If you love to ski or snowboard, you must include Madesimo on your list of destinations. It is located in the Alps, so your surroundings are spectacular and the lift ride up the mountain will truly take your breath away. Once at the top, you have a variety of slopes and hills to accommodate any skill level. Expert skiers will never be bored, as you can experience the same runs as in the races of the European Cup, in particular, the slaloms and the Giants.
Madesimo has been delighting skiers since the 19th Century, although its history dates back to the 1500s. Back then, it was better known for its mineral water, thought to have great healing properties. Also at that time, it was an important part of a trade route through the northern part of the San Giacomo Valley. Its original name was Isola (Island), due to its remote location; however the name was eventually changed to Madesimo (derived from the Latin word “amatissimus”).
Another interesting bit of cultural history is the story behind Madesimo’s main avenue of Via Carducci. Gesue’ Carducci was a very influential poet in the early 19th Century Italy and, in fact, was the first recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature and was an Italian Senator. His poems were inspired by the people and world around him, including Madesimo. This main thoroughfare was named in his honor.
Despite its rich historical value, the main reason that skiers the world over return to Madesimo year after year, is for its relaxed, friendly atmosphere. This small resort is perfect for families who enjoy skiing, entertainment, delicious food and comfortable accommodations.
Ski Area Map and Description
Truly a skier’s delight, Madesimo offers more than 60 km of ski tracks and downhill slopes and 25 km of trails for cross country skiing which is a part of an area that also includes Val di Lei, Motta and Montespluga. The season begins in November and since the town is located in a high altitude, snow is abundant throughout the season. On the chance that there are warmer days, the man made snow is undetectable to the skier’s eye. So the slopes are always ready to go. There are all levels of runs from beginners, to intermediates and experts. Snowboarders need not compete with the downhill crowd, as there is freshly packed snow in the nearby snow park of Acquarela. If you do not wish to ski, you can still enjoy this winter wonderland by sledding or ice skating or touring on a snowmobile.
Lifts and tickets
The ski resort is equipped with three gondolas and nine chair lifts, which traverse the mountain quickly and with plenty of room for a large number of skiers. So you’ll never have to worry about long lift lines. Tickets are available at the main departure area and can be purchased for the entire day, half day, a two day weekend, for six successive days. If you are really having a good time, they offer ticket packages that are good for the entire ski season! Adult prices start at 32 Euro for a single weekday pass and up to 176 Euro for the 6 day pass. Discounts are available for children and seniors. A suggestion: buy your tickets in advance to avoid waiting in line especially during the weekend. Do not forget that if you are a group of 4 or 5 people going to Madesimo with the same car, you can ask for the “Ecoskipass” which rewards you with discounts for being eco friendly by traveling in groups!
First time skiers need not feel intimidated! There are ski schools and beginner slopes at one end of the village. And when you feel ready to ski down a run, the longer blue runs are equally beautiful and can be easily reached either by chair or drag lifts.
Intermediate skiers know that often it is hard to find just the right level of slopes to match their experience. Not so here! You have your choice of more than 60 km of runs and just as many red as blue. So no matter how you feel on any given day, you can feel like an expert without over challenging yourself.
The “Canalone” track is a skilled skier’s dream! With its 2.5 km run and a start to finish drop in altitude of almost 1000 meters (3000 Feet), it is considered one of the most beautiful and challenging trails in the entire Alps. For those who are not truly skilled skiers, you might want to think twice before trying this run; its challenging, steep, and “off Track” terrain offers an amazing opportunity to enjoy the fresh powder snow and a unique mountain drop (the deepest in all of Europe) while skiing and snowboarding.
Most ski lovers enjoy the thrill of night skiing and none is more elegant and charming as in Madesimo. Starting from the Christmas holiday season up until late March, the resort offers one or two tracks that are open till 10.30 pm. Tickets are available at the main gate.
Imagine how travelers in centuries past traversed the Alps? No doubt, their journey included cross-country skiing through the peaceful Madesimo landscape. In addition to downhill skiing, try cross-country skiing along a circular 5 km route located in the valley.
