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Home Forums Splitboard Talk Forum Italy or Spain? help me choose!

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    Kahti Ryan

    After finishing my van off I have finally embarked on my European adventure. So far have been living the boulderer’s dream at Fontainebleau, France, but winter is a coming, my forearms are dead and I miss the mountains! Time to move on. The question is where?
    I’m not planning on staying in France as je ne parle pas to save my life. I do speak good Spanish and think I could pick up Italian quite quickly, and as those are my two closest options (except Switzerland but again the language and I get the feeling it’s not a country that takes kindly to van bums) they seem the best places to spend a first season on the continent.

    But both look amazing and am basically at having to flip a coin to decide.

    Priorities are: Van friendly (good, free places to park up), easy to meet riding/climbing partners, good splitting terrain.
    Secondary desires: Good winter climbing, indoor wall to keep the rock fingers alive, possibility for part time work over season.

    Right now Italy is appealing as there is more choice of mountains ranges, is probably more snowsure, more of an alpinism/winter climbing scene and the possibility in spring to do trad climbs as well as sport.

    However something is still pulling me towards Spain too, and I have the language and then there’s all those world class sport crags once the snows gone.

    Arghhhh. So hard to choose!

    So can anyone help swing my opinion? Also any suggestions on specific places would be welcomed (was thinking val d’aran for Spain and val d’aosta for italy, although dolomites look amazing), as would any tips on vanning it, finding work and if anyone is looking for riding partners would love to hear from you!



    Id prefer Austria, especially Tyrol or Salzburg! They understand English and if you stay in Innsbruck, Italy isnt far away (1-2h). From Nov till June you have plenties of possibilities, a paradise 🙂

    Kahti Ryan

    Yeah I really like the look of Austria, and could probably revive my high school German with some effort!
    Am slightly put off by the €85 vignette I would have to buy to drive there though. Also it seems slightly crazy to drive past the alps to get to the Tyrol/dolomites without spending some time there (I have never been before) so am limiting myself to alps or Pyrenees for this winter I think.

    Also on the subject of road fees, is there a way to get into Italy without paying a hefty tunnel toll or driving very far south?


    The Pyrenees can be fantastic dry, deep pow, but it doesn’t get snow as often as the Alps. Sometimes it doesn’t snow there for months. I think Catalunya is quite frienly to vans and people living in them though.

    Switzerland is not an option, they don’t allow wild camping and fines are huge. It’s also a very expensive place to live if you don’t work there.
    France would be ok, in my experience people in the mountain regions are much more friendly and open to “tourists” than Paris. They will speak english, and it will be ok for you to find friends or riding partners as ski touring is quite popular in France.

    The weather fronts in the Alps typically roll in from either the north/west, or sometimes from the south. If you’re in a spot where you can quickly move to where there is fresh snow you can more than double your powdays.
    Places like this are around big tunnels or major mountain passes.

    Somewhere in the Aosta valley would work well, the Piëmonte gets hammered with a southern front (retour d’est) but you can be in Chamonix, St. Bernard for a west/north front pretty fast. Keep in mind that you can get to Cham without taking the tunnel as there is a lift on the Italian side of the Mont Blanc too.

    I’ve lived near Lago Maggiore (the Italian side) for a while, same deal. Ride in Ticino or Valsesia with southern, or Simplon or Andermatt with northern fronts.
    A place I would seriously consider is near Livigno. I’m not sure how easy it would be to camp there, but you can probably find out. Livigno is taxfree so much cheaper than Switzerland or the rest of Italy. You can also move to Austria or Switzerland quite fast. This would be a place I would move to after the winter has properly started though.

    Or somewhere around the Reschenpass. You can be in Ortler, Stelvio or Engadin pretty fast, but also in some major mountains in Austria. Or Val Senales, same story.

    In general the Northern and western parts of the Alps are better for early season. Places like Haute Savoie or the Arlberg are already getting snow now. Haute Savoie is also the place in France with nicer small villages, and not those huge ski resorts most of France seem to have.

    Anyway, probably too much info. Send me an email if you have specific questions as I’m not on this forum a lot. I’ve traveled a lot in Switserland, France and Italy. If you’re stuck somewhere in those countries, I can probably find you that secret spot with pow you need. My email is: info [at} ivareisma [dot] nl


    Kahti Ryan

    Cheers! Great info and definitely not too much!

    I ended up persuading myself the Dolomites would be worth the extra drive and headed down through germany and Austria to reach them.

    Amazing mountains! Not very van friendly though! Still I had planned to stay there for the winter, except I just got offered a very good price on doing my BASI in Val d’Aosta, which is something I’ve been planning on doing for some time now and seemed stupid to turn down.
    So am now on a (slightly chilly) bouldering trip across northern Italy to get back over there the scenic way!
    Means I will be spending the next few months broke and mainly occupied with courses, but still have weekends free and all of spring for splitting.

    Give me a shout if your down around that area at all, would be great to meet some split buddies!


    Cool, you can expect snow between roughly between Monte Rosa and Tonale there thursday till saturday, above 1000-1500m. It could be enough for the first lines if you pick non rocky terrain.

    I’m not sure where you are now, but Aprica, San Bernardino, Bosco Gurin, San Domenico, Macugnaga are all really cool small places to ride if they get anything over 60cm. Lifts will still be closed, so perfect really. That can totally happen this weekend, but after sunday will be warmer already.

    Once you make it to val d’aosta, you’ll disover the Monte Rosa region pretty soon. Alagna is pretty well known. Don’t forget to check out La Thuile and Espace San Bernard. These get consistantly more snow than Courmayeur because they catch snow from almost all directions and especially a retour d’est brings massive snow there. The road to La Rossiere will be closed in winter, but you can easily get there from La Thuille ski slopes by hopping over the Col de La Traversette. I remember a place for camper vans as well in La Thuile, we spend a night in the 4×4 there it was very nice. There were a few other campervans there as well in summer, it was not the campsite right near the village but a bit further up the road towards the waterfalls. It’s right here:
    google maps
    I’m not sure if they keep that road open in winter but if they do it’s the perfect spot to maybe stay for a while.

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