If you try to think of the name of a ski resort, many will spring immediately to mind, even if you do not ski: Val D’Isere, Courchevel, Chamonix, St Moritz. These are fabulous ski resorts full of wide-open pistes, excellent views, expensive food, and a town tailor-made to the requirements of its winter custom. However, visit these resorts in summer, and they are lifeless; ghost towns and empty shells.
Alagna could not be further from this. You will have almost certainly never have heard of this tiny village in a small valley in Valsesia in Northern Italy. It remains, for the most part, a local secret, populated in high season mostly by Milanese people trying to escape the city (it is only about an hour and a half drive from Milan Malpensa Airport). The village itself is beautiful, full of buildings that could very well have been built hundreds of years ago. There are few restaurants and bars, but the ones that exist are wonderful. The ‘Guide’s Bar’ is full at the end of each day right up to the last weeks of the season. The pizzeria ‘Dir und Don’ offers pizzas to rival those of Naples, whilst the food and service in the restaurant ‘Union’ is the best you will find in Italy. Their homemade pasta is perfectly prepared and delicately flavoured, whilst their wine list is extensive, excellent and not at all overpriced.
However, it is the skiing that truly marks Alagna above the rest. Two relatively short lifts take you up into a very large ski area accessed by several resorts. There are plenty of wide, expansive pistes, although not many for beginners. Having said that, it is the Off-Piste which is unlike any other. A short ride in a helicopter can take you to 4200m on the Monte Rosa. For this, you can ski down a glacier for two hours into Zermatt, dodging crevasses and lumps of ice. At the top there was even powder worthy of February in early April, and the Matterhorn was never out of sight. For those who consider heliskiing a step too far, there are plenty of off-piste runs accessible from the lifts, but it is recommended you have a guide, and it is required that you have suitable avalanche equipment.
For skiers wishing to be challenged and amazed by a variety of off-piste routes, Alagna is ideal for you. The comparison to major ski resorts is remarkable, and the entire experience is entirely different. Even if the aprés-ski is off the scale! the combination of skiing and Italian food is unmissable – skiing for 8 hours a day? That definitely requires all four courses.