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Mount Etna is a Sicilian volcano. Therefore in the world’s imagination it is a mountain off ire in a warm place, in the middle of the warmest sea in Europe! Yet, between January and February, when the Sicilian winter strikes the island in all its severe violence, the temperatures on this mountain (over 3000 meters high) drop by a lot. At night it can be tens of degrees below zero. And during the day, in some areas (especially in the north and west flanks) snow and ice last for a long time. Mount Etna, in winter, is a place of tourist attraction that has nothing to envy to the Alps and the Apennines. And winter sports are common, here too.

Skiing on Mount Etna

Sicilians who live in the east part of the island, in winter, have only one point of reference for skiing: Etna. If in the west the Palermo slopes of Piano Battaglia dominate, in the Catania area it is Mount Etna that attracts winter sports enthusiasts. On Etna you can ski very well. As tour operators like to repeat, “ski while looking at the sea, below … where else can you experience it?”.

this photo by G Musumeci

There are two ski resorts on Mount Etna, one on the southern flank and one on the northern. To the south, the Nicolosi and Sapienza Refuge lifts reach up to 2700 meters in height, with the help of the Etna cableway which leads up to the Montagnola. The longest run here measures 4 km. With the Omino ski lift you arrive at the starting point of two red slopes (for experts), devoid of vegetation, very scenic but with dangerous points close to gullies. Make sure you have a good skiing experience before trying them. Two other runs start from the Montagnola, a blue one (for beginners) and a red one, both descending into a lunar scenario. Ancient and new craters, still smoking with steam, will surround you.

The lifts of Etna Nord, in Piano Provenzana (Linguaglossa), are the ones that hold the snow the long est. They sometimes remain open even until April. There is a ski school here so many runs are suitable for beginners and also for children. In all, there are 10 km of ski run, divided in: Puchoz-Tanaurpi blue run, which is very easy and descends alongside the chairlift; Monte Conca which is a medium ski track; Coccinelle and Anfiteatro (video here) are very professional red runs, also suitable for ski competitions and therefore for true experts.

Ice skating

For those who love ice skating, Etna is a beautiful place despite the temperatures being neither Nordic nor polar. In fact, in Nicolosi, not far from Etna Sud ski lifts for Rifugio Sapienza, there is a well-equipped ice rink. Despite some periods of crisis, in which the place was closed, when it is open it hosts professional and amateur skaters on an icy rink. It can be maintained throughout the year. On some occasions, mini ice skating rinks are also organized outdoors, for example in Linguaglossa.

Snowshoeing and sledding on Mount Etna

Snowshoeing and sledding are within everyone’s reach, on every path of the volcano, in winter. Of course it is always better to go with naturalist guides or volcanological guides, because Etna is not just any mountain. The paths are full of crevasses and lava caves that only experts know about.

Venturing with snowshoes, even on well-known paths full of snow, can be a danger if you are not guided by skilled people. Tour operators that organize snowshoe trekkings this season are many. You will wasily find the proposals on the Internet. If you use sled we recommend the official runs, but you can also venture on the slopes along the many woods of the volcano. Obviously, be careful when you go sledding in the middle of the vegetation to avoid even serious accidents. Before going, always find out about the safest places, because caves and crevasses are lurking even for those who peacefully slide on the snow.

You can snowshoe on the traditional paths of the Etna Park territory, while for sledding we recommend Piano Provenzana or the Rifugio Sapienza area. BUT ABOVE ALL WE INVITE YOU TO ASK THE EXPERTS (Etna guides) FOR ADVICE on the most suitable locations for each sport.

Autore: Grazia Musumeci

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