Splugen, in Grisons, Switzerland, is a locality at 1475 meters above sea level, located just north of the tunnel (or pass) of San Bernardino. It offers almost 40 km of cross-country ski trails, which we decided to go and try last Saturday.
Cross-country skiing: Splugen, Grisons, Switzerland. Snow guaranteed!
The San Bernardino is one of the many tunnels that connects the regions north of the Alps with those in the south; they are two climatically very different worlds. However, the tunnel makes access to the world beyond, to the north of the Alps, quick and easy for us who are in the south.
Having the convenient sticker of the Swiss motorways, it is possible to reach Splugen in just about two hours from Milan, and even less from the Italian towns closest to the border. Moreover, the road is simple and comfortable, as, having passed the border in Chiasso, you always drive on the motorway.
Before the San Bernardino Tunnel, there is the homonymous locality where it is also possible to practice Nordic skiing (read our review on the ski trails of San Bernardino). However, the latter, being located on the southern slope of the pass, benefits from better temperature conditions, which however penalize the snow conditions. On the occasion of our trip on Saturday 18 December 2021, it was 9 degrees on the southern side of the tunnel, and the cross-country trails open were only very short.
For this, we decided to go to Splugen-Rheinwald. And, in fact, once we went through the tunnel, on the other side there were very different conditions waiting for us: -9 °C, and snow everywhere, both in the valley bottom and on the slopes; not so much (about 40 cm), but perfectly intact, thanks to the more rigid climatic conditions.
To begin our skiing, we took the exit the A13 at Splugen, and passed the center of the town; then, we went to via Allmende (see our map below), following the signs for the cross-country trails, and the relative parking. Via Allmende ends at the entrance to the "Auf dem Sand" campsite. Just before, on the left you have several parking spaces which are the most convenient for accessing the trails. Not having found a place here, we went to park in the large parking lot near the river (a young Reno!), near the Nicca body shop (see our map). Even from here, you can put on your skis early and quickly access the tracks, along a short straight stretch along the river, which leads to the main connecting square for the various tracks (see "Langlaufzentrum" on our Google map). If you wish, you could also park near the Tambo cableway (which leads to the alpine skis slopes), near which the cross-country trails also pass. But the latter car park usually fills up quickly.
From the cross-country center square, you have several possibilities (see tracks map).
As you can see from our track, we took trail number 1, and headed first of all towards Nufenen (from where you can also start skiing, and which is even closer to the tunnel). This route is easy and presents no technical difficulties. It winds through the woods, winding along the river, with the possibility, of course, of both skiing with the classic technique and skating. The only sore point is that this track is entirely in the shade (see our slidegallery), at least in December, and it gets quite cold. So, before taking it, warm up a bit, and maybe even drink some hot tea. This aspect also affects the type of snow you ski on (very cold), and the most appropriate waxing if you practice skating (see end of article).
As mentioned, the track reaches Nufenen. After about 3 km, we took advantage of one of the junctions and decided to go back towards Splugen. We then took track 2, which passes near the cable car, and then returned to the starting square. So far, the track does not lead to significant ascents or descents. It develops substantially on a flat level, at altitudes around 1470-1490 meters above sea level.
After having eaten something, for a moment, we decided to go skiing in the sun! And what a difference!
From the square, crossing the road, you can go to the north side of the valley (oriented ENE-WSW), which obviously has a southern exposure. A first route, almost flat (track 4), can allow you to warm up in all senses, and can be a valid alternative for beginners. Instead, we took the wide, sunny and long climbing track, which, with a decisive and constant slope, but not extreme, takes you towards Medels. It's a sweat, but, in this case, it can be nice!
Having reached the maximum altitude of 1525 m a.s.l., just below the village of Medels, we decided not to continue towards Nufenen (the entire route must be very rewarding for the fittest), and, having already covered almost 10 km, we decided to start coming back, and go down. We then followed track 2, and abandoned track 3. The initial descent was steep, but not very difficult. We pass, with a curve to the left, under the motorway, then over a bridge over the Rhine, and then again on track 1-2, already followed in the first part of our ski session.
We then reoriented our skis towards the village of Splugen, where, after 13 intense kms, we returned satisfied to the car, and we recovered energies with a slice of "panettone" (typical italian Christmas cake, left inside our car), which in the meantime had almost frozen!
In conclusion, Splugen seemed to us to be an excellent destination for cross-country skiing, easy to reach from Italy and from many North Europe towns, and which guarantees optimal snow conditions, even when the tracks south of the Alps, on the other hand, are impractical. Probably, due to the sunny conditions, such as Campra (read our article), or Schilpario (in Italy - read article), it is more enjoyable in February and March.
In this regard, I highlight an important technical consideration. In the middle of winter, the cold temperatures make the snow very hard and "abrasive". If you practice skating, therefore, use waxes for cold snow, to have fast skis that slide well. The tracks, but for the Swiss ski areas it is almost needless to say, were impeccably groomed. Furthermore, at the sports center at the start of the tracks, you have changing rooms, showers, toilets, and a waxing room. Finally, I would also like to point out that the cable car takes you up to the Tanazhöhi mountain station, where another short but sunny cross-country trail (1.5 km, skating) awaits you.
For other logistical information, I refer you to the following useful sites, anticipating that the day ticket, currently (2021), costs 10 CHF:
- for the conditions of the tracks, you can consult: https://it.bergfex.com/graubuenden/langlaufen/spluegen-rheinwald/loipen/
- for more info on cross-country skiing in Splugen: https://www.viamala.ch/it
- for general information on Splugen, you can consult: https://www.spluegen.ch/it/home
Happy skiing. Fabio Muriano
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