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 newspaper Der SPIEGEL also dedicated an article to Homeland.

Homeland project in Lombardy. This is what the future of ski tourism could look like.

The newspaper Der SPIEGEL also dedicated an article to Homeland.
Two founders from Bergamo have developed a ski area without facilities in the mountains of Lombardy. How do winter holidays work a little differently? A visit on mountaineering skis.
On a Monday morning in February, a lone ski mountaineer travels through Val Loga, a high Italian valley near the Spluga Pass. At the end of the valley, two snow-capped pyramids rise towards the sky, one delicate, Pizzo Ferrè, the other powerful, Pizzo Tambo. We are grateful to the hiker because we don't have to dig a path ourselves in the fresh, powdery snow. 25 centimeters fell in the valley. On the freeride slopes, higher up, there is even more to offer.

It's a perfect day to explore Europe's first lift-free ski resort. This is how one could describe the project of Tomaso Luzzana, a 51-year-old wearing a green and yellow ski suit and shoveling snow in front of the only modern building in the town of Montespluga a few hours into our tour. The weekend snowstorm blocked the entrance to the glass box the team uses as a base. Luzzana takes a short break. “It's so quiet up here,” he says. So peaceful that you immediately feel at home. Luzzana called the project “Patria”, which he started in 2023.

From the windows you can see touring skis, splitboards and avalanche equipment. “We want to offer a sustainable alternative to conventional ski tourism,” says Luzzana. The team awarded eleven ski tours reported in the mountains around Montespluga, marked on a map in the village. Homeland rents mountaineering equipment, provides mountain guides and organizes avalanche courses, all characteristics that distinguish this area from other purely hiking regions. This is suitable for the times, because ski touring is turning into a popular sport, is considered sustainable (no ski lifts, no artificial snow), healthy (trains endurance) and promises a natural experience away from the crowds.

And Montespluga is truly off the beaten track. 44 hairpin bends lead from Chiavenna to the town of Valle di San Giacomo. If you look at it on the map, Italy extends to Switzerland like a large spike. It is said that Montespluga is the furthest Italian municipality from the sea. Snow usually falls from December to April, often even into May.

Since the Spluga pass, which connects Italy with Switzerland, is closed in winter, the road is only clear up to the village. But when it snows a lot, like last weekend, even Montespluga is cut off from the outside world. In winter only six people live here.

The idea was born during the coronavirus pandemic
Our destination today is the Val Loga bivouac, which most still call Bivacco Cecchini, from the name of the old red box that stood on the mountain. The current bivouac is made of wood and is located at 2767 meters, just before the Cima de Val Loga and Pizzo Ferrè. The path to Ferrè passes over a small glacier, but today the steep climb is too difficult for us. After three hours of climbing we reach the wooden house with solar panel. We take off our skis, take two chairs from the refuge and enjoy our lunch break.

Tomaso Luzzana and his business partner Paolo Pichielo came up with the idea for Homeland during the coronavirus pandemic because ski resorts were closed and ski mountaineering was booming. The two are founders of a marketing agency for outdoor brands in Bergamo, and invest part of their earnings in Homeland. Luzzana has organized ski cross championships, was a product manager for surfboards and snowboards and presents himself as a person who loves the mountains and prefers to spend time outside rather than in the office.

“We want to give beginners the opportunity to safely start touring with us,” he says. Their model: Bluebird Backcountry, a backcountry ski resort in Colorado that had to close last year after three seasons for financial reasons. Unlike the failed project in the USA, the tours in Montespluga are free. The project makes money by renting materials.

From the bivouac you can see Madesimo. The ski resort further down the valley is in many ways the opposite of Montespluga. Madesimo's ski lifts cover a vast territory, including Pizzo Groppera, almost 3000 meters high, and Val di Lei, a solitary valley in no man's land between Italy and Switzerland. A new gondola lift and a new chairlift are currently being designed. In Madesimo there is a heliski and snowmobile tour operator.

Luzzana believe that areas like Madesimo have much of a future. Although the ski area extends very high, most of the ski lifts and slopes are located just under 2000 meters above sea level. And in There may be no snow there in the future.
According to a report by the Italian non-governmental organization Legambiente, 200 ski resorts have been closed in Italy, of which 158 have artificial snow systems. Additionally, there are a large number of areas that open and close from time to time because not enough snow is falling.

Legambiente criticizes artificial snow which keeps many areas alive. This leads to enormous consumption of water and energy, and the construction of storage basins also destroys the landscape. The NGO asks: the monoculture of on-piste skiing must be put to an end.

Luzzana is of the same opinion, but also disputes the change in customer desires. »People no longer want to just wander around the area. “They want to go for a run in the powder one day and go to the spa another day,” Luzzana says.

The problem is the snowy road
We came for the deep snow, not the spa. So we strap on our skis and face the descent. It is the same route as our climb. In the upper part the snow is compact, the wind has compressed it. The skis are broken in, stand out again, technically demanding. Then we reach a slope spared from the wind. We take long turns in the deep dust, our hearts and souls rejoice. After a few minutes of serotonin rush we return to the valley.

Tomaso Luzzana was helped to clear the snow. His employee Walter Bossi, 26, grabbed a shovel. After a few minutes the entrance to the glass box is free. “It's a bit chaotic here today,” says Bossi. Ski boots are scattered around the room, avalanche detection devices are charged from a multiple socket. When possible, Bossi comes every day to open the shop. Before the storm he had to quickly descend to the valley.

Homeland has 30 pairs of touring skis for rent, 20 splitboards with their shoes and safety equipment. If you want to rent the entire package you pay 65 euros per day. Luzzana prepares espresso and Bossi, a sturdy mountaineer, loves the mountains. “Today you were only in one part of the area,” he says. On the other side of the village there is Corno Suretta with fantastic slopes, behind the reservoir Monte Cardine is interesting for beginners, Pizzo Zoccone, Lattenhorn and Corno Nero challenge ski mountaineers. “We almost also offer overnight stays in expedition tents,” explains Bossi. Feeling Alaska just two and a half hours by car from Milan.

If you want something a little more comfortable, you can stay at the Albergo della Posta. The only hotel in the town has a restaurant, cellar and has a rustic charm. Whether it is open always depends on whether the road is clear and open or currently closed - if in doubt you should ask the owner. “This is really a problem for us,” says Bossi. There is also dissatisfaction with the work of ANAS, the Italian road administration body. If it were up to him, the agency could do more to keep the road open.

In general, Luzzana and Bossi still want to achieve a lot: buses from the valley should run more regularly to Montespluga and also bring skiers, which for some reason does not currently happen. Montespluga could also become a destination for cross-country skiing. And the two want the community to set up a charging station for electric cars. But it will probably take some time, even if thanks to the reservoir there is enough electricity from hydropower.

«The mayor of the municipality of Madesimo supports us a lot», says Bossi. He comes out of the glass box and points to an old building that borders the Albergo della Posta. In front of the facade there is scaffolding. The community is renovating it and plans to set up a bed and breakfast. The solitary Montespluga seems to be reborn, even without ski lifts and snow cannons.
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