Summer Turns in Italy – The Slopes are Open for 2020

Summer Skiing Cervinia Zermatt

Summer Skiing Cervina Zermatt | Matterhorn Glacier Paradise

Summer Skiing in Italy


Now that Covid travel restrictions are past us (and hopefully no need for them to be reinstated). You can ski at Passo Stelvio, which opened to the public on June 13 and Cervinia/Zermatt, which opened to the Italian side on June 20 when the Swiss opened their borders to Italy.

Rather not have your turns get too rusty? There are a couple of spots in Italy where you can keep them  fresh this summer. For summer skiing in Italy,  snow junkies can head to Breuil-Cervinia. (the Italian side of the Matterhorn, or as the Italians call it, “Il Cervino”). The iconic peak offers summer season turns on Plateau Rosa on the Zermatt Side. Or head up the crazy road with 75 hairpin turns to reach the lifts of Passo Stelvio.

Breuil- Cervinia, Matterhorn, Alps,Valle d'Aostam, summer ski italy

Summer Skiing Cervinia Zermatt


Summer access to Plateau Rosa  from Cervinia, in Italy’s Valle d’Aosta region,  can be purchased for 45.00 euros for a daily ticket. With this you get a chance to ride the Pininfarina designed (designers for Ferrari and Maserati) luxurious (complete with heated leather seats, not that you need them in the summer) Matterhorn Glacier Paradise to Europe’s highest mountain station at 12,739 feet (3,882 meters).

A word of advice, be sure to watch the time for the last lifts up to the Italian side from the Swiss side. Otherwise it could be a costly and time consuming mistake with your options being spending the night in Zermatt (likely with only your ski boots to wear) , a helicopter ride to the Italian side or a long taxi and train or bus ride to work your way back to Cervinia. The Swiss are not known to be overly flexible so be mindful!

Cervinia Webcams.

Passo dello Stelvio, summer ski italy

Summer Skiing Passo dello Stelvio


Passo dello Stelvio, which straddles  the regions of Lombardia and Trentino, currently has six lifts and 18 km of trails open, a one day pass is 49 euro. Plus they have  nordic trails available. Weather and pandemic permitting, they plan to be open through November 1. Check out what it’s like there now with the webcams.

So take a break from getting sand in your shorts and go make some turns, your winter legs will thank you.



image credits:

Valle d’Aosta tourism


thenounproject- Sergey Demushkin



Post Lockdown - Summer Travel Italian Alps is Back!

Post Lockdown – Summer Travel in the Italian Alps is Back!

Post Lockdown - Summer Travel Italian Alps is Back!

Walser Homes Val D’Otro


Italy lived under one of the strictest Coronavirus pandemic lockdowns in the world. And for a couple of months, those in Italy were not able to venture more than 200 meters from their homes. When the 200 meter limit was lifted in May, travel to other regions apart for work was still not permitted. June 4 saw the regional borders reopen. Following that later in June, borders with other European nations opened. With these restrictions lifted, reaching the mountains became much easier for those who were not lucky enough to already be there. While Italian tourism took a massive hit, opening up to those from outside Europe should be decided on July 1. This summer may remain a European only Alpine experience.

It’s now post Lockdown – Summer Travel Italian Alps is Back!! For those able to reach Italy, the mountains remain as beautiful as ever. The open spaces offer a good spot to naturally practice social distancing. Many regulations remain in place, including reduced capacities for indoor dining, store access and other activities. Mask wearing and hand sanitizer remain requirements to go inside buildings.  Many businesses are scanning guests  for temperatures.

Despite the fact that many are located in non-crowded spaces, The mountain rifugi,with their common spaces have been impacted .Some rifugi have decided not to reopen, at least for those seeking to spend the night, though may still be offering meals with outdoor seating.

Post Lockdown - Summer Travel Italian Alps is Back!

Passo Forric – Alagna


Public transport is back in action, with reduced seating capacity to maintain social distancing. Masks are required. Allow extra time at train stations especially as you must often zigzag through buildings as work to keep people from getting too close.  Car travel is allowed but there are limits of how many can go in the car together and where you must sit, if not already living together. Masks should also be worn inside cars if you ride with non-cohabitants.

Post Lockdown - Summer Travel Italian Alps is Back!

Alpine flowers above Val d’Otro Alagna


The Italians love bureaucracy and rules and the Coronavirus has offered a chance for an exponential amount of confusing, conflicting and constantly changing regulations, all open to interpretation, by regional and local governments as well as individual businesses.

