Have you ever skied while looking at the sea sparkling on the horizon? Have you ever tried to go snowboarding on ancient lava rivers, with the sharp points of the black rock emerging from the snow? Have you ever taken the chairlift while, above you, columns of ash rise between disturbing roars? Skiing on a volcano is a unique experience, reserved for true fans, brave mountain lovers. And it is an experience that only a volcano like Mt.Etna, the most active and high in Europe, can give. At any moment, Etna is always awake and even if it does not throw lava fountains it gives off gas or trembles or snorts. It’s like caressing a living being with your skis … try it! Our volcano offers ski facilities both on the southern and the northern sides. Unfortunately, over the years, the eruptions and earthquakes have repeatedly destroyed these winter tourist resorts, which have always been rebuilt and recovered from the local population, just because you really can not give up an experience like this.
South Etna ski resorts: Sapienza Refuge
The most accessible ski resort of Mt.Etna is definitely Etna Sud (South Etna), which falls in the municipality of Nicolosi and has as its reference point the Sapienza Refuge. We are at an altitude ranging from 1910 to 2620 meters. Thanks to the cableway but also to the ski lifts that lead from the Refuge and the Silvestri Craters up to the Montagnola, almost at the top of the volcano, you can easily reach different ski slopes: the Red Slopes, (can be reached by the Monti Silvestri chairlift, Capannina-Omino and Omino -Piccolo Rifugio ski lifts) or challenging routes, which wind through dead craters and poles of old chairlifts destroyed by lava, are recommended especially for expert skiers. The beauty of these tracks, however, is that they offer the panoramic view of the Gulf of Catania as you descend to the valley!
Here in the south we find only one Blue Slope (take the Montagnola ski lift, or Etna Cableway) that is suitable for beginners, provided they have already had a good training and know how to use a ski lift. The track is simple but often the bottom is frozen and the skis are not well managed on it. For the more adventurous, on this side of the volcano – almost completely devoid of trees – you can try the descents in the lava canals and along the sides of the Montagnola. BUT CAREFUL! These alternative and risky routes must always be traveled with an expert guide or skier, possibly from the place, by your side.
North Etna resorts: Piano Provenzana
Etna Nord (North Etna) is perhaps the most beautiful side of the volcano, even if the farthest from the big cities and the tourist sites par excellence. We must go there on purpose, but the advantage is that it remains covered with snow for a long time, sometimes even until late spring. The point of reference is the Piano Provenzana resorts (1800-2340 meters), in the municipal territory of Linguaglossa, from where the chairlift starts. On this side we find very simple slopes, also suitable for children, in fact here is the Ski School itself to become familiar with this sport.
The Blue Slopes (reachable by the Puchoz-Tanaurpi chairlift and Monte Conca ski lift) run between the pines, on not too steep terrain and then become a little more difficult and merge almost with the red ones. The beauty is that they are a perfect place for families and have a nice view of the volcano’s northern canyons.
The Red Slopes (Coccinelle ski lift, Anfiteatro ski lift) are very technical and particularly recommended for experienced skiers. One offers the view on the main craters of Mt. Etna, instead those of the Anfiteatro look towards the coast. The advantage is that they are suitable for those who love adventurous skiing and the “off-road” skiing (always accompanied by local guides), the disadvantage is that they are beaten by strong winds. It sounds strange but they can remain closed even in days of much snow just to avoid these currents of icy air.
How to get there:
SOUTH ETNA, A18 Messina-Catania highway, exit Acireale, and following the indications for the Etnean towns (Paesi Etnei) and Zafferana about 30 minutes drive, or from Catania to Etna Sud and Nicolosi. From both places go up towards Sapienza Refuge and once you get to the site you will find the starting points towards the ski lifts. You can also stay and eat at the Refuge itself or at the Hotel Corsaro and obviously at Nicolosi’s B&Bs.
NORTH ETNA, follow the A18 Catania-Messina highway, exit Fiumefreddo, and climb towards the foothills towns (Piedimonte, Linguaglossa). Once in Linguaglossa, look for the indications for Etna Nord and get ready to go on for several kilometers of bends until you are in the middle of a beautiful pine forest. Continue by following the indications for Piano Provenzana until you meet the wooden huts of the tourist area, where the parking areas begin. You can stay and eat at Rifugio Ragabo, Citelli, Rifugio Brunek or at various B & Bs of Linguaglossa.