Guest Blog by Jackie Lambert
Hi, we are ‘that couple with four dogs,’ otherwise known as Jackie and Mark. We took early retirement to travel when we were made redundant in our early 50s. Once we were no longer slaves to long hours, we decided to get a dog, but ended up with four; our cuddly Cavapoos Kai, Rosie, Ruby and Lani.Our pooches are our constant companions and since one of our passions is skiing, we take our pups on piste; that is, they accompany us for our snowy seasons in Monte Rosa, a hidden gem in the Italian Alps.
We stay in Staffal, a small, quiet village at the head of the Gressoney (Lys) Valley, which is dominated by the Monte Rosa massif. At 4,634m (15,203ft) Monte