TAKE A RIDE: Lifts link up 3899m of the vast skiing area.
TAKE A RIDE: Lifts link up 3899m of the vast skiing area. CONTRIBUTED

Skiing holiday on high

AS surfers and sun worshippers welcome the onset of another Australian summer, skiers and snowboarders turn their sights to the opposite side of the world where the snow falls.

If your family loves the mountains, altitude and white adventure, Cervinia Ski Resort, tucked high in the Italian Aosta Valley virtually guarantees a snowy winter wonderland from early December until late April.

Proud to be one of Europe’s highest ski resorts, Cervinia village sits at a height of 2050m and connects to a breathtakingly vast ski area with lifts linking up to 3899m, and 350km of pistes between Italy and Zermatt, Switzerland.

I arrive at Milan airport and begin my transfer to Cervinia, winding through a medieval valley dotted with fairytale castles teetering on precarious rocky outcrops.

The fortress of Bard looms large and impressive, having been central to many embattlements dating back to the early Middle Ages, positioned tactically to block the narrow passage of the Bard Gorge.

With recent restorations, it has become the cultural centre of the Western Alps, housing a museum, exhibitions, restaurants and beautifully conserved houses from the 15th and 16th centuries.

Hitting the central highway (or autostrada, as it is called in Italy) with a speed limit of 130km, means you will fly past many more ancient forts in places such as Issogne, Verres, Ussel and Fenis.

For this reason, I follow the quieter and more scenic S26, which runs parallel to the busy highway, for easy access to clearly marked sightseeing spots.

In any case, the stately fortresses are hard to miss, even on bad-weather days when the ancient turrets stand eerily silhouetted amid the swirling mist.

The Aosta Valley, bordered by France and Switzerland, has long been a stand-out pivotal destination.

Its spectacular location is the drawcard, crouching beneath some of the Alps’ most prestigious peaks.

Mont Blanc, the Matterhorn and the Monte Rosa massifs rise to heights of 4810m, creating a paradise for climbers, hikers, skiers, snowboarders and those just wanting to enjoy the splendid scenery.

As Italy’s least densely populated region, it is viewed by locals as somewhat exclusive and by tourists as incredibly unique.

Only the grasses and flowers here give the correct food for cows to produce the characteristics found in the regions famous Fontina cheese.

It, too, dates back to the 12th century and has been depicted on castle frescoes, placed as a snack on medieval benches between cavaliers and warriors (true Fontina cheese is only produced here in Italy’s Vallee d’Aoste).

Continuing along the valley floor, furrowed deeply by the River Dora, you can further your historic drive through the valley strewn with Roman ruins and ancient 2000-year-old walled towns.

I turn off, however, at the quaint township of Chatillon for the winding climb to Club Med Resort, Cervinia.

Popular for family skiing during the months of November to May, Club Med sits in the arms of Mount Cervino. I arrive under a perfect pale blue sky that later fills with white puffy snowflakes, setting an ideal rhythm for the week.

Each day, I wake to faultless weather and ski some of the most spectacular runs in the Alps and, seemingly on cue, each evening it snows, dumping fresh powder for the next day’s adventure over long, magnificently groomed pistes, shared with very few other skiers.

In the true Club Med style that this resort chain is renowned for, your holiday package not only takes care of all your accommodation, food and bar bills but also includes a ski package and lessons.

Great skiing, combined with the area’s own dialect, culture, food, art and history, amid historical mountain passes and breathtaking scenery makes Cervinia and the Aosta Valley a fascinating holiday destination for the whole family to enjoy.

Visit www.clubmed.com.au and www.italiantourism.com.au.