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The Canalone

It is possible to present a ski-run as an artistic work, without resorting tom dull prose? I think it is: If you were to fly over it in a helicopter, it would look like one of those ordinary gullies which cross these mountains, and nothing to boats of in a any way as extraordinary or magnificent. If, however, you went over it on skis, you would feel a marvellous sensation. Certain skiers, to whom I have spoken, have told me of their experiences on the European ski-runs and they confirm that the Canalone at Groppera is one of the best ski-slopes in the Alps.
When I got out of the ski-lift at an altitude of 2960 metres, around 9000 feet, I found myself looking down into the gully below me. At first, I must confess, I was rather puzzled.
From the top you cannot see the whole of the huge valley, just the entrance to it. It is steep, whit dark parts and light shade. What will it be like? I wonder.
You put on your skis, you cross to the right for 30 metres or so in a diagonal slide, then you come out on to the steep slope. The ski-run has not been “prepared”, the snow is a nature put it there, the turns and twists down such a slope will be a problem. If you fall, where will you end up? But the snow holds, although it is not a “prepared” run. Since it is exposed to the North it has that perfection until June and is typical of the high mountains.
The first tunnel-like gully is concave and helps your moves and turns whit an elastic bounce from one side to the other. Quite soon the ski-lift terminal is left far above and you find yourself in the heart of the “Canalone”. Then all at once there are the rocks, the crests, the bumps which from afar seemed rather insipid, but from near at hand take on their own intriguing personality.

What is a “Canalone”? Why, in comparison with open ski-runs, which are more and more numerous, dose it offer such a singular diversion and challenge? A “Canalone” is a corridor, a closed valley, a long prison in which one remains imprisoned. On both sides unscaleable cliffs. You fill the solitude and intimate charm experienced on the face of high mountains. Then up through the big “chimneys” as intimate as your own bedroom. The tongues of snow, the gullies and canopies an high assume an almost human expression. It is almost as thought someone were awaiting you arrival and spying on you from between the rocks. Each corner, cavity and gorge seem to invite you to rest there, promising mysterious wonders. It is in the “Canalone”, not the mountainside, where the elves, gnomes and ancient spirits of the mountain live.
Through and over this fabulous scene the “run” twists and turns and widens out into amphitheatres for a brief respite, then it narrows; down again and then zooms up as if just behind that hump there were an impossible abyss. But even the narrow gully goes its best to encourage you to go on and the skis go almost by themselves, zigzagging down, then the “run” widens out again into vast basins, each one of which has light and shade of its own and an expression and atmosphere different from the others.
Two other “Canaloni” are justly famous in our Alps. Both are above Cortina: “Le Tofane” and “Il Cristallo”.
The Canalone at Groppera (what an inelegant name) surpasses the others in its architectural majesty. A thousand metres of descent and three and a half kilometres of “run”.

At the end it opens up into a wide plain. Here we get the “fever” again. Up to the   ski-lift and back to the top. On with the skis away once mire to re-experience that run down through the white gullies and chimneys, to live our small personal illusion. How long will it last?         

Dino Buzzati (Dal Corriere della Sera del 18 agosto 1965)


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