Skiing down the majestic Alpine slopes in Livigno is awe-inspiring and breathtaking, once you’ve gotten over the initial paranoia. Veronica Stivala found out that one small step soon led to one giant leap (well almost) on the pistes.
Having a fertile imagination usually works in favour of the writer. Not so for the apprehensive writer-cum-skier. Especially when a nearby sign reading “No risk, no fun” pretty much applied to all the activities of my ski holiday in Livigno last month.
On my first day on the slopes, suitably wrapped in ski-wear, and clad in ski boots and skis, I was taught the basics of skiing (how to put on the skis, how to move and, most importantly, how to break). It is noteworthy that ‘moving’ on your skis implies allowing gravity to do its work, and relaxing enough to let yourself slide down the slopes.
Cue vivid imagination: Although I was told that I pretty much had nothing to worry about, as I apprehensively tried to let myself descend the slopes, I was plagued with consecutive scenes of skiing disasters so complicated even James Cameron would be jealous.
And yet, despite my choking fears, by just my third day of skiing, I was peacefully angling myself carefully down the snow. In spite of the many skiers who were continually ascending and descending as I glided down the snow-topped slopes, I felt enveloped in a blanket of silence, of solitary peacefulness.
Once I had overcome the fear of falling off my skis, of rolling off the piste and landing on a fence, upside down, legs sprawled in the air (you get the picture), I just didn’t want my limited time on the mountains to end.
Tranquil enough to take my eyes off my wobbly legs, I could look up and embrace the majestic ice-capped Alps. The quiet, cool, calm rush is extraordinary; something I had never experienced before.
For someone as unsporty as myself, it was so fulfilling to be able to learn and decently put into practice, a new sport. A key factor to my fast learning was my patient, and talented instructor, Mariano.
Despite my wanting to give up, out of fear, and also out of embarrassment (having tiny tots whoosh by you, twice, unperturbed, as you gingerly hiccup down the piste, is not very encouraging), Mariano’s faith in this virgin skier was strong.
Knowing that a seasoned skier and good teacher was guiding me, gave me the strength to keep on trying. This same skier also explained how Livigno was one of the best places to learn to ski because of the wide, smooth slopes. Convenient.
Another convenience was having a little heated cabin where we could store our equipment. This saved time, hassle and frozen toes considering that without the shed, we’d have to lug the heavy gear to and fro from our hotel to the slopes each day. Putting on your toasty ski shoes after having left them near the heater is so comforting.
Livigno is a quaint rustic village in the Valtellina alpine valley near the Swiss border. Following our daily ski lessons, we’d take a trip on the free buses back to the centre. Although the village is primarily a skiing resort, just like any other Italian city, it boasts mouth-watering food. One delicious meal that lingers on my tongue was a plate of gnocchiette at The Garden.
Skiing and eating whole plates of pasta and calorie-laden pizzas were not the only daring feats I undertook. Even though I probably won’t try it again, I can proudly say that I have jet-skied. Although the concept of speeding on a frozen lake and dodging low bridges may sound exciting to some, I was rather scared. Vivid imagination reared its ugly head again.
But back to more irresistible delights: the duty-free shops. Yes, I did say duty-free. Apparently the people from Livigno (and its tourists) have the 17th century rulers, the Grisons, to thank. These established a complete economic and legal independence for Livigno. Later on, given its geographical position, Livigno was given custom benefits by Napoleon in 1805.
Being able to go back to accommodation where we could relax and get a good night's sleep is always incredibly important and we were lucky to be able to stay at very well located The Hotel Miramonti. I loved that we could enjoy the glorious views of the mountains from our room. There is a certain peacefulness that comes with just looking at these majestic, snow-capped wonders. The beds were comfortable and everything was impeccably clean and the rooms were equipped with everything I could need. Breakfast in the wood-panelled restaurant was simple but adequate as were the meals available throughout the day. There is something about Italian food that makes it quite delicious and for me, the simpler it is, the better: plain ricotta ravioli with fresh tomato sauce, washed down with a decanter of house wine, and followed by a small piece of chocolate cake. Bliss!
Ending our holiday with a trip to the thermal baths in Bormio was the best choice we could have ever made. Enjoying a day of warmth and relaxation is just the ticket following active days of braving the snow.
We bathed in a pool of steaming water, in our swimwear, while surrounded by the magnanimous snow-capped mountains. The oxymoronic delightfulness of this experience is difficult to put into words. In the same way, the invigorating flowing waterfalls were something out of this world. I highly recommend sitting underneath the strong water to be massaged rigorously.
What made this trip all the more relaxing was that it was meticulously organised by holiday co-ordinator Eleonora. The patience and care this lady took in making our stay enjoyable must be lauded.
Another jewel in this enchanting valley is that it stretches between two mountain chains that drop from 3,000 down to 1,800 metres. Although a nifty spot for the inexperienced skier, places like Livigno’s highest mountain, Carosello are for the pros. Thus I am hooked (and not just to the cable cars) to return to try greater heights.
Livigno is renowned for its duty free area
Getting to Livigno:
There is a flight from Malta to Malpensa airport, Milan. A four-hour coach journey takes you to Livigno.
What to wear:
Breathable underwear: vests and long johns; thermal socks, waterproof boots, gloves, hat and scarf.
Ski and snow info
The normal snow conditions are 60cm in the village, 150cm on the slopes. Downhill slopes go up to 115km; cross country closes: 40km
When to travel:
Between November and May
Horse riding, horse-drawn carriages, sledging, jet skiing, trips to thermal baths in Bormio and the ski resort San Moritz