December Skiing in Cervinia

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Our first day in Cervinia was not to be the mega skiing day we had hoped for. Snow fell during the night and then continued to fall all day. The temperature was a cold -12ºC even at midday. We spent most of the day in the van organising everything. Our heating was on non stop, this was not a day to skimp even though we had to go out and clear the solar panels every hour in order to top up the batteries as much as possible. Between the heavy snow showers we ventured out for short walks to keep us moving in an aim to warm up.

Our first skiing day of the trip

Our second day was slightly less snowy but equally cold. We togged up in our warmest possible gear and headed out to do some skiing. The bus service passed by the entrance to the sosta and took us through the Cielo Alto area before dropping us at the village. This was one of several different permutations of the bus stops that we were treated to during our visit, each time we were dropped off or picked up from somewhere slightly different, seemingly at the whim of the driver. On one journey the driver forgot to stop despite us ringing the bell, he ended up driving all the way round his route and then doing a special drop off just for us. I think the buses are so quiet during the low season that the drivers just run on autopilot.

Our first day of skiing was not very successful. At village level it was overcast but at the top of the gondola it was a whiteout; foggy and snowy. We spent most of our time in the picnic room at the gondola station, watching the slopes and counting the number of chairlift stanchions we could see. When we could see more than six we would rush out for a quick ski in reasonable visibility. If we were lucky the visibility would hold out for the duration of our lift journey and our descent. If we were unlucky we would be skiing by feel, occasionally feeling our stomachs lurch from an unexpected drop.  Given it was our first day back on the slopes we were quite pleased with the way we coped. Our technique sometimes suffers when skiing in low visibility but mostly we managed to maintain our standards and avoid sloppy skiing. It helped that the snow condition was excellent.

On the Saturday it was equally overcast and a peek at the webcams revealed more of the same foggy  weather on the slopes. We decided against a second day of white out and took ourselves off for a snowshoe instead. There were plenty of people with the same idea out on the trails.

Creating fresh tracks

It may have looked sunny in the valley but it was still foggy on the mountain tops

Will we manage to stay warm?

Yet again it was cold, so our heating had been on for three days and nights straight. We wondered what would be the first thing to give out gas or electric? Our solar panels weren’t getting much power so our batteries were starting to feel the strain but it was our first bottle of gas that ran out in the middle of the night. We don’t have the auto changeover on because it’s very easy to go through two gas bottles without realising it, but it’s sod’s law that it always runs out overnight. We snuggled up and hoped the residual heat would last until morning when Paul did a quick dash outside to turn on the second bottle. This has been the coldest and most overcast three days we have ever spent in the motorhome off-grid so it was good to know that the batteries and one gas bottle would last around three days.

Fortunately Sunday was a day of brilliant bright sunshine. Our solar panels were brushed off and ready to have a full day’s charging. Our blinds were opened up to allow the sun to warm the insides of the van. Heating was turned off and we went out.

Sunny but cold enough to be making snow during the day

Pretty much everyone else had the same idea and the slopes were relatively crowded. There were large groups of teenagers training and lots of recreational weekend skiers taking advantage of the first sunny day for a while. The conditions were amazing after a few days of constant snowfall and still so incredibly cold that we needed to take regular breaks to warm ourselves back up. On one break we bumped into a couple of British ski instructors living and working in France but doing some pre-season training in Italy.

When its so cold you need a hot drink on the ski lift

Finding somewhere to warm up

That evening we drove down to Valtournenche to try to warm up a bit but the clear night meant the temperatures dropped even further. Despite trying to keep Bertie clear of snow we had managed to acquire icicles when the sun had melted the snow and they had welded themselves to the van. Our water tank seemed extremely cold and we were reluctant to use the pump in case the agitation caused it to freeze.  We decided it was time to drive down to the very bottom of the valley to allow Bertie to warm back up so we headed down to Châtillon. It gave us the opportunity to run the heating with abandon, pop to the Conad supermarket and drive the short distance to Aosta to fill up on gas at the Valpetroli fuel station where we know we can get gas without problems (so long as we turn up when the pump is manned). I also needed to attend an online meeting with the NHS and Social Services for Dad’s Continuing Health Care assessment.    

The sosta at Chatillon. Colder and snowier than we’ve ever experienced it.

Those pesky mice again

The down side of being a bit warmer was that we found mouse signs. Obviously the pesky critter(s) hadn’t been evicted from the van but were just snuggled up against the cold. Now that all Bertie’s nooks and crannies had been warmed up the mice had come back out to nibble on our nuts! It hurt to throw away the large bag of pistachios we hadn’t even started. Yet again we had to do a deep clean which is very difficult when you’re actually living in the van. We managed to find mouse-proof storage containers for everything edible, vacuumed and wiped down every surface. Hopefully a lack of food would encourage them to move on.

Getting everything cleaned and re-packed.

After warming everything back up, topping up the batteries and getting rid of all the icicles we headed back up to Cervinia for a couple more days of awesome sunny skiing. I wont bore you with more tales of skiing

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