Picturesque old village with modern swimming pool complex and excellent Italian cuisine. The main ski area is a high altitute plateau from Alpe Palu offering a snowsure base for beginners.
Chiesa's ski area is divided in to two sectors, both some distance from the resort centre. The larger, known as Chiesa's ski area and on Alpe Palù, is accessed by a cable car which departs from Vassalini, a hamlet about a kilometre from the centre of the village. It rises exactly a thousand vertical metres to the ski area itself, where five chair lifts and five drags serve wide sunny slopes, divided evenly between above and below treeline skiing. You can also reach the slopes by continuing for a further 6km (2.5 miles) along the road up to San Giuseppe rather than getting on the cable car. There you will find yourself at the bottom of the slopes proper and can take a couple of chairs in succession up to the same arrival point as the cable car. The second area is above the neighbouring small resort of Caspoggio, reached by a mountain road up from Chiesa, smaller with four drags and two chairs; the skiing is almost entirely within the treeline and on gentler slopes, rated blue or red. Beginners will get a lot of benefits from starting their skiing at Chiesa, the scenery is pretty, the attitude light hearted, prices reasonable and the ski school with its staff of 50 instructors renowned for their professionalism. There are beginners' slopes dotted all over the area, including the bases at San Giuseppe and Caspoggio, as well as at altitude up at Alpe Palù reached by the cable car, so snow cover should never be a problem. There is also plenty to progress on, with long gentle blues. Intermediates will enjoy the fast cruising on these too, but also have slightly more challenging slopes such as the 6km (4 mile) long super G slope that descends the full 903 metre maximum vertical down from Sasso Alto to San Giuseppe. Another option is the high speed flying kilometre training slope ' Del Dosso' down from Alpe Palù. Experts have more limited terrain options, but there are some exciting slopes and Chiesa has a reputation for having staged competitions that have attracted the likes of Ingemar Stenmark; and for a ski school that includes former Italian racing champions in its roll call of teachers. Apart from Thoeni's run from Sasso Alto with walls, canyons and moguls, there is one exciting descent at Caspoggio, a 5km run down from Dosso del Galli descending more than 1000 metres. The Sole 2 slope here is also worth a look; it's normally used for racing or training. A third steep option is the slalom trail Costera beneath the two-seater chair that starts down at the village, and there's a self-timer course for those who want to check their speeds. Those with transport can purchase the larger Ski Pass Lombardia, which covers more than 20 ski centres in the area served by more than 250 lifts in total. Cross-country in both Nordic and skating styles is well catered for in the Valmalenco region, with 15km (9 miles) of altitude tracks up at Lago Palù, in the forest around an alpine lake below Alpe Palù. There are also skating tracks for racers along the valley at San Giuseppe.
Chiesa has fairly limited facilities for children. The ski school will accept kids aged five and over in adult classes and the four star Tremoggia Hotel operates a baby sitting service. Most of the hotels have games available for children to use.
Visitors can sample typical Italian food at most of the eight hotel restaurants in the resort. Pizza is served at Totos and out of town at the Mirage hotel in the hamlet of Lanzada, and you should be able to find the local pizzoccheri. Other 're-discovered' traditional meals include meals based on Bresaola (air-dried salted beef), Polenta taragna (with black flour, butter and cheese), Sciatt (irregular shaped cheese filled fritters made from black flour) and even Violini di capra (dried goat meat!). Local game, cheeses, brook trout, Porcini mushrooms and nuts, figs and raisins may also be included. The best restaurant in town is in the Tremoggia hotel on Via Bernina, but the hotel Palu has a strong reputation with vegetarians.
There are around a dozen bars and restaurants in Chiesa. The Dunvegan bar is a mecca for Anglocentric types everywhere. There's a discothèque, Vanity, found in the Pizzo Scalino hotel. Although there are local beers to try, no visitor should miss the chance to experience the famous local red Valtellina DOC wines. These are produced on the sunny slopes of the Valtellinese Alps in the region stretching from Ardenno to Tirano, a rocky terrain which the tenacity and labour of man over the years has transformed into fertile grape-growing country. Leonardo da Vinci, no less, described the characteristics of these robust, full-bodied wines as "potenti e assai" the perfect accompaniment to genuine local cuisine.
'Boarders in Chiesa can now access all the key sectors by cable car or chair lifts, including two high speed detachable quads. There's a lot of open fun 'boarding terrain both on the big powder basin above the trees and on some of the reds and blacks complete with bumps, natural canyons and walls down through the trees. Beware of flats in some key areas however, most notably on the longest trail, the 6km (4 mile) blue Super G run. The resort has also built a fun park with 100 metre half pipe, the Primavera. Off the slopes (and on) prices are reasonable and the atmosphere relaxed, not hedonistic.