We were a group of ten plus from Ireland and UK that did a week in top quality Italian resort of Cervinia just before the last lockdown in early Feb 2020.
We got back safely via Turin airport, before the major pandemic of Covid really broke out. Two weeks after we returned, most resorts had closed.
We also met up with another Irish group there as we slept at 2000 metres above sea level.
We travelled with Crystal, part of the TUI group, largest tour operator in Europe with branches in Dublin and in Waterford, at City Square.
TUI are a large international company and are safe to book with during the pandemic as they have many options for clients.
Our colleagues had enjoyed the resort a few times before and talked about it very much so were keen to see it, just two hours by coach from Turin, two hours flying time from Dublin. This was our second time there.
We booked our equipment in advance so on arrival it was a quick trip to the ski shop on arrival to be ready for next day. The Hotel Europe was very comfortable with spa even, useful after a long day on tired limbs and muscles.
Temperatures were mainly below freezing from -2 to minus 5 at village level but colder at 2800-4000 metres, one day was around minus ten on the mountain.
We were with Ireland’s oldest skier from Tramore, 90 years old at the time Dick Cole, long term leader of the group, who skied each day without fail. No injuries in the group of any consequence, a safe resort overall with wide areas, so little congestion.
The Ski area in Cervina is an exciting and varied one with lots to entertain all levels of skier, intermediate skiers will be very happy in this resort as there is lots to keep them busy, including (what claims to be) the 2nd longest run in Europe (Red 7).
Cervinia is also host to the very famous Matterhorn mountain.
You can take this from the top of the Klein Matterhorn (or Piccolo Cervino in Italian), the highest cable car in Europe at 3883m, where the run claims to be 20km.
Alternatively, you can descend from Plateau Rosa to Valtourenche which is 11.5km. We took the run to the bottom of Plan Maison which is 7km. All of this is done whilst gazing at the incredible Il Cervino (the Matterhorn).
The reds make up the majority of skiing here and there are some really beautiful runs. The runs in Cervinia are known to be easier and real confidence builders. Some are more difficult than others but we often find that there will be a steeper stretch bit at the beginning and the rest of the run is pretty easy.
The reds and blacks aren’t quite as steep or difficult as those in France and Austria.
We liked the red 29. It’s never busy and runs parallel to Pancheron. The reds around the Bontadini and Fournet chairlifts are also not difficult and generally beautifully groomed but a little busier than those coming down below Pancheron.
For beginners or for people wanting to get their ski legs back and their confidence, try Blue 5 from the top of Cretaz. This a great run that descends back into Cervinia town and very safe with wide pistes.
The blue runs around Plan Maison are used a lot for ski school so are sometimes a little crowded, particularly Blue 26, which is probably the busiest slope in the area as it’s a linking route from Pancheron to Plan Maison. These are handy to do on the first few days as you get acquainted.
Cervinia doesn’t have a lot of black runs, some closed due to avalanche risk, others for slalom training.
Cervinia is South-Easterly facing so you ski in the sun nearly all day. Best avoid peak weeks – Christmas, New Year, and Italian holidays, it will also be cheaper too. People often comment on how quiet it is at other times.
The central hub of Cervinia is Plan Maison, which is accessible via the Plan Maison cable car and gondola, where local Ski Schools meet.
There are 3 self-service restaurants which are good to recommend to non-skiers who want somewhere to meet the rest of their party for lunch.
Plan Maison is a great place for people to get their ski practice ready for the first day of skiing.
There are three chairlifts from Plan Maison, and the runs get harder as you go up.
From these chair lifts, you can access the opposite Zermatt side of the mountain. This can be a long day and weather should be stable.
Alternatively, you can try the Cime Bianche gondola from Plan Maison, then Plateau Rosa cable car.
Upon returning from Zermatt, you can jump on the Trockner Stegg (the cable car as mentioned above finished at Klein Matterhorn) but if this is closed, there is about a 30-40 min T-bar which ends up at Plateau Rosa. The main issue about going to Zermatt is not getting stuck.
If customers do get stuck there are two options, either get a taxi, which can cost up to €600 and takes around 5 hours, or get a hotel room for the evening. Check the last return time, this is posted on every lift on the way over but as a general rule come back about 14.30.
