A short stroll in the square in front of the church of Valtournenche is enough to fully understand its spirit: visitors are charmed not only by the white bell tower or by the peaks of Grandes Murailles, but also by the tombstones affixed on the walls to remember the Alpine guides of the valley. They truly wrote the history of mountaineering and they were brave and skilled.
Why Valtournenche is so connected with mountaineering? Because it lies at the foot of the Matterhorn, the ‘most beautiful mountain in the world’, as the ‘Valtournains’, the inhabitants of Valtournenche, use to say. And, as the Abbé Gorret always stated, ‘for a Valtournanin, Valtournenche is the centre of the world’.
Since the attachment of the inhabitants to their territory is so strong, they definitely care of their town: from Alpine pastures to meadows to the typical rascards, made of wood and stone. The Matterhorn is definitely a wonderful peak and locals keep on valorising it and offering their guests an unforgettable welcome. You only have to visit Valtournenche to be aware of this.
WHAT TO SEE
● Saint Anthony parish church Its bell tower is easily visible from the majority of the hamlets of the town, since it definitely stands out. The building dates back to the XV century and was rebuilt in the XIX century.
● Maison de l’alpage. Realised in a big rascard of the XVII century which also hosts the Tourist Office, this museum promotes the knowledge of the traditional life in mountain pastures and of its products by organising guided visits and events.
NATURE AND SPORT
Back to the square, by looking towards the rocks in front of the town council in summer one can see mountain climbers having fun on a via ferrata. Mountain climbing, but also trekking: a bit further than the via ferrata, for instance, there is a nice and flat walk, suitable for kids too. Or it is possible to continue to the Cignana lake and to Perucca-Vuillermoz mountain hut. Valtournenche is literally full of hikes, no matter the difficulty level.
By looking towards the rushing Marmore stream – which a bit further digs the famous Gouffre de Busserailles, a long and deep ravine – a ski facility is easily visible. It is the ’Valtournenche-Salette’ cablecar which runs in summer too for excursionists and which gives access to the ski resort.
Leaving the square, in a couple of hours one can reach Cheneil, a tiny village without vehicles which has a superb view over the Matterhorn and which is surrounded by thick forests, rhododendrons and blooming pastures: as if in fairy tales! The hamlet of Cheneil is reachable by car from the hamlet Barmaz, in about 20 minutes on foot or by inclined lift. Always from the square a tiny lake is visible: it is the Maën lake, a nice corner of nature and peace both is summer and in winter.
Once in Valtournenche, winter sports lovers can have fun in the wide alpine skiing resort. Its 53 km of ski slopes, of various difficulty levels, become 200 in total thanks to the connection with the pistes of Breuil-Cervinia and Zermatt, in Switzerland.
It is also possible to practice cross-country skiing on the plateau of Champlève. Three rings of various difficulty levels and a total of 7 km of slopes are available, as well as various itineraries for snowshoeing.
Finally, the multi-purpose sport centre and the ‘Associazione Oasi’ sport centre in Pecou-Maën are open all year long.
EVENTS AND TRADITIONS
● Veillà de Valtournenche. A special summer night that, every two years, cheers up the streets of Valtournenche with the sounds of ancient jobs, such as the sabotier (an artisan who realises wooden clogs, shepherds shearing sheeps and women spinning wool. The scents of typical products complete the night.
● Dézarpa. At the end of September cows, sheep and shepherds leave the mountain pastures after having spent the summer at altitude. Sounds, colours and tastes are here available: a true party for everybody!
FOR THE LITTLE ONES
Valtournenche offers many chances of entertainment and learning specially conceived for children. In summer kids can try some easy paths that lead to lakes, pinewoods and colourful meadows. Once there, they can even see cows and sheep, and, if they are very lucky, some rare Alpine animals or flowers. There are also some picnic areas with playgrounds in Champlève and in Maën.
One of the most relevant events in summer is the ‘Summer Football Camp’ with its football, tennis and ping-pong tournaments, team games and swimming activities, always accompanied by some professionals.
In winter, kids can have fun at the baby snowpark: here all the facilities (magic carpets, snowtubing, inflatables, galleries, arches and amusements in general) are linked to the far west!
Finally, both in summer and in winter there is a baby-club providing baby-sitting and entertaining services.
● Inhabitants: 2300
● Altitude: 1500 m
● How to get there by public transports: Valtournenche is reachable by bus with the line “Châtillon - Breuil Cervinia”. Timetables are available on the Arriva company website.