Jöttnar Pro Team member Alison Thacker offers a brief insiders' view of the little known ski area of Gressoney.
When we left the hotel to go skiing on the 27th Dec, with snow falling heavily all around us, the owner said “Don’t worry, the Italians don’t ski in bad weather, and certainly don’t ski after lunch. You don’t need to rush to get fresh tracks”. In many areas across the Alps this would have been a busy time on the slopes. But not in Gressoney. The hotel owner was right, we skied fresh tracks all day, and only ever saw one other group of 3 doing the same. We didn’t queue, and we didn’t need to rush.
The linked ski area of Gressoney - Monte Rosa Ski in Italy offers a huge variety of off piste skiing on the Italian flanks of the Monte Rosa massif. The areas links together Champoluc, Gressoney and Alagna, with the potential to reach 4000m using uplift and skins the area is a great choice for the all-mountain skier. The conditions are often reliable here, with a good vertical drop allowing plenty of skiing along the Swiss-Italian frontier.
Alison skiing the Seehorn trees
Five Ski Lines to Explore
The off-piste descents from Indren are world-class. The lift takes you to 3275m and from there you can access numerous descents of varying difficultly, all giving access to the most beautiful high mountain terrain. Canale Dell ‘Aquila is a classic line that has become something of an off-piste piste, but still offers a challenge and you can call in at the Orestes Huette on the way down!
Canyon di Zube-Foric
Take the 300m skin to the Colle Zube, and you have the option of descending the Val d’Otro, one of the most beautiful valleys in the Monte Rosa area, or searching out the steep north facing channel – Canyon di Zube-Foric. Surrounded with high rocky walls on either side, this descent doesn’t lack atmosphere!
James Thacker entering Canyon di Zube-Foric
Seehorn & Punta Jolanda
When the weather is poor, the avalanche risk is high, or you are lacking good visibility, then this is the area to head to. There are numerous lines that can be taken through the trees. You’ll not need to go the same way twice. A short skin or boot pack to the top of Stocko 2278m also opens up a lot of tree skiing potential.
From the top of the Sarazza chairlift, there are a number of options to access the Bettolina valley, some with skinning and some without. All roads lead into the same valley. This is a true classic of the area, offering easy-access high mountain terrain.
This is probably the most famous route in the area. Why? Because it is necessary to combine all the skills of off-piste skiing and mountaineering with perfect conditions. The access is complex, there is a steep couloir, followed by wide open slopes where good powder can often be found.
James on the Bettolina descent
The nearest airport to Gressoney is Turin Caselle, which is around 1 hour 30 minutes driving time. Throughout the winter there are flights to Turin from most major UK airports. Easyjet offer flights from Manchester, Bristol, Luton and Gatwick. It is also possible to fly to Milan (2 hours drive) or Geneva (3 hours). You can then connect to Gressoney by car, bus or train and bus.
There is more information about getting to Gressoney on Ski Transfer Finder and Aosta Valley Tourist Info Site.
The charming family run Hotel De Gletscher in Stafal comes highly recommended. Francesca and Marcello will give you a warm Italian welcome. If you don’t mind a 100m of off-piste then it’s “ski in, ski out”, otherwise it’s a 5-minute walk to join the piste.
A ski trip to Gressoney wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the mountain refuge the Orestes Huette. Built by mountaineers, this is a mountain hut like no other, complete with sofas, log fire and delicious food.
Alison studying the facets beneath the summit of Stocko
The best time to go and ski in Gressoney is when the precipitation has been coming from the south. For the last few years, Gressoney has been very good early season when the Northern resorts of the Alps have had limited snow cover. I’ve skied in Gressoney in December and it was fantastic. I’ve skied there in April for spring touring and it’s been equally as good.
You’ll need standard off-piste gear (transceiver, shovel and probe). If you bring a pair of skins and ski crampons, you will be able to access wild and dramatic terrain with only short climbs of around 30min – 1hour. The rewards far outweigh the effort required to get there.
A harness and rope are essential for accessing some of the steeper lines in the area, as is glacier kit if you want to ski some of the high altitude itineraries
The more kit you bring, the more possibilities open up to you.
Alison skinning up to the Colle Zube
Guidebooks and Maps
Polvere Rosa by Andrea Gallo ISBN 978-88-95224-08-4
This is a comprehensive guidebook covering the whole area, with a wide spectrum of routes from skiing easy angled terrain in the trees to high altitude extreme descents. The descriptions are in Italian and English.
Freeride Map Monte Rosa ISBN 978-3-905916-16-4, 1:25 000, www.freeride-map.com
This is the most detailed map of the area for skiing, and highlights the gradient of certain areas.
Alison Thacker is a member of the Jöttnar Pro Team and runs Off Piste Performance, a ski instructional service based in Chamonix.