Homeland Montespluga Madesimo
A project by ASSO Orobica ASD & Spiagames Outdoor Agency
ASSO Orobica ASD — Via Borgo Palazzo, 272, 24126 Bergamo (BG) Italy — P.IVA 02740310160

Linkiesta's Greenkiesta discovers our project!

Rethinking tourism. The first ski area in Europe without ski lifts

Linkiesta's Greenkiesta discovers our project!
It's called Homeland and it's in Montespluga (a hamlet of Madesimo), near the border with Switzerland. With the winter closure of the pass, skiers can "climb" the slopes up to over three thousand meters above sea level and choose the marked uphill routes. Final goal: access 3,642 hectares of off-piste snow

The notable impact of ski slopes and ski lifts on the mountain territory in terms of habitat alteration, deforestation, impact on the natural environment, morphological changes in slopes and hydrography, anthropisation of the peaks and collapse of the traditional economy, in recent years climate change has added the now widespread use of artificial snow.

Without this help, even more facilities would have closed than the many already monitored: three hundred and eleven abandoned ski areas in Italy alone, according to a 2020 study. A legacy of former ski lifts, rusty pylons, barren slopes that the trees are slowly reconquering, scattered between the Alps and on the Apennines, only minimally recovered or recoverable for other uses.

Victims, too, of the lockdown born from the pandemic and of the growing energy costs, which push many entrepreneurs to leave, but above all of climate change which shifts the snowfall rate ever higher and makes them rare events and not sufficient to guarantee skiability for lower odds. All of this has been answered, up to a certain point, by artificial snow which, however, is rapidly showing its limits, both because it still requires very low temperatures which are increasingly rare to encounter on a regular basis, and because of the economic and environmental, linked above all to the enormous waste of water and the creation of dedicated reservoirs.

A situation, largely supported by public funds, which is also reflected in the growing costs for users of the systems. The problem is particularly felt in Italy where, according to Legambiente data from 2023, ninety percent of the slopes are covered with artificial snow and the annual water consumption could already reach 96,840,000 cubic metres, which corresponds to the annual water consumption of about a city of one million inhabitants.

The report mapped one hundred and forty-two water basins created for this purpose, on a surface area of approximately 1,037,377 square metres, with Trentino-Alto Adige, Lombardy and Piedmont in the top positions. The report, and the news of recent days, tell of a schizophrenic reality where, while the number of facilities that are abandoned or temporarily closed due to lack of snow increases, projects for new stations, even at low altitude, entirely relying on artificial snow, multiply. Not considering, as experts warn, that snowmaking will simply no longer be practicable except in very narrow spaces at high altitude, in places where the already high costs of snow and sports practice will suffer further increases. Scenarios already broadly outlined in a CAI report dated 2006.

But if the solution is to forcibly bring skiing back to an elitist past, when it was not a mass phenomenon that attracted sell-out crowds to the mountains, one path could instead be a return to the old, respectful of the environment and potentially open to all .

Walks in the snow on foot, with snowshoes, or on cross-country skis or on skins, the exploration of winter nature, the rediscovery of local cultures and gastronomy, good hospitality, are low impact activities. And there are those who have already imagined and created a ski resort, the first in Europe, without ski lifts. Homeland, in Montespluga, in Lombardy, on the border with Switzerland, was inaugurated at the end of 2022, when Covid had heavily penalized traditional lifts and the crowded spaces of the gondola lifts were scary, especially to give space to ski mountaineering, but it has grown until it becomes a virgin area of cable cars and ski lifts, where - with the winter closure of the pass - the entire surrounding area becomes a single large "slope" to go up and down, independently following the infographics on the posters or accompanied by alpine guides and ski instructors.

From the 1,908 meters of the village up to the three thousand meters of the highest peaks, with almost guaranteed natural snow, skiers can climb the slopes up to over three thousand meters above sea level and choose from eleven marked uphill routes to access 3,642 hectares of off-piste snow. For those who want to organize a weekend, or a longer period, there is the Post Office hotel, but you can also sleep in a tent. The equipment – boots, skis with climbing bindings and climbing skins, splitboards, i.e. off-piste snowboarding, snowshoes, backpacks with airbags, safety kit with shovel, probe and ARTVA locators – can be rented on site and for Beginners I know no safety lessons and introduction days to ski mountaineering as well as skialp and splitboard courses, services and training for the more experienced.

«The initiative – explain the managers – was born to meet the ever-increasing number of ski mountaineering enthusiasts, but it is becoming something more, an experiment that demonstrates how the traditional and ancient way of enjoying the mountains is not only still possible, but more relevant and necessary than ever. A sector that can grow further by improving the economy and culture of our mountain communities, without further damage to the environment."
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