Freeriding in Monterosa: Alagna, Champoluc & Gressoney

Daniel DawsonJanuary 07, 2019

Situated on the border between Switzerland and Italy, at the eastern end of the Pennine Alps, the Monte Rosa massif is widely considered a skiing paradise.

Rising to 4.634 meters above sea level, Monte Rosa is the second tallest mountain in the Alps, behind Mont Blanc. The massif boasts a combination of excellent powder and plenty of variety for skiers. There are hut-to-hut trekking opportunities, plenty of scenic heliskiing spots and other off-piste runs.

However, the mountain and its surrounding slopes are easily most famous for their unparalleled freeride skiing options. Monterosa, which is the name given to the massif’s numerous ski resorts, boasts 150 kilometers of off-piste action, of which 75 kilometers are thrilling freeride descents from up on the mountain down into the valleys below.

While less popular than the nearby resorts of Chamonix and Zermatt, Monterosa is perfect for dedicated skiers who are coming for fantastic scenery and unbeatable freeride skiing. Heliskiing is also allowed in Italy and as a result it is quite popular along the slopes of Monte Rosa. It takes you for off the beaten path and allows you to enjoy long uninterrupted freeride runs down perennially fresh powdered slopes.

Before you book your next ski holiday to this quaint and picturesque mountain, there are a few important factors to take into account. In order to ease the decision making process for you, we’ve included some facts about the top three resorts as well as some other useful information below.  

3 Reasons to Go Freeriding in Monterosa

 

Rising 4.634 meters above sea level, the massif offers plentiful slopes all throughout northern Italy and southern Switzerland on which to ski. Photo courtesy of Riccardo Olliveri.

1| Stunning Scenery

Monte Rosa offers stunning views in just about every direction as you ski down its long slopes. From certain spots, you get views of other iconic Alpine peaks such as the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc. From other points, there are spectacular vistas of the rest of the Pennine Alps as well as the surrounding evergreen forests and picturesque valleys.

2| Perfect Powder

Throughout the entirety of the skiing season, Monterosa is renowned for its plentiful covering of excellent ski powder. Combine this natural excellence with lower ski traffic than other nearby resorts and the result is plenty of perfect powder on which spend your day, weekend or week skiing.

3| Avoid the Crowds

While Monterosa might not be a best kept secret, it is not as frequently visited as neighboring Chamonix and Zermatt. It is also not a big nightlife hub, meaning most of the people attracted here are dedicated skiers looking for fresh powder and quiet slopes. This means fewer lines on lifts and more of the mountain to yourself.

Where to Ski in the Monterosa Region

 

Blaze your own trails through unspoiled snow down scenic slopes in any of the three main resorts on Monte Rosa. Photo courtesy of Stéphane Monari.

Alagna

Located at the southeastern foot of the Monte Rosa Massif, Alagna-Valsesia is a picture-perfect little village renowned for its amazing freeride options.

The slopes around Alagna are generally best reserved for advanced skiers due to the steep slopes and larger level of technical difficulty than the other two spots.

Some of the best off-piste spots located around the town are easily reached by cable car and range from 1.500 meter runs back into the village to the 10-kilometer long Balma descent.

The Balma descent is certainly a must-do for advanced skiers visiting the town. Starting at 2.000 meters above sea level, the route takes you well out into the backcountry, winding through pristine evergreen forests, down steep pitches, into open bowls and along narrow gullies.

Alagna is also the the end point of a few excellent heliskiing drops. The most popular of which is a 14-kilometer long run that includes a 2.200 vertical meter descent from the foot of the Cavallo glacier back into the idyllic village.

Champoluc

 

Each of the three resort towns sitting at the foot of the massif offers something different. Make sure to choose the one that best fits your needs. Photo courtesy of Guide Monterosa Fraz.

Situated on the southwestern slopes of the Monte Rosa Massif, Champoluc is the largest of the three villages and is best suited for novice freeride skiers.

