News from the snow
Santa Caterina Italy
Santa Caterina is a small, traditional village sitting at the heart of the vast Stelvio National Park, the largest protected natural reserve in Italy. It's a quiet friendly village in the Valfurva Valley above Bormio in a valley with no winter through-traffic. Over the past fifty years it has grown modestly to offer all modern ski resort conveniences, but has retained much of its original charm with many of the hotels and other resort businesses still owned by the same few families. With 1000m of vertical above, it's not surprising that Santa Caterina has a long association with international ski racing and that it was venue for the Bormio Alpine World Championships in 2005. Santa Caterina has been home to several famous ski racers, most recently Deborah Compagnoni, as well as famous Italian downhiller Pietro Vitalini. The new Deborah Compagnoni slope was created for to all the women's alpine ski races for the World Championships in 2005. For over a century it has been the base for summer and winter mountain lovers. In the winter, the high altitude of the village and the surrounding ski area make it a snowsure destination. Even in summer it's a good base for summer skiing on Passo dello Stelvio, with the possibility of summer ski touring to the surrounding areas of southern Switzerland, Austria and Alto Adige. Santa Caterina was already known in the 19th century as a spa location, thanks to its ferruginous water springs. Even then there were excursions to the Forni glacier above, mainland Europe's largest glacier. The resort's fame as a ski resort grew in the 1950s and '60s when the first ski lifts were built. The Stelvio National Park is popular year round, containing as it does the magnificent Ortles - Cevedale mountain range with peaks over 3 800 metres above sea level. This is a natural heritage of exceptional significance and beauty, containing over 1 800 types of flowers, 200 types of birds, deer, roebuck, mountain goats, ibexes, marmots, squirrels, stoats and foxes. Guests who stay at the resort's hotels for at least three days receive a free guest card which offers free services, promotions and discounts.
A quiet friendly village in the Valfurva Valley above Bormio. The architecture is very Italian and the scenery unspoilt and tranquil. The skiing is best suited to intermediates, but there are several testing blacks and the option for late season off-piste with a guide or high mountain touring.
The resort has 40 kilometres (25 miles) of slopes suitable all ability levels. There are two blue, six red and three black runs. The latter offers 15km of terrain - a much higher percentage than at most ski areas and reflecting Santa Caterina's heritage in ski racing.
However beginners are well looked after too, with a ski stadium which incorporates a completely enclosed nursery slope for beginners. There is also a short handle tow to ease the ascent back up the slopes for those first runs.
New lifts recently installed include an eight-seater gondola which ascends more than 1000 vertical metres from the resort at 1,730m right up to Sobretta 2,775 m. This serves the new Deborah Compagnoni racing slope created for the World Championships in 2005 as well as other terrain. There's also a new six seat chairlift which ascends from Valle dell'Alpe, the sunniest part of the ski area, up towards the Sobretta Cres.
Every Thursday through the season there's a challenging guest's giant slalom ski race. In Spring it's possible to ski the Valle dei Forni valley, which is an amphitheatre between beautiful peaks such as Sobretta, Tresero, S. Matteo, Confinale, Pasquale and Cevedale.
The resort takes part in a regional lift pass covering half a dozen ski areas including Bormio. There are also weekly excursions for a day over the border in St Moritz, don't forget your passport.
Santa Caterina is also a major centre for cross country skiing, particularly at a competitive level. The Valtellina track has five and ten kilometre circuits where important international competitions and numerous World Cup races have been held. The track winds at an altitude of 1800 metres, across a wide plane and through thick woods, it has demanding ups and downs with vertical drops between 109 and 390 metres.
Near to this competition track there is an eight kilometre tourist track where for a distance they coincide, the tourist track has two circuits, one three kilometres and one five kilometres in length. It is much less strenuous and offers beautiful landscapes and views through the old pine woods.
The "Centro La Fonte" building was constructed to help support cross-country skiers. It is fitted out with changing-rooms, showers, clothes and equipment deposit and waxing room. Technical assistance is available from the ski-instructors who can give expert advise on the type of equipment and wax to use.
There's a Mini Club centred on a free play-ground dubbed "Children on the Snow"
That operates for children aged three to ten years, Monday to Saturday from 9 am to 1.30pm with qualified supervision at the Centro Polifunzionale. The service is free to Guest card holders.
The Hotel Nordik's restaurant is typical serving a wide choice of typical, national and international dishes. It's in the village centre, close to the ski lifts and the cross-country track.
Don't miss the weekly evening Cheese Flavouring course and tasting of the local cheeses run by experts from the ONAF (National Organisation of Cheese Tasters) of Valfurva at the "Centro Polifunzionale."
Evening activities are organised by the tourist board through the week. They include as moonlit snowshoe walk suitable for everyone through the woods of the Stelvio National Park.
There's also a weekly torchlit downhill ski run with the resort's ski-instructors, followed by mulled wine for everybody
The fast modern gondola uplift to access more than 1000 vertical metres of terrain has to be a draw too.