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.
Madesimo's skiing on Groppera above the village ascends to almost 3000m, the lower runs cut through the larch, the higher on wide open sunny slopes above the treeline. There are half a dozen access points, but the Cima Sole and Groppera cable cars offer the fastest ascent of 1350 vertical metres. 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 ski school takes children in classes from age five, with an outdoor kindergarten in Alpe Komta and a baby park at Larci. 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.
Madesimo has a dozen restaurants and cafes catering for all tastes. 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.
Make sure you imbibe some of the local beer from Valchiavenna which will be from one of the local micro-breweries. These were established recently after a fifty year break between the closure of the Sluga brewery in 1957, the last of nine that were set from the 1820s and once provided a fifth of Italian beer production, employing hundreds of locals in the industry. 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.
Madesimo's snowpark is located at 1800m on Aquerela. There are three jumps, rainbow rail, box and four additional rails. The pipe is 130m long, 20m wide and 4.5m high. 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