad and with great views, ending on the pleasant wooded lower slopes. From Col Sarezza, through the gap and over to Contenery is also excellent, while the northern end towards Bettaforca is a mix of wooded, twisty but generally wide runs and open, rolling terrain.
Having skied the immediate Champoluc area, head east towards Alagna via the Gressoney valley (or do the reverse if skiing from Alagna).
Intermediate skiing in Gressoney
Both sides of Gressoney are open and wide, seldom steep but with big rollers for enjoyable fast skiing. Directly above Gressoney-La-Trinite is Punta Jolanda and a wonderful region of trees, rock gardens and winding, more intimate pistes that are sensational under fresh snow. The area constitutes a mini-ski domain that families can enjoy without worrying about being separated by miles of piste or dropping into the wrong valley, with a couple of café-restaurants available for lunch.
To make a big tour starting from Gressoney, take the lift to Punta Jolanda out of Gressoney La Trinite, and head east to Alagna before crossing back over the Gressoney valley in the late morning to explore Champoluc, bathed in sunshine during the afternoon. It's on this side that you could get stranded at the end of the day, with a series of connections needed to get back over to Gressoney. It's no hardship to play it safe as the final quad up to Col Bettaforca serves as a great end-of-day run to lap a couple of times before heading down the other side. Keep in mind that even late in the season the return to Gressoney is in deep shade - soft conditions can crisp up unpleasantly making the last run home a trial.
Down the valley, at Weissmatten above Bieltschocke, confident intermediates will enjoy the old World Cup run through the trees, particularly if it's snowing or the light is poor. The top half is graded red and the bottom black. It's quite steep in places but usually well groomed and uncrowded. It faces North East so is perfect in the late morning. You get a good view of it as you ride the chair up. If at the top you lose your nerve there is an alternative all blue route down to the bottom. The area is not connected to the main ski area so you have to reach it by bus.
Intermediate skiing in Alagna
Alagna itself has few groomed pistes runs, but the links to the neighbouring valleys are modern and high speed. From Passo Salati, the long blue run returns to the new drag lift near the middle station of the cable car, and the black, steepish in parts, returns to Pianalunga, at the bottom of the cable car. The pistes to the side of the Bocchetta delle Pisse is a panoramic reds, and the return to the village is on another red run, which is steep in sections. If you want to test your stamina, ski this straight after the black Olen run from Passo Salati without stopping - it's a descent of over 1700m,
The point at which the Monterosa's pistes start to underwhelm you is the time not to look elsewhere, but to begin exploring off piste. It's a relaxed experience here, with abundant opportunities to experience skiing off-piste in small bites between the pistes and some tantalising goals to aspire to.
Monterosa Advanced & Expert Skiing Monterosa has an ungroomed but marked run that descends nearly a thousand metres, and some black and red runs that have steep sections. These can often be skied very fast because they are so uncrowded – a perfect warm up before tackling Monterosa's renowned off-piste.
Alagna, Gressoney and Champoluc’s famous freeriding opportunities are described in a separate section dedicated to Monterosa’s off-piste but advanced skiers will also find enjoyment on marked runs as well.
In the Gressoney valley, on the piste map you will see a dotted line coming down from the area’s highest lift at Punta Indren (3275m) to Gabiet nearly a thousand metres below. It’s an ungroomed run but there are piste marker poles to guide you down. Be very careful in poor visibility though. And make sure you’re properly equipped: an avalanche beacon, shovel and probe are now mandatory in most of Italy when you’re skiing off-piste, and occasionally there are spot checks at the Punta Indren lift because this ungroomed trail is not counted as a piste.
Most of the run is relatively benign, but the marker poles eventually direct you to the Eagle couloir which is narrow and steep, and often icy and heavily moguled as well. The only alternative is the nearby Canale Grande which is wider but if anything slightly steeper. At the bottom, keep an eye out for the Rifugio on your right before you re-join the piste because it's also a simple restaurant. It’s miles from anywhere and often looks closed even when it’s open. The staff are used to skiers popping in mid-morning and reserving a table for later, so they can complete another circuit. Food choice is limited but what they have is usually delicious and good value, and if you come mid-week you might have the whole place and its amazing views all to yourself.
The black runs down to Stafal from Gabiet on the Alagna side of the valley, and from Sant Anna on the Champoluc side really only deserve their grading because lower down by the late afternoon they can be slushy and quite crowded (at least vby Monterosa standards). They are much more enjoyable to ski in the late morning or early afternoon.