Skiing, mountain biking, hiking, climbing, (and eating great food) are all possible,

Certainly it is a bit trickier now to to plan and move around, but the Alps remain beautiful and mountain activities offer a great way to escape the stress of 2020 and the heat of summer. Check with the region you are visiting to get the latest.

To get the latest official list of travel restrictions, visit Italy’s Ministero della Salute (Ministry of Health) website.

Alpe Devero Monte Cazzola

Ski Touring Scale of Difficulty in Italy

ski touring, ski mountaineering

Great views touring in Val Maira

Understanding the Italian Scale Used for Ski Mountaineering

Looking  a heart pounding adventure or maybe a gentle climb and cruise is more your speed? To understand which is which in Italy, have a look at the difficulty scale used.  Italy makes use of the Blachère scale. The Italian ski touring scale provides  only three difficulty levels, plus the addition of A for alpinist components ( but more on that later).  Compared to other country’s more complex rating systems, Italy’s grading provides only a very general overview, inclusive of the uphill and downhill part of your ski tour.


The scale is named for the French civil engineer who created the scale in 1940, Gerard Blachère. Originally used in both France and Switzerland, these countries have since traded the system  for something more complex. But Italians like to hold onto tradition, so they have stuck with it.

Using the scale

As noted, the scale has only three levels, so if you are not familiar with the area, you can find more detailed info on sites like Gulliver. Of course like any rating system, all is subjective and varies greatly depending on conditions (both yours and the snow’s).

Avalanche Bulletins

Extract from an avalanche bulletin for Piedmont region

Of course always, always, always consult the avalanche bulletins. The bolletini di valanghe , are issued by each region during the winter season.  AINEVA provides links to the  avalanche bulletins that the regions of Central and Northern Italy provide.

Backcountry legal requirements

Italy requires you to bring an avalanche beacon, shovel and probe with you if you venture into the back country. If you are caught without them you will be fined and further complexities and fees result if you need to be rescued and are not prepared. In recent years, Italian regions have charged more for mountain rescues for those who were deemed unprepared and without the proper equipment.

Go with a Guide

If unfamiliar with the area you have the option of going with a UIAGM-IFMGA certified  alpine guide.  A  good guide will know the area, the powder stashes and which faces that are relatively safe and which are risky, helping you to have fun and steer clear of danger.

The Scale

  • MS  Medio Sciatore (Average skier) No slopes steeper than 25 degrees, wide slopes, nothing too steep or narrow.
  • BS  Buon Sciatore (Good skier) Good technical skills and can ski slopes up to a 40 degree pitch.  You can manage narrow couloirs for short sections.
  • OS  Ottimo Sciatore ( Excellent skier) You should rip. Or at least be able to ski slopes steeper than 40 degrees, frequently with exposure. You may also find in this description included passaggio obbligato, meaning there are parts of the tour that offer only one way down and this section could be tricky or  a very technical and exposed section.

An ‘A’ for Alpinist

While Sci Alpinismo is the term used to cover both ski touring and ski mountaineering in Italy, it is really only the “A” or Alpinista rated routes that include the mountaineer aspect .

The addition of the letter A means the skier must be prepared with needed skills and equipment for the environment. Ropes, harness, ice ax and  crampons should be brought along for encountering some or all of the following: crevassed glaciers, climbing sections, and steep pitches.

  • MSAMedio Sciatore Alpinista (Average skier alpinist)
  • BSABuon Sciatore Alpinista (Good skier alpinist)
  • OSAOttimo Sciatore  Alpinista (Excellent skier alpinist)

Ski and Ride Safe

As you can see Italy’s rating system, leaves a lot of room for variation. Do your research before you go, check the latest avalanche bulletin, be prepared with the right gear and enjoy the incredible scenery of the Italian Alps.

If looking for non snowy excursions, check out Understanding the Hiking Trail Rating System in Italy.

Italy’s Fall Season and the Prickly Chestnut

Chestnut season in Italy

October and November are chestnut season in Italy

As of the time of this writing, it is verging on prime chestnut season in Italy. This means that you can combine hiking (or at least a walk in the  woods) with chestnut gathering.

Hiking works well with chestnut collecting since it turns out that hiking boots function well for the gathering process. If you don’t want to prick your fingers on the spiky outer covering you need to use  your boots. The proper technique has you rolling the soles of your boots over the chestnut, cracking the spiky shell and breaking the brown shelled nut inside free. It is also not uncommon to find the nut already released from its intimidating outer covering. The joy of this is roughly equivalent to finding a loose pistachio in a bag of stubbornly shelled nuts.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must admit I had never realized what form chestnuts came in. My knowledge limited to Nat King Cole Christmas carols,  or the heavenly sent of caldarroste (roasted chestnuts) vendors around Christmas. The first time I walked in the woods in Italy, I asked what those porcupiney things on the ground were. My Italian friend was incredulous that I could not recognize the chestnut in its natural state.

