The canals of Venice, the sights of Rome and traditional Neapolitan pizzas may be the images most often conjured at the mention of an Italian getaway. But during the winter months, Cervinia is one of the most stunning and invigorating parts of Italy for travellers of all ages to visit - particularly for those with an adventurous spirit.
This weekend (Saturday October 22nd), the 2016-17 skiing season is set to get underway in Cervinia, with the resort's Ski Paradise lift system planned to open for the first time this winter on Saturday and Sunday. After what is expected to be a busy opening weekend, Cervinia's ski lifts will close again over the following week, before remaining open every day - including over the Christmas period - from Saturday October 29th until May 1st.
Cervinia offers a diverse range of snow-based activities for winter sports fans of all abilities, from the standard skiing and snowboarding through to ice-karting and heliskiing. The ice-karting track doesn't open until December, but the 1.5 km track is set to be a huge thrill provider for little skiers and big kids alike this winter season. What's more, there's no need to worry about remembering the correct stopping distances for slippery conditions before getting there, as there's a dedicated training track with qualified experts to make sure the experience is as safe as it is exhilarating.
Skiing in the 'normal' way is usually thrilling enough, but for those after an extra adventure, Cervinia offers the opportunity for visitors to try heliskiing. This involves an awe-inspiring helicopter ride over the beautiful mountains that surround the resort, before landing on the slopes on specialist skis. Gliding along the snow in a helicopter is a whole new skiing experience that really has to be seen to be fully appreciated.
Another unique highlight of a trip to Cervinia this winter is the chance to enjoy a moonlight descent down the resort's slopes as night falls. This is perfect for those indulging in a romantic getaway and is especially beautiful by the light of the full moon. Enjoy a candlelit dinner at the foot of the Matterhorn before embarking on a night-time meander down the slopes.
If you love spending time in the great outdoors, then a holiday in the Alps is the perfect getaway. Around Cervinia, for example, there are plenty of hiking trails and another favourite activity is mountain biking. But with all that fresh air and exercise, you're likely to work up an appetite too - so it's a good thing this mountain resort offers plenty of dining options too.
Stopping to refuel doesn't mean having to head back down to the village. There are a number of huts on the mountain, which offer pleasant lunches, featuring local cuisine and fresh ingredients. Alternatively, many businesses offer take-away picnic lunches so you can dine al fresco whenever you start to feel peckish - or find a great spot to stop and enjoy the view.
Another option is one of the lunch packages. These combine lift passes, food and other activities, providing you with an all-inclusive day out and some delicious fare too.
For example, visitors from Breuil-Cervinia can get a return trip on the lift systems to Plan Maison, Cime Blanche Laghi, Plateau Rosa or Salette. Enjoy lunch at altitude, either in a hut or with a picnic, then explore the trails around the top of the mountains, before heading back down on the lift. Depending on how you dine, meal options range from quick paninis and pasta through to full three-course meals.
Another option is a mountain biking day pass and lunch package. Cervinia offers a diverse selection of trails, giving cyclists the option between technically challenging rides and easier routes for beginners and families. Along the trails, you'll find both natural features and man-made structures to add some excitement to the ride and you'll be provided with lunch and a drink to keep you energised throughout the day. Guided tours are available in both groups and for individuals.
For families booking a lunch and lift package, children under the age of eight will receive a free return trip ticket of the same validity as that purchased by an accompanying adult.
During the winter months, Cervinia is a popular destination for the skiing and snowboarding crowd. With stunning views of the Matterhorn and plenty of pistes, it's easy to see why this Italian village is a favourite choice for mountain sports. But there's one downhill event that you might not realise has ties with the town: bobsled.
Back in the early 1960s, there was only one Italian bobsledding slope, in Cortina. At the time, Breuil-Cervinia was gaining popularity as a winter sports haven and so a group of bobsledding enthusiasts from Milan decided to install a bobsled run in the area around Blue Lake. Building the structure was a difficult task that required a lot of manual labour and the weather conditions during construction were not favourable. However, once the structure was complete and it had accumulated a suitable covering of snow and ice, it was ready for use.
The result was a 1,500 metre-long route with a variation of 139 metres and an average declivity of 9.43 per cent. There were eighteen turns and two very long and steep straightaways, which enabled sleds to reach speeds of up to 140 km/h. The inaugural run was in 1963 with an informal slide-test by Eugenio Monti. Further test runs were carried out over the next few years and the official inauguration took place in 1966. It was a great event, with participants including famous faces, local figures and plenty of bobsled enthusiasts. The Italian Air Force even opened the Armed Forces Bobsledding School nearby.
For many years, the Cervinia bobsledding course remained popular. Its icy turns were attracted athletes from around the world, while royalty and celebrities also made headlines for their bobsled rides. Unfortunately, the maintenance and upgrade costs became too much and the slope was closed in the 1990s.
While bobsledding is no longer an option in Cevinia, those interested in learning more about the local history of the sport can head to the Yeti Pub. This historic pub contains a bobsledding museum. and holds a variety of films, photos, trophies and other memorabilia covering Cervinia's bobsledding past. The pub is also a favourite haunt for former bobsledders and bobsledding enthusiasts, so there's always a chance you could find yourself chatting about the sport with an expert.
Perhaps one of the most diverse activities you can do in this snowy part of Italy is go ice climbing. Quite literally this involves climbing glaciers or, in the case of Cervinia, ice picking your way to the top of a frozen waterfall. Not only is this a fun activity and a great way to exercise, but the crystal wall is something of a spectacle, reflecting a myriad of colours. It's a thrilling experience that should appeal to people who prefer extreme sports and have a sense of adventure. Although it can be a dangerous activity if you're going it alone in a remote part of the world, in Cervinia you're going to be perfectly safe, as you'll be accompanied by the Cervino Guides.
Mountaineering is a hugely popular pastime in this part of the country too, as there are ample peaks and terrains for you to scale. Again, these expeditions will see you accompanied by a guide and it makes for exciting opportunities to see parts of the region that your average traveller won't get to visit.
It's not all about extreme sports in Cervinia though, as there are lots of activities that are perfect for the whole family. For example, everyone can enjoy ice karting, which takes place on a course that has been purpose-built on top of natural ice. The sheer speeds of these karts will make anyone feel like a champion. If you're not feeling sure about how good your skills are, you can test them out first at the ice proving ground, which is near the ice circuit at the entrance to the town itself. When you're there you'll be given a training run that will teach you and the kids driving techniques so you stay in control at all times, having fun but not compromising on safety.
This is basically a kilometre-long snow-covered run in the resort that sees you climbing to the top and flying back down again on an airboard. For those of you who don't know, an airboard is basically an inflatable bodyboard with two paddle-shaped handles at its top end for you to grasp on to. You better hold on tight, because you ride an airboard by lying on your stomach and vaulting yourself head-first down a snowy run. It's not going to be for everyone, but anyone who does try it, is going to be adventurous and filled with adrenalin! This might appeal to people who are keen on snowparks and looking to try something different from the usual freeriding snowboarding experiences at the resort.
Snow scooting is exactly how it sounds; it's a scooter without wheels and therefore perfect for skimming around on top of the snow. These are going to be great fun for the whole family and in particular for little kids to try out because they're easy to use, as long as you have some balance! Don't worry about other people, as there are designated areas for using the snow scooters, meaning you and your children will be perfectly safe. There's basically no risk of you being run into by a flyaway freeboarder or professional skier, but it is a popular activity in Cervinia so you should get yourself to the snow scooting area as quickly as you can.
You can also try some sledding to tobogganing at this part of the resort too, which is another great activity to do if you're travelling with very small kids. The fun never stops here because you don't have to hike all the way up to the top of the run - you can use a snowmobile instead and motor past everyone else as you go to start the ride all over again.