Trying somewhere new in Champoluc

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Cervinia is great, and we love going back, but we feel disappointed if we dont try somewhere new. We had heard of a new sosta near the ski resort of Champoluc so decided it was time to try it out. Champoluc is part of the Monte Rosa ski area which also includes Gressoney , where we had been before. But Champoluc is in a different valley so definitely counts as somewhere new.

Off we went, back down the valley to Chatillon and then a short distance on the toll road before the drive up to Champoluc. The toll road was not our original intention but the sat nav was attempting to take us over the mountains to Champoluc and we decided to take matters into our own hands.

Driving through the snow

We thought we had managed to time our journey before the forecast snow arrived, but half way up the Val d’Ayas it started to snow steadily. We were watching vehicles descending from the resort and the layer of snow on passing cars was getting thicker. The bare roads became slushy, gathering snow at the edges, with clear tracks where people were driving. Imperceptibly a line was crossed and the snow started to accumulate on the whole road. Once that started to happen it felt as though it would never stop.

Our stress levels crept up and I surveyed the map of the road ahead to see how far we had to go. We decided it was better to pop the snow chains on Bertie as a preventative measure before a final couple of switchbacks.

That moment when the snow starts to settle

We took one snowchain each and set to wrapping them round the front tyres. Or at least I (Becky) did. When I went round to see Paul he was in full stress mode. As a man who is used to intuitively knowing how to do most practical things, he really doesn’t like it when something doesn’t work as he expects. There is something to be said for reading the instructions!

Checking that the snowchains are secure

We weren’t the only people to take the decision to chain up. There were a handful of other cars attempting to fit chains or struggling to get traction on the snow. We were both noticeably more relaxed for the final drive up to the resort.

Champoluc Motorhome Aire

The new Area Camper at Champoluc is just off the main road with a barrier entrance where we took our ticket. The parking area was several centimetres deep in snow and it was impossible to work out where the parking spaces started and ended. It was also very busy. We hadn’t realised that today was the feast of the Immaculate Conception and it was a Friday. The sosta was full of families here for the long weekend. Luckily there were a few gaps between the ranks of vans and we drove into one, hoping it was a real space.

When the sun finally came out in the Area Camper Champoluc

We had a little look around the area. There is 6 Amp electricity and a toilet block as well as the usual motorhome services. The toilet block includes showers and laundry facilities (both for an extra charge), all very clean and new, although the showers were only divided by a curtain so not for the shy (I’ve since checked their website and they now have cubicles). I used the showers when I wanted to wash my hair and they were hot and powerful so passed the key tests.

The cost is 17 euros a night, so not the cheapest, but reasonable for a sosta with free electricity. The price goes up to 20 euros in high season which is Christmas and July/August. We’d heard it was also possible to park in the main resort car park, but when we went to check it looked as though it was no longer allowed. The signs weren’t clear and I meant to check at the tourist office but never got round to it.

The payment machine for exiting the sosta is on the side of the toilet block and is very easy to use, but it only gives a small amount of time between paying and leaving. We watched several people struggling with the slight uphill exit slope in the snow, failing to get out in time, so we made sure to prepare when it was time to leave.

Champoluc Village

After settling into the sosta we got ourselves into our warm clothes and set off to explore the village. It was still snowing lightly as we walked along the road and the cloud was low and grey. After about a km we reached the centre of the resort where I popped into the tourist office for some maps of snowshoe trails. A small Christmas market was in operation adding a bit of brightness in the drab afternoon light, and the decorations were getting their final tweaks ready for their evening switch on.

There were plenty of nice looking restaurants and shops in the centre and we stopped at a bakery to buy some of the sweet crispy torcetti we love as well as some breadsticks for snacking.

Our investigations of the slopes painted a disappointing picture. A lot of the resort was closed due to high winds and only a couple of runs were open on the Champoluc side with none of the links to the other valleys operating. The perils of skiing in early season. The forecast for the following day was bright and sunny and less windy so we crossed our fingers that it would be better.

View of Champoluc

Snowshoes in Champoluc

It really wasn’t any better for skiing on the Saturday. The weather was better but there were still only a few slopes open and given it was a busy Saturday we decided to leave the weekend vistors to it and go for a hike/snowshoe instead.

This was a good decision. We walked down the road away from Champoluc and turned off after a short distance to ascend the track towards the Hotellerie de Mascognaz. We were passed several times by hotel staff using their skidoos to transport guests and luggage up and down the slopes from the carpark at the bottom.

The Hotellerie is actually a whole Walser Village which has been restored. Many of the village houses and barns are now luxury chalets. It is still possible for vistors to wander around the tiny streets and view the buildings from the outside. It looks like an absolutely stunning hotel but probably well out of our price range..

After satisfying our curiosity we walked across the stream and took a footpath towards the forest. Our snowshoes went on at this point as the snow depth increased and the path became less trodden in a frozen wonderland of snow laden branches, streams and pools.

Finally we made it out of the trees, crossing a closed ski run which was lumpy and bumpy where the snow had settled on shrubs and grassy knolls. This wasn’t stopping some intrepid skiers who were making their way down amongst the obstacles with a lot of enthusiasm.

We reached a small bar where we swapped our snowshoes for microspikes to tackle the steep downhill path to the village. It was the first time we had used them and we were very impressed with the help they gave us on the slippery rocky path.

A reluctant departure

On Sunday morning we woke up with the intention of skiing, but the wind was blowing hard and the resort was shut down. We discussed what we should do. The next few days were also forecast to be windy. If we had unlimited time for our trip we could have stayed in resort and waited for the weather to improve, but with only a couple of weeks left we really wanted to ski. Sadly we decided we would have to leave.


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