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17th January 2022 | James Cove, Aosta, Italy.

We are back at one of our favourite alpine bases until the end of February. We haven’t skied yet as we arrived just hours ago, but just being in the Alps has brought us back to life.  After a somewhat traumatic experience even to get here. NEW

Make no mistake, pan-European ski travel in Covid times is a stressful business.

First there is waiting for France to re-open its borders to the UK.

Then researching, obtaining and checking all the paperwork and getting pre-departures test where a positive would mean plans going up in smoke.

There were several times when I wondered if it was worth all the stress.

At the back of my mind was what happens if I catch covid-19 in a foreign country, away from family and friends.

There was the tension approaching the channel tunnel for a dawn departure across France and on to Italy.

Would all the paperwork be in order?

The channel tunnel. Image © PlanetSKI

The channel tunnel. Image © PlanetSKI

The joy when the first hurdle had been overcome and boarding the train was a reality.

The channel tunnel. Image © PlanetSKI

The channel tunnel. Image © PlanetSKI

The weather was frosty and grey across much of France with the promise of a storm – it reflected my mood.

Crossing France. Image © PlanetSKI

Crossing France. Image © PlanetSKI

The answer to my rhetorical question of whehter it was worth it was ‘No’ when I had to do a lateral flow test at a motorway service station in France ahead of the Italian border.

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My hand was shaking as I did the swabs.

If the result was positive I would have to turn back.

It was negative.

Often I had wished I had never even got the process underway.

Then there was arriving at the France/Italy border through the Mont Blanc tunnel late at night after a 10-hour drive across France.

Mont Blanc tunnel. Image © PlanetSKI

Mont Blanc tunnel. Image © PlanetSKI

On the Italian side I was meet by border officials with gun carrying soldiers as back up.

I decided not to take a picture of the soldier standing at the end on my bonnet.

I waved at him and he just stared back.

15-minutes passed while documents/passes/tests and passenger locator forms were checked and double-checked.

What would I do if I was not admitted?

As the border official walked back my heart was racing.

“Have a nice ski he said,” as I was waved though.

I saw some familiar sign posts on the road down and my answer changed from it not being worth the stress to a resounding decision that it was.

Arriving in the Aosta Valley. Image © PlanetSKI

Arriving in the Aosta Valley. Image © PlanetSKI

I punched the air in triumph and let out a loud cheer.

By chance the song ‘Celebration’ by Cool and the Gang came over the sound system, and I sang along at the top of my voice.

“It’s a celebration, Celebrate good times, come on Lets Celebrate, Come on and celebrate tonight, Celebrate good times, come on, ‘Cause everything’s gonna be all right, Let’s celebrate!”

I simply couldn’t remember feeling so happy.

Regular and long-term readers will know PlanetSKI was based in Aosta for 3-month of the fateful season of 2019/20.

Only we made just 6 weeks as coronavirus spread and we were forced back to the UK.

Northern Italy was not the best place to be.

Now we judge it the time to complete the final 6-weeks of our plan from two winters ago.

Living in the Aosta Valley was one of the finest times we have spent in the Alps.

It is quite simply one of the greatest ski locations on earth.

The accessible off piste meccas of Gressony and Alagna.

The joys of Courmayeur and La Thuile at the head of the valley.

La Thuille, Aosta Valley, Italy

La Thuille, Aosta Valley, Italy. Image c/o PlanetSKI

Pila that is linked to the city of Aosta with a gondola in town.

Aosta, Italy

Aosta, Italy

And then the lesser-known and utter gems of Crevacol and Torgnon.

Crevacol, Aosta Valley, Italy

Crevacol, Aosta Valley, Italy. Image © PlanetSKI

Torgnon, Aosta Valley, Italy

Torgnon, Aosta Valley, Italy. Image © PlanetSKI

  • Avoiding the crowns in the Aosta Valley: Torgnon
  • Avoiding the crowds in the Aosta Valley: Crevacol

If one wants to go further afield the world-famous resorts of Verbier, Zermatt and Chamonix are about an hour away.

  • From Aosta to Chamonix

Here is a small flavour of why we love the place so much, posted from our earlier stay in the Aosta Valley that was cut short by Covid-19.

  • PlanetSKI arrives in the Aosta Valley
  • Aosta – The Rome of the Alps

To say ‘we are looking forward to the next 6-weeks to continue our journey of exploration’ is perhaps the biggest understatements I have ever written.

I am back in my natural environment and can report the mountains look as beautiful is ever.

And the music of Cool and the Gang is on a loop going round and round in my head.

May it stay there for the next 6 weeks.

I’ll be reporting back…….

James Cove

James Cove, Aosta Valley Italy. Image © PlanetSKI.