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Deserted skiing at half term - Fraser Wilkin, Madesimo
Thursday February 21, 2013 - Email this article to a friend

For some the half term week has crowded slopes, long lift queues and full restaurants. It need not be so. PlanetSKI reports from the Italian resort of Madesimo where one of our reporters has been for the half term break.

"It's half term, where the hell is everyone?" was my first reaction on arriving in Madesimo.

The scene was anything but what you'd expect from a peak February holiday week.

No queues, half empty slopes and almost no Brits which, if you ask me, is the ideal combination of circumstances on any ski holiday. Wink

It hasn't always been like this though.

Not so long ago most of the big names such as Inghams and Tui were operating here thanks to weekly charter flights into nearby Bergamo airport.

But the airport fell out of favour as the tour operators' priorities shifted to the more economic ski hubs such as Innsbruck, which serves many Italian as well as Austrian resorts, and Turin.

Today, Madesimo relies heavily on its weekend trade - it is the nearest serious resort to Italy's largest metropolis and the Milanese come in their thousands.

Despite this influx, the lift system copes admirably well - all but one of the chairs are fast and there are no surface lifts beyond the nursery slopes.

What's more, day trippers are encouraged to park down the valley and use the funicular to access the slopes.

This avoids any serious congestion in the village and helps preserve a pleasant low-key atmosphere.

Come Sunday evening, the place empties out again leaving the slopes blissfully un-crowded for the rest of the week, even during the so-called high season.

This makes Madesimo an ideal resort for families keen to avoid the crowds and the chaos usually associated with the busy half-term period.

Madesimo's ski area is not huge but it does pack in a lot of variety and is not without its challenges.

Good skiers will want to try the Canalone, an epic off-piste descent of more than 1000m.

Although not terrifyingly steep, it does offer a remarkably consistent gradient of just under 30% for most of its duration and is as much a test of stamina as it is of technique.

For most visitors, however, Madesimo is about cruising around a compact but wonderfully varied network of gentle pistes, stopping occasionally to gawp at the impressive high mountain scenery, before settling down to a delicious lunch in one of several very affordable restaurants.

Where in France or Switzerland could you order a decent bottle of red for just €12?

Where else would you also come across a 50ft bronze Madonna by the side of the piste?

Not your normal slopeside attractionNot your normal slopeside attraction














Yet this kind of eccentricity seems wholly appropriate in a resort that in many respects is a little off-beat.  

From the super-smart but distinctly out of place "Scandinavian" chalets in the centre of town to the fabulous but wildly kitsch Dogana Vegia restaurant, Madesimo is full of surprises.

Touch of Scandinavia in ItalyTouch of Scandinavia in Italy













There is also plenty to do off the slopes including ice-driving and snow-mobiling  with the "Extreme Team", one of the few outfits that will still let you drive yourself.

What is abundantly clear is that Madesimo offers genuine Italian hospitality and is a charming alternative for anyone wanting to escape the half-term circus that comes to many better known resorts.

What it lacks in size, is more than made up for in character.

I will be back.

Empty slopesEmpty slopes













Fact Box

Madesimo - Lombardy - Italy

Height: 1550m

Slopes: 1550-2945m

Pistes: 60km

Nearest airports: Milan Linate 138km Bergamo 119km

Momentum Ski offer a tailor-made packages with prices starting from £795 per person for 7 nights at the 4* Hotel Andossi based on two sharing, half board with return scheduled flights from London Heathrow to Milan and return private transfers. For a family of four prices start from £719 per person.

For more information visit  or call 020 7371 9111  

Fraser Wilkin runs the snow and weather web site

For the spirit of the mountains


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