Stanley and son in Cervinia

Snow was falling when we arrived in the small Italian town of Cervinia, for 3 1/2 days of skiing to celebrate my 80th birthday.  Arriving from Israel, my two daughters, son and I drove the 180 km. (112 miles) from the Milan airport to Cervinia on an overcast December afternoon.

Cervinia is the Italian side of the Matterhorn. I first skied here in the Fall of 1966, on my way home after two years in the Peace Corps, where I served in the tiny landlocked country of Malawi, in Southern Africa.  Since then, a lot has changed in Cervinia. In Malawi, too, I’m sure.

Since that first visit, Cervinia has more than doubled in size, hotels have all been up-graded several times, the main street is now a pedestrian mall, and alternative lifts have been added to eliminate the need to climb more than 100 steps to reach the cable car that Mussolini built in 1936.  It’s now possible to ski from Val Tournache, which is below Cervinia, all the way to the areas in Zermatt on the Swiss side, via what is possibly the largest inter-connected ski area in the world.

What hasn’t changed is the snow.  It’s still deliciously welcoming and smooth, like gliding on white chocolate.  It’s why I call Cervinia Mt. Toblerone.

Mt. Toblerone

The town itself is at 2,050 meters (6,725 feet).  Lifts take you up to 3,480 meters (11,417 feet) meters to Plateau Rosa on the Italian side and up to 3,883 meters (just under 13,000 feet) to the Klein Matterhorn station on the Swiss side.  From there, you can ski the only International World Cup downhill course while enjoying endless breath-taking views of the Matterhorn.

The course is a joy to cruise; wide enough for easy GS turns and not that steep, with some interesting terrain near the end. From there you can ski back down to the village or stay up and tackle some red runs (in Europe, red is the equivalent of black runs in the USA) above the town.

If you’re not up for checking out the downhill course, from Plateau Rosa you can ski down the Zermatt side and enjoy cheese fondue for lunch, and then take the scenic 30-minute Gornegrat cog railway train back to the top, to connect with the cable car back to the Italian side. There’s a sign at the top with arrows – Italy this way, Switzerland that way – to guide you to the proper trail home.

The lifts in Cervinia are modern detachables with wind shields, various versions of gondolas, and a new cable car with room for 125 skiers that takes you up to the Plateau Rosa in 7 minutes from the Laghi Cima Bianchi mid-station.  We encountered only one old-fashioned non-detachable chairlift.

No matter where you ski in the resort, the view is dominated by the great massif of the nearly pyramidical snow-covered Matterhorn. As you move around, the profile of the mountainchanges and the light beams down from different angles while the clouds come and go.

Calzone in Cervinia

The town of Cervinia is very accessible.  The main street is lined with relatively small hotels, fancy shops, and restaurants. Local folks are a font of helpful information about how to navigate the area.  We stayed at the Hotel DaCompagnoni in the center of town and nearly a ski-in ski-out.

And the food, very Italian and very good whether it’s pizza, pasta, fish or a big steak, is all at reasonable prices, and far less expensive than the Zermatt side.  And not just in town – there are several mid-mountain restaurants with equally memorable meals.

We had three and a half great days skiing and being together in Cervinia. I can’t wait to return again.

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