Cervinia review 24-31 January 2016

Cervinia review 24-31 January 2016
Started by Tony_H in Italy - 14 Replies
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Mar-2016
Tony_H
I made my first long awaited trip to Cervinia with Mrs H and another couple earlier this year, apologies for the tardiness of my review. I will upload some photos when in a position to do so as well. I wanted to give my impressions of the trip in a summaries review as follows:

Cervinia the resort
Its a small place high up above the Aosta valley, only a reasonably short transfer from Turin airport - 90 mins or so. It lies at around 2000m and therefore snow is pretty much guaranteed. It has managed to retain a sense of charm and small extent thanks to sensibly spread out buildings and a fairly pretty pedestrianised centre. There are some middle of the range and swanky hotels mixed around the main area in town, and there are 2 main lift stations to take you up the the slopes: first is the Cretaz chair lift from the left hand end of the pistes as you look at the map, a decent 6 man chair, and the other is the large and original Plan Maison gondola and cable car from higher up in town, not a pleasant walk if you are staying in the old original centre, but perfect for us staying at the Club Med up the hill in the suburb of Cieloalto with their regular minibus shuttle service to and from lifts each day. We ended our days skiing 3 out of the 6 in town by the Cretaz lift, having skied down from the lovely runs directly under the Italian side of the (less dramatic) Matterhorn and fell across a cracking little bar in a small up market hotel just down the main street, one row back from the more noisy and slightly less attractive bars facing the piste. Amazingly, I can't remember the name of it! A bottle of Prosecco sensibly priced at 22 euros, and a large beer at 3,50 as well as some delightful antipasti thrown in for good measure.
We didn't eat out in the evenings as we were AI with Club Med.

Hotel Club Med
The hotel is situated up a steep hill from both town and lifts in the higher area of Cieloalto, and we did manage a walk down and back into town one night for a few beers to watch the football on tv. However, I would definitely NOT be doing this walk in ski boots or carrying equipment, and thankfully Club Med have a fleet of minibuses to ferry customers to and from the lifts. The first outbound left the hotel at 8.30am which was perfect timing for the first Plan Maison gondola or cable car out of town, and the last pick up from town was 18.50pm thus enabling time for a few beers before heading back to the hotel if you so wished. Club Med offers a unique blend of Eurovision style entertainment, not everyones bag, and not mine particularly, so we tended to avoid anything in the bar after 9.30/10pm and do the sensible thing and hit the sack in order not to ruin the next days skiing.
Food was as usual excellent, on a par if not better than St Moritz in my opinion. The restaurant offers lovely views across the valley in daylight. Staff were far more friendly here than in St Moritz, mainly because most were Italian if you ask me, but there was still the age old problem of being British and thus being the last to get served at the bar just because we are polite and don't like to push in! Castro Azzuro and Pilsner Urquell on tap - no complaints from me, and Prosecco flowing freely to keep the ladies happy.
Fresh cooking stations were offered each evening over dinner, breakfast was a huge buffet offering absolutely anything you could want.

Lunch was provided on all but the Saturday in the 2 mountain restaurants. Club Med have their own section in the Plan Maison mid station which is as we expected having lunched in St Moritz - a kind of school dinners affair in terms of seating and speed of service, but decent food nonetheless with a limited choice. Wine if you wanted it. However, we discovered an absolute gem in their other restaurant - Lo Rocco - situated right down the far side of the ski area above Valtournenche. We decided to head over here the first day as we felt it was far enough out of the away to avoid being busy and we were absolutely right. The weather was glorious enabling us to sit out on their first floor balcony, and we were greeted with a high quality Prosecco and a Club Med menu, a shortened version of the private restaurants own. Club Med seemingly have an arrangement with this place to allow a certain number of guests each day, and we ate here 4 out of 5 lunchtimes that we could, it was that good. Superb attentive service as well, and we tipped each time we visited. We ate here the day lunch was not provided, sensibly priced and just a bigger selection of menu choices, and some excellent wines as well. Its situated a long way down, near the top of the Salette gondola up from the village of Valtournenche.

