Matterhorn views, summer glacier skiing and enticing prices: Inside Italy’s Cervinia, one of the best-value ski resorts in the world
- Cervinia sits on the Italian side of the majestic Mount Cervin (aka the Matterhorn) at nearly 7,000ft
- The resort shares ski area trails with Zermatt but ski expenses costs ‘significantly less’ here
- Neil English stays at the three-star Petit Palais and recommends booking a room with mountain views
Majestic Mount Cervin boasts by far the biggest wow factor in the Alps. Better known as the Matterhorn, it’s synonymous with the impossibly chic Swiss resort of Zermatt, home to the super-rich and – until recently – oligarchs.
However, the best-kept secret among skiers with shallower pockets is Cervinia, which sits on the Italian side of the Matterhorn at nearly 7,000ft and is reckoned to be the best-value resort in the Alps.
Most ski expenses, such as lessons, equipment rentals, food and drink, cost significantly less on the Italian side. Yet there’s 217 miles of ski area trails shared with Zermatt and loads of off-piste to boot.
Hidden away: Cervinia is the ‘best-kept secret among skiers with shallower pockets,’ says Neil English
The resort shares 217 miles of ski area trails with Zermatt. Pictured is a skier high on the glacier of Cervinia
You can visit Glacier Palace on the Zermatt side, which at about 12,700ft is the highest point of Europe’s lift-served slopes, for ice sculptures and ancient ice formations. Venturing out on to its 360-degree viewing platform feels like being on the rooftop of a city’s biggest skyscraper, but the mass of neighbouring structures actually are shimmering seracs – columns of glacial ice – and jagged peaks.
The run down to Valtournenche is a whopping 14 miles with a drop of 7,700ft. Tackle it non-stop and your legs will be screaming for mercy, but you can reward yourself with refreshments on the Willy Bar terrace.
Renowned coach Warren Smith runs ski courses on Cervinia’s vast glacier where snow quality, he insists, is perfect for teaching all levels. He says: ‘Many return for refresher courses each summer – we just love seeing our clients having a blast and making leaps forward in technique and confidence.
‘With the size and variety of the whole area, and the enticing prices on the Italian side, Cervinia must be one of the best-value ski resorts on the planet.’ That’s exactly what I discovered when I checked in to the three-star Petit Palais, a relatively cheap and cheerful club hotel run exclusively for Crystal Ski guests. Its trump card is location – just a few yards from the Plan Maison cable car and gondola station above the main centre of Cervinia, which has a great vibe with boutiques, bars and restaurants.
The second ace in its hand is manager Yannick Garutti, whose family operate a number of properties. He runs a tight ship and gives all guests a warm welcome.
A top tip: rooms with mountain views are available at no extra cost but they go fast, so book early. The sight of Mount Cervin filling your window more than compensates for the compact and basic bedrooms with small shower cubicles.
The lounge bar with pool table and the dining restaurant are spacious, while buffets at breakfast, afternoon tea and dinner, which includes wine, offer plenty of choice.
Majestic: Cervinia is on the cheaper Italian side of the Matterhorn, which ‘boasts by far the biggest wow factor in the Alps’
Holidaymakers can visit Glacier Palace (pictured) on the Zermatt side for ice sculptures and ancient ice formations
I met skier Kenny Young, from Fife, and his snowboarding friend Arpit Patel, from Essex, who have shared winter sports holidays for seven years.
They enthusiastically talked up the low prices at the Petit Palais and in Cervinia in general. And while they were on a budget – they sneakily made lunch sandwiches from the buffet’s fresh bread basket and cold cuts of meat and cheese – mountain restaurants here don’t break the bank.
Book in for a break in this Italian hideaway and you’ll still have plenty left over to tuck into a signature burger or lobster ravioli while plonked in a giant bean bag on the terrace at Chalet Etoile, or refuel on venison stew with polenta at Ristorante Bontadini.
Guarantee a Cervin view early next season, departing December 13, from £727pp for a standard twin half-board for two adults (crystalski.co.uk). Warren Smith’s five-day summer courses start from £449pp – travel and accommodation not included (warrensmith-skiacademy.com).
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