You the reader, may be a more worldly nut expert and may already have recognized the non Williams Sonoma’d form of the chestnut.  But make sure that your expertise includes  gathering too.

Chestnut season in Italy - the harvest

Where to go to gather chestnuts

During prime chestnut season you have plenty of location choices throughout Italy. And certainly the entire arc of the Alps offers great options. The ideal Italian Alps gathering ground: in the forests at an altitude of 500 – 800 meters. Here, there are tons of chestnuts, just lying around on the ground, it’s as if they grew on trees.

In order to avoid being a criminal (though people have committed crimes for far lesser reasons than the glorious chestnut) be aware that chestnuts that fall on the ground belong to the owner of that ground, so just make sure you are not tromping across someone’s land (or that you have at least obtained permission to avoid being a nut thief).

chestnut season in Italy - roasted chestnuts caldarroste


As a person with mountain interests, you may also be a person with gear interests too. And so you will of course be thrilled that your hiking boots will serve you in the collection process. But you don’t need to limit your self to boots alone. You can also acquire some chestnut specific cooking gear  to prepare your harvest. The fall season brings all sorts of wonderful Italian, recipes for using chestnuts but for the purest form is to roast them on the grill or fireplace ( or less cozy version on the gas cooktop) with your very own chestnut roasting pan.

Chestnut season in Italy - chestnut pan

Should you want to further immerse yourself in the chestnut world, the fall season is filled with sagre di castagne (chestnut festivals). These are sometimes combined with other fall foods like mushrooms. Plus plenty of chestnut themed dishes can be found in restaurants and pastry shops. If you are truly chestnut obsessed, you could dine on chestnuts with each course.

One last chestnut related note. Humans are not alone in enjoying the fruits of the tree. In Italy there some bees that feeds almost exclusively on the chestnut tree. They produce a dark honey with a slightly bitter taste and numerous healing properties, know as miele di castagno, it’s a fantastic topping for yogurt or oatmeal.

Chestnut season in Italy - chestnut honey - miele di castagno

Long live the chestnut. Check out this link then click on Calendario eventi di castagna and Calendario eventi di castagne  for  lists if chestnut festivals  (in Italian).




image credits




Summer Ski Ride Italy 2018

Summer ski under the Matterhorn


Missing the board(s) underfoot? Not in the mood to earn your turns? For those who want to maximize their time sliding down Italy offers two lift-served options: Breuil Cervinia (with the option ski Zermatt too) and Passo dello Stelvio. Huge amounts of snow this past season have made for optimal summer conditions up high. Read on to find out where to find your  2018 summer ski and ride in the Italian Alps.

Breuil Cervinia

At  up 3500 metes (11483 ft) on the Plateau Rosà enjoy skiing with the Matterhorn (or Il Cervino as the Italians call it) as a backdrop.  Ski through September on the Italian side with 1 day adult passes at €32.50 . To add Zermatt access, an international one day pass costs €44.50 . Though plan your eating on the Italian side where prices are much more user-friendly.

Hours: 7:40AM to 1PM through August 20, and get in another hour until September 9 when lifts close at 2PM. Trails: 23 km (14 miles ) plus the Gravity Park for snowboarders and freestyle.


To learn more check the Breuil Cervinia website.

Passo dello Stelvio


If you really want to ski Passo Stelvio, summer is the time to go since the road closes from November to May. For late sleepers this may be the place for you as lifts are open until 5PM. Skiing elevation starts at 2760meters.  ( 9055 to 11319 ft) There was even 10cm of fresh snow July 1. An adult 1 day pass will set you back €45.00. Hours: 8AM to 5PM. Trails: 20Km (12 miles) 700m (2300 feet) of vertical. served by 4 Lifts and 2 cable cars

Find out more on Passo dello Stelvio's Piravano website.


And if you have been too busy on the beach but winter seems too far away, come October you have the options to ski Passo Tonale 's Presena glacier and Val Senales.

Passo Tonale - Presana Glacier

Val Senales -Gletscherbahn






Summer Ski 2018


NOVEMBER 2017 – Where to Start off the Ski Season in Italy

Prato Nevoso preps for opening – Photo Credit La Stampa Cuneo


Thanks to Karl, ( the named snow storm that brought major dumpage to the Alps last week) a number of Italian resorts opened their lifts, or will be opening them, before the end of November. Much to our delight we can now ski or ride in a number of spots in Italy.