A better bet for an enjoyable final run at the end the day is the black G4 Jolanda 1 run from Punta Jolanda that heads towards Orsia before swinging back towards Gressoney La Trinite. This has genuinely steep sections as does the red run above it coming from Seehorn. Both are usually uncrowded and well groomed so they can be taken at high speed.
Even further down the Gressoney valley, below Gressoney St. Jean, and unconnected to the main lift system, the run above Bieltschocke at Weissmatten is another for advanced skiers to consider, particularly after or during a good snowfall. One chairlift takes you straight to the top from where the World Cup run, graded red at the top and black at the bottom, cuts a steep route through the forested slope. It’s nearly always deserted, but mid morning is the best time to tackle it, when this North East facing area gets a little sun. When you have had enough you can stop for a bite to eat at the restaurant at the top which has lovely views.
In the Alagna valley, the long black Olen run from Passo Salati to Pianalunga descends over 900m and is steep in parts but is generally more like a tough red than an out and out black. The real test is to see whether you have the endurance to keep going through Pianalunga and continue on the red run it joins all the way down to Alagna itself, a further 800m below. The whole mountain is predominantly East facing so is at its best in the morning.
Champoluc only has one Black run, a variant of the C4 Ostafa piste coming down from Sarezza to Crest. It’s short and sharp, and worth doing if you’re in the area. Again it’s worth keeping an eye out for challenges beside the piste. The best of these are covered in the separate Monterosa off-piste section.
Monterosa Boarding & Freestyle Monterosa’s pistes are typically wide and un-crowded, with few flats to worry about, and the lifts are boarder-friendly with no drag lifts in the main ski area. Many pistes offer good powder to the sides, and the runs from Mont Ros to Ciarcerio have some excellent tree-lined powder.
Beginners boarding in the Monterosa will be happiest in Champoluc where the two carpet lifts at the Crest make an ideal starting point. Stronger riders come for the amazing off-piste and great free ride opportunities both to the east and west of Punta Indren.
The new snowpark is situated at Gabiet in Gressoney La Trinité. There are jumps, rail and a quarter pipe. In good conditions it also includes a small boardercross. A helmet is obligatory in the park, and it is closed one day a week (usually Wednesday).
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.
Monterosa Mountain Restaurants The Monterosa ski region has some good restaurants and bars on piste and there’s a lot of authentic cooking to be enjoyed, though some mountain restaurants don’t have capacity to cope with weekend crowds.
Most mountain restaurant menus in the Monterosa offer dishes based around polenta, vegetable soup, pasta, local sausages, and Fontina cheese, but often also include sandwiches, salads, burghers, hot dogs and chips. The following bars and restaurants are definitely worth visiting:
Lo Retsignon (Ciarcerio - 1,992m) at the bottom of the Alpe Mandria chairlift is a good quality restaurant and snack bar and Campo Base (Mont Ros - 2,457m) offers superb views and good food, with an Oriental twist. Enjoy a glass of champagne at Champagnerie (Alp Betta 2,180m) while admiring the stunning local scenery!
Sadly, the popular Rifugio Guglielmina (Col d'Olen 2880m) was destroyed by fire on 22 December 2011 and unfortunately there are no plans for it to be rebuilt.
Alpen Stop (Pianalunga) is a cosy restaurant and snack bar with outdoor seating area, conveniently located at the top of the gondola from Alagna.
Monterosa Villages Monterosa offers skiers a choice of several unspoiled mountain villages. The main villages - Champoluc, Gressoney St Jean, Gressoney La Trinite, Stafal and Alagna – are typically unspoiled and relatively quiet with limited apres ski, but charming and family-friendly.
The largest village in the Monterosa region, Champoluc (1,564m) has the most hotels and a distinct ski-resort feel in comparison to the other Monterosa villages. Though without as much old-world charm as Gressoney and Alagna, it still retains the character associated with an Italian mountain village.
There are plenty of ski and board hire options in Champoluc but all the shops are relatively expensive if you just walk into them when you arrive. To get a good price, you really have to book in advance. The Skiset outlet is near the main lift in Champoluc and has a good range of equipemnt for all standards. It gives a discount of up to 50% if you book online here.
The area around Champoluc's main square includes the village church and the tourist office, as well as some bars, restaurants and shops. The rest of the accommodation, shops, restaurants and bars are spread out along the road that runs from the main square, past the Crest Gondola, through Villy and on up to the Frachey funicular and beyond. There are enough buildings around Frachey for this to be considered a separate ski village. Further up the valley is Saint Jacques at 1689m. It's not really clear where Frachey stops and Saint Jacques starts. The rule seems to be that if you're within walking distance of the funicular, you're in Frachey, and if you have to drive down to it you're in Saint Jacques.