For us in the Petit Palais the quickest way up to Plan Maison was the gondola route, for everyone else it is to do the Cretaz and Pancheron route. Ski lifts very efficient and not too crowded.
One to watch now in these Covid times, as you should try to stay away from large crowds.
Some hotels have shuttles to the resort and also links to airport of Turin (Sertorelli, Mon Reve, Furggen, White Angel and Edelweiss) and bring you to the gondola station, as this is the quickest way up.
Restaurants on the mountain
There are lots of great restaurants on the mountain, a lot of people have already heard about Chalet Etoile on Blue 26 as it gets a lot of press.
Here you have a self-service section and a restaurant. It was noted as one of the top 10 restaurants in the Alps in a UK newspaper article. The restaurant is run by a Swedish couple and the food is excellent. We tried the veg and goulash soup.
Other restaurants we tried were the Igloo on Red 7 (great BBQ and superb goulash), La Pousset (fantastic paninis and baked potatoes) and Plan Tourette (next to the top of the Cretaz chairlift).
Plan Tourette is owned by the Mon Reve Hotel and they host après parties on a Monday and Friday. Their burgers are famous and the prices are relatively cheap. We tried the soup, a booster on cold days.
The Birdy bakery is nice for an afternoon snack in a bakery, good value pizza, homemade cakes and sandwiches, a treat.
Après ski is also very good at Principe on a Thursday evening from 15:00.
We watched international rugby at the Welsh run “Dragon Bar” on the Cretaz in the village facing the lift , good bar staff serving Guinness and other beers, music après ski on Wednesdays, Grivola hotel has music regularly. We liked the Copapan for music, a nice 3-piece group playing some evenings in the pre covid time.
Bass, guitar and violin, playing folk, jazz and blues even the Cranberies were played and sung well by an Imelda May look a like. They play in the restaurant at 8 and later in bar at ten. Lino bar is also worth a look close to the Dragon Welsh bar.
Les Clochards, this French word means Tramps, but serves great food. For 40 euro you get transport to a mountain inn, eat as much grilled steak and meats, starters and dessert with wine included, facing an open fire, where food is grilled in front of you. Great fun with a group.
Great carnival procession on the Thursday for pre-Lent parade with a white lady and giant skiing down in a torch lit evening event, with fanfare flutes and drums, valley people in traditional dress, in a local legend with some similarities to our Rose of Tralee pageant.
Cervinia street scene.
Shops are a little expensive, but try the local food specialities like Artisale. Local wine is good and also leather and wood products made over the long winter. Alpine cheese is another great buy and smoked hams.
We did not make it to nearby Zermatt, where some went finding temperatures of minus 18. You cross the Swiss border on skis.
Extra lift pass needed to get there, local Cervinia weekly ski pass for over 250 euro approximately,40 euro half day pass.
We found Crystal Ski do run a very smooth operation, we found the hotel food at Petit Palais of good quality and no shortage, evening drinks included. You do burn up the calories during the day outdoors. The hotel has friendly staff and customers come mainly from UK and Ireland and the Crystal travel reps were likewise cordial and helpful.
Crystal are all set for skiing this year, 2022. Covid protocols all in place, vaccinations seem essential these days for ski pass and ease of travel.
Flights with TUI are fairly booked just now to Cervinia, late February we found some options one for Feb 20 to Hotel Europa for €1,100 half board all in with flights
March is almost full but you can book flights only to Turin and then transfer by bus to resort, apartment rental should be possible, try local tourist office, as TUI accommodation currently full for March, unless cancellations.
Dick and his entourage will hit the slopes again all going well in France this time and shows how you can stay fit into old age and do winter sports just like golf. He helps organise the Long Handicap in Tramore.
Crystal is part of the TUI companies group, an integrated tourism business, operating in 180 countries with 31 major source markets and over 30 million customers. HQ in Germany.
Cervinia with Crystal Ski
Family offer from Crystal Ski: Fly from Dublin the 20th February 2022. Stay in the 3* Hotel Compagnoni in Cervinia on a B&B basis from €3049 (2+1)