Casa dell'Ava

Winter holidays and skiing from Casa dell’Ava

Self-catered or catered chalet for six people

Why not stay in an authentic alpine village this year, rather than a purpose built resort? Casa dell’Ava is part of a medieval Italian village, where you can ski in St Moritz and Madesimo, enjoy great Italian food, and spectacular walks

The area has some of the most dramatic granite mountains in the Alps. From nearby Soglio you can see the north face of Pizzo Cengalo (a sheer granite wall over a kilometer high), the famous Piz Badile (where mountaineering legend Cassin pioneered routes) and the spires of the Sciora peaks.

Good eating - there are an abundance of fine restaurants, mountain refuges and ‘crotti’ (the famous cave restaurants of the area). We are self-catering, but if you want food, we serve real Italian home cooking for an additional £540/week (Mari is a great cook and speaks good English)

The chalet has been completely restored this year, but reflects the original style of the 300 year old house. You’ll find three foot thick stone walls and a granite staircase, cupboards tucked into niches in the wall with old doors and giant iron keys… The house is good for families with a washing machine and dishwasher, a cot, a high chair, games and puzzles, and a CD player.

We meet standards in responsible tourism with heating and electricity provided by recycled paper and hydroelectricity! We donate 5% of our income to Orobie National Park - one of four nature reserves covering 2000Km2 of mountains in our area.

Highlights

Here are some suggestions of what to do:

Winter/Spring - 1 week

  • 2/3 days skiing at Madesimo and a day in St Moritz
  • A day exploring Pianazzola and Chiavenna, walking up to Crotto Belvedere for lunch in a 'cave restaurant' in front of their roaring fire
  • A wintery walk past the ice falls of Val Febbraro
  • A visit to the wildlife observation centre in Orobie National Park
  • A horse-drawn sleigh ride from Sils up the beautiful Fex valley
  • Lunch in Soglio (CH) and a walk up the dizzy granite peaks in Val Bondasca
  • A day on Lake Como - wander through the narrow streets of Varenna, before having a lakeside pizza

Winter/Spring - 2 weeks. The ideas above plus

  • Back to the ski slopes for a day or two
  • Walk up the spectacular gorge to Codera, staying overnight in the rifugio. Spend the evening drinking wine and roasting chestnuts on the fire using their special chestnut pan
  • Unwind for a day at the famous spa complex at Scuol
  • Curl up on the sofa in front of our wood burning stove and catch up on all those books you wanted to read. Nip down for a swim and a sauna in the afternoon in Chiavenna, before a meal at the excellent Trattoria Uomo Selvatico
  • Visit Val di Mello to see if you agree that it looks like Yosemite National Park

Skiing

You have the choice of skiing in two resorts from the house Madesimo in Italy and St Moritz in Switzerland. You can also ski in Davos, but we'd recommend that you stay overnight there if you went for the weekend.

Madesimo

Madesimo (1500-3000m) is a good resort for family skiing - it has 60Km of cruisey wide pistes, and a nice mixture of about 50% higher mountain runs and 50% tree-lined runs. They replaced nearly all the lifts in 2004 and fitted the latest four-and six-man covered 'fast' chairs, and we've found we've never had to queue much. In true Italian style eating is taken seriously, and there are plenty of places to take a break on the mountain as well as in Madesimo itself (which has a pretty centre near the church). For a challenge try the off-piste bowl at the top of the mountain - the 'canalone' or drop off the back of Pizzo Groppera into the Val di Lei and try the itinerary over to Fraciscio (1341m) for lunch at Ristorante La Genzianella (tel +39 0343 50154). You'll need to take a taxi back (+39 0343 51144).

Getting to Madesimo takes about 20 mins from Chiavenna. Catch the funicular railway "the sky express" from Campoldolcino.

Madesimo also has all the usual facilities you would expect - there are ski schools (+39 0343 53049) a childrens ski area to the north of the resort centre, plenty of ski rental shops, a sports centre with a jacuzzi and sauna, or more up-market 'wellness' centres in Il Boscone (+39 0343 53628) or Lady T (+39 0343 56120). The Alpine Guide Association (+39 0343 33234) will take you off-piste skiing, telemark skiing, ski-mountaineering, on snow-shoe excursions or ice climbing. There are three cross country ski tracks and more routes through the valley for skidoos (+39 0343 56222).

For more info on Madesimo and snow webcams check out the SkiClub website.

