News from the snow
A friendly traditional resort located in a sunny valley on the Swiss border. For a comparatively small resort it has a strong international reputation, including the famous 3km 'Canalone' black descent.Madesimo is a friendly traditional resort located in the sunny Spluga Valley on the Swiss border. For a comparatively small resort it has a strong international reputation, but manages to remain unpretentious and full of Italian charm. Fopr skiers its famous for the near three kilometre 'Canalone' black descent and has also recently invested in a new underground funicular railway which lifts skiers from Campodolcino (a separate resort down below at 1096m) to Motta Alp (1720m, above Madesimo) in just three minutes. The resort has a long history as a ski destination, with the first reported winter tourism in 1910. Thanks to high altitude slopes in the area up to 3,000m and extensive snowmaking the resort is relatively snowsure. The scenery is spectacular with fir and larch forests in the valley and majestic Alpine peaks above. The resort today is a colourful mix of old and new buildings. There's a wide range of activities to enjoy on and off the slopes and the atmosphere is normally lively. Once part of Austria, the local industry of the 19th century, apart from agriculture, included cotton mills and beer breweries. Local produce including cheese and cold meet were stored in storage places called 'crotti' which became synonymous with the area. Crotti were the natural spaces that existed between large boulders that had fallen, creating a constant temperature of six degrees Celcius. According to a mid-nineteenth century document, the people of the local Chiavenna region, "…are lively, cheerful and obliging by nature and very kind and friendly with foreigners." The area's history dates back much further than this however, with the pass over Monte Spluga that runs by the village known to be a mule train route at least as long ago as Roman times and its mineral water springs appreciated since even further back in time.
A friendly traditional resort located in a sunny valley on the Swiss border. For a comparatively small resort it has a strong international reputation, including the famous 3km 'Canalone' black descent. An underground funicular railway lifts skiers from Campodolcino (1096m) to Motta Alp (1720m) in just three minutes.
From here the only way back down is the Canalone black, two and three-quarter kilometre (one and three-quarter mile) long and described as "the most beautiful slope in the Alps …a work of art," by Dino Buzzati.
It's the longest of four marked blacks although there are longer runs including the Vanoni and Interpista intermediate standard reds, both three kilometres (just under two miles) long.
Or you can hike further up from the top of the lifts to the peak of Pizzo Groppera at 3000m and carve your own trails through the powder down.
Beginners are not forgotten of course, there are nursery slopes at one end of the village and longer blues cut down through the trees from the tops of chairs and drag lifts that run up from the valley. The ski school, established in 1934, was one of the first in Italy to offer regular courses. Its past directors include Italian ski legend Zeno Colo, winner of the first Alpine Ski world Championships in 1946.
There are several small ski areas near to Madsesimo that are worth a visit. Closest is Motta, actually skiable from Madsesimo by taking a right at the top of the Serrenissima chair at the edge of the village. The skiing here is not especially spectacular but the 13m (45 feet) high gold-leaf covered stature of the Madonna d'Europa that towers above, is.
There's another cross country loop along from the ski lifts and several others in the area.
The Park Hotel Boscone has a free mini-club for children staying in the hotel aged four to ten in the late afternoon after the ski lifts close; the Andossi hotel has an unsupervised children's playroom and its own indoor pool.
If you get the opportunity you should visit one of the traditional crotti, hollows in the rock where local cheeses, salami, cold meat and wines are preserved. These are some of the basic ingredients of the area's cuisine - typically made up of simple but nourishing dishes. Some of those which survive today and should be tasted include the local pizzoccheri, polenta, Alpine cheeses, traditional cakes and chestnuts. Gourmets will be tempted by the excellent brisaola from here and by the violino of dry meat, a refined goat ham.
Il Cantinone on Via A. De Giacomi is a good place to start if you want to try some of these traditional foods. The restaurant serves local wines and has a signature dish, Pizzoccheri of Gordona, made according to the recipe of the grandmother of the family.
La Meridiana is a better choice if you want a lighter snack, international dishes or fast food. It is located in the town centre, within easy reach of the ski-lifts.
Soldanella is also central and close to the lifts. The family run restaurant offers both international and Valtellina cuisine and also operates a pizzeria-bar.
For something special Dogana Vegia is located in the building which was the customs house of the Italian-Swiss border in 1600. The environment, heated by an open fire and lit by paraffin lamps, is very refined. The cuisine includes local traditional dishes as well as special tastings. Reservations are compulsory.
Popular spots after the lifts close include the Shamrock Pub, Tender disco bar the Extreme Centre Videobar on Via degli Argini. These and the other half dozen bars in the resort tend to be quiet during the week but buzzing at the weekends when the crowds descend from Milan.
Boarders too can enjoy the high altitude powder fields below Pizzo Groppera or have fun on the natural hits along the trail edges as they descend below the treeline.
For more information, go to www.madepark.it