The hotel itself is fine, its not 4 star and they don't pretend it is, but in terms of value for money, once again Club Med scores highly IF YOU CAN GET A DEAL like we did for under £1000 per person which includes flights, transfers, all inc accommodations, lift passes, lessons and guiding if you want them. The great deal about Club Med Cervinia is that the lift pass is the whole Matterhorn Paradise area which includes Zermatt.....I will come on to that shortly.
Hotel rooms are adequate, on a par with something like a Ramada or Premier Inn but slightly tired and more dated. I am not the sort of person who takes photos of cracked bathroom tiles and posts them on trip advisor, you could have if you wanted to, but we found our room comfortable, clean and perfect for going to bed in, with plenty of hanging space.
The bar area does not have many chairs, and getting back as we did after a full days skiing at 5ish meant all seats were already taken by the vast number of guests who clearly finished early to shower and change before 4pm!!! No biggie, we sat in the (empty) kids area which wasn't in use.

Getting there
We selected BA flights from Gatwick to avoid the charters, as personally I think its worth using the scheduled airlines if you possible can. BA allow one bag of 23kg irrespective of size which means you can check in your ski bag packed to the hilt for no additional cost. Gatwick isn't ideal for where we live, but we can live with that. Turin unfortunately doesn't offer other schedules flights, compared to Geneva or Zurich for example, but BA were as usual on time and more than efficient. We also avoided the hordes of Crystal customers lying around all over the place on the way back as all their flights were delayed due to bad weather in the UK; it seems BA just get on with it.
Club Med provided a coach transfer which was full, meeting customers from various different flights at around the same time.
Turin Airport was slightly less chaotic than before, but they still operate the same ridiculous ski bag collection, where bags are posted through a small portal and dumped on the floor in a huge pile while in the region of 300 people stand around them waiting for their own to come out.....this is where I go into operative mode and start moving the bags to prevent a blockage. Ours seemed to come through a lot quicker than the Thomson flights, something to do with BA maybe???
Travel time to Cervinina was around 90 minutes, although this would obviously increase when snow falls, as it did the day we left resort in half a metre of fresh snow with no road clearance and no chains on the wheels!!!! Interesting journey down to say the least.

Snow conditions
Being late January, there was plenty of snow on the ground already, and it snowed a lot the week before we went. However, for the week we were there the sun came out and the sky was blue every single day. Im not one to complain when its like that, but I do like some fresh snow at some point. By the end of the week, after one windy night, snow had been thinned right out from off piste sections around the area, but pistes were in absolutely mint condition, with excellent grooming. It wasn't cold, but overnight it was below freezing every night so snow stayed in decent condition, and being high up, the lower slopes didn't suffer at all, even on the one random day the temp topped out at 13c at mid station!!!

Ski area
Cervinia offers an alleged 160km of marked piste - enough to keep most recreational skiers happy for a weeks holiday. However, the big bonus here is that if you head to the highest point, and drop down the back, you're on the Zermatt sector - included on the area lift pass, bringing up a huge total of 360km of marked piste.
Cervinia is pretty much a bowl above and around the village reaching glacial heights, with an additional sector off to the right hand side.
Going up from town, keeping to the left ad therefore underneath the Matterhorn (or Monte Cervinio as they call it here), the Cretaz chair will take you up to Plan Torette at 2470m with some lovely blue and red runs back into town, and some cracking reds and a particularly gnarly black higher up from the Puncheon chair - here the pistes take you between rocks and peaks giving you a real feeling af moving around and being in a separate area. Runs are fairly long so you're not on and off chairs that much.
Take the Plan Maison gondola or Cable car (both run side by side to shift people up the mountain from town) and you end up at Plan Maison mid station at 2555m. Theres a large complex here of cafes, restaurants, lockers and ski rental places, all a bit concrete and unattractive, but functional nonetheless. You can then ride up to 3 additional chairs from here in succession, or take one at a time and ski down, and the last of the 3 will bring you out at Theodulpass at 3300m. Theres a cafe up here, but a better one slightly lower down under the Bontadini chair, perfect for a late afternoon beer in the sun before heading down to town. You can ski right from here at 3300 down into resort without stopping (if you're fit enough!) or without needing a lift.
From Plan Maison mid station, head across to the right on the Laghi Cime Bianchi gondola and you will end up at a further lift junction at 2800m. From here you can ski down into the right hand side of Cervinia including Cieloalto, perfect for getting back to the back door of the Club Med, or take the big new cable car up to Plateau Rosa at an amazing 3480m, the most important junction point in the area in my opinion. From here, theres a cracking long and quite steep red back down to Laghi Cime Bianchi, and therefore back into town from an incredible altitude, or head off (skiers) left into the Valtournenche sector, where you slip off behind a ridge out of sight of Cervinia, and where theres a selection of mainly red pistes which eventually bring you down (using one very short uplift chair at 2895m) to Salette, and then further down on a fabulous tree lined red into Valtournenche. Do this from top to bottom and its something like 14km skiing, with only the tiny break for the short chair. Brilliant, and on the whole very quiet.

