The Monterosa ski area spans three valleys and links Champoluc with Gressoney and Alagna. It has high lifts, long runs, challenging off-piste, no queues (at least on weekdays), nice villages and reasonable prices, but strong skiers should invest in a guide to explore beyond its limited piste network.
Monterosa is sometimes called the Italian Three Valleys, but it has only 180km of pistes, and that figure is based on generous measurements and includes some unconnected outlying ski areas. The main lift-linked area is therefore certainly less than a quarter of the size of the 3 Valleys in France and maybe less than a fifth. It’s still large enough for novices or relaxed skiers who want to spend some of their holiday eating and drinking in mountain restaurants or wandering around the pleasant villages; and experts can take advantage of Monterosa’s deservedly famous freeride opportunities; but keen intermediates who don’t want to venture off-piste might run out of fresh challenges by their third or fourth day.
The western Ayas valley is dominated by Champoluc and its satellite resort of Frachey. Down the road and a bus ride away are Brusson and Antagnod, smaller villages with their own separate slopes. The central Gressoney valley’s skiing starts at Bieltschocke at 1348m on the isolated but good Weissmatten mountain. Further up is the town of Gressoney-Saint-Jean and the higher villages of Gressoney-La-Trinite, Orsia and finally, at 1830m, Stafal (Tschaval). La Trinite’s lifts and pistes connect with Stafal’s, and Stafal’s rise up on both side of the valley to the ridgeline, enabling skiers to cross over to the other valleys and ski down to Champoluc-Frachey in the west, and Alagna Valesia in the east.
In most seasons Monterosa does not get as much snow as other ski areas favoured by freeriders, such as Chamonix, St Anton or Tignes. Nevertheless its higher slopes are snowsure, thanks to their altitude – all three valleys have lifts ascending to over 2700m and the highest reaches a very impressive 3275m. Skiers with ‘skins’ can climb even higher: the Monte Rosa massif contains several 4000m peaks and extensive ski touring with a guide is possible in winter, spring and summer.
Down in the valleys, the villages are relatively small and quiet in the evening for ski resorts, at least during the week. Alagna is the prettiest and attracts strong skiers (there is no easy run home). Gressoney-St-Jean is the largest and often the best value, but you have to commute to the skiing by bus. Champoluc and Frachey suit those who like gentle runs; Stafal is the least charming but has the best access to the slopes in all three valleys; and La Trinite is a good allrounder.
Monterosa Pros & Cons
+ Excellent off-piste and ski-touring
+ Pistes are normally uncrowded
+ High lifts and long snow-sure runs
+ Good, inexpensive mountain restaurants
– Limited piste network
– Lack of mid-week nightlife
– The lifts linking the valleys can close in high winds
– Bus service can be patchy.