Only for snowboarding
Snowboarders have a style that is all their own and they will find everything for perfect snowboarding at Madesimo’s snowpark, located at 1800m on Aquerela. There you will have access to three jumps, a rainbow rail, box and four additional rails. The pipe is 130 meters (390 Ft) long, 20 meters (60 Ft) wide and 4.5 meters (15 Ft) high. For those who prefer to snowboard, there are highly elevated powder fields below the 2,948 meter peak of Pizzo Groppera and Val Di Lei on the border with Switzerland, as well as the natural hits along the trail edges as they descend below the tree line.
Excursions with snowshoes and snow mobiles
Some snow lovers like to enjoy the white powder under their feet, rather than on skis. Madesimo offers a snowshoe trail among the breathtaking woods in the surrounding area that beginners and experts alike will enjoy. The difference in altitude is only 200 meters (660 Ft) and snowshoes can be rented in the city center.
If you would prefer, you can join a guided excursion on a snowmobile and explore along many kilometers of tracks, which have been especially prepared for tourists. Your drive could eventually reach an altitude of 2100 meters (6930 Ft) and the Splugen Pass. Or you can take a night excursion to one of the several alpine refuges where you can enjoy a delicious dinner and admire the fantastic views of the surrounding mountains.
Take a side trip to Chiavenna, which is only a 40 minutes drive from Madesimo and filled with history and charm.
Some of the “not to miss” sites include The Bottonera Mill. This Mill was a staple to the economic growth of the area. It is is a turbine mill that is powered by a waterfall. It’s history goes back to 1868 and the craftsmen manufacture a variety of products, including pasta, paper, cotton and also a brewery.
No trip to Italy would be complete without engrossing yourself in the historical artifacts of medieval times. The Treasure Museum holds an ample supply of rare church ornaments, vestments, jewelry, and statues dating as far back as the 11th century.
The Collegiate Church of Saint Lawrence is connected to The Treasue Museum and is one of the most prestigious buildings in the area. The church itself was built in the 5th century, but expanded to accommodate grand processions through the town. Its baptistry was built in the 12th century from a single block of soapstone. It’s beauty is worth the trip unto itself.
While skiing is the main fitness activity that most people enjoy in Madesimo, there are other options for those who are snow bunnies. Visit Bar Centro Sportivo, a sports center that offers a wide variety of activities. Start with a fully equipped fitness center and outdoor ice skating. Or, if you are more adventurous, you’ll find indoor and outdoor climbing walls. Join a pick up football pitch, volleyball or basketball game or schedule tennis time. Whatever the sport, there is something for everyone, all within walking distance of the slopes.
Spas and well being
If you want to relax after the day on the slopes, enjoy the many wonderful spa and wellness centers located in most Madesimo hotels. They offer wonderful massages, body peelings and relaxing face treatments. After a full day of skiing, you can also relax in a Roman or Turkish bath. And the indoor pools, saunas and jacuzzis use the sources of natural mineral waters that have made Madesimo famous.
Restaurants, bars and nightlife
After a long day on the slopes, you are sure to be hungry, or simply looking for some evening fun in town. Madesimo has a few bars or disco pubs where one can enjoy a nice drink or dance the night away, and famous restaurants that offer many delicious specialties of the local cuisine.
The local micro-brews from Valchiavenna are a good place to start. You’ll find them at places like the Shamrock Pub, the Tender disco bar, and the Extreme Centre Video Bar to name a few. You’ll find that they are fairly quiet for an après ski visit during the week and the atmosphere is even more lively on the weekends when crowds visit from nearby Milan.
As with most things Italian, familiar culinary delicacies come from local regions. In Madesimo, you can find a variety of cheeses, from a unique smoked cheese to Valchiavenna’s Casera, which is an historic cheese only made in this area. It has a variable color depending on its maturity and a sweet taste that gets stronger with age. Another local (near by valley: Valtellina) cheese is Bitto, which has a very unique bitter taste.
Aside from cheeses, other delicacies that have a “protected geographical indication” are Bresaola Affumicata, which is a dry cold meat that is lean and rich in protein, mineral salts, and iron and the “Violin” of Goat of the Valchiavenna, which is a Montain Goat ham with a particularly unique flavor.
