Ski Abruzzo – Winter 2013/14
Abruzzo is about the furthest point south you can go in Italy and find a good choice of places to ski from late November through until April.
Furthest south of all is the vast Cinque Miglia plateau, centred on the ski resort town of Roccaraso – the largest on the entire Apennine chain.
Further north, in the stunning Gran Sasso National Park, is the equally big Campo Imperatore.
And roughly midway between those two, in the heart of the Majella National Park, are the two ski stations of Passo di Lanciano and La Majelletta.
As these are nearest us, they’re the ones we know best. We don’t ski, but the winter scenery’s wonderful and in summer, the well-signposted walking trails are spectacularly good.
Both Passo di Lanciano and La Majelletta are thriving ski centres, with La Majelletta supposedly unique in all of Europe as the only place you can ski – and see the sea as you do so !
Even better, with the sea so close, there are a handful of prime days every April when you can ski in the morning; enjoy a leisurely lunch on the slopes; and then head down to the beach for a spot of sunbathing and a swim in the afternoon.
The skiing at both Passso di Lanciano and La Majelletta is good, with a decent variety of black, red and blue runs and the slopes well-served by a mix of chair and drag lifts.
And you can also snowboard or go cross-country skiing.
The two resorts are popular because they offer easy access from both Rome and Naples – as well as for Abruzzo skiers – and consequently can be cheerily jam-packed at weekends.
But there’s one major problem – neither resort on its own can offer keen skiers enough variety to keep them tested and involved for a week’s holiday.
But surely they’re linked ? No. They’re not. And that’s where the big problem lies. Because if you want to ski both places in a day, you have to buy two lots of passes and actually get into your car and drive from A to B. Not surprisingly, visitors just don’t want to do that.
So you’re forced into a choice. And that’s not ideal.
Why then aren’t Passo do Lanciano and La Majelletta linked by runs and lifts and therefore able to offer some seriously good – and varied – skiing ?
Long story. Ask ten different people and you’ll get ten different versions.
But one factor is fairly constant: who actually pays for the infrastructure needed to turn two resorts into one ? And equally importantly, how’s the income shared-out once this has all happened ?
The answer to that is that the land on which the work would be needed is allegedly owned by no fewer than three people – and they’ve been arguing for years about who should pay for what – and how much. And if they can’t decide that, there’s precious little likelihood of agreement being reached over who gets how much.
This summer, it did seem that the impasse was at last over, with news that an American consortium had bought-out all interested parties and had big plans to enlarge and develop the area. And as evidence of this, it did seem that work had started on that much needed ski-lift to link the two resorts.
Which was great news.
Except the story wasn’t true.
No American consortium. (In fact, no consortium from anywhere). No new ski-lift. (Yes, there is work in progress in Passo di Lanciano – but that’s just clearing a new ski-run through the woods).
Where did I hear this news ? At the quirky and ever-excellent Bar dello Sci, a snowball’s throw from the bottom of the Passo di Lanciano chairlift.
Yes, they’d heard all the rumours and no, they didn’t have any idea how or where they started. Yes, it was sad. Yes, it was a pity. Yes, it was actually a bit of a disgrace that this stand-off had been going on for so long. But was a solution any nearer now than it had been in the past ? No, it wasn’t.
So if – as quite a few of our guests have done over the years – you’re staying at Villasfor2 when there’s still snow on the ground in the Majella, you can treat yourself to a day’s skiing or snowboarding.
You can hire whatever kit you need and whether you’re a beginner or an expert, you’ll find runs to suit your abilities.
But what you won’t be able to do is ski Passo di Lanciano and La Majelletta on the same day, because it’ll simply be too expensive and – let’s be honest – too inconvenient.
Somehow it’s all so quintessentially Italian in that everybody knows about the problem. Everybody knows the solution. But nobody can do anything about it.