Karl not only kicked-off the snow season but brought some much needed moisture to the Alps. After a couple of drought years the snow storm helped mitigate the fire producing crispy, dry conditions in Northern Italy and blessed us with a blanket of bianco.

The November storm was a result of a unique meteorological combo of conditions, sometimes called a retour d’est. To learn more about this delightful phenomenon,  check out WePowder’s detailed description.  We hope  Karl is the first  of many such visitors to the Italian Alps this year.


The backcountry is up and running, but for those who are looking for  lift-served options, here’s where you can currently ski and  ride in the Italian Alps. From West to East see your options below for getting those first turns in.

  • Artesina “Family friendly” in Piemonte (site in Italian only)
  • Breuil-Cervinia  Who doesn’t need a bit of the Matterhorn in their life? Or as the Italians call it Il Cervino.
  • Cortina – Lovely town and part of Dolomiti Superski
  • Passo Tonale – Bridging Lombardia and Trentino Alto Adige, cute town to boot
  • Solda all’Ortles – Glacier skiing in Stelvio National Park  and the  Messner Ortles Museum, built inside the mountain,  on ice ( because there’s more to the element than just being frozen water)
  • Val Senales On the Italian/Austrian border
Ski Alps

Limone Piemonte photo credit Reserva Bianca


The next resorts slated to open are listed  below with their opening dates.  So for Americans who want to trade in your Turkey for pasta, come over  to ski and ride Italian style for Thanksgiving. More snow due this month, so hopefully the slopes will have a good base  by Christmas, not to mention some powder!

  • Limone Piemonte – November 17 – One of the resorts that bumped up their opening thanks to the early and abundant snow.  Site in Italian only
  • Drei Zinnen Dolomiten – November 18  – Ski the Dolomites Drei Zinnen  ( The Three Peaks)
  • Prato Nevoso – November 18 Hard to go wrong with a place named Prato Nevoso or in English,  Snowy Field.  Site in Italian only
  • Arabba – November 25 – Part of Dolomiti Superksi
  • Courmayeur – November 25 – Beauty on Monte Bianco
  • Kronplatz – November 25 – AKA Plan de Corones in the South Tyrol
  • La Thuile  November 25  – in Valle d’Aosta


Happy mountains!

winter snow forecast

Winter is Coming: Snow Forecast for Italian Alps 2016/2017


Autumn snow arrives below 1000 meters in the Italian Alps

Early Snow

Last weekend the white stuff made an early debut in more than a few spots. For those who don’t care for the winter, I’m afraid I can’t muster up too much sympathy. Last year the snow came late leaving the ground brown and scratchy in many mountain zones used to a softer, whiter setting. The first snow I experienced this year made me even more curious as to what the winter snow forecast calls for.

Will La Nina bring powder days to the Alps ? How much snow will we get?

In an attempt to turn hope and optimism into something more scientific, I looked into what the meteorological types were calling for.  We all know forecasts, especially long term ones are iffy at best, but I thought I would seek out signs of good fortune for the coming season.

I sought evidence to assure me that the Alps be as they should in winter, white and cold and bloated with snow. With weather in the mountains being a hard call, these predictions may be closer to a palm reader’s promises than actual proof of powder. But I have always found comfort in a positive outlook for snow.

In search of an Italian Farmer’s Almanac

There is no Farmer’s Almanac for Italy. At least that I know of, maybe someone can fill me in if . It could be quite nice to have one here. Robert Thomas founded The Old Farmer’s Almanac in 1792 He noted that with this American classic reference book “Our main endeavour is to be useful, but with a pleasant degree of humor.”

So without a useful bound guide, I scoured the internet for promises of a snowy winter. What I discovered is that no one really knows.

Of course no one knows, and this seems especially true for the Alps.  Even in places filled with radars and models and other sciency tech stuff, plotting out where the snow falls (or doesn’t) , it seems the Alps are off the proverbial radar.

La Nina and the winter

It could be a La Nina (little girl) year. On the bright (or cloudy side as the case may be), those who do attempt to address the Alps say that the suspected La Nina of this year could portend powder our way.

Certainly snow seekers in many spots felt that last year was some sort of heartless punishment, at least early season. We hope that this year turns out to be filled with the fluffy white stuff.

Blasting News, an Italian news site, posted the odds on October 16 of a 60% chance of La Nina. The site referenced meterologist Mario Giuliacci who cites Japan Meteorological Agency  for the  odds on La Nina possibilities. This is in contrast from the more negative outlook by the NOAA which says La Nina will not visit and Italy can expect a milder winter.


