When I was fifteen I went on the school ski trip to Saalbach, in Austria. I’d only ever been on dry ski slopes before, and I did a bit of rudimental skiing on a Scottish hill as a child, but that was about it. I was really nervous before I went. I didn’t know if I could handle the cold, the endless activity or even if I would be any good at skiing in the Alps! Skiing on a mountain is so different to a dry ski slope, as the terrain is bumpy, but the snow is softer when you fall. So all in all I was nervous, but excited to go to the mountains for the first time!
Unfortunately, I had a fourteen hour coach journey ahead of me. Hellish. Although it was fun at first chatting with my friends, by the tenth hour the novelty had worn off and I’d still had no sleep. Ah school trips, how I miss you. When we got there however, I was lost in the beauty of the mountains, and the fun of skiing.
Saalbach, a ski resort in Austria, is lovely, situated in a valley with the mountains rising on either side. The advantage there is that you have a choice of mountains to ski on. There are lovely ski runs, with forest along some of them, which makes for perfect scenery. There is a main gondola lift that everyone uses to get to the top of one of the mountains, and the views from the top were amazing! We went in March, and it was warm enough to only wear a thermal vest under my ski jacket, and we had mostly blue skies.
In contrast, Cervinia, Italy was freezing! We travelled there in January, and temperatures up the mountain hit -14 degrees Celsius. However, we had perfect blue skies the entire time, and great snow. The best snow for skiing isn’t too thick and isn’t too icy. The snow was better than in Saalbach, which was icy in places. That’s one of the reasons I fell over so many times, as it’s difficult to control your speed on the ice, but in Cervinia I was properly skiing!
It’s so difficult to decide which mountain scene is better between Saalbach and Cervinia, because they are both beautiful! However, Cervinia has the edge, because of the Matterhorn, which is an amazing feature in the resort. And because the resort is one of the highest in the Alps, the view from the top of the mountain is better than the view in Saalbach. But it’s a close call!
One easy call is the food: Italian food is better than Austrian. Pizza, pasta, soup, salad, it’s all good. I was in heaven. The pizza tastes so much better than it does in England! In Austria, I had a lot of stews with rolls, which was nice but it can’t compete with pizza! And the Italians are just so passionate about their food, it makes eating a better experience!
In the evenings in Saalbach, we walked around the town, went to restaurants, played Austrian bowling and visited a heated swimming pool, which was fab! The town in Saalbach was prettier – the architecture is more picturesque, and the buildings are more traditional. Cervinia was still nice, but just didn’t have the same look as Saalbach. Some people call it ugly however, and I severely disagree – Cervinia is a nice town. It was livelier than Saalbach in the evenings, with better bars and even an ice carting arena! Ice carting was something so different, and it was a special evening (although can I just say, I panicked the whole entire time, I could not control that cart).
One major downside to Saalbach is that it is very crowded. We queued for the lifts, people pushed in and then on the slopes we had to avoid other skiers, which made it harder for beginners who were nervous already (me). And not everyone had the British attitude to queuing. Cervinia, however, was almost empty. We didn’t queue at all, even at the weekend, and there was lots of space on the slopes so there was a much more peaceful vibe. The resort is so big that even though it was actually full, we were all spread out, which made skiing so much easier.
So there you have it – Cervinia wins!