Cervinia, Italy Ski Holiday

Cervinia, Italy Ski Resort Review

Breuil was a tranquil climbing village before Mussolini built one of the first purpose-built winter sports resorts here in 1936. When modern buildings took over the skyline, Breuil's rustic ambience soon vanished, although a few old buildings were saved. Today, Breuil Cervinia, separated from endlessly more famous Zermatt by the small matter of the Matterhorn (or Monte Cervino over this side), lacks the alpine spell of its near-neighbour and the view of the excellent mountain. To make up for its scenic shortcomings, the tourist office markets the resort as 'II lato al sole del Cervino' - the sunny side of the Matterhorn.

View to Italy from the Plateau Rosa, at 3.480 mCredit: Flickr photo by Joao Maximo http://www.flickr.com/photos/joaomaximo/

Despite playing second fiddle to Zermatt, though, Cervinia has a lot going for it with an exceptional snow record, acres of long, well-groomed runs, a great deal of sunshine and a dizzying vertical drop of more than 2,000m. And when jealousy gets the better of you, you could always slide across the Plateau Rosa for a day to one of Europe's truly great resorts.

The primary lifts out of the resort, which begin where some ski areas finish, rise up to Plan Maison, the main mid-mountain hub at 2,550m. From here, three fast chairs, or a gondola and cable-car, make the ascent up to the Cervinia/Zermatt ridge and the border between Italy and Switzerland. If you are not crossing the border, there are acres of fast cruising red terrain waiting between you and Cervinia, having more than 1,200m of snowsure vertical.

If that still doesn't suffice, then it's also possible to ski from the top of the cable-car down to the village of Valtournenche, a more inexpensive, more attractive option to Cervinia's relatively stark architecture. At 22km, this is among the longest runs in the world and the 2,350m of vertical will give you a hearty appetite for a long lunch in one of Valtournenche's simple eateries.

Although Cervinia furnishes a wealth of skiing, none of it is wildly demanding and experts will be tempted to cross the border to sample Zermatt's fabled steep stuff.

The Chalet Etoile is arguably Cervinia's best mountain restaurant. If the weather turns wily at altitude, the Rifugio Teodulo, up at Plateau Rosa, dishes up excellent grappa and genepy. The Bontadini mountain hut has an enormous sun terrace and serves up good-value Italian staples in cute surroundings.

The funpark on the Fornet run, close to Plan Maison, comes complete with a half-pipe, jumps and a boardercross park. If you wish to get even higher, then book a guide: Cervinia is also a big heliski centre and there are other truly spectacular off-piste descents from the Piccolo Cervino (Klein Matterhorn).

There's kite-skiing, snowmobiling, snowbiking, a bowling alley with table tennis and pool facilities, a cinema, and a natural ice rink. Horse riding, mountain biking on snow, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and paragliding are also available. Contact the tourist office for details of all activities. The Club Med has an Olympic-sized pool. The old Roman town of Aosta is worth a look.

Wood-fired pizza and pasta is the standard Cervinia menu, and one of the best places to sample it is Copa Pan. Other local specialties include mocetta (cured mountain goat), polenta and meat stew. The big culinary experience is at the Hermitage, a 'cocoon' hotel where you can sample local dishes like ham, polenta and blue cheese, or a tasting menu that includes rolled salmon with lobster and spinach. The restaurant at the Hotel Punta Maquignaz is famous for its steaks and fondues.

Cervinia's nightlife is a relatively simpler comparison to near-neighbor Zermatt. Popular spots include the lively and cheapish Copa Pan Irish bar and the Grivola Pub, which specialises in Irish and Scottish beers. There are two nightclubs to pick from, but the choice of the late, late action is L'Etoile. Finally, if you're searching for a sinful evening, head for the rustic Capanna Alpina. Begin in the attic Heaven restaurant; stop for coffee in the ground floor Purgatory cafe and finish up downstairs, in the Hell live music pub.

The Cime Bianche Hotel has some intriguing memorabilia, and cozy rooms, stunning views and doorstep skiing. The Hotel Bucaneve is conveniently placed in the center of the resort, featuring large rooms, a decent restaurant and a sitting room full of early skiing memorabilia. Also recommended is the four-star Europa, which has an indoor pool, is close to the Cretaz lifts and family friendly.

Grivola Hotel has a warm and comfortable environment, ideal for young and sporty guests who love going skiing and snowboarding. The ski hotel offers 20 rooms in total and facilities include a lobby with a hotel safe, lift access, a TV lounge, bar and restaurant, and a car park.

Marmore is a family - managed establishment which has been a favorite of the British guests for many years. It offers 38 comfortable accommodation units and unobtrusive service. Facilities include a lobby with a 24-hour reception, a hotel safe, lift access and a TV lounge.


Courmayeur, Italy Ski Resort Reviews

Snowboarding and Skiing in Sestriere, Italy

Ski Resorts in Italy: Bormio