Courmayeur webcam showing October snow

The little girl means nothing

MeteoMorris, founder of Wepowder does a great job of trying to find a correlation.
We can assume that a guy with a site named for snow is digging (pun intended) for evidence of major dumpage. In his post  on this winter’s  forecast, he looked into a correlation between La Nina and snow in the Alps (spoiler alert- there really isn’t any). His research indicates that  the relation  between La Nina and alpine snow is as thin as last year’s coverage.

As for a divine prediction for a white winter, it seems it is still up in the air.  We will get what we get. For those who want to find the  latest weather  info you can search for a  bolletino neve.  A couple of good one-stop-shop references include: Neve Italia’s Bollettino Neve ( in Italian) and J2Ski . These sites also offer info on the number of  impianti,  (lifts) open.

Here’s hoping that winter arrives soon and may the snow come with frequency and abundance!




image credits:

snowflake form Noun Project Janina Aritao


Cartoonist, Climber, Ski Mountaineer: Claudio “Caio” Getto

rock climbing, ski mountaineering, CARTOONS and a big fall

I was curious about Claudio Getto’s, or Caio as he is called, views on climbing and how he approaches creating his cartoons.  His cartoons poke fun at climbers, calling out their quirks (of which Caio assured me there are many). We met on a sunny June morning In Chivasso, a small town near his home between Milan and Turin. Over coffee we talked about his perspectives on work, climbing, climbers and other mountain sports. He also told me what he was thinking about just before he lost consciousness on a 30 meter (100-foot) fall he took when climbing.


climbing, ski mountaineering, cartoons-caio - climbing

Caio’s cartoons, are known throughout Italy and to some extent, the climbing world at large, but not all of his work is translated. However, the egos and mannerisms of the climbers captured in the (sometimes R-rated) cartoons aren’t limited to Italians. Those who are familiar with the sport will be able to appreciate many of his creations, regardless of language.  A collection of his climbing cartoons can be found published in the book, Siamo Mica Qui per Divertirci, (We are Not Here to Have Fun).

While recognized for cartoons on climbing, Caio’s preferred activity is scialpinismo (ski mountaineering, backcountry skiing or ski touring, depending on how you want to translate it). He is now working on the drawings for a new book that pokes fun at back-country skiers. Its title is still TBD (he was taking suggestions on last check).


Coffee Talk in Chivasso

Dressed casually in shorts and a checked shirt, topped off by a slightly wild mass of gray hair, he could have passed for a Colorado guy, aside from speaking only in Italian. We met at the train station. Neither of us knowing Chivasso, we went off in search of a café where I could ask him about his book, his cartoons and climbing.

While looking for a place to talk, I mentioned to him that I had changed trains there once before. I had been to the restaurant by the station, which was admittedly not inspirational in its offering, (though I remembered that a glass of red wine was quite cheap and not terrible, but it was too early and hot for that). The train station restaurant suggestion didn’t go over well. Caio didn’t like the look of the place so we kept walking in a direction that seemed right, arriving a few minutes later in a small piazza where we found some outside tables.

The café must be a hot spot in Chivasso; their claim already staked, a high volume group of old ladies, chatted animatedly at the next table. I‘m usually in the minority in my being disturbed by loud talkers in a country where talking at volume, in both quantity and decibels, is just what people do. But today I was not alone in my disturbance, as Claudio gave a slight eye roll and under-the-breath comment on the yelling that was taking place. His sharp humor now made evident beyond the drawings.


The real job

Our interview was thanks to a mutual friend, Paola De Vecchi Galbiati, a former colleague of his. Caio studied architecture under Achille Castiglioni, a famous Italian architect and designer noted for his mid-century objects. When not in the mountains, his time indoors included working for Italy’s largest communications agency, Armando Testa, and as creative director for the communications department of Fila. He considers the agency work his real job and works on the cartoons when he has time.

Cross training: Creativity on Paper and Rock

Over the course of the morning, we discussed the topic of creativity a few times, connecting the “c” word to both work and play. Caio noted that he detests the word “creative” but agreed that this is precisely what he employs. For a word he professes to hate, the meaning behind it fills up his time. Caio’s sharp eye and thought process may be more immediately evident in his day job but he certainly puts these skills to use not only at his agency and in his cartoons, but when climbing too.

As for how he ended up in advertising and rock climbing, he said that both were somewhat by chance. In the case of climbing, one winter when the snow wasn’t so good, he left his skis at home and tried out climbing. By his own account, he’s not obsessed with either of these activities (though obsession can be a matter of perspective).

I’m not an advertising or climbing fanatic. Also physically, I’m not one that is all sinews and muscles. In fact, I’ve never climbed at an advanced level. I am decidedly average. I’m more into setting routes.