The gem of all this is up at Plateau Rosa you can then drop down the other side of the mountain and find yourself in Switzerland on the Zermatt sector. You're straight onto the glacier here, and you can either ski down and link back over into Cervinia off to the left at Theodulpass, or keep going into Zermatt. You will find yourself at Trockner Stegg at 2940m, from where you have to aim for by around 3pm LATEST in order to make it back into Cervinia before you're stuck! The cable car rises to Klein Matterhorn at a massive 3820m, from where you can ski across the glacier to Plateau Rosa and back into the Italian sector. However, be warned, this cable car gets huge queues all season long, we once waited only for 2 cable cars but as the week went by this turned into 45-60 minutes. Im not the most patient person, so there is an alternative, however this involves what feels like the worlds longest coldest T bar up the glacier, which at 3.30pm is in the shade in January and became something of a gritted teeth challenge when we did it twice!
Head down to Furgg at 2430m and then theres a wonderful tree lined black down into Furi at 1865m, which is just above Zermatt village, you get down there fast believe me! Alternatively, you can head further around the lovely Schwarzsee sector on a number of reds some of which are undulating tracks, and ultimately all wind up in Furi. From here, the Trockner Stegg cable car rises up to head you back to Italy.....however this was closed all week we were there, so we had to use the 3 stage Matterhorn Express gondola which was fast and efficient and gives you options to bob off at various points if you so wanted.

We were told that you wouldn't be able to make it much beyond Furi or at best Riffelberg which is a gondola ride up the other way from Furi, where you can see the strangely exciting train that rises up to Gornergrat. We were determined to prove this wrong, and managed to actually make our way right across to the top of Gornergrat, and then down the back into Gant, up to Hohtälli under the Stockhorn peak with amazing glacier views, and even on from Gant to Blathered and up to the highest point of the Rothorn itself before skiing all the way back down into Furi (using the Hohtälli cable car on the way) and this picking up the connection back to Italy from there.
All sounds quite complicated....? Grab a look at the piste map for both areas, and be as impressed as I was with the amount of mileage we managed to cover in day, without getting stuck in Switzerland and needing a £500 taxi back home!
Zermatt has a wonderful feel to it, truly affluent and majestic scenery, and we didn't see a queue anywhere although this was late January to be fair.
Cervinia was the same, only at Plan Masion did we queue (being too early for the first lift to have actually opened!!) and to get the cable car up to Plateau Rosa one morning after a power cut put us back 45 minutes. The only other queue was the unpleasant one at Trockner Stegg on the Swiss side, but its a small price to pay for some spectacular skiing.

Favourite Runs
Cervinia - take the Pancheron chair up to the top and ski all the way down through the rocks into town, fantastic late on when light fades and everyones already gone!
The long runs into Valtournenche are blissfully quiet and scenic.
Any of the pistes down from Theodulpass offer great vertical into the village as well.
Generally, all great piste skiing with huge wide pistes.
Zermatt - the runs around Schwarzsee should not be avoided, some steep reds and blacks to be found, and some cracking tree lined tracks as well. Very quiet here too.
The run from Gornergrat down into Riffelberg and on to Furi is beautiful, a couple of nice piste side bars on the way, not too badly priced either.
The red off Rothorn into Gant is truly breath taking.
And pretty much everywhere you go, you see the spectacular Matterhorn somewhere on the landscape. I understand now why Zermatt is so highly rated by skiers.

Prices
Italy generally cheap - 2-2.50 for coffee, 6-9 pizza, 3-4 large beer.
Switzerland - we paid 12 CHF for a litre and a half of water at Riffelalp, big mistake, but generally 4 CHF for coffee, and 4.50 CHF for large beer which was not as bad as I had feared.