Boasting plenty of lifts into the surrounding slopes as well as slightly more variety of places at which to stay and dine, the spot is perfect for families. The freeride skiing is not very technical nor steep, making it perfect for people who are good skiers, but have never tried to go off-piste before.

Heading up on the lifts takes you to various points from which you can freeride into any of the surrounding valleys,. There are also longer freeride options that take you into neighboring valleys and allow you to ski in isolation through the stunning wilderness.

The longest and most popular route for intermediate freeride skiers is heading all the way up to Col du Bätt at 2.676 meters above sea level and making the long scenic run through the Lys Valley and finishing in Gressoney.

Gressoney

Sitting on the southern slopes of the Monte Rosa massif and composed of three villages, Gressoney is home to a large network of off-piste terrain and boasts excellent powder.

With numerous slopes, all of which are easily accessible via cable car, there are freeride options for skiers of every level. For beginners and intermediate skiers, there are runs that descend for 700 vertical meters back into the town.

For more advanced skiers, there are longer runs, winding down the slopes to the north toward Stoffal and, if you are feeling intrepid enough, even further on to Alagna.

The resort town is also an excellent starting point for ski mountaineering expeditions.

If you want to stay more local, there are plenty of other challenging runs around the town that wind down mountain slopes into neighboring valleys and back around to one of the three villages.  

Best Time to Go There

 

From January to April is the best time for freeride skiing on the slopes of Monte Rosa. However, some guides also offer trips from December to May.

During the winter, average daily temperatures range from -7°C to -10°C on the slopes of the mountains. Factoring in the windchill and temperatures can feel as cold as -15°C to -20°C, so be sure to bring plenty of layers and warm clothes in order to maximize your time out on the slopes.

Snow generally begins to fall on Monte Rosa in January and piles up quickly. The mountain receives an average of about 100 cm throughout this first month. February is then generally pretty sunny with much less snow, but quite cold so the snow does stick. A fresh covering of powder generally comes once again in March, before another mostly sunny month in April.

However, the snowy months generally get a lot of snow at once, so there are plenty of sunny days on which to enjoy the slopes.  

How Much Does a Guided Trip Cost?

 

Heliskiing is also a popular option int he region to increase the length and scope of your freeride skiing vacation. Photo courtesy of Guide Monterosa Fraz.

Guided freeride skiing trips to Monterosa generally start at €350 per person for a group of three and include the guide fee, group equipment and heliski drops. These prices do not include accommodations or meals.

Some guides offer more expensive packages that do include accommodations and meals. These come out to about €600 per person for a group of three or more, with accommodations in mountain huts (not fancy hotels). There are also slightly cheaper freeride skiing options that do not include helicopter drops.

Prices will also vary depending on how long you plan to stay for. The aforementioned prices tend to be trips lasting a couple of days or a half-week. Other trips, that last for about a week or more, tend to be a bit more expensive.

Remember, every guide is different so be sure to obtain a price quote and confirm what is included in that price prior to booking.

How to Get There?

 

Depending on which resort you are headed to, there are a couple of different option for getting to Monterosa.

If you’re destination is Champoluc or Gressoney, then flying into the Turin Caselle airport (TRN) gets you the closest. From the airport it is a 1.5 hour drive to both aforementioned resort towns. If you’re destination is Alagna, then flying into the Milan Malpensa (MXP) airport followed by a two hour drive to the town is the quickest route.

If you do not want the hassle of renting a car then you may also get there by train or bus. Buses head from Turin and Milan to all three resort towns, but involve changes and do not run late at night.

Trains also run toward all three towns, leaving you in Verres for Champoluc, Pont St Martin for Gressoney, and Varallo for Alagna. From here, buses can be taken to reach the town itself.   

Take advantage of the relatively empty slopes of this much less busy Alpine resort region. Photo courtesy of Herbert Summerer.

 

So what are you waiting for? Book your next freeride skiing holiday to the slopes of Monte Rosa and take advantage of the fresh powder, empty slopes and stunning scenery of any of the surrounding resort towns.  

 

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