Ski in Corsica

Published on Tuesday 15 March 2022

Best known for its summer tourism on its coasts and in its seaside resorts, Corsica is above all a mountain in the sea, where more than 200 peaks exceed 1000m (and 120 peaks more than 2000m) and as such, offers the privilege to go from the sea to the mountains in a few kilometers (and some turns!).

Ski in Corsica

It is possible to ski from 1400m to 1870m of altitude within 4 stations from December, however the heaviest snow falls are in February and March. The ski is to be dealt from day to day, the opening dates are of course not fixed and it is necessary to keep up to date on the social networks as for the opening. The influences of the wind and the sea are predominant, especially the disturbances from Italy ("the easterlies") and, for a future perspective, climate change added to the reluctance of officials to invest worried the municipalities concerned.

Let yourself be guided by these lines, we will take you to the ski field, from the closest to the farthest from Calvi for, so that for a day, you come skiing with us in our beautiful Corsican mountains and understand the issues of the territories that have decided to revive the reconquest of white gold.

Haut Asco

At the heart of the Corsican mountain, the small resort of Haut Asco stretches from 1460m to 1800m and slowly revises the day after years of absence on the local winter scene. An expected reopening by all the skiers of Northern Corsica. Background of the site : 1991, a catastrophic landslide resulted in violent water damage on facilities dating back to the 1960s. Requiring titanic rehabilitation, it was not until 2016 for the unexpected reopening of the ski area made possible by various financing (European fund at 50%, then shared between the village, the Territorial Collectivity of Corsica and France). An ecomuseum has been set up in an old abandoned building of 250sq m and invites the visitor to discover the cultural and natural heritage. Today, snow cannons (of € 20,000 each and installed before the recommendations of the PADDUC, read further) provide minimal snow cover necessary to maintain the activity, especially on the beginner’s track. It also supports an active life in the village of Asco which tends to depopulate. Haut Asco is also the only ski field to offer accommodation directly on the slopes "Le Chalet". Charming cottages offer to welcome you in summer and winter : a cooler stopover at the foot of the Cintu mountains, maybe to consider if you have a few days before or after your stay at Domaine Villas Mandarine.
From Calvi, a departure at dawn makes it easy to ride 2 hours to the resort of Haut Asco, ski for a few hours, lunch on the terrace in the sun and then come back to Balagne and be straight by the sea.

Vergio

Overlooking the valley of Niolu and surrounded by the enchanting setting of the Valdoniello forest, the Vergio ski resort (“Verghju” in Corsican), the oldest resort, was like a haven of peace, set amid the laricio pine trees. Up to 2,000 skiers every weekend were enjoying the softness of the snow. Unfortunately, this previous sentence is using the past, because since 1963, date of the creation of the station by Jeannot Luciani (also owner of the hotel restaurant of Castel), the equipment did not evolve, was expensive to maintain, to bring back to norms and were thus abandoned and completely removed in 2007. Today the station has found a boom with the installation of downhill bike. And recently, the Mountain Corse League of the French Federation of Mountain and Climbing organized the “Hivernales”, a free weekend oriented on the introduction to the practice of winter mountain sports: snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and hiking, dog sledding, igloo building, mountaineering, mountain rescue and introduction to meteorology. Vergio lends itself well to its exceptional location and infrastructure adapted to the reception of the public (accommodation, catering, technical premises and snowfields already developed). Here again, the Vergio pass is one of the GR20 stages and the village continues to live thanks to the hikers who come across.
A positive window on the future: the grandchildren of the original creator of the resort decided to take over consider, subject to possible funding, to rehabilitate equipment and recreate a dynamic in this beautiful resort. A boon for all Corsican, located halfway between Calvi and Ajaccio, on the border of the two departments.

Ghisoni Capanelle

In Northern Corsica, at the foot of Monte Renosu (3rd highest Corsican summit), which rises to 2352m, the snow field is still 17km from the village towards the Col de Verde. At an altitude of 1586m, the ski area stretches to the top of the Capaghjolu ski lift at 1870m where it is not unusual to find up to 1m of snow. 6 slopes, 3 green, 2 blue and 1 red served by 3 ski lifts, the area has nearly 3 km downhill, a toboggan area, a restaurant and a rental equipment store. The journey is long, but the busy weekends see more than 500 skiers on skis: we meet locals of course (from Bastia to Porto Vecchio) but also Italian and even Austrian customers. The equipment of the site as a touristic destination finds its background in 1974 with the project to completely develop the mountain, allowing to join the peaks and the lake of Bastani (2100m high). Today, we face a reluctance of officials to invest in heavy and expensive equipment, also a random weather that make winter seasons shorter. The resort has decided not to use snow cannons, prohibited by the PADDUC “Mountain Plan”, which have negative impacts on the environment in terms of water and energy consumption. E Capanelle is again, one of the legs of the GR20.

Val d'Ese

The furthest for us balanins, "the station of Ajaccio" in southern Corsica is nestled on the plateau of Ese, between the valleys of Prunelli and Taravo and at the foot of Monte Giovanni. To get there, use the Bastelica scenic road, in the middle of the chestnut groves where it is not uncommon to see pigs along the roads. (Fun fact: the car on Google Street Maps drove at the right time when pigs were walking on that exact same road). 4h30 drive from Calvi, it is common to leave the night before to sleep in Ajaccio or Bastelica to get ready for the slopes in the morning. The ski area, which employs in high season about twenty people, stretches on nearly 20ha between 1620m and 1825m with a breathtaking view of the sea and the Gulf of Ajaccio from the top of the slopes. The infrastructure and the first lifts were installed from 1976. Green, blue and red are served by 4 ski lifts. According to the snow, both sides are open, which allows to move from one facade to another. The southern slope is unfortunately the most developed, the snow is the least persistent. On-site catering with the inevitable figatellu sandwich, and again, a shop for equipment rental. The rest of the year, the village returns to the transhumance of pigs, cows and sheep and there are very good cheese producers after a few hours of hiking. It is also an ideal place in fall to pick mushrooms! The place is also known for its “pozzines” and for its path which joins the GR20 by the Verde Pass. An enthusiasm for this small resort because its vicinity to Ajaccio, reachable in just 1 hour by car.

Ski mountaineering, in Corsica too!

For the most experienced, there is also the “Alta Strada”, the Corsican "high road" that crosses the island from south to north, in an untouched setting. It reminds you of another road? Normal, it follows the course of the famous GR20 hike. Set as an itinerant raid of a week lenght and supervised by a high mountain guide, the route uses variants so as to privilege the pleasures of the slide. Technical in summer, the white coat requires an equally confirmed knowledge of mountain skiing: ice axes, crampons, ropes, seal skins and good endurance are necessary to enjoy the breathtaking panoramas. The capricious weather, sometimes long walking legs and a basic comfort in the refuges however attract hundreds of sportsmen each year.

What about Nordic skiing in Corsica?

Corsica also includes nordic ski slopes, also known as cross-country skiing, and it is not uncommon for young Corsican kids to go on a snow class.
Evisa, 75km from Ajaccio heading north and the Vergio pass, was one of those big cross-country ski centers. The accommodation capacity, both the forest house and the village of Evisa and the dense forest of Aïtone allowed an excellent playground. Again, this use to be a great station. For twenty years now, the site is abandoned although the local officials claim aids for the rehabilitation of the site for the reception of the public and to make it a high place of open-air tourism in Corsica. Indeed, the site is ideal, we walk between millennium chestnut, beech and majestic laricio pines, in the heart of the emblematic species of Corsican nature. In summer, the freshness is guaranteed by the Spelunca river carving rockpools in the granite, and at the crossroads, you may come across cows and wild pigs. In the village, do not miss the discovery of the famous chestnuts of Evisa, high place of the culture of the chestnut tree.

 

Other villages like Quenza have built a ski center and offer several cross-country ski trails for different level

Some glimmers of hope for winter tourism in Corsica

Despite the inertia of many departmental and regional representatives, initiatives here and there promote the mountain sector and help to perpetuate a real economy for our interior which tends to depopulate. In 2015, the PADDUC (Sustainable Development Plan of Corsica) adopts a Mountain Plan with the desire to redevelop and revitalize old ski field areas, providing they do not require the use of artificial methods of manufacture of snow. And to launch a global reflection on expanding the offer towards sports requiring soft investments such as snowshoes or cycling. Relief solutions that have not yet found investors to develop them. To be continuing!

In the meantime, we invite you to look at the webcams of Corsican stations to give you a taste!

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