There had been a handful of people in the sosta when we arrived, but things gradually got busier until we found ourselves surrounded by over 40 motorhomes.
There were all different nationalities. Mostly Italian, but German, French and Spanish. Then one afternoon we were joined by another UK Knaus.
Paul noticed first of all when he went out to get some water. He came back saying that the next door van was one that he recognised from the gondola car park in Aosta. He does have super recognising skills, especially when compared to me.
He also saw that there was a decal for a book on the van. A Change in the Aire. He wondered if I had heard of it, I have to admit I hadn’t but I quickly looked it up and found out that they had full timed in their previous motorhome (a bigger version of Bertie) a few years ago.
Geoff came around later to say hi and ask if we had the bus timetable. Lesley, Geoff and their son Jackson (who had the endless energy that only a pre teen can manage) were skiing for their Easter break. They were now in Cervina, stranded until a mechanic could look at their brakes after the Easter weekend, and planning a helicopter trip (which sounded awesome) for Geoff to do some off piste boarding. We spent an enjoyable evening with them drinking wine (well, Paul drank his Cider) and talking all things motorhome and snow while Jackson played with some other children until it was too dark to carry on.
Cervina is linked to the swiss resort of Zermatt, but despite being to Cervinia several times we had never been across the border. That had to be remedied with this trip.
Geoff had extolled the virtues of Zermatt so we looked at the forecast to choose the next promising day. We wanted clear skies so that we would get the amazing views. We also needed the connection to Zermatt to be open which can sometimes be an issue due to high winds.
Finally the right day arrived. We bought our tickets online, something we had been doing while we were in the Aosta valley. All the ski resorts share the same ticketing system so you just have to physically buy your pass once and then can reload it via the website or app.
We had a great day randomly skiing in Zermatt. There were some frustratingly flat sections that caught us out, and some expensive bits (coffee from a machine for 5 CHF when you can get a good quality coffee made by a real person for half the price in Cervinia) and maybe we should have planned a bit better, but it was great, not so much because of the skiing but because it is just so beautiful. Why had we never done this before?
We sat and watched the train ascending the Gornergrat, snaking up the mountain through tunnels and past skiers, a slightly unusual way to reach the slopes. From a terrace I indulged my inner mountain geek as I pointed out summits to Paul … “look, there’s the Dufourspitze, oh and there’s the Breithorn”. The panorama of 4000 meter peaks is so much more pronounced from Zermatt and you can see the glaciers still clinging to the highest valleys. Of course there is the Mattehorn, it’s shape from the Zermatt side is the much more pronounced pyramid you see (but not for very much longer) on the Toblerone packaging.
On the way back to Cervinia, once we had exhausted ourselves with skiing, we ascended the gondola high up to 3883 meters so that we could ski across glacial ice and past crevasses and ice fields back to Italy.
Skiing Zermatt from Cervinia, or even visiting in the summer, is by far the cheapest way to have a day out in Switzerland. It’s not risk free as the connection is subject to closure in high winds, but a bit of planning and watching the weather forecast will sort that out.
In the summer a new gondola will be opened. It will allow people to get from Cervinia to Zermatt and back without needing any other form of locomotion, skiing, hiking or cycling. It is really going to change things for Cervinia as a resort and I can see the prices increasing as a result, but at the moment here are a few comparisons:
- A one day international ski pass from Cervinia side costs 81.50 euros (68 euros in low season while we were there) compared to the same costing 97 CHF, or 83 CHF if you just want to ski the Zermatt area (no low season discount).
- Staying in the sosta in Cervinia is 7.40 euros for two people in a van. You cannot stay in Zermatt in any form of motorised transport. Nearby Camping Randa, which opens during the winter, costs 41 CHF per night. To make it equivalent I haven’t included electricity.
- Getting to the slopes at Cervinia is a 1.5km journey, costing a maximum of 2.90 euros each way (free when the ski shuttle is running or if you decide to walk). In Zermatt it would be a train journey from the campsite for 8.20 CHF each way.
When you add in the other costs like food and fuel you can see how it would add up.
Renewing the motorhome insurance
While we were in Cervinia it was time to renew the motorhome insurance. Now that the van is older it’s becoming slightly more tricky to find a good value insurer. The last few years haven’t been too bad because we have had very light usage, but this time we wanted to increase the number of miles and days in Europe while still retaining the A-class unlimited windscreen cover AND Paul had picked up some speeding points at Christmas (not in Bertie, that would be a bit difficult). After a tedious afternoon on the phone we were sorted out. Just one of those bits of life admin that needed to be done.
Does it really need fixing
Paul broke the toilet flush!
Our toilet is meant to have an indicator light that tells us when it is full. It hasn’t worked for some time and we have once or twice found ourselves with no room in the toilet and nowhere to empty. Checking the toilet level involves peering into the murky depths of the cassette. Not that pleasant, and not that easy to gauge. We haven’t gone as far as employing a dipstick yet.
Paul decided now was the time to investigate. We had always assumed that the problem was the float inside the cassette that was stuck but he read on a forum somewhere that it could be as simple as a faulty bulb.
While I was off having a wander he decided to fiddle around with the electrical system to see if he could work out what the problem was but following his fiddling both the light and the flush were no longer working
The next day, after coming back from a strenuous day’s skiing, when all we should have really been doing was having long hot showers and relaxing with a drink, Paul decided he had to fix the flush. Cue a couple of hours with the van being dismantled to trace the wiring, only to find that actually the problem was a loose connection in the toilet cassette housing caused by Paul’s fiddling around in the first place.
Snowshoeing in Cervinia
Cervinia has vastly improved its options for snowshoeing on maintained trails with several in the valley and some from the gondola stations. We used the track from the sosta one day. We headed out through the skidoo hire practise area towards the Baita Layet hotel and restaurant. It’s a nice track that gives you lots of good views down the valley in one direction and up to Monte Cervino on the return. We did get a little bored with the groomed slopes after a while and took a detour on one of the mountain footpaths to get ‘off piste’.