2nd April 2022
Life During a Coronavirus Pandemic: Week 105 Madonna di Campiglio
This week I enjoy the perfect ski holiday in Madonna di Campiglio
I knew I was taking a risk booking a skiing trip to the Italian Dolomites for the third week in March. Springtime in Italy can be very hot and then the snow melts very quickly. I was so lucky – the weather was sunny every day but the excellent covering of artificial snow clung to the slopes above Madonna di Campiglio ensuring wonderful skiing every morning of the week I was there. I stayed in the excellent Hotel Lorenzetti surrounded by the magnificent Brenta Dolomites range of mountains.
Monday 21 March 2022
I wake early and start with the day with some exercises for my back. I have suffered when travelling with heavy suitcases since I was hit by a car while crossing a road in the Lake District. But nothing will stop me skiing this week. I am at the bottom of the Pradalago cabin lift before it opens at 08:30. While I am validating my ski pass by proving I have a COVID pass I see a familiar figure. It is ‘my’ ski instructor. I have known il Maestro for many years and have enjoyed many lessons with him. He is delighted to see me and says he has been looking out for me all season in the hope I would have found my way back to Madonna di Campiglio now travel restrictions have eased. As he does not have a lesson until 10 am we have time to ski together for a while. It is a magical hour for me. We fly down the red Pradalago Diretta, twice. We stop occasionally so my Maestro can correct my faults. Finally, we cruise down the red Pradalago Provetti to the bottom where we say goodbye – for today.
I continue down the blue run, Pradalago Facile, with joins Grotte and takes me to the bottom of the Spinale cabin lift on the other side of the valley. I do the easy blue run, Boch, to practice what I have just learnt and then progress to the red Boch Variante before stopping at Chalet Fiat for a coffee. It is a glorious morning - the sun is bright in an azure blue sky and there are not many skiers on the slopes today.
After my break I ski down the red run, Spinale Diretta branching off onto Fortini, a red run that takes me to the bottom of the Grosté cabin lift. I call the hotel shuttle bus and get back to the hotel in time for an early lunch. The hotel is very quiet – a combination of coronavirus restrictions and the Russian invasion of Ukraine which has dramatically reduced the number of visitors from Eastern Europe. I am the only one in the restaurant. The waiter on duty is busy pruning the poinsettias on each table in the restaurant. They have been here since December and are still doing very well. This afternoon I visit my friends and help their son with his English homework. After that we do a Word Search in English – he beats by one point! Another delicious dinner in the Hotel Lorenzetti this evening is the finale of a perfect day in the mountains.
Omicron vs Zero-Covid: How long can China hold on? China and Hong Kong are seeing their largest spike in Covid cases in more than two years, despite determinedly pursuing one of the world's strictest virus elimination policies. Most countries are now trying to live with coronavirus - so how long can China hold on to its "zero-Covid" goal?
In the News Today
Ukraine rejects Russia’s demand to surrender key city as Russia’s attempts to seize the besieged southern port city of Mariupol in Ukraine show no signs of easing on the ground. Heavy fighting has reached the centre, people are trapped, electricity, gas and running water has been cut off, supplies are running out and aid is being blocked from entering.
Tuesday 22 March 2022
Smoked salmon is on the breakfast buffet again and I indulge for a third consecutive morning – with a fresh, brown bread roll. I have arranged to meet my Maestro again this morning if he is free. He is. This morning he suggests we start on Genziana, a red slope I do not enjoy skiing. But, I agree and off we go. I have forgotten the changes this slope underwent a few years ago and although it is wider it is also steeper and the flatter corner I used to retreat to half-way down is no longer there. I do not ski it very well the first time but the second run is better. My thighs are burning by the time we get to the bottom of the Genziana chair lift a second time. I am very grateful when my Maestro turns onto an easier blue run, Pradalago Facile from the top of the chair lift. We take the short Zeledria chair lift to the top of Pradalago and then ski down Pradalago Diretta – fast. But I am getting used to skiing faster than normal speed and my confidence is growing.
When I part company with my Maestro I head for the Grosté ski area via the Spinale cabin lift and the Rododendro chair lift. This is a more pleasant route than sitting on the Grosté cabin lift for twenty minutes. The quality of the snow is superb considering the resort has not had any natural snow since early January and has kept the pistes covered by making artificial snow overnight. I do the red Corna Rossa and then the blue Graffer piste before stopping for coffee at Boch, a large, busy restaurant at the mid-station of the Grosté cabin lift. It is another hot, sunny day and the deckchairs outside are already filling up.
