Pila Ski Weekend with Ski Solutions
Ski in the Sky is the strap line for the resort of Pila, it’s not an invitation to huck yourself off a massive kicker James (Woodsy) Woods style, but a reference to the incredible vista of mountains laid out to the north. On every run you find yourself looking out towards the Mont Blanc, the Matterhorn and all the peaks in between. Situated at 1800m above Aosta, Pila is linked to the town either by a long gondola or a windy mountain road. At only 1.5hrs transfer from Turin airport, Pila is the ideal resort for a short weekend break.
I was invited by Ski Solutions to check out the resort and sample a new hotel called La Chance, they are looking at for next season’s brochure. I made the short drive through the Grand St Bernard tunnel from Verbier, then detoured down to Turin airport to pick up my wife Sarah. Ski Solutions have an association with the Make a Wish charity and joining us on the trip were two guys Stewart and Adam who were aiming to complete the Ski the World Challenge, the equivalent of the height of the largest peak in each continent across the weekend, a total of 43,314 vertical metres! We also had a couple of auction prize winners from the Make a Wish ball, although being complete novices their challenge was to stay on their feet.
Although it is a relatively small resort with about ten lifts, Pila has a great range of slopes: the red under the Chamolé chair has lots of rollers and is great for blasting, the race piste under the Leissé chair is always very popular with local ski teams and the two top chairs the Couis 1&2 service some great powder when it has snowed, or a range of steep black runs that are always well groomed, but scarily steep. From the top of Couis 1 you can see over the back side of the mountain to the tiny resort of Cogne with the Grand Paradiso rising behind, further away you can see into France and the Grand Motte in Tignes. From the top you can either take the black run straight off the top, or ride a strange covered travelator to a new run cut on the other side of the cliff band. At well over 35º it is unrelentingly steep, once was enough for Sarah who went to grab a table at La Society the swish restaurant tucked in the trees at the bottom. I went for another blast down the black with Craig Burton from Ski Solutions and James Gambrill from Expedient Marketing and some of the other guys.
After a very long and satisfying lunch, Phil Brown from Impulse Racing had organized for us to race a timed GS run. The snow was ideal, hard enough not to rut up yet grippy enough for everyone to find an edge. There were no crashes thankfully, although a couple of racers who shall remain nameless, to spare their embarrassment, managed to swerve left at the finish and miss the line so recorded no time… My time was naturally removed from the competition, 16 years as a professional ski racer was deem to be a form of cheating, so the winner of the Ski Solutions weekender was James Gambrill.
A long session in the La Chance hotel spa relaxing the muscles, was followed by a session in the bar to watch England get trounced by Wales in the rugby. Rubbing it in somewhat, Craig stood to sing Land of our Fathers in his Wales shirt, but no one held it against him as he had organized a thoroughly enjoyable weekend.