Going down the Ayas valley from Champoluc you come to Antagnod. This is a small but very strung out village with its own isolated ski area. The buildings at the top of the village, near the ski lift at Area del Pino, are about 300m higher up than those lining the main road along the valley floor, so make sure you know where you are staying.
Even further down the valley is Brusson, which has another small separate ski area above it at Estoul. Estoul's base station is at 1805m which is nearly 500m above Bruson, so don't think you can casually stroll up to it from the centre of the village. It's linked to the main Monterosa area by ski bus.
The upper Gressoney valley is home to two main villages: Gressoney St Jean (1,385m) and Gressoney La Trinite (1,637m), which is 7km further up the valley. Access to the main ski area at Stafal, is a further 3 km north, where the road ends.
Gressoney St Jean is 15 minutes by car from the principal ski lifts, but popular for its exceptional village centre, which has a large pedestrianised zone of great charm with well-restored historic buildings. The main cobbled square is flanked on one side by the gallery of local photographer and guide Davide Camisasca, who stocks a good range of mountain books as well as his remarkable photographs, many of them from the Monterosa region. A small alley leads to the church and a further square with St Jean's most central hotels and the majority of its shops. Gressoney St Jean is a perfect base for skiers who don't like "ski resorts". If you want to rent
The village follows the river southwards for over a kilometer, across the broad valley floor with a mixture of old farms and substantial apartment-chalets (which make up the majority of the accommodation in this valley) leading to a group of shops, restaurants and a hotel at Bieltschocke near the base of the Weissmatten. This is sometimes decribed as, Gressoney St Jean's own ski area but it's a long walk from the centre of town. Fortunately there are plenty of buses.
If you want to rent skis or other equipment in Gressoney St Jean/Weissmatten, there is a Skiset hireshop which gives discounts of up to 50% if you book online in advance. Check the location and the discounted prices currently on offer here.
Nearby is the Castello Savoia, a castle built by the King for Queen Margherita in the 1800's. She was a keen mountaineer, reaching a number of the peaks of the Monterosa under her own steam, before descending on a huge wooden sledge hauled by her entourage.
Heading in the opposite direction, going up the valley from Gressoney St Jean is Gressoney La Trinite. This has a smaller old centre and has been much more developed as a ski resort. Several hotels and the double chairlift linking into the main ski area, makes it the resort centre for the valley. There is a square with a church, cafes and a small grocery store; ski shops and two of the main hotels are by a parking area and lift base, within half a kilometer of the centre. For more extensive shopping, you have to take the bus down to Gressoney Saint Jean. The Skiset ski and board hire shop in La Trinite has good equiment and gives discounts of up to 50% if you book online in advance. You can check the discounted ski and board hire prices and the shop location here.
Just above Gressoney la Trinite is Orsia. Whether it's really a separate village or just an outpost of La Trinite is a moot point. One red piste (G2) runs down to the road just above it and another (G3) skirts its eastern edge on its way to the lift station at La Trinite, but most accommodation is on the other side of the road.
At the top of the valley, Gressoney Stafal (also known as Tschaval) is situated at 1,824m and offers lift access to the ski areas from both sides of the valley. Recent hotel developments make Stafal an ideal base for visitors who prefer to avoid the daily transfer from Gressoney to the ski area. This is the place to stay for maximum time on the snow and quick access to Alagna and Champoluc as well as the Gressoney valley's slopes. The downside is simply the altitude and the steep valley sides, which make it a cold place in winter, with a relative lack of eating options and village charm.
Alagna (1,200m) is a traditional and charming mountain village with a small selection of shops, bars, restaurants and pizzerias rather than a typical ski resort. It has always been a popular destination for ski mountaineers, needing a base from which to explore the many 4,000m peaks of the Monterosa range, but today with its huge off-piste terrain and modern lift links to Gressoney and Champoluc, Alagna provides an unspoiled environment from which to explore the Monterosa area.
Alagna's old Walser houses and ancient footways reaching picturesque hamlets all add to its unique charm and some newly refurbished hotels and apartments provide the leisure facilities and services expected by the modern day tourist.
Though the views from the top of the lifts are spectacular and the terrain dramatic, the position of the town itself, at the bottom of a steep deep sided valley is a limitation to early winter sunshine.
A little further up the valley ais the old mining hamlet of Wold. This is where Alagna's nursery slopes are located and it's also the end point for some of the off-piste intineraries.
