The Changing Face of Madonna di Campiglio

In December 2011 a dream became a reality when the Pinzolo Campiglio Express slid open its doors for the first time. I remember when it used to take forty minutes to drive through the centre of Madonna di Campiglio to the Grosté cabin lift on the far side; two two-seater chair lifts ground their way to the top of Grosté side by side, each as slow as the other; a pylon in the middle of the piste had to be negotiated on the way down to Marilleva and Folgarida and a large blue and yellow cable car took skiers, fifty at a time, to the top of Cinque Laghi.

Despite the well-linked runs and the fact I could access all the slopes from the nearest lift, Spinale, sometimes it was necessary to go directly to the nursery slopes at Campo Carlo Magno beyond Grosté. There was only one road through the town and everyone was trying to fight their way through the traffic to one of five main lifts that descended into the town strung along the valley.

When the Galleria, a long tunnel that by-passed the town, was opened the journey to Grosté took a mere ten minutes. Ski buses could keep to their timetables and skiers could move freely round the resort during the day and stroll along the pedestrianised main street during the evening.

The old-fashioned metal chair lifts were gradually replaced by four and six-seater padded chairs with covers to shield skiers from inclement weather and finally the Cinque Laghi cable car gave way to a cabin lift. I was sad to see it go because it meant there was now a steady stream of passengers to the top whereas before there was a fifteen minute gap between the arrival of a cable car and a few minutes’ wait was rewarded by an empty piste. The addition of a new run at the summit has now eased the increasing pressure.

As these changes were taking place my own skiing was improving and I had progressed from the long easy blue runs through the interesting reds to the beginners’ blacks and finally the true blacks, Miramonti and Amazzonia with the occasional heart-stopping dash down the steepest run, Direttissima. I was ready to move on from the beautifully groomed tree-lined slopes of Madonna di Campiglio to new challenges. Marilleva and Folgarida, both linked by a red run to Campiglio offered more variety and I often made my way there to practise on the two long black pistes, one in each resort.

When I was ready to widen my skiing experience I began to look further afield and turned my attention to Pinzolo, twenty minutes on the public bus down the mountain. The ski bus brought skiers up to Campiglio from Pinzolo and took them back in the evening but for some reason I never fathomed it did not take skiers down to Pinzolo from Campiglio. When I finally got round to dragging myself and my skis to the nearest bus stop it was so worth the effort that it became a regular feature of my stays in Campiglio. The slopes, mostly red, were carved out of a different terrain and some of the reds would have been designated black in Campiglio. Two good blacks gave me the adrenalin buzz I was seeking and when Dolomitica Star was opened in December 2010 I was ready to sweep down this long, steep black from the summit, Doss del Sabion, to the bottom of the new cabin lift, Tulot, in Carisolo.

In December 2011 a new cabin lift will open and the slopes of Pinzolo will be a sixteen minute journey away on the Pinzolo Campiglio Express. This three-stage lift will have a station on the roof at the entrance to the Galleria. The building below will house all the emergency services a medical centre and a multi-story car park. The cabin lift continues from the Galleria (Colarin station) to the slopes on Cinque Laghi from where it is possible to ski all the runs in Campiglio and to get across to Marilleva and Folgarida.

I will be going the other way, to Pinzolo, going down the valley, passing through the station at Plaza and then ascending to Pinzolo where it will arrive at the bottom of the Brenta chair lift. This chair lift goes to the top of the Brenta run and also the top of a blue run from which the whole resort can be skied.

So Campiglio is changing again. Skiers will be able to access the slopes without entering the town. Vehicles can be parked in the new multi-story car park at the entrance to the Galleria, ski passes can be purchased at the new ticket office, drinks will be available at the bar and skis can be stored there at the end of the day.

Behind this sophisticated veneer of modern technology the chic, Italian resort remains intact, although after many years of being considered exclusively Italian it is developing into a modern, cosmopolitan ski area as it embraces different nationalities. Nevertheless, the charm of this pretty town, overlooked by the stunning Brenta Dolomite Mountains, continues to delight its visitors. Have they managed to combine the best of both worlds? Time will tell.

Author: Valery Collins, © 2013