Apres Ski in Monterosa
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.
Villages in Monterosa
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.
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.
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.
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.
Apres Ski Bars in Monterosa
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.
Champoluc – 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.
Gressoney – 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.
Alagna – 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!
Restaurants in Monterosa
Champoluc – 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.
Gressoney – 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.
Alagna – 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.
Other Activities in Monterosa
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 Culture
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.
Monterosa Tourist Information
For more information contact the local tourist offices:
Champoluc Tourist Office
Route Varasc, 16, Champoluc (A0)
Tel: +39 0125 307113
Email: [email protected]
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]