After enjoying an excellent cappuccino, I make my way down to the village and back to the hotel for lunch. My favourite dish is on the menu today, tagliata. This dish comprises a sliced fillet steak on a bed of rocket with balsamic vinegar drizzled over it. After lunch I spend the afternoon at my friend’s – more defeats at English word games by her ten-year old son. But I am the victor when we play Uno.
The 10 most common symptoms for COVID at the moment as infection rates are surging. The official symptoms on the NHS remain the same - a high temperature, a new, continuous cough and a loss of sense of smell or taste but the Zoe Covid Study at King’s College London, has published a list of the 10 most common symptoms: Runny nose, Headache, Any fatigue, Sore throat, Sneezing, Persistent cough, Hoarse voice, Chills or shivers, Other unusual joint pains.
‘Partygate’ witnesses ‘refusing fines’ Detectives have begun interviewing key witnesses in the “partygate” investigation in a signal that some of those accused of breaking lockdown rules have refused to accept fines. Scotland Yard said on Monday that more than 100 questionnaires had been sent out to people suspected of attending illegal Downing Street gatherings.
In the News Today
Sunak ‘does not plan big changes’ in his spring statement tomorrow. It is said the Treasury has drawn up a range of options to help with the impending cost of living crisis, including a 1p cut to income tax, raising the national insurance threshold and a significant cut to fuel duty.
Wednesday 23 March 2022
There is a buzz at breakfast this morning as more guests arrived yesterday but none of them seem to be in a hurry to go skiing. I am the only one on the first run of the shuttle bus – an excellent service offered by the Hotel Lorenzetti. I meet up with my Maestro again – how lucky am I? He suggests we tackle some black runs this morning. I agree and we head for the Spinale cabin lift. As we shoot down the blue run to the bottom of the lift a squirrel scampers across the snow in front of us. My Maestro slams on the brakes by going into a wide snow plough. My attempt at a snow plough is not quite so effective and I nearly crash into him – but I do see the squirrel. I get a lecture on the importance of a good snowplough – my emergency exit if the unexpected happens.
At the top of the Spinale cabin lift we turn straight on to Nube d’Oro, a black piste. This time, after a reminder of how to ski a steep slope and a pause to watch some good skiers go down, I go first. At the bottom of this slope, I get a “brava” for my performance, a rare accolade from my Maestro. On the next run we cannot start on the first section of Nube d’Oro as it is being used for slalom practice but we pick it up on the second, steeper section. I follow – this is so much easier as I don’t have to think about anything other than following my Maestro’s tracks. On our final run we go down Marche Variante, a short black piste, intersecting Spinale Diretta, a red piste. By the time we say goodbye I am buzzing with the joy of having skied some black runs competently rather than simply surviving.
I return to the slopes of Spinale for a while and then make my way to one of my favourite slopes, Vagliana at the bottom of the Rododendro chair lift. This lovely switchback slope is usually the first to close in the warm spring weather so I am very happy to discover it is still open. I love the challenge of the large mounds scattered along this run.
Next stop Rifugio Giorgio Graffer for coffee before heading back to the hotel via the short Zeledria chair lift. The chairs are stationary as a distraught ski instructor struggles to control a large group of eight-year olds. While he stands by the gate helping them get through the first ones through have lined up ready to get on the chair but don’t know what to do next. Clearly, they can’t go up on their own. No doubt they were told to follow the normal practice of lining up in single file so they can be paired with an adult on the four-man chair. The adult skiers hang back expressing their displeasure at the ski-instructor’s man-handling of his class – the children do not seem at all disturbed and meekly re-assemble. Although I am near the back of the waiting queue I decide to move forward and take one of the children on the chair lift with me. A relieved ski instructor beckons me through and other adult skiers follow my example. The chair starts moving again and all is well.
The rest of my day passes without incident – although I do have the excitement of visiting the local hairdresser – the first time I have had my hair done for two years. Lockdown and a paucity of appointments has been a great excuse as I consider having one’s hair done is a sophisticated form of torture.
In the News Today
Supermarkets slash petrol and diesel prices after Rishi Sunak announces fuel duty cut - UK supermarkets plan to pass chancellor Rishi Sunak's fuel duty reduction on to consumers as fuel prices soar in Britain amid geopolitical tensions.
