California versus Italian Ski Resorts: One Girls’s Opinion
I am a competitive snowboarder and committed mountain lover; I take every opportunity I get in California to drive up to my favorite resort in Lake Tahoe to hit some of the best lines a snowboarder can find on the west coast. So when I decided to travel abroad to Italy for a semester, I chose a university partially based on how near it is to the ski resorts of Italy. Luckily, since coming over to Italy I have had the opportunity to go to two of the major Italian ski resorts- Cortina D’amprezzo and Canazei- and got a taste of the Euro- skiing way of life. And the differences I found may not surprise you.
The major difference I found between the skiing in California and Northern Italy is the size of the resort and the grade of the mountain. The resorts of northern Italy are massive. Even visiting after peak season I found that I could ride different hills all day and never take the same route twice. Especially Canazei, which is part of a huge four peaks system where I spent two days trying to explore every nook and cranny and only scratching the surface.
However, I found that California has more diverse terrain to offer than both Canazei and Cortina. As a native Californian snowboarder, I spend a lot of my time on the mountain trying to find fun natural terrain like rocks, trees and cliffs to ride off of. Usually one can find a few decent powder caches on even the most crowded days in California. In Italy however, most of the rocks had been cleared and the trees cut down, leaving quick groomer conditions even in some of the less- traveled areas of the resort.
These slope differences play into the overall ski culture of the two locations. The average person skiing at Cortina or Canazei was a skier aged 25 to 60, wearing matching new snow pants and snow jacket from one of the top brands, executing perfect carves down the hill. In California there are a lot more young adults and children, a lot more beginners wearing clearly hand-me-down outfits, and a more even mix between snowboarders and skiers. Even the ski styles are different. American skiers seem a little faster and more reckless, hitting more jumps and terrain, and also wiping out more. European skiers are clean, smooth, and seem to enjoy long groomed runs. So in America I found more diverse terrain and more diverse riders, and Europe i found more homogeny of slope and skier, but the homogeny was at a high level or talent and quality.
I found that Italian skiing had a much more ‘luxury experience’ aspect to it. The first thing that clued me into this was that our first chairlift to the top of the mountain was covered and had heated seats, something that I have never seen in California. Furthermore, while resort food in California is dominated by overpriced chilli cheese fries and cheeseburgers, when we stopped for lunch at a mountaintop spot in Canazei, we got locally made Italian food served with complimentary champagne and hors d’oeuvres. Clearly the mid-day lunch stops could not be more different between the two.
Before skiing in Italy I expected to have a strong opinion about which was better. But the resort style is so different between the two that it makes it impossible to decide. I think it comes down to the skier you are. If you like fast, beautiful, groomed runs with champagne waiting for you at the end, Italy is you destination. If you like to make your day your own and invent jumps and kickers with the natural terrain, topped off by a slice of pizza and a beer, then California is for you. In the end, there’s no wrong decision.
by Jane Sadler