|Valle Maira, Ski Touring in Italy|
Val Maira is a magical place, hidden away near the southern end of the Italian Piemonte region, the mountains corresponding to the French Maritime Alps across the border to the west. Beloved by the local natives but less known to the outside world, this relatively undeveloped valley offers skiers excellent powder snow both above and below treeline, coupled with world class Italian cuisine and hospitality. Like the nearby Queyras (not far away to the NW), Val Maira charmed us with its unique combination of sport culture, unique old world ambience, and a deceptive sense of remoteness, amazingly endowed with great food and beautifully restored lodges, all adding up to an ideal ski touring location!
The skiing terrain and our pensione lodging, lie high up on side drainages off the main valley. These side valleys are not easy to get to by public transportation, and even by private vehicle it is advisable to have both snow tires and chains, just in case. But the effort of getting there is rewarded by miles of pristine terrain, relatively untracked and far from the crowds.
This is a village-based tour, with no mechanical lifts or mechanized ski areas. We stay in a comfortable inn located in a cluster of restored semi-detached farm houses, and with an excellent kitchen. We drive to adjoining valleys as needed to access the best terrain available based on weather and conditions. Our exact day to day itinerary will likewise flow from assessments of these variables at the time.
|Skinning up the final slopes of the Bric Boscasso.|
|"Preparing" for dinner at the Pensione Ceaglio.|
This tour requires a good level of fitness and very good skiing abilities. On a number of days the total elevation gained is over 1000 meters (3300 feet). Being in good shape will ensure you have enough energy to manage (and have great fun as well!) on the long descents which follow. The reason that skiing skills must be at an advanced to expert level has more to do with the conservation and expenditure of energy over a long day than the absolute technical difficulty of the skiing. For the most part the slopes are not overly steep. The challenge comes in managing poor snow conditions (heavy wet snow, crud or breakable crust) and not losing too much energy or risking injury in the process. Great skiers look like they are hardly working, and this is in fact the case. If your skiing is not up to par you will spend far, far more energy than a better skier.
Ski skills required;
Skiers who regularly enjoy black or double black runs in most western American ski areas should do fine. If you like to get off the piste and into the crud, ski the trees, and in general look for the steeper shots, you'll probably have a great time on this tour. If you tend to stick to the groomed slopes and find the wild untracked a bit intimidating you should think twice about this option. We will likely encounter all different kinds of snow, from the best to the worst, and you need to have sound, energy-efficient strategies to cope with them.
A good gauge of your ability can be found in mogul skiing. If you are good in the bumps and seek them out, then you most likely have developed the rhythm and balance needed for steep or difficult snow. You must be able to ski moderate bumps in good conditions, skiing rhythmically and fluidly, following a line near the fall line with good speed control. If you have any doubt about your ability to manage the skiing on this tour, please contact us to see if we can answer your questions.
Previous ski touring skills are useful, but not required. If you are a good skier, you will not have difficulty picking up these new skills, as you will already be comfortable on steep slopes.
|The Pensione Ceaglio in Marmora. Our home for the week.|
Kathy Cosley & Mark Houston
AMGA Certified • SNGM members
All images, layout and text ©2014 Cosley & Houston Alpine Guides, All Rights Reserved
|The summit of the Bric Boscasso, 2589 meters.|
|The chiesa di Cialvetta.|
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