Europe, July/August, May/June, September/October, Travel Guide

Guide to Cervinia, Italy

Tuesday 4 February, 2014
The Salette take off with the usual audience. Photo: Ant Green

The Salette take off with the usual audience. Photo: Ant Green

A relatively unknown Alpine treasure, with impressive mountain flying


A snowball’s throw from Monte Rosa, the highest mountain in Italy, and literally in the shadow of the Mattehorn, the Cervina/Valtournenche valley runs north-east to south-west from the Italian/Swiss boarder to the Aosta Valley.

Winter brings busloads of skiers for holidaymaking, but summer sees only great flying conditions among relaxed locals. The restaurants dish up amazing food that the locals love, and homemade genepi is illegally served to everyone.

The four main launches along the valley cater to every pilot. At 3,890m the Plateau Rosa launch is ideal for an early morning sled ride directly in front of the Matterhorn,  but it’s often tricky to catch a thermal.

The cosy village of Chamois is perched 600m above the valley floor and accessible only by cable car or hiking. Chamois provides great access to the valley tour route, with thermal triggers all around. Open summer and winter, the small ski resort provides three chair lifts bringing pilots to the take-offs.

Also open year round, the Salette cable-car runs from the town of Valtournenche to the mid-station of the ski resort, with a beautiful grassy take-off in front of a great restaurant. Finally, Magdeleine launch provides road access to morning thermals and some evening dynamic/soaring just above the main landing zone of Antey-Saint-André.

Flying conditions in Cervinia are like most high European Alpine sites, ranging from glass-offs to ripping thermals. Autumn and winter caters to exceptional ski randonnee/hiking for gentle glides. Spring brings awesome XC conditions, and summer challenges pilots with some good technical flying.

May to September, plus winter ski flying.

Launch: 1,800m to 3,890m
Landing: 1,040m to 2,000m
Cloudbase: 3,500m

None – there are no safe landings.

Leaving the valley can be tricky since the surrounding cols are around 3,000m, and the Aosta Valley can get a little strong. But once out of the valley head north towards Mont Blanc or south around Monte Rosa and towards Lecco-Como for an epic XC.

With 40km of aggressive beauty, the valley tour is a must. Take off from La Salette and immediately peg it across to the east-facing cliffs opposite. Fly the cliffs around to the base of the Matterhorn, gain height then fly back across over La Salette, jump over to Chamois and glide to the Antey-Saint-André landing zone.

Strong winds in the Aosta Valley, thunderstorms, foehn and power lines at the landing zones.

There’s camping at Lac de Mayen or free camper van parking at the landing zone of Antey-Saint-André. Cervinia is one of the largest ski domains in Europe, so there is an abundance of hotel accommodation, especially off season. Owned by pilots, Hotel Lac Bleu (Breuil-Cervinia) and Hotel Meridiana (Valtourneche) are friendly places to stay.

Jean Claude at Fans de Sport
Thierry Moreau

Skiing on the Plateau Rosa glacier is open all year long, so on non-flyable days take the kids skiing – even during summer holidays. There’s a sports centre at the landing zone with horse riding, climbing walls, via ferratas, tennis, swimming, and rafting.

There are a couple of venture areas in the valley, so take advice and steer clear. Look outside for the weather; otherwise the best weather site is here.

Aosta airport is due to open soon, but in the meantime driving is the only practical way to get to the valley. “Aspettare”, meaning “wait”, is the way of life in public transport here.

Tourist information

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