Cogne, in Valle d'Aosta, is considered a paradise for Nordic skiing. It is an area with 80 km of tracks, that can satisfy cross-country ski enthusiasts of all levels. On Sunday, we went to test its slopes.
Cross-country skiing: Cogne, Valle d'Aosta - the Nordic ski paradise
Cogne lies in a pleasantly sunny basin, in the heart of the Gran Paradiso National Park, and is a place where you can spend beautiful and relaxing days, both in summer and in winter. It is one of the few places in the mountains where the crowds and clamor of downhill skiing stay far away. There are, in fact, few ski lifts that do not attract large numbers of people.
In winter, however, Cogne has been the realm of cross-country skiing since ancient times, and where national and international competitions are often held. Here, in February, the Gran Paradiso Marcia (cross country skiing competion) also takes place.
The tracks develop both around the village center (1534 m a.s.l.) and between the various hamlets of the Municipality, and range from 1452 m a.s.l. of Epinel, the lowest locality, to 1666 meters of Valnontey, the highest point.
If you want to go cross-country skiing starting from the village center, it is better to park near the cemetery (Bus Park), as we did. Cross the road, and then access the tracks.
The central area of the tracks, with the ski school, is right in front of the village, in Sant'Orso's lawn (see our map, below). Here, there is a flat area, perfect for taking your first steps, perhaps guided by a good ski instructor.
From here, the various routes start, some of which remain in Sant'Orso's lawn, and others which, instead, enter the valleys. Basically, from this point of view, there are three main options: the tracks that head towards Valnontey; those that develop towards Lilaz; those that go down to Cretaz, and Epinel. From Epinel, you can also go skiing without having to get to Cogne, reaching the valley from Aosta, in a single day trip. But bear in mind, in this case, that the difference in altitude for cross-country skiing is important, and requires training and leg, unless you stay around Epinel!
As a first taste of Cogne tracks, we stayed on the blue and red slopes that develop in the meadows of Sant'Orso. On a future occasion, perhaps we will venture into Valnontey or towards Lilaz, since those tracks seem very interesting.
So, in our test, leaving the school camp, we headed towards Valnontey, but at the mouth of the valley, at an altitude of 1570 metres, and after 1.5 km from the start, we followed the track that leads back towards the village. Already climbing up to here is not trivial, even if technically not demanding. Descending again towards the village, the tracks leads to a wide serpentine, with a long and enjoyable descent (which takes you back to 1545 metres); a further and not short uphill follows, which leads again to about 1570 meters, near the carriage road for Valnontey. Nothing difficult, but not even within the reach of beginners, or people without training, who are better to stay around the school camp. The panorama here is very open, and there are no stretches in the woods (for which, instead, you have to go into the valleys). Having reached this new peak, you dive into another amazing descent, which takes you back to the starting point. We advise you to ski up the bridge near the stands, and then go down from it to access the slopes that lead to Epinel and Cretaz (technical but fun section).
From here, you still have the possibility of making wide serpentines in Sant'Orso's fields, until you arrive at a crossroads (5 km from the start, and 1533 meters above sea level), where you have to make a decision: go back and up to the starting point, or descend towards Cretaz, and Epinel. Still having the skiing of Splugen from the day before in our legs (read the article), and wanting to have a relaxing day, we returned to the starting point, where we ended our skiing after abundant 6 kms.
As general considerations, we point out that the easiest tracks and without too many gradients (see track map) are those that develop in the immediate vicinity of the villages. As soon as you leave these areas, the tracks are not flat, and therefore you have to take into account some uphill and downhill runs, even quite long ones. This can add some spice and variety to your skiing, but be aware that you need to be equipped with adequate training and technique to tackle these courses.
The snow conditions, in December 2021, were not optimal, everywhere along the tracks. The school camp area is covered with artificial snow cannons, and the tracks there have shown no problems. The descents towards Cretaz had several uncovered points, which required a minimum of attention, to avoid getting hurt or damaging the skis. In some places, the grooming conditions of the slopes were not perfect (probably, the tracks are not groomed every day).
The day pass (2021 prices) costs 9 euros, and can be bought in the kiosk, at the school camp.
Finally, at the Foyer de Fond, c/o the Maison de la Grivola, you have at your disposal:
- equipment rental
- locker rooms
- waxing room
Useful site for various information: https://www.cogneturismo.it/
Happy skiing. Fabio Muriano