For Caio, each of these undertakings provides a kind of cross-training for the others.  From his “real work”, to his cartoons and his time outdoors, he talked about how all are creative in different ways. In particular, he feels that the time he spends setting climbing routes in Valchiusella (see below) is especially beneficial. “It’s definitely a kind of creativity that I apply in a different way than in advertising.”

Having to bring drills, bolts and hammers up a cliff and setting routes for others to climb, provides him with a 360-degree vision of the sport. It gives him greater insights into the world he captures with pen and tablet. “One helps the other. The approach is a type of training, a way of thinking.”

Caio draws often and estimates he spends about half his time on the cartoons. He doesn’t waste time worrying about creative blocks. Neither does he make himself sit at the desk every day. New ideas pop up from his interactions with and observations of others. When they arrive, they are about 90 percent complete in his head before he draws them. Initially, he used pen and paper, but now he works directly on a digital drawing pad.


Curiosity, CRITICISM and climbers

Caio reflected that he is a curious person. Attentive to details, he spends a great deal of time observing the world around him. He shared how he would like to live;, sitting on a park bench, watching how people look, how they move, how they dress, how they talk. He applies this curiosity about people and the insights gained to create his cartoons.

Criticism is part of the equation too. Along with curiosity, Caio explained how he is critical, even hypercritical of himself. He doesn’t profess to be a genius at work or play but acknowledges his strength.

I’m not too self-deprecating and I don’t give myself too many compliments, that’s just not my nature.  I do not believe that I draw well, but I think that I draw better than many people. Where I think I am good is in the ability to synthesize a situation in a drawing. The right drawing with the right joke, this is something that is not easy.


Anchor setting in Piedmont


climbing, ski mountaineering, cartoons Traversella Parete delle Anime 8a+

Traversella – Parete delle Anime 8+ (Wall of Souls 5.13c)

More than the climbing itself, Caio’s real passion is spending his time as a chiodatura, (setting anchors), preparing the way for others to participate. Along with his book and cartoons, he has contributed a lot to the sport, setting over 500 routes (all self-funded) in the small town of Traversella, in Valchiusella in Piedmont. You can read more here (in Italian, but you can get an idea from his drawings) about his work in Traversella.


The (good and bad) culture of climbers- an inexhaustible source of ideas

I asked, why focus on climbers? Since he gets out on the crag himself, he sees first-hand all of the peculiarities of this breed of human. His work includes a dose of self-criticism too. He chooses the activities he knows well. Knowing the culture inside and out is important. If not, the risk is that the work produced becomes superficial. He assured me that tennis players, cyclists, accountants, any group really, has their own idiosyncrasies which could provide fodder for people to poke fun at. Though he feels climbers, with their obsessions, are an especially rich target.

They have their mannerisms, attitudes and idiosyncrasies, their way of speaking. Climbing is full of these. Surely climbing demonstrates an extraordinary amount of particular mannerisms that can make us laugh. There are thousand and thousands. Climbing offers an inexhaustible source.

He laments that magazines show pictures of hard routes and climbers on challenging problems. But they don’t talk about the proper behavior that people should have when climbing. He questions the values and ego behind some decisions of his subject matter; climbers may prefer to spend more on expensive t-shirts rather than buying a guidebook. Citing that while you can climb in a cheap t-shirt, investing in a guidebook might be more useful.


Who gets the fresh tracks?

Not one to mince words (despite a career in marketing) Caio feels that some sports have developed due to marketing and the desire to sell equipment, rather than a more natural evolution. He lightheartedly sites Nordic walking as one such example of sports designed by marketers. He jokes that he should be shot if found snowshoeing. While not a fan of walking on the snow with racquets affixed to his feet, he is not entirely opposed to the idea of snowshoes. He acknowledges that they existed before marketers and allow the many who don’t ski to enjoy the mountains in winter. There is enough space for all, but….

The problem with snowshoers is that there are some who leave their cars, and  who don’t know where to go. So they put on their snowshoes and walk up the tracks set by skiers. This sheep-like following of skiers tracks ruins the tracks of skiers.

Beyond putting holes in the snow and the lack of originality some snowshoers display, his designer’s eye surfaces on his objections. He expressed his disdain especially on powder days when it becomes a brutto (ugly) problem for backcountry skiers. (No friends on powder days is also a problem in the Alps).

