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

The authoritative French specialist magazine "Outside.fr" analyzes the Homeland project

Homeland, the first ski resort in Europe without ski lifts: real concept or marketing gimmick?

The authoritative French specialist magazine "Outside.fr" analyzes the Homeland project
Just born, never has a station been so discussed. From the Financial Times to Geo, the entire international press has been talking about Homeland since last autumn, an Italian resort in Lombardy which has the particularity of not offering ski lifts... without us knowing much more about it. So, a real concept that we could take inspiration from? Or a beautiful project skilfully put together by two Italians at the head of an events agency specializing in the outdoors?

Last October the very serious Financial Times opened its "Winter Sports Special 2023" issue with an article on "Homeland, the first European resort without a ski lift". “In northern Italy, Homeland aims to offer an alternative and more sustainable ski experience, for those who are ready to walk,” explained the newspaper, which expressed enthusiasm for this “new concept” in a long article.

A priori, however, this is not enough to discourage all those who practice ski mountaineering in France. They have known the principle for a long time: a mountain, touring skis, bag and safety equipment, and that's it. When we want, where we want, as long as the conditions are favourable. And it's free too.

Why so much enthusiasm in the press, starting with the French one which is no exception. Geo, France Info, Le Monde, no one who wasn't interested in Homeland. It seems that France has discovered ski mountaineering. Or that our country suffers so much from a declining ski industry, due to global warming, that any alternative to our old models is worth adopting? Without searching too hard, because most of the items left us wanting more. To find out more we explored the concept and interviewed its two creators, Tomaso Luzzana and Paolo Picchiello.

What is the concept "?
“Homeland is an alternative resort concept dedicated to winter sliding and exploration sports,” explains the presentation brochure. There, we learn, we can "train and learn in complete safety, go up and down on specially designed routes, but also in the total freedom that the mountains can offer in winter, benefit from the support of professionals and services, drink a beer with new friends at the end day and participate in events and initiatives always linked to the philosophy of ski mountaineering". O. This will not surprise all the French resorts that already offer signposted ski mountaineering itineraries, guide services and bars worthy of the name. To better understand the why of Homeland we need to look at its history. And that of its creators, Tomaso Luzzana and Paolo Picchiello.

Why “Homeland”?
Take a global pandemic. Two creatives suddenly stopped for a few months. Tomaso Luzzana, marketing professional, expert in the snowboard market. And Paolo Picchiello, graphic designer. Both have worked for Salomon, one as an insider, the other as a freelancer, since 2006 they have been head of Spiagames, an agency specializing in communications and events. Their customers? The North Face, Red Bull but also Aperol, among others. In short, communication professionals specialized in the outdoors. Also two high school friends, now 52 years old, snow sports enthusiasts, who will take advantage of Covid to think a bit about "long-term projects". “We've had quite a few. Mountain biking in northern Italy, for example. But we heard about Bluebird Backcountry, a lift-free resort in Colorado (which has since gone bankrupt, ed.). We liked the idea and the context suited it", they say.

First of all, obviously, the new interest of Italians in ski mountaineering: "from 2010 to 2019 the number of practitioners went from 33,000 to 94,500 people. In the winter of 2020-21, ski mountaineering recorded an increase of 9.2%, with 103,200 practitioners", they specify. Beyond the Alps the trend is relatively new. “But Italians are very sensitive to fashion.” A good point for “Homeland”, they are convinced. But also, and perhaps above all…. the arrival of ski mountaineering at the Winter Olympic Games scheduled for 2026 in Milan and Cortina. “This event should have a booster effect,” they explain. “With the growing popularity of ski mountaineering, brands are showing interest in investing in athletes and teams. The importance of managing sponsorships professionally and guaranteeing a return of visibility to companies is not lost on them. Brand, events, Olympics, environment: key words to remember.

Concretely, what do we find in this station?
Located in Italy, on the border with Switzerland, in the municipality of Madesimo, the Montespluga station is located at the top of Valchiavenna, just below the pass that separates it from the Rheinwald in Grisons, at 1908 meters above sea level. In the 80s and 90s two ski lifts were installed there, but the project failed, "especially due to the proximity of an already developed center like Madesimo", explain the creators of Homeland. Today only a small inn remains, the Albergo della Posta, and the small village has fallen asleep again. Only a few hikers and tourists liven it up a bit in the summer. The fact remains that the snow there is still abundant according to Tommaso Lazzuna and Paolo Picchiello. The site is already little known by ski mountaineering enthusiasts and features glaciers up to 3100 metres. But above all it is a two-hour drive from Milan and Brianza, also close to Como, Lecco and Bergamo. A fantastic source of urban dwellers looking for the great outdoors and adventure.

