The origins of winter sports

Balme (1432 m) is the highest municipality of the Lanzo Valleys, the last one of Ala di Stura Valley, and is only 55 km away from Piedmont county town.  It has been the Piedmont mountaineering cradle and a past century historical resort.  Nowadays, it is an attraction both for expert climbers as for simple tourists looking for uncontaminated mountain and majestic and hushed landscapes.  Balme offers his visitors cross-country skiing area of about twenty kilometer ski runs, from 1400 to 1900 meters altitude and with various difficulty levels.  (Exceptional snow conditions could make further ski runs extension possible).

In 1896, cross-country skiing pioneers Adolfo Kind, Swiss engineer living in Turin, and Luciano Roiti, Mountain Artillery Lieutenant, used “skis” for the first time in history to reach Pian della Mussa.  On the 12thof March 1897 Luciano Roiti wrote on the “Esercito Italiano” pages: “Going from Balme, in the Lanzo Valleys, to Pian della Mussa with two friends of mine, A. Kind and his son, I had the opportunity to try for the first time these skates. An iced crust that could not support a man on foot covered the snow.  In spite of this and even if we had very little experience in using skis, we were able to complete the route in less than an hour and just leaving light tracks of our transit.”  Adolfo Kind was the true skiing pioneer in Italy.  Being an enthusiastic mountaineer, he had some pairs of skis sent from his original country and tried them on Turin hill slopes at first, then tackled the first true mountain slopes in the near Lanzo, Susa and Sangone Valleys.

In those times, with no ski lift at disposal, cross-country skiing and ski mountaineering were practiced in Balme.  In between the two world wars many prestigious altitude cups called “of grand cross-country skiing” took place.  In those years winter sports such as bobsledding, sled and ski jump were widely practiced while, today, they are only found in competition.  The Balme bobsledding run was the main village road itself: it was half cleared of snow so as to allow sleds traffic.  Two ski jump runs were built near the village, one of which is still visible.

La Piutà Association and Balme municipality organizes the ski runs.  A town hall decree rules the access to Pian della Mussa during winter months.  The cross-country skiing run (Pista Roiti) for Pian della Mussa starts after the last village houses and follows the country road which, during the winter, is closed to traffic.  Who wants to climb on foot, with mountaineering skis or snow-shoes must use the proper run (Pista Kind) on the valley right orographic side.

Once you have tackled the climbing from Balme to Pian della Mussa (Pista Roiti), the several routes, all of them linked together but also independently accessible, develop on the famous high altitude plain.  The majestic Uja di Ciamarella and Bessanese overlook the plain.  All runs are prepared for both alternate step and skating techniques.

Pista Pian della Mussa – 2,7 km (black)

The ski run connecting Balme with Pian della Mussa follows the country road open to cars from 1st of May to the 31st of October.  It is a two ways run which requires skier’s respect of protocol: keep to the right of his/her own track and absolute speed control in descent. The climb is long but not particularly difficult.  Nevertheless, in some straight parts, according to snow conditions, the descent requires caution.

Pista Rocca Tovo  – 2 km (blue)

Level, sheltered from the wind, ring that develops at the beginning of Pian della Mussa.


Pista Ghiaires – 4km (blue)

Level ring which covers Pian della Mussa through larch woods at first, and following the Stura bed coming back.

Pista variante Ghiaires – 2 km (red)

A variation, which begins just before Ghiaires run half itinerary and offers climbs alternated with more difficult descents.  At first, through larch woods, the run will skirt two little villages.  It will then descend and again climb diagonally below Pian dei Morti rock walls, characterized by impressive ice falls.  Having reached Rocca Venoni, the last small village, the run, through a long descent, goes back until connecting again with the previous track just a little over from where the variation started.  The descent is easy going, with long-range curves, so that should the snow be hard packed, it would be quite fast.

Pista Valanga Nera – 2 km (red)

This run forms a ring, which starts at about half the Pista Ghiaires and offers a one-kilometer climb with an equal length descent.  So as to reach the Roc Venn bridge, usually it is better to climb in the gully at the feet of Refugee Cite di Ciriè.  Should there be a lot of snow, it would then be possible to lengthen the run further up the gully. The descent is easy going, with long-range curves, so that should the snow be hard packed, it would be quite fast.

All the cross-country skiing runs of the area are prepared on Friday night for Saturday skiing and Saturday night for Sunday’s.  During festivities they are prepared every night.  Possible midweek preparation of the runs may be agreed upon, in case of particular needs.  You may contact us for any information on snow condition and/or runs practicability.