The tracks of a ski mountaineer are belle, lineare, pulite (beautiful, linear, clean). His sense of humor was evident when he talked about competing for snow space, but he turned more serious with his sentiments on Italian attitudes. He explained in Italy there is little civic sense. When he comments to others on sharing the back-country he hears repeatedly, “Where is the problem? There is space for all!” He responds that the problem comes from everyone. “Snowmobiles, snow cats, one is worse than the other, there is space for all, but all need to have respect for the other.”


a 30 Meter fall

Caio has had a couple of big falls. One at 30 meters and one at 35 meters . ( for the Imperial minded, those are 100 feet and more). We talked about what happened on one of them and what his thoughts were. While normally one for synthesis and succinctness, he acknowledged that he could write an entire book on this fall. He lost consciousness when he hit the ground. But in the two and half seconds of free-fall (the time it takes to fall 100 feet), many thoughts rushed through his head. He was rappelling down a face and then his rope was gone. It snaked out of his hands in an instant. There was no knot.  He fell 30 meters to the ground.

When I fell I knew that I was going to die.  I had exactly the perception that after a second and a half I would be dead. It was an enlightening sensation. I could write 15 pages on just this. I discovered then that in these situations your brain reasons like fast, like a computer.

Everything that I’m telling you now was concentrated in a micro-fraction of a second. I was rappelling down, continuing with the rope in my hand. And then the rope was gone. At that point, your mind understands.



He went on to explain that your mind perceives the difference in something that you have no hope of controlling. He gave the example of driving a car and even if the car skids, you believe you still have control. You try to steer the car. You may end-up dead anyway, but you try. If the car goes off a 500 meter cliff you know there is nothing to be done. The brain understands this and reasons differently when you believe you are going to die.

I thought of the everyday things that I would not get to do anymore, unimportant things. I thought tomorrow morning I will not wake up, I will not put on my shoes and pants and go shopping, I will not buy bread. I will not go to dinner. It’s all over.

He was surprised at these thoughts of such trivial things, of daily tasks that he thought he would not get to do anymore. He also shared his progression of emotions during these two seconds. First he felt surprise, and then he evaluated how it would all end. Finally, he realized that he accepted the end with serenity. “Vabbè”. OK.

It didn’t seem to faze him that he survived two such impactful (sorry I couldn’t resist) falls. Does he still climb? “Why not?” He is not afraid. He continues to climb and do his work in Traversella. “I know it’s a beautiful thing to live.”


climbing, ski mountaineering, cartoons-caio - scialpinismo


What’s Next? Ski mountaineering book

So, what’s next for Caio? He’s now looking forward to finishing his ski mountaineering book, another world he knows well.  Through this next round of  cartoons, he will point out the quirks of those who eschew chairlifts to make their turns on snow.  Like his book title, “We are Not Here to Have Fun”  his drawings remind us to lighten-up a bit when we get too obsessed with our mountain activities.


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Thanks to Rachel Gilbert for her expert eyes!

easy hike in italy rifugio bonatti courmayeur monte bianco alps

Courmayeur, Italy Makes List of Easy Hikes with Big Rewards.

Easy hike in Italy -Rifugio Bonatti Courmayeur

Rifugio Bonatti, Courmayeur, Italy

Easy Hike in Italy

Courmeyeur, Italy's hike to Rifugio Bonatti makes National Geographic's list of  the 10 Best Easy Hikes with Big Rewards.  For those seeking a high return on their uphill investment, consider this easy hike on the Italian side of Mont Blanc. (,Or Monte Bianco as it is called on the Boot side of the border).

Short, long AND WINTER options, Food and Lodging

The shorter version of the hike, includes a shuttle which lets you start up higher on the trail for a total time up of about an hour to cover the 274 meters (900 feet)  of vertical gain. The longer option starts in the village of Courmayeur  for total climb of 853 meters (2.800 feet). If you want to hang out up high, you can book a reservation to stay the night. Also open in the winter, visitor's can access the rifugio on snowshoes or backcountry skis.  And last but not least, even just an hour's hike with great views still still deserves the opportunity to recharge yourself with the delightful food and drinks found in the Italian rifugi. So if looking for some easy hikes in Italy, check out the trail to Rifugio Bonatti.

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The links below contain some information in English on Rifugio Bonatti and the trail to reach it. These links may not have the most current data, but they can help you to learn more about the rifugio and how to reach it. For the most current information, conditions and reservations, you may want to contact the rifugio directly. 

Autour du Mont Blanc

Joannas Travel Blog

Trail Running and the Mont Blanc Region: 40 Routes in the Chamonix Valley, Italy and Switzerland  Excerpt from ebook by Kinglsey Jones


CAI trail markers

Understanding the Hiking Trail Rating System in Italy

Macugnaga Monte Rosa- hiking trail ratingFinding the best hiking trails to explore in unfamiliar territory can be a fun part of planning your alpine adventure. Italy offers an enormous wealth of choices in hiking trails, though finding information in English is not always easy. For those researching Italian hiking trails, read on for an explanation of  Italy’s hiking trail rating systems.