Overall ???

Mrs H loved it, everything about it. The weather in particular....whilst I was annoyed the morning we left in a blizzard with half a metre of fresh! We found the overall Club Med package excellent value for money and would recommend that as a place to stay, once again providing that you can get a good discount to bring the price down to around the £1000pp mark.
The resort is a lot nicer than I had expected, not dissimilar to Sauze d'oulx in some ways. Some nice little bars and some upmarket hotels as well as the usual 3 star on offer from Crystal, Inghams, Neilson etc. Easy to get around with modern lifts on both sides generally. Huge area to go at and head out early and you will be skiing in Switzerland not long after 9am, but remember to allow plenty of time to get back!
Varied skiing, most of it good intermediate stuff. One or two tough tests with the odd harsh red and a few nasty blacks, but in the main a perfect area for anyone who some ability to buzz around and build confidence and generally enjoy piste skiing at its best.
Off piste was out of action when I was there, it was too crusty and needed a top up, but there seemed to be a host of accessible places both sides which would get tracked out fast.
Would we go back? Most definitely. Thoroughly enjoyable place which would be good late season as well thanks to glacial heights on both sides. I can see how the sun would affect the area though, very much like ADH with much of the Italian side in the sun for long periods.
It wasn't an expensive resort up the mountain, but I was very disappointed to pay 6,50 euros for a large beer, and not a great one, in a piste side bar in a UK tour op hotel, where we watched football on sky on a not particularly large tv which was difficult to see!!! (My mate is an Arsenal fan and HAD to see the Chelsea game.....) Otherwise prices seemed fairly reasonable, but probably on the higher side for Italy.

A great ski area, a thoroughly enjoyable week, and great conditions for buzzing around fast on pistes.

Photos to follow.

www  Atomic Nomad Blackeye 2014
Edited 5 times. Last update at 11-Mar-2016
Mar-2016
Admin
Good write-up as always Tony; thank you!

Interesting; I didn't realise that Club Med had arrangements with restaurants on the mountain; was that the case at St.Moritz also? Certainly a good deal for what you got included.
The Admin Man
Mar-2016
Tony_H
Admin wrote:Good write-up as always Tony; thank you!

Interesting; I didn't realise that Club Med had arrangements with restaurants on the mountain; was that the case at St.Moritz also? Certainly a good deal for what you got included.


No we were also pleasantly surprised. You still had to book a time the day before and take a voucher up, but you were given a 1 hour slot. In St Moritz Club Med have 1 restaurant of their own on each mountain, Corvatsch and Corviglia, staffed by their own people and you were given a 45 minute slot. The food was good there, but it was something of a rush and akin to school dinners with a mad rush for the buffet and eat as much as you could as fast as you could! I can't speak for other Club Med resorts, but comparing St Moritz with Cervinia, we preferred the Italian lunches! However, its definitely the way to go to St Moritz affordably.
www  Atomic Nomad Blackeye 2014
Mar-2016
Bedrock barney
Great review Tony!

Zermatt/Cervinia remains on our favourites list and I'm sure we'll head back before too long. I would opt to stay in Zermatt though as the town experience is so rewarding. Good to get more info on skiing in Cervinia though.
slippy slidey snow......me likey!
Mar-2016
Tony_H
bedrock barney wrote:Great review Tony!

Zermatt/Cervinia remains on our favourites list and I'm sure we'll head back before too long. I would opt to stay in Zermatt though as the town experience is so rewarding. Good to get more info on skiing in Cervinia though.


I would have liked to, but its way too expensive for me. And actually I have a bit of a thing about Italy.
Fantastic area though.
www  Atomic Nomad Blackeye 2014
Mar-2016
Ranchero_1979
Difficult to find a better ski resort in the world for skiing Nov-Mid Feb.
Mar-2016
Gareth Fair
Great report as ever Tony.
Cervinia is a lovely place and considering the skiing is relatively timid I still think it's a good resort to spend a few days.
When in doubt?....Flat out.
Mar-2016
Ranchero_1979
Am not even so sure the gradient is that mellow in Cervinia. Just super wide piste, all directly in the fall line and nobody about so you end up skiing well. Definitely a great place for piste skis and afterburners.

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