Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A snow holiday in Valnontey, Italy

We took a little holiday to the Italian Alps in the first week of February.


We wanted a family holiday. One where we didn't have to put the kids into crêche/daycare for us to ski and one where we could all get out and about together. (The mister has been spending considerable time away from home with work during the week, so we were all keen to do a lot of 'together'.)


I find the downhill ski scene rather hectic, honestly. Plus I have a dodgy knee so cross-county skiing sounded much better to me.

We stayed in Valnontey - a quiet little village (maybe a dozen buildings, all hotels/cafes) in the gorgeous Gran Paradiso National Park.


It is a fantastic location for cross-country skiing - plenty of amazing scenery and nicely groomed ski and walking tracks all around the area. It's also very popular for hiking/camping in the warmer weather.


This is the small, family-run hotel where we stayed (basically old farm buildings that have been converted):


The staff were lovely, especially with the kids. We also went for half board (breakfast and dinner) which made it super relaxing for me. A well priced three course meal every night? Yes please!


The cross country skiing was good fun - the kids would do a small loop with me in the mornings (while the mister and the littles followed on the walking track).


Then in the afternoons the grown-ups would take turns doing a longer trip (to burn off those three course meals). Just before dinner the kids would go out for tobogganing and general snowy shenanigans.


Speaking of snowy shenanigans, there were alot of ice climbers in our hotel.

Pray-tell, you ask, what is an ice climber? Someone who climbs frozen waterfalls.

Have you ever heard of anything so scary/dangerous/crazy? One German fellow told me you have to watch out for the white waterfalls - this means lots of air bubbles frozen in the water that shatter when you embed your ice pick in it. Insane.

Wee little ice climbers on the left there.

The Gran Paradiso Park was originally created as a protected zone for the almost-hunted-into-oblivion Alpine Ibex in the 1850s. This ibex population is now flourishing as are many other alpine species who live within the Park's 700 square kms.

The Alpine Ibex. Nice rack. 

I looked everywhere for that darn ibex. I scoured the hills whenever we went out. I knew they were out there as we found tracks all over the place.


One French couple told us that one came right up to a walking track.

The closest I got was these mountain goats, who I couldn't even yodel at because they were so far away.

Can you see them?

I found this goat in the hotel dining room. He was kind enough to hold very still for my photo.


Nearly every Italian in this region speaks French (and many speak English too). I took a skiing refresher on our first day (with the kids) and we all had our lessons in French. Two non-native speakers makes for a nice conversation - both parties speak slowly and don't use any high-fallootin' vocab. I also felt like an international woman of mystery, speaking French with Italians.


So, if you're a fruit-loop ice climber or a family in search of some snowy goodness, I would heartily recommend the cute little village of Valnontey (or any of the other little towns in the Aosta Valley).

We had a relaxing stay with just the right amount of physical activity, food and ibex seeking.


The next travel post will give you a quick tour around the neighbouring village of Cogne.

A bientôt!


Susan said...

High-fallootin' - you crack me up Kirsty!!! Don't suppose the rest of the goat was actually in one of your three course meals, I hope! You are building some wonderful memories, aren't you! Fabulous!

Nicola said...

It looks so beautiful and peaceful. Best get packing for our trip to the snow next week. We're not as nice as you, the kids are all booked in to creche and ski school. Figure we will get enough together time on the drive from here to Switzerland on the first day of Paris ski week ;)

Katy Cameron said...

Ooh, that looks like a fab place! I know all about ice climbing, but as a friend fell 300 ft and broke his pelvis, I stick to regular climbing ;o)

Marg said...

Sorry you didn't get up close and personal with an Ibex.
Ice climbing sounds insane, definitely fruit-loop material.

AL said...

This sounds like a fantastic trip with quality family time, Kirsty. The photos are truly superb and you are certainly helping me with ideas for my winter trip next year. Those ice climbers are nuts! I used to see similar when I lived in was terrifying just watching them. How was the driving on those icy roads?

C. R. Spooner said...

Stunningly beautiful! Mystically grand...just plain "wow!" Thank you for the beauty you sent our way.

Pinky said...

he he he :) nice rack! Is it bad that I like the really bad puns???

One of those photos just has modern quilt written all over it! I posted a comment over at Flickr.

Poppyprint said...

What a magic place!!! Thank you for that wonderful (and highly entertaining) post. I would love to speak French with an Italian ski instructor one day. Preferably in a hot tub.

**Anne** said...

This looks so beautiful. I'm glad you had some family time and fun in the snow.
Anne xx

Veronica said...

The view is breathtaking! I'm definitely keeping this village in mind if I ever visit Italy.


Sharon said...

You take such beautiful photos - thanks for such lovely images on a grey & blustery day.

Anonymous said...

Awesome pics as usual. Makes me want to cook up a big pot of mulled wine. But it's still morning here so I guess I'll hold that thought...

posie blogs Jennie McClelland said...

Oh WOW!! Looks amazing. My husband went on an adventure training exercise for 2 months in Canada, training with the Cold Stream Guards, where he learnt to glacier walk & ice climb. It's amazing, i so know our 4 would love it!!
Oh Italy, see my husband has Italian genes & when we go there, everyone starts talking to him in Italian, it's hilarious. I often find my French is a handy go between language, with hand gestures & laughter.
Such beautiful shots Kirsty, what an adventure. Love Posie

blandina said...

What a great place you found, the little village seems peaceful. You were there in the worst week of cold that we had in Europe and you never mentioned it: how brave you are (but I knew)!
Loved that you speak French with the Italians.

Sara Louise said...

Climbing ice waterfalls?? That's crazy talk. Plain crazy talk x

Dianne said...

Stunning photography + humour = AWESOME! Thanks for the traveloque.

Lauren said...

Gorgeous pics! Now I have to do a winter trip to France as well as a summer one.

Eva said...

Oh, it looks and sounds like you had a wonderful holiday! Such beautiful and serene pictures, except the one with the ice climbing!! That's CRAAAAAZY!!! I get vertigo only looking at that pic ...!

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