As Russia Stalls in Ukraine, Dissent Brews Over Putin's Leadership - in January, the head of a group of serving and retired Russian military officers declared that invading Ukraine would be “pointless and extremely dangerous.” It would kill thousands, he said, make Russians and Ukrainians enemies for life, risk a war with NATO and threaten “the existence of Russia itself as a state.”
We’re going back to a USSR’: long queues return for Russian shoppers as sanctions bite The lines for sugar in Saratov were hard not to compare to the Soviet era, part of a recent run on Russian staples that have revived fears that the Kremlin’s invasion in Ukraine will lead to a virtual slide back to the shortages or endless queues of the Soviet Union.
Thursday 24 March 2022
The sun is rising over the mountains when I get to the restaurant for breakfast his morning. Smoked salmon again – now a daily treat. I suspect my Maestro, if he is free this morning, will be keen to do the longest black run in the resort, Amazzonia. I am right and we do that first, from the top of the Pradalago cabin lift. I cope quite well although my heart is thudding all the way down. I am relieved when I am not invited to do it a second time. We move on to the Cinque Laghi ski area via the very steep red run, Centenario. We pause at the top of the last, very steep section. My Maestro tells me if I have a mishap here I will end up in the centre of Madonna di Campiglio which we can see below us. I have struggled to keep close to him all day but on this section I manage to stay with him – sometimes too close as he suddenly shortens his turns. We take the Cinque Laghi cabin lift to the top and ski down a great red run, Nambino to the bottom of the Pradalago cabin lift. We ski down Pradalago Diretta and say goodbye at the bottom. I do a few more runs before going back to the hotel for a coffee – exhausted but very happy.
In the News Today
Will the Tories really deliver a 2024 tax cut? Less than 24 hours after Rishi Sunak promised a 1p cut in the basic rate of income tax during this parliament, commentators were casting doubt on whether he can and will keep his pledge - “Brits will have to wait until 2024” for the promised cut.
What next for P&O after brutal sackings? Ministers and unions united to condemn the summary firing of 786 workers last week by P&O Ferries. The workers were told in a three-minute video last Thursday that they were losing their jobs “with immediate effect”. Security guards then went aboard to escort crew off the ships. P&O, which is owned by Dubai-based DP World.
Friday 25 March 2022
Today is my last day on the slopes of Madonna di Campiglio and I am determined to treasure every moment. From waking up at 6 am and seeing the moon still shining above the Brenta Dolomites outside my window. The hotel shuttle bus taking me to Pradalago before most of the guests in the hotel have started breakfast. Sitting in the sun near the Pradalago cabin lift hoping my Maestro will not be too busy for an early morning ski with me before reporting to his ski school. He does have a lesson this morning but we have time to do some of the black runs on Spinale so we go straight there and start on the top section of Nube d’Oro and then follow the red and blue runs to the bottom of the new Nube d’Oro six-man chair lift. The heated seats are superfluous on such a sunny day. My Maestro compliments on my ability to stay close to him today – I concede I was rubbish yesterday and he agrees. On our next run we do the steepest side of the second section of the black run, Nube d’Oro. We continue to the bottom of the Grosté cabin lift. Our final run but lots of happy memories.
This morning, when I said goodbye to my Maestro I tell him for the first time I have had both knees replaced. I did not tell him before as I wanted to be treated like any other skier. He says I must have a good surgeon. I tell him I did, the best – Professor John Skinner, Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital. After a fond farewell to my Maestro, I ski down Grotte to the bottom of the Spinale chair lift and go up to the top intending to practice for a while. But, finally, the hot weather has caught up with the snow so I take a break for a cappuccino at Malaga Montagnoli. I sit outside enjoying the sun for a while.
When I set off again I take the red Spinale Diretta. I pass the reservoir just below Malga Montagnoli. It was built to store water for the snow-making system. It is empty. I can’t decide whether to stay on Spinale Diretta or branch of on to Fortini, an easier red. I decide I will regret it if I don’t try the steep section of Spinale Diretta so I go down that run. I ski the two steep sections reasonably well. I am delighted with the progress I have made this week and so lucky to have had such good snow despite the hot weather. This afternoon I do some shopping in Madonna di Campiglio, pay a final visit to my friends, enjoy a last, super dinner and then pack, ready to leave early tomorrow morning.
