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Why writer ROGER ALTON is dreaming of skiing

in Champoluc in Italy during lockdown 

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I want to go downhill! Why writer ROGER ALTON is dreaming of skiing in Champoluc in Italy during lockdown

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  • Champoluc is an Italian mountain village and part of the Monterosa region 
  • Roger Alton says in his view it’s preferable to Courchevel and it is cheaper 
  • His favourite place to stay there is the Castor – a snug, homely Alpine hotel

Gosh, it really did snow last night. Like they said it would. I’m standing on the balcony of the cosy room in one of my favourite hotels in the world, the Castor in the Italian mountain village of Champoluc.

The winds last night on the drive up from Turin have stopped and now I’m looking out over a blanket of deep, fresh snow twinkling in the morning sunlight.

I have loved skiing here since discovering it in the mid-1990s and try to return at least once a year.

Champoluc is part of the Monterosa region, at the back of Zermatt, and is part of Italy’s own Three Valleys. Pictured is the view of Mount Zerbion from Champoluc

Champoluc is part of the Monterosa region, at the back of Zermatt, and is part of Italy’s own Three Valleys. Pictured is the view of Mount Zerbion from Champoluc

The village is part of the Monterosa region, at the back of Zermatt, and is part of Italy’s own Three Valleys, preferable to Courchevel in my view, and, of course, cheaper.

This being Italy, the people are welcoming, the food and drink buonissimo. The skiing is perfect, too, beautifully groomed, wide open, uncrowded and brilliant off-piste if that’s your fancy. It is mine.

The Castor is a snug, homely Alpine hotel, run by two good friends: Herman, a Londoner, and his wife Bea, who is very much a local and adored by all.

We had the usual terrific five-course dinner last night — carbonada (traditional beef stewed in red wine) with platters of local meats and cheeses — and now it’s time to ski that off.

First stop is Tako, the ski hire shop run by Ivan Munari, brother of Giorgio, the former mayor. I always listen to what he says about ski conditions.

Who to ski with? Herman is often up for a quick morning blast. I’ll maybe grab a lesson. The place is full of good guides, not least Simone Origone. Better not try to race him though: he’s been world speed ski champion for donkey’s years, notching up nearly 160 mph. Don’t think we’ll be trying that today.

Writer Roger Alton says that Champoluc, pictured, is in his view preferable to Courchevel and, of course, cheaper

Writer Roger Alton says that Champoluc, pictured, is in his view preferable to Courchevel and, of course, cheaper

Best choice for lunch is the Campo Base. You can’t miss it: it’s at the top of the Swedish lift and festooned with Tibetan prayer pennants. Then I’ll spend the afternoon skiing over to Gressoney, before whipping back and stopping at the Belvedere at the head of the run back to town. A perfect spot to savour the slow Alpine sunset and enjoy a bombardino (eggnog with vodka or brandy). Good job this is the last run.

We’ll settle in for dinner at the Balivo — risotto, with some bleu d’Aoste cheese — and afterwards have a drink at the Golosone. They call it the Golo, and it’s usually packed. (Still is, in my dreams.)

Tomorrow? Well that’s another day, but Alagna beckons.

It’s at the end of the Three Valleys and has some of the best skiing in Europe on and, especially, off-piste. Knocks most places out of sight.

Don’t forget me, Champoluc: I’ll be back.

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