Cervinia ski resort’s location is exceptional, sitting in a rugged high-altitude basin in the lap of the Matterhorn (Monte Cervino) and the Klein Matterhorn (Piccolo Cervino), at the head of a long valley that rises from the Valle d’Aosta and is linked with the famously challenging and classy Swiss resort of Zermatt. Together, these two iconic ski resorts share the highest pisted ski area in Europe, offering a total of 360km of pistes, making it an ideal choice at any time of the ski season.
Cervinia is a good choice all levels of winter sports enthusiasts, including beginners and intermediates. The ski area is mostly comprised of easy to mid-range blue and very light red runs, and piste grooming here is of a consistently high standard, making this a great playground for keen intermediates who enjoy big-mileage cruising and big-mountain landscapes. More expert skiers will almost certainly want to head over to the steeper descents of Zermatt, though you have to keep an eye on the weather and the clock – when the clouds come down and the breeze gets up, the link closes. Likewise, it’s easy to mistime the journey back from the furthest slopes of Zermatt and if you get stuck over on the Zermatt side of Monte Cervino it’s a six-hour taxi ride home – a six-hour taxi ride at Swiss prices is not to be sneezed at…Ouch!
The town of Cervinia – originally known as Breuil-Cervinia – is not particularly pretty, but offers plenty of nice cafés, excellent restaurants and a fair number of surprisingly upmarket hotels. It’s also considerably cheaper to stay here than in Zermatt, where Breitling and Rolex stores sit side-by-side with ski shops on the high street. And whatever Cervinia town lacks in terms of aesthetics, is more than made up for by the surrounding and stunning big-mountain vistas.
Cervinia offers 160km of ski slopes which are mostly west-facing. Cervinia skiing is primarily characterised by long intermediate-level cruises through open and barren surroundings, all well above the tree line and some at glacial heights – the Matterhorn is far from the only 4,000m peak in the surrounding area. The ski area is split into two main sectors: one that extends to the Theodulpass ridge that marks the Italian-Swiss border, the lower of two high-altitude links with Zermatt. The other is a narrower sector that extends to the glacial Plateau Rosa, shared with Zermatt as the [winter and summer ski] Matterhorn Glacier Paradise ski area. These are the highest ski slopes anywhere in the Alps. This latter area also links into the neighbouring Valtournenche ski area on the Italian side, and the 21km run to Valtournenche village from the Plateau Rosa is one of the world’s longest on-piste descents. Cervinia is a fabulous place to be when the skies are blue and the sun shines, as the high mountain views are magnificent. But you wouldn’t want to be here in a whiteout, as you get zero reference points to guide you. Being exposed however mean that the links to Valtournenche are also prone to closure in high winds and poor weather. The most reliably settled period to visit is mid- to late-Spring, so highly recommended for March and April trips.
Both sectors at Cervinia offer convenient runs back to the village. The ones on the Theodul pass side are the easiest options overall and are generally manageable by most capable novices by the end of their first week. Beginners start out on the gentlest slopes by the river next to the village, where a fast chairlift links to the mid-altitude Plan Torrette services area for onward and upward links into both sectors of the main ski area. It’s ideally set up for easy and logical progression on to the main pistes. The 7 Ventina run from Plateau Rosa to Cervinia base is worth a special mention as it’s 11km of sheer delight.
Cervinia’s snow park, known as Indian Park, is located in Plan Maison. It’s large – 400m long and 100m wide, with a huge variety of kickers and rails of different sizes, from beginner right up to a decent-sized pro-line. The off-piste here can be good, but the nature of the high mountain terrain means that a guide is absolutely essential. The Theodul Glacier has some of the best snow in the region. Getting up there is via the impressive Klein Matterhorn cable car from Trockener Stegg – the highest cable car and cable car station in Europe. Of course, if you head across the link to Zermatt, you’ll find some of the best and most extensive off-piste in the world. If you’re a serious freerider staying in Cervinia, make sure you get an International Ski Pass – you’re going to need it!
The central part of the village is quite compact, but a lot of accommodation is spread out over the surrounding hillsides and many hotels and apartments are some distance away from the centre and the principal access ski lifts. There is a regular ski-bus service however, and many hotels operate their own shuttles too. There’s an outdoor natural ice rink for skating and curling, open during the day and in the evenings, plus ice-driving circuits for go-karting and winter driving lessons. There’s no municipal leisure centre, but many of the largest and newest hotels have swimming pools, spas, and fitness facilities. The central quarters of the village are fairly pleasant for a stroll, but there are only a few basic shops besides the usual selection of mountain-sports equipment shops. Luckily there are plenty of cosy bars and good restaurants to hole up in if the weather turns nasty.
Après ski is pub based and all occurs down in the village, happy hours just after the lifts close are generally fun and quite animated though and you can ski to the terraces of a couple of bars in the base area – the stylish bar at the boutique Hotel Principe Delle Nevi is the prime piste-side venue. As in many Italian resorts, a number of bars also offer free tapas-style snacks along with drinks – aperitivi, Italian-style. Yummy! Later on, the scene is still focused on the same popular bars: the Principe delle Nevi, Bianconiglio and the Lo Copa Pan are the key places, all feature DJs and live music some evenings. There are also two small nightclubs which fill up at the weekends with locals visiting from Aosta, Turin, and Milan.