If you don’t know the trail you are on (and know it well!), navigating Italy’s  hiking trails can prove challenging, since Italian trail systems vary greatly in how clearly they are marked. Added to that challenge,  the trail descriptions themselves range from detailed and helpful, to let’s just say, the more casual and open-ended interpretations. Even those rated “T” (Turistico- easier) do not always offer enough signs to guide you in the desired direction. Keep in mind that those trails rated “E” (intermediate level), can include exposure and sections of cable, chains, metal rungs and there may be a need to do some scrambling.

cai-segnalorizz - hiking trail rating

Simple marking/Marking with trail number

Italy offers many scenic and enjoyable options for all levels of hikers. From high alpine environments to walks between villages or by lakes, rivers and seas, the trails in Italy provide spectacular views and experiences. Trails used for recreation, often have (and continue to have) working purposes. From uses by shepherds to bring animals up to pastures, to strategic army movements and even illegal activities, Italian trails have a history that extends beyond view seekers.

Hiking jaunts can be planned for an hour or two or for multi-day journeys. And the tradition of Italian rifugi allows hikers to recharge themselves with hearty Italian mountain food. Some rifugi also offer places to spend the night.

Time estimates

In addition to CAI’s ratings, many Italian trail descriptions offer an estimated time to reach certain destinations. Some trail descriptions provide a range of times based on the type of hiker, for example:

  • atleta (athlete):  The fast track. This time estimate is for those who must enjoy running (not walking) up mountains and do not linger for selfies.
  • trekker:  Still not a lot of lingering time (save the long breaks for post-hike beers), hiker times are for those in good condition who move at a good pace.
  • Famiglia/non allenato (family/non trained) There are no doubt families who move quickly, but it can take time to  herd groups with smaller humans uphill. This category also include the slowpokes and those who take the time to smell the roses or whatever flowers may be in bloom.

The translation of CAI’s (Club Alpino Italiano) national rating system is below.  CAI developed this hiking trail rating system used throughout Italy.  As indicated, these ratings are relative and should take into consideration your experience and fitness level.

If you are looking for winter options, read here to learn more about Italy’s ski tour rating system. 

Cai_Club_Alpino_Italiano_Stemma hiking trail rating


Determining the degree of difficulty of a route, in accordance with objective criteria, is impossible, due to the fact that we perceive difficulties based on our own experiences, limits, feelings and psychological reactions. With these variables in mind, Club Alpino Italiano developed a trail rating system to indicate the relative difficulty of hiking routes. This scale takes into account three fundamental objective parameters: vertical drop, planimetric distance and trail markings.

T = Turistico (Tourist – easier)

T routes are found on roads, mule paths or easy trails. These paths are generally fairly short in distance and well marked. The elevation gain is less than 500m (approx. 1600 ft). These routes do not require hiking experience or physical training.

E = Escursionistico (Hiker – intermediate)

E routes are almost always comprised of footpaths or unpaved trails and may include sections of varied terrain (pastures, dirt, rocks, scree) and are usually indicated with trail markers. To safely enjoy E rated trails, you should have a good sense of orientation, as well as some hiking experience and knowledge of mountainous territory. E rated trails require appropriate footwear, clothing and equipment. The elevation gain generally ranges from 500m to 1000m (approx. 1600 to 3300 ft).

EE = Escursionisti Esperti (Expert hikers)

EE routes are not always marked and require a strong ability to move about in various types of mountain terrain. These routes can be trails or more subtle paths that cross over difficult and steep terrain. Slippery scree and small sections of snow and ice, which can be crossed with the use of mountaineering equipment, may be encountered. EE trails are for experienced hikers with sure footing, in strong physical condition and with a good sense of direction. Venturing out on an EE trail requires proper footwear, clothing and equipment. The elevation gain is usually more than 1000m ( approx. 3300 ft).

EEA = Escursionisti Esperti con Attrezzatura alpinistica (Expert hikers with climbing equipment)

These routes require the use of climbing equipment (ropes, harness, helmet, etc.). EEA routes can include traditional climbing routes, vie ferrate or trails with cables and ladders.  Hikers exploring EEA routes need to have alpine terrain experience. They must also understand how to use technical climbing equipment safely and be comfortable with exposure.

EEAG = Escursionisti Esperti Attrezzati Ghiaccio (Expert Hikers with glacier climbing equipment)

The EEAG rating is similar to EEA, but includes the ability to use glacier equipment safely (crampons, ice axe, ropes, etc.).


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