There are some beautiful winter walks on the snow near Madesimo. Our favourite ones are:

  • Val Febbraro from Isola. This is a stunning but cold walk up a sweet little valley surrounded by some spectacular ice falls. Park at Isola and follow the snow-covered road past some wooden cabins and along the bottom of the valley. The track isn't prepared and you may want snow shoes or welly boots
  • Up the valley from Campodolcino. From the car park at the bottom of the 'Sky Express', follow the cross country track up the valley to Isola.
  • Wanders from Fracisco. From this pretty alpine village you have a choice of two nice walks - one up the valley towards Passo Angeloga and another following the cross country track at Mottala. The cross country track doesn't need any special footware, but you may want boots or snow shoes if you head up to Passo Angeloga. Afterwards have lunch at Ristorante La Genzianella (tel +39 0343 50154)

St Moritz

St Moritz is one of the most famous ski resorts in the world, and 45mins from Chiavenna by car. We go there for the day.

The "first home of winter sports in the Alps" has been an important spa town since the Middle Ages. As long ago as 1519, Pope Leo X was offering full absolution for every Christian who visited the healing mineral springs. Now, the brand name, synonymous with wealth and high-living, is protected by trademark in 50 countries around the world.

The reliable weather in Engadina brought summer visitors, but it wasn't until 1864 that hotelier Johannes Badrutt hit upon the idea of a creating a winter season. That September he overheard four Englishmen lamenting the fact that they must soon return to London for the winter and would be back again the following July. He suggested they returned in January and wagered that if they experienced fewer sunny days in winter than in summer he would pay for their accommodation. Johannes was on a statistical winner - and the rest is history.

There is plenty of info on St Moritz on the internet and we recommend you look at The SkiClub for more info, webcams etc. The skiing is fantastic - there are 350km of pistes.

Family Winter Holidays

There’s a lot to do at Casa dell’Ava in the winter. Here are some ideas..

  • Stay at home and curl up infront of a nice fire! There are games and puzzles to keep you going
  • Take a horse-drawn sleigh ride. Sils is the nearest village of the St Moritz ski area, and a beautiful spot in its own right between two big snow covered lakes. The streets are pretty and we’re rather fond of the coffee shops there! The sleigh rides start in the middle of town and take you up the beautiful Fex Valley (a nature reserve) where you can stop for lunch at the end in Hotel Fex or walk back in the snow along the pisted trails.
  • Winter walks. The winter is a lovely time to walk here, with snowy mountains and sunshine on the south facing slopes around our village. You normally only find snow above 1000m, and all the walks we have listed are below 1000m, so they make good winter walks too - you don’t need specialist equipment. The rifgios at Savogno and Codera and all the ‘crotti’ cave restaurants are also open (ring them in advance) so you can stop there for lunch and warm up infront of the fire
  • Go cross-country skiing at Sils. With two beautiful snow covered lakes, cross-country skiing at Sils is a bit of a religion. You’ll find a steady stream of Swiss and Italians making their way around it and admiring the really tremendous views up the Engadine valley. Don’t worry about getting lessons, its easy. Just hire some skis and go!
  • Swimming pool and ice rink. The Chiavenna sports centre has both, and the swimming pool has a childrens pool (tel: +39 0343 31882). Stop in at Crotto Quartino next door for lunch or supper afterwards
  • Lake Como. Nip down to Lake Como for a lake-side pizza lunch. Varenna is one of our favouite spots (45mins from Chiavanna)
  • Museums and visits to mountain villages like Soglio. Check out historic spots, like Soglio, Palazzo Vertemate, the Molino di Bottonera industrial museum
  • The spa at Scuol. Despite a 1hour 40min drive, the world famous spa at Scoul in Switzerland is a good day out. It is a major spa complex and you can spend hours exploring all the different pools and rooms. Check out their website for info on their wellness and therapy centre. The pretty streets of Scuol are worth a wander, and a good way to cool off! The spa is child friendly with currents and waterfalls and bubbles in the outdoor pool. And for serious spa goers the Roman Irish baths are a separate nude! spa complex, with a ‘two hour cycle’ of baths and treatments

Ski Mountaineering

The area from Madesimo to Passo Maloja in Engardina is a major centre for ski-mountaineering. If this is your thing then you can spend years here exploring the mountains and skiing off-piste in remote valleys. The Eagle ski Club (the largest ski-mountaineering club in the UK) was founded at Passo Maloja in 1925.

The best guidebooks to the area are Itinerari di scialpinismo in Valchiavenna e in Valtellina, A. Boscacci and Scialpinismo nelle Orobie. 80 itinerari.

Ice Climbing

There are a lot of ice falls in the area, and Casa dell’Ava makes an excellent base for a climbing holiday. Local Climber Mario Sertori has a good website and guidebook. There are hundreds of ice falls in the region: in particular three main areas

  • San Giacomo (15mins drive) There are 40 falls in this valley, on the way to Madesimo. Val Febbraro is particularly lovely, with 11 ice falls close to the road
  • Albigna / Val Bondasca (30mins drive)
  • Val Masino (1 hours drive). The dramatic granite walls of Val di Mello have some of the hardest routes in the area