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Date: Christmas 2008
Our holiday: MrRibena and I flew went on a package deal with Crystal from Dublin. The outbound flight was delayed by 6 hours which was a right pain but other than that I can only praise Crystal. The reps were everywhere and couldn't do enough for us. We were phoned in advance from the resort to let us know about snow conditions and what they would be organising on the trip which really got our buzz going and is not something that I've seen before on a package holiday.
Website : www.cervinia.it
Basics : Crystal flew into Turin and the transfer was under 2 hours by coach. MrRibena is an expert skier and I'm an intermediate on my 6th trip.
Lift system : There is a mixture of gondolas, cable cars and chairs with only a smattering of drags. There were zero queues for our entire holiday (except when we visited Zermatt), the lifts were mostly modern and pretty swift and the lifties were helpful. A couple of chairs could do with replacing but the slopes from these were so quiet that I wonder if a quicker lift would ruin things. There's a choice of chairlifts, gondola or cable car up from the village in the mornings. There was plus and minuses to where you would arrive but having never had a choice like this before all within 5 minutes walk from our door, we were thrilled. There are steps leading up to the Gondola & Cablecar that could be lethal in ski-boots, however we got a tip to rent skis from Genzianella sportshop (which is to the right of the main gondola office http://www.genzianellasport.it/) and they allowed us to leave our own boots there at night too. Superior skis came out at â‚¬78 for 6 days with no pre-booking/discounts - quite a bit cheaper than what the TO was offering.
Going over to Zermatt is much more do-able than we expected and we avoided the famous drag with a cablecar back (still a bit of a pain with queues for this though). There ware horror stories of 600 euro taxis for people missing lifts on their return but I think if you go early enough, there shouldn't be any problem.
The terrain : Cervinia is at 2000m and is in the centre of a bowl with Valtournenche over to the right and Zermatt across the ridge. The only black slope of any length was closed while we were there because of avalanche issues, I think. The rest of the area is mostly long, wide blues and reds. The reds are bit on the blue-ish side for the most part but not all are and over the Valtournence side there was some fantastic reds. There are 2 beautiful long pistes from the top: 7 back to Cervinia and 1 back to Valtournenche. No 1 gives the most variety from big wide sweeping pistes to tree-lined tracks and back skiing through houses in the village. We loved this. We skiied 2 of the areas in Zermatt (Schwarzee and Gornergrat/Riffelberg) and enjoyed these too, especially the black 62 from Furgg and Furi. You could ski more of Zermatt but it is much more spread out than Cervinia so navigating over to Sunnegga/Rothorn is a bit of a trek.
The snow : It snowed like billy-oh before we arrived so we had 3 fabulous blue sky days, then a top-up on Christmas day and further gorgeous weather for 2 days.
Off-piste : I'm not an off-pister so don't really know. Off-piste activity was definitely greater in Zermatt and a lot of what was going on in Cervinia was between pistes and tinkering at the edges.
The resort : Cervinia is small but there is a swimming pool and ice-skating rink if the snow goes wrong (unlikely because of height though). The buildings are a bit rubbish but the natural mountain skyline more than makes up for it. For Christmas week the town had laid on extra stuff like free horse-drawn carriage rides with Santa for kids. The nightlife looks quiet but it seems to only get really going after 11 and there is a niteclub called the White Rabbit which we were told by other guests in the hotel was out of this world. But by and large, the Cervinians don't do apres ski as I know it (Austrian or even French style). We are not major party people and usually only have one or 2 straight after skiing but love the atmosphere and the end of the ski day was a little bit of an anti-climax without it.
Mr Ribena was ill one of the days so I decided to take a lesson to work on my fresh-snow skills and for a bit of ski company. Found the instructer really listened to me and was positive and encouraging and I seemed to improve without any stress. MrRibena was impressed the following day. It was â‚¬70 for 2 hours which i thought was great value.
Food : Our favourite place was the Matterhorn restaurant. Lovely laid-back, friendly atmosphere with fab food. We tried some of the other places recommended like Chalet Etoile, Grivola, Linos and there were all pretty good too. There's a patisserie called Samovar which is amazing for apres-ski goodies.
Accommodation : We stayed in the Hotel Meynet and were delighted with it. Great location, lovely breakfast, nice coffee-shop/bar etc. It was only 2 star but this undersells it quite a bit, I think.
Costs: Generally speaking, Cervinia is not expensive. Coffee was about â‚¬1.50 and lunches â‚¬10. The contrast when over at Zermatt where we felt decidedly shabby without a Spyder or D&G suit was pretty stark.
Conclusion: Huge thumbs up for Cervinia: quick transfer, stunning scenery, yummy food, Italians. Some of the skiing isn't that hard but it's fun and you can clock up plenty of miles and the Swiss link gives more variety. It was recommended here to me by Snowheads and they were all spot-on. It would be the absolutely perfect 2nd or 3rd week ski destination as you'd really get to spread your wings but that is not to say there isn't plenty for more advanced skiers. We loved it!
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