Monterosa Apres Ski Bars & Restaurants
Apres ski in Monterosa is informal and relaxed, with many people congregating around the bars at the bottom of the main lifts in Champoluc and Gressoney.
Monterosa Apres Ski Bars
The Breithorn Brasserie has a charming Alpine style interior and offers a WIFI service. Also popular are Il Golosone and Café Rimbaud. The Hotel California stages the occasional concert and is a lively music pub with late opening. The Tuesday night Music Night at the Hotel Castor is ever popular.
Try the Bierfall in St Jean, and Bar One or the bar in the Hotel Dufour, in La Trinité. There are a couple of wonderful coffee bars which serve delicious cakes in central St Jean - great places to bask in the sun and re-fuel after a good days skiing.
Head for either the Del Centro café or the Bar delle Guide and, when in Riva Valdobbia, be sure to visit the centrally located cocktail bar, where you will be served a fine selection of nibbles with your professionally prepared cocktail!
Champoluc has a good selection of restaurants and pizzerias includuing La Grange in Frachey, the Petit Coq in Villy, and Il Balivo and the Atelier Gourmand, in central Champoluc. In addition, hotels such as the Castor, the de Champoluc and the Petit Tournalin serve good food and offer restaurant services to non residents. For a cheaper meal, there are a couple of pizzerias as well as a pizza bar, in the Crest gondola area, which sells delicious slices of pizza and focaccia, which can either be taken out or eaten in.
In Gressoney St Jean, the tiny Nordkapp restaurant on the main square serves a great regionally influenced menu and wines, and the Braciere is also good. The Capanna Carla restaurant in Stafal, is an old Walser house with an unremitting emphasis on local specialities. The interior is as authentic as the game, cheese and dried meats they serve. Booking is recommended. There are also pizzerias including the Principe Pizzeria, Lo Stambecco and Risto Walserschild, but many guests eat in the village's hotels, whose restaurants are generally open to non residents.
Popular restaurants and pizzerias in central Alagna include Dir und Dom, La Stube and Unione. The Pressmel is an excellent, more formal restaurant in the Hotel Cristallo. In Riva Valdobbia the Trattoria Duca serves good food at reasonable prices and the restaurant in St. Antonio, Valle Vogna is also worth trying.
Monterosa Other Activities Monterosa ski resorts are traditional mountain villages and none have much to offer in the way of other activities or night-life, but they maintain an authenticity and charm so often lacking in more developed ski resorts.
Apart from skiing and boarding, cross-country skiing, snow shoeing and ice skating there's not much to do in Monterosa in the way of other activities. After a day exploring the ski area, most guests are content to explore the local villages with their traditional old houses and churches, bars and restaurants and enjoy an informal drink on the way back to their accommodation.
Cross-country skiing in Monterosa
Cross-country skiing is available in all Monterosa villages. All the groomed cross-country trails are well marked and graded according to difficulty. There is a small charge for using the trails. In the Ayas valley, the main cross country centre is in Brusson, but there are good pistes in Brusson, Antagnod, Periasc and Champoluc. Gressoney has 23km of well groomed trails on various circuits from the St Jean base. The trail closest to the Cross Country Ski School is illuminated for evening skiing. In the Alagna valley the cross-country trails are centred at Riva Valdobbia, 3km from central Alagna.
Ice Skating in Champoluc and Gressoney
There are natural outdoor ice skating rinks in both Champoluc and Gressoney St. Jean.
Swimming, Sauna & Spa Facilities
Many of the hotels and residences have saunas and spa areas that are open to the paying public. Some also have swimming pools.
Shopping, sightseeing and cluture
All Monterosa villages have a small selection of shops. Of all the villages, Gressoney St Jean has the most shopping potential with sports clothing and equipment alongside souvenirs and book shops, Local photographer Davide Camisasca's bookshop in Gressoney St Jean is worth visiting. Alagna has a museum dedicated to the original Walser culture of the area.
For more information contact the local tourist offices:
Champoluc Tourist Office
Route Varasc, 16, Champoluc (A0)
Tel: +39 0125 307113
Email: [email protected]monterosa.com
Gressoney St Jean Tourist Office
Villa Deslex, Gressoney St Jeam (A0)
Tel: +39 0125 355185
Email: [email protected]
Gressoney La Trinite Tourist Office
Località Tache, Gressoney La Trinite (AO)
Email: [email protected]
Alagna Tourist Office
Ufficio Turismo Alagna
Tel: +30 0163 922988
Email: [email protected]