Need to satisfy your sweet tooth? Try the “Biscotti di Prosto”, a simple biscuit made of flour, butter and sugar. Or the “Oss De Mort” (Bones of death), a light and crispy biscuit.
And who could forget the local wines! Here you will find Chiavennasca, which comes from nebbiolo grapes. It is said to be a very meditative wine. This wine is an aged with a wonderful fragrance, and Vertemate, which is a blend of Riesling and Traminer grapes making it a delicious dessert wine.
Festivals and Events
The Holiday spirit can be felt in Madesimo during several events and celebrations taking place during December and through the Epiphany. Christmas markets, torchlight processions, and firework displays are some of the celebrations occurring which both locals and tourists can enjoy during the Christmas holidays.
“Christmas Shopping in Madesimo” is the town’s own version of the Christmas markets. Through several weekends during December, and every day from Christmas week through January 6, the traditional wooden houses of the Alpine markets decorate the Bertacchi Square for an event offering a truly unique and magic atmosphere. The sounds of Christmas music, games and art workshops for the children, the smell of roasted chestnuts plus lots of other delicious foods, and most specially appearances by Santa Claus are part of the entertainment that brings in the Christmas cheer.
“The Fiaccolata della Scuola Sci Madesimo Vallespluga” or Torchlight of the Skiing School of Madesimo is another wonderful event to experience if you are lucky to be in Madesimo near the New Year. This traditional event usually takes place after Christmas and up to the Epiphany, in which a procession on skis led by the teaching staff from the Madesimo Ski School and members of the Madesimo Skier’s Circle, descend from a slope holding torch lights. The night spectacle can be admired from the city in the form of a serpent of light. Vin Brule’ (Heated wine with spices and citrus cest) and music is available to keep the town’s crowds warm and entertained. A show of fireworks also takes place after the Fiaccolata.
Tour delle Alpi
The Tour delle Alpi (Tour of the Alps) offers ski fanatics the possibility to test drive on the snow the skis produced by Head and other partnership companies in order to promote their products. The event is composed of 15 phases taking place from November through March on several of the Alp’s main ski resorts. Eighteen ski competitions such as the Helvetia Trophy, Radio Number One Trophy and the Helvetia Winter Passion will take place during six of the 15 phases. The tour’s stop in Madesimo takes place on February.
Madesimo Freeride Festival
If you are planning your trip for early spring, you won’t want to miss the Madesimo Freeride Festival, taking place in March. The festival is dedicated to freeride, but also to safety, technique of skiing steep, workshops, introductory courses and many other activities. The entire town gets together for a photo contest for participants and fans.
Location and Elevation
Madesimo is a municipality in the northern part of the Lombardy region, located at an altitude of 1550 meters ( 5,085 Ft) at the top of the Spluga Valley, about 110 km (72 Miles) north of Milan and about 50 km (32 Miles) northwest of Sondrio, on the border with Switzerland.
Resort Altitude: 5085 feet or 1550 meters
Highest lift: 9842 feet or 3000 meters
Vertical drop: 4757 feet or 1450 meters
Snow and Weather
The snow season begins in November and, due to its high altitude, remains covered through most of the season, through late spring. There are plenty of snowmaking cannons throughout the 75 slopes in the resort.
Almost all hotels are within walking distance to the ski lifts. The beautiful ski slopes are of good quality and the descent down Canalone is one of the most amazing black runs in Italy and in Europe. The newly built ski lifts guarantee access to all the runs directly from the village. The majority of red ski slopes are difficult and the blue ones are steep enough to offer a challenge to every level of skiing.
Ski and snowboard schools
When it comes to ski schools, it doesn’t get much better than in Madesimo, which opened its first school in 1934. Their large group of professional ski and snowboard instructors can accommodate any level of skier and are fluent in English, French and German. The school is centrally located both in Madesimo and Alpe Motta and has a school camp on the Arlecchino slope. Private lessons start at 35 Euro and group classes are 100 Euro for 5 days (10 hours).
Many who travel to ski resorts choose to rent skis and you can rest assured that in Madesimo, you will find everything you need at most ski shops for ski, snowboard, freeride, bob, and snow racquet excursions. If you’d like to book your equipment ahead of time, you can do so online.
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