Covid admissions rise among elderly Covid-19 hospital admissions among those aged over 75 in England are at the highest level for a year, said the UK Health Security Agency. Infections are increasing in all age groups and in all regions and health bodies are warning of further increases.
In the News Today
Mobile driving loophole closed A loophole that allowed motorists to escape punishment for using a handheld phone if they are taking a photo or playing a game has been closed. In a move described by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps as a “zero-tolerance approach.”
West warns Putin on chemical weapons Joe Biden has pledged that Nato would respond “in kind” if Vladimir Putin used chemical weapons against Ukraine. The US president said “the nature of the response would depend on the nature of the use”.
P&O admits law breach The chief executive of P&O Ferries said he knew the firm was breaking employment law by firing 800 seafarers without consulting unions, but did it anyway.
Saturday 26 March 2022
I have booked the FlySki bus service to Verona Airport and the bus picks me up from outside the Hotel Lorenzetti at 7 am. It is a scenic journey down the mountain to Trento where we stop to pick up some more passengers. The sun dances on the pure white glacier Adamello Presanella, pretty villages cling to the foothills of the Italian Dolomites and whole fields full of blossoming fruit trees.
We arrive at Verona airport at 9.30 am which is 30 minutes early. The BA check-in is open and no queues. Elsewhere Departures is very busy with long queues at other check-desks and a very long queue for security. Seems international travel is recovering from the coronavirus pandemic. I don’t like the look of this queue so decided to find a quiet corner and finish my breakfast - two smoked salmon rolls. When I finally go through security it is empty. I soon get through only to find the queue for passport control starts just beyond security. I walk to the front of the queue to see if there is a fast track. There is not but the girl on duty feeds me into the queue that does not have an automated gate. Several flights are departing to the U.K. around the same time so it is chaos at the boarding gates. But my flight boards on time. We arrive early at Heathrow and have to wait for a parking spot. I watch the activity outside – a silver dot in the sky indicates the next plane is approaching. There are long queues for passport control and then over half an hour wait for luggage. I get to the National Express coach stop just in time for the 2 pm coach back to Poole and avoid a three-hour wait for the next bus.
In the News Today
Ministers to make school week a minimum of 32.5 hours in England as part of a package of reforms aimed at raising standards, which Labour and unions have condemned as insufficient to support schools that have been left “battered and bruised” by the pandemic.
Crowd chaos forces London store to close amid launch of MoonSwatch collection A central London watch store had to close amid chaotic scenes after crowds turned up for the launch of the Bio-Ceramic MoonSwatch collection. The watches are priced at £207 if bought directly from Swatch, but some of the products are already listed on eBay for more than £3,000.
Sunday 27 March 2022
A late, lazy start today. But then I discover it is later than I thought as I had forgotten the clocks went forward last night. I spend the day catching up with my emails and unsubscribing from all those newsletters I never subscribed to. I arrange a loan of a Canon 90D camera and a lens to try out as I am hoping to improve my photography. First step, better equipment. Early evening I cycle to the National Trust shed at the Sandbanks quay to collect a parking permit for tomorrow morning when my friend and I are going across to Brownsea Island to do a shift as pier wardens. It is such a lovely evening I stop for a while to watch the chain ferry heading for Studland.
In the News Today
William says future of monarchy in Caribbean ‘for people to decide’ The Duke of Cambridge has acknowledged the monarchy’s days in Belize, Jamaica and the Bahamas may be numbered as he stated the future “is for the people to decide upon”. William and Kate visited the three nations during their Caribbean tour, but by their next royal trip the Queen may have been replaced as head of state.
Some Government Statistics
The government has changed the way it reports COVID-19 statistics and no longer gives daily totals but from Monday to Friday it gives a 7-day total with no statistics reported on Saturday and Sunday. In the last 7 days, by Friday 25 March, the number of people who tested positive is 599,244 bringing the cumulative total to 20,691,123. The number of deaths within 28 days of positive test is 950 in the last 7 days bringing the cumulative total of deaths to 164,454. Total deaths with COVID-19 on the death certificate this week 186,094 an increase this week of 820.
More next week
Valery Collins is the Experienced Traveller
An excellent raconteur, Valery has been writing about her experiences on the road since she started travelling 25 years ago. After publishing four books she turned to online travel writing.