Solidal torch procession on the snowy peaks of Val d'Aosta
Pila: skiing in a winter wonderland
A relaxing weekend in the mountain
by Chiara Assi
I am a mountain lover: my heart and soul both swell with joy when I set my eyes over high peaks and snowy summits, so I’m always excited when I get to explore a new ski resort. Although I had been to Val d’Aosta before, I had never been to Pila before last weekend, but I am now planning to go back there as soon as possible, as it’s a relaxing, fun and beautiful place only 2 hours away by car from home… what else could I ask for?
Getting to Pila is easy: you can either drive all the way up to the resort, or you can arrive by train and take the gondola that connects Aosta to the ski resort, bringing people up from the city in less than 20 minutes.
I opted for the latter – I love a slow ascent to the top – and once up, the first thing I noticed was the incredible silence and the crisp cold air one can only find in the mountains at dusk: to make a long story short, it was love at first sight. If it weren’t for the fact that the thermometer was reading -9 C, I would have stayed and watched sunset, but my feet were getting cold, so I decided to head over to the hotel, only a few yards away from the gondola station.
Hotel La Chance is a wonderful pick for your stay in Pila, and not only because of its location: recently renovated by its young owners, a brother and sister team, La Chance is warm and welcoming with beautiful wooden furnishing and a sitting room with a large fireplace – perfect for relaxing after a day of skiing. What is also great for relaxing is the spa housed in the basement of the hotel: with a sauna, a steam bath and a Jacuzzi tub you can truly unwind or take care of your sore muscles.
Of course the main activity in a winter wonderland such as Pila is skiing: the resort offers 70 kilometers of slopes that vary in length and difficulty, making it ideal for all kinds of skiers. The highlight of a day on the slopes in this area are the stunning views of the Alps one can admire from pretty much everywhere: the Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn are both within sight, as are several other beautiful snowy peaks.
Not a skier? Not a problem! Those who don’t ski can have their fun as well, as Pila features lovely paths designed for snow shoeing – the ideal activity to work up an appetite!
Gastronomy is another winning point in the area: if you are not familiar with Val d’Aosta’s traditional cuisine you are in for treat, as it features amazing dishes prepared with fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Fontina cheese is the base for many delicious recipes: it is often melted and served with polenta, but it is also used to prepare think and rich soups such as the incredible zuppa valpellinese, a wonderful mix of stale bread, cabbage, rich broth and, of course, gooey cheese.
Pila has a lively restaurant scene and you will find different places for different tastes.
Yeti, located just next to the arrival of the gondola that links Aosta with Pila, is a typical mountain hut with a warm atmosphere and an incredibly knowledgeable sommelier: I absolutely loved their handmade tagliolini with deer ragout, as well as their gnocchi with perfectly melted fontina – all of it accompanied by lovely local wines. For a more rustic experience, Lo Baoutson is directly on the slopes and serves an incredible polenta with all the fixings: cheese, stewed sausages in tomato sauce, and stewed beef, as well as great charcuterie boards that are perfect for sharing. Another awesome option on the slopes is Maison de Jean, where you can try the above mentioned zuppa valpellinese and other hearty local favorites with good wine and a great dessert selection. Last but not least, for a more refined meal you can head over to Société Anonyme de Consommation, where I had a risotto with local blue cheese and caramelized pears I’ll be dreaming of for a long time!
All in all, Pila is the perfect place for a weekend in the mountains if you want to unwind, relax, enjoy great food and have fun surrounded by some of the most beautiful mountains in Europe. I know I’m already looking forward to my next trip on the slopes of Pila… what about you?