Winter Weekend: Hiking and Skiing in Valtellina

Last minute is kind of my thing, perhaps it’s a lack of organisation, and so I got around to planning new year’s eve a little on the late side, one week before to be precise. I took a little inspo from Zoe’s new years eve post and settled on a wintery weekend in the mountains. New year’s eve itself was spent in Milan before heading up to the mountains in the morning on the first day of the year (and decade), there’s nothing quite like the crisp mountain air to refresh, reflect and reset for the year ahead. Skiing was top of the agenda, however I was also keen to try some snowshoe hiking for the first time.

We based ourselves close to Sondrio in the Valtellina valley of northern Lombardy, a couple of hours drive from Milan and planned our skiing in Valmalenco, a small ski resort nearby. Luckily the weather was on our side when we hit the slopes, the sun was shining and so were able to enjoy all of the runs. It was perfect for a day’s skiing with a nice mix of easy and intermediate slopes, as well as a few trickier options. The slopes are very picturesque, with beautiful views across the valley and runs meandering down through the woods.

One of the best things about skiing in Italy, or staying in the Italian mountains, is the food! Simple but delicious as Italian cooking tends to be, accentuating the quality of the ingredients, we were spoilt for choice even on the pistes. That said, the best time to ski is during lunch time when the slopes are a little less crowded due to the majority of skiers settling down to a hearty polenta-based lunch, along with a glass of wine, naturally.

Skiing in Valmalenco, Valtellina, Italy
Skiing in Valmalenco, Valtellina, Italy
Skiing in Valmalenco, Valtellina, Italy.

Snowshoes were on the agenda for day 2. Having picked a hike in Valmalenco, just across the valley from the pistes, we found a designated parking area for the Ca Runcasch refuge and followed the snow covered path through woods and up towards it. The mountain peaks jutted out against the sky and upon emerging from the woods we were greeted with beautiful snowy fields. The sky was heavy and white, the same colour as the snow, creating a bleak but atmospheric hike.

Valmalenco. winter hiking in Valtellina, Italy.

We then diverted from this path, favouring the route to rifugio Cristina. The path was uphill and through the trees once more, bringing us to snowy fields and endless mountain tops. Continuing along we finally arrived to a gathering of small houses blanketed in snow, a little church perched against the mountainside, and rifugio Cristina. After stopping at the refuge for a hot chocolate and genepi (traditional herbal liqueur), we made our way back out into the endless white.

Snowshoe winter hiking in valtellina. Valmalenco, Italy.
Rifugio Cristina. Winter hiking in Valtellina, Italy. Valmalenco.
Rifugio Cristina. Winter hiking in valtellina, Italy.

The path towards rifugio Zoia wasn’t well marked at this point and so we followed it on the Oruxmaps app that we used to track the hike. You can instead take a slight variant of the route which is clearly marked, this version starts and ends at rifugio Zoia, you can find a carpark directly by the refuge. The path took us over snowy hills and then into another woods to finish the descent, walking past climbing crags shimmering with icicles, the chalk still marking the rock from the distant memories of autumn. I had hiked the last part of the path in the summer, going up to Monte Spondascia, and remember seeing the snowshoe signs dotted around at the time. Hiking the same path in both the summer and the winter gave the opportunity to note the changes in the landscape, from green foliage to fluffy snow, bare trees and stark rock, the only thing unchanging was its charm, adapting to fit the seasons.

winter hiking in Valtellina, Italy. Chiesa in Valmalenco.
winter hiking in valtellina, Italy. Rifugio Cristina.
snowshoe winter hiking in valtellina, lombardy, Italy.
snowshoe winter hike, valtellina in lombardy. Italy.
Dighe di campo moro. Valtellina. Snow hike.

We finished our hike at Rifugio Zoia where we indulged in pizzoccheri (a local pasta with cheese, potato and cabbage, which is highly recommended) and polenta. The refuge is modern and welcoming, it’s also a good option for accommodation, particularly for groups. After relaxing for a little we headed back along the road to where the car was parked and then on to Milan.

Rifugio Zoia, Valtellina
Rifugio Zoia

I hope this gives a little inspo for a wintery weekend away.

Emily x x

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