What awaits them there today? A vast virgin space of 3,640 hectares and "around 70 km of routes of different difficulties and lengths, access to which is completely free", specify the creators of Homeland. Something to satisfy both beginners and advanced skiers. There is no ski lift on site, as you may have understood, the infrastructure is reduced to four containers. Assembled, it offers a 60m2 space where, depending on your level of experience, we recommend the most suitable routes and remind you of the safety instructions. There you can rent ski equipment, including essential safety equipment (€55 per day for all skis, skins and boots, €65 for the complete avalanche kit). Four young local guides from the Mountain 360 association work there in season from Thursday to Sunday. They are responsible for ensuring safety conditions and, upon request, providing courses and support in the mountains. In the catalog we find in particular: the "First experience (€125 for 4 hours)", "an option for those who are new to ski mountaineering". “The “Night Camp” (€220) “a more adventurous experience with a night in a tent”. Or even a “Safety Camp” (100 euros), a course focused on avalanche accidents, a theme to which Homeland is very linked.

A minimalist system, a still small staff, quite basic services for the moment which, in the long term, should be integrated by "an avalanche bulletin with real-time mapping of the slopes, and at the same time the periodic restoration of the area". the help of Sniper technological drones”, announces the site presentation brochure. In the end, a fairly light project from a financial point of view that quickly found consensus, but also detractors and skeptics.

The territory, the brands... who might be interested in this project?
The announcement of the creation of Homeland did not arouse the enthusiasm of everyone in the region, its creators explain to us: “Some believed that we would compete with them. But in reality we are opening a new market,” they insist. More convinced, however, were the tourist consortia of Madesimo, Valchiavenna and Alpe Montespluga, and the Lombardy Region, who put their wallets in to support the project. Enough to complete the 65 thousand euros invested in the business by Tommaso Luzzana and Paolo Picchiello, who hope for a return on their investment within two years. Or the budget needed to purchase completely new equipment to rent. “At first the brands were skeptical. Nobody wanted to put a dime into it. But the project had to be launched quickly. So it was that or nothing. Today we have no shortage of partners for next season. Starting with Salomon, Ortovox, Smith Optics, Union Biding and even Suunto.”

A workable and adaptable concept, really?
At this point, “Homeland” doesn't really impress. The project certainly arouses curiosity, especially in France. At the end of March, representatives of Aiguilles, a station located near Briançon, are expected for an on-site visit. He might be interested in the concept, but is it really original? It is feasible? And can it be refused?

Its originality? Tommaso Luzzana and Paolo Picchiello have no doubts about it. And they are tremendously convincing when you listen to them. Their enthusiasm and know-how hit the mark, just look at their impressive press review. Swiss. As skilled communicators, they have also developed a robust media plan for the station's launch this winter. «With two press trips», they explain to us. One for ski printing. The other for the women's press. GQ, Marie-Claire, Vanity Fair…

Traffic? It seems necessarily linked to the snow cover of the site. However, if the “domain” reaches 3000 meters in some places, the brochure announces, the station is located at 1900 metres. It would be one of the snowiest regions in Italy. But for how much longer?

As for giving up this model, this is in fact the intention of its instigators, who do not fail to underline that in Italy they have had to close 300 ski resorts. Lack of snow, but also lack of funds to maintain the ski lifts. From then on, the transition to ski mountaineering could give them a second wind. Homeland would therefore be a laboratory from which other stations could draw inspiration... as long as they include all the activities that Tommaso Luzzana and Paolo Picchiello have in mind.

That is, renting the site to brands that could present their collections there, organizing team building and commercial or training events. All things that their agency, Spiagames (19 people in Bergamo), has mastered to perfection and is just waiting to be implemented. In Italy or elsewhere. Meanwhile, its creators admit, “Homeland has given us the opportunity to stand out from all the other agencies.” A fantastic publicity stunt worth 65,000 euros! Whatever happens to Homeland (we certainly don't wish them the unfortunate fate of Bluebird, the broadcaster that inspired them, on the contrary), Tommaso Luzzana and Paolo Picchiello emerge victorious.
JavaScript appears to be disabled in your browser settings.
This website may not work properly.