Did you know that it is possible to ski on an active volcano Etna?
Yes it is possible to ski on an active volcano Etna (Sicily, Italy). A unique experience in the world that makes you discover exotic and atypical, Etna is such a special mountain. This volcano, at an altitude of 3330m (10827 ft) is the highest point in Sicily but also the highest active volcano in Europe. Overlooking the sea, it offers a ski touring ascent of choice for mountaineers curious to climb a volcano, to ski along lava flows. An “off the cuff” ski trip, for thrill seekers.
Have you ever skied looking at the sparkling sea on the horizon? Have you ever tried snowboarding on ancient lava rivers, with the tips of black rocks emerging from the snow? Have you ever taken the chairlift as, above you, columns of ash rise between eerie roars of the volcano? Skiing on a volcano is a unique experience, reserved for truly courageous mountain lovers. And it is an experience that only a volcano like Etna, the most active and largest in Europe, can offer.
Etna is still awake and even though it is not throwing lava fountains is gassing or shaking or growling. It’s like stroking a living being with his skis… try it! Our volcano offers ski resorts on the south and north sides. Unfortunately, over the years, eruptions and earthquakes have destroyed these winter tourist resorts several times, which have always been rebuilt and reclaimed by local people, simply because you really cannot lose such an experience. .
South Etna: Sapienza Refuge
The most accessible ski resort of Etna is undoubtedly Etna Sud, which is part of the municipality of Nicolosi and has Rifugio Sapienza as its point of reference. We are at an altitude ranging from 1910 to 2620 meters. Thanks to the cable car but also to the ski lifts that lead from the Refuge and the Silvestri craters to the Montagnola, almost at the top of the volcano, you can easily reach different slopes: the Red Pistes, (accessible by the Monti Silvestri chairlift, and the Capannina-Omino and Omino-Piccolo Rifugio ski lifts) which are difficult routes, through dead craters and the poles of old chairlifts destroyed by lava and are particularly recommended for good skiers.
The beauty of these tracks, however, is that they offer panoramic views of the Gulf of Catania as you descend into the valley! Here in the south we only find one Blue Piste (Montagnola ski lift, Etna cable car) which is suitable for beginners, provided they have already followed a good course and know how to use the ski lift. The track is simple but often the bottom is frozen and the skis are not well managed.
For the more adventurous, on this side of the volcano – almost completely devoid of trees – you can try the descents in the lava channels or on the sides of the Montagnola mountain. WARNING! These alternative and risky trails should always be walked with an expert guide or possibly local skier by your side.
North Etna: Piano Provenzana
Etna North is perhaps the most beautiful face of the volcano, even the furthest from the big cities and tourist sites par excellence. You have to go there on purpose, but the advantage is that it remains snow-covered for a long time, sometimes until late spring. The reference point is Piano Provenzana (1800-2340 meters), located in the territory of the municipality of Linguaglossa, from which the chairlift begins. On this side we find very simple tracks, also suitable for children. It is not for nothing that the ski school is located here.
The Blue Pistes (accessible with the Puchoz-Tanaurpi chairlift and the Monte Conca ski lifts) are between the pines, on terrain that is not too steep, which then becomes a little more difficult and almost merges with the Reds. The beauty is that they are frequented by families and have a beautiful view of the northern canyons of the volcano.
The Red Pistes (ski lift from Coccinelle, Anfiteatro) are very technical and particularly recommended for very good skiers. One offers the view of the central craters of Etna, while those of the Anfiteatro look towards the coast. The advantage is that they are suitable for fans of adventure skiing and “off-piste” (always accompanied by local guides); the disadvantage is that they are beaten by strong winds and can, paradoxically, remain closed even in the event of heavy snow, to avoid these currents of icy air.
How to get there and do ski on an active volcano Etna?
ETNA SOUTH, take the A18 Messina-Catania motorway, exit at Acireale and follow the signs for the countries of Etna and Zafferana (about 30 minutes drive), or from Catania to Etna Sud and Nicolosi. From both places, go up to Rifugio Sapienza and, once there, you will find the starting points for the ski lifts. You can also stay and eat at the Rifugio itself or at the Hotel Corsaro and of course at the B&Bs in Nicolosi centro.
ETNA NORTH, follow the A18 Catania-Messina motorway and exit at Fiumefreddo. You will then climb towards the hills (Piedimonte, Linguaglossa). Once in Linguaglossa, look for the signs indicating Etna Nord and prepare to climb several kilometers of curves to the top of a pine forest. Continue following the signs for Piano Provenzana until you come across the wooden houses of the tourist area.
Photo description: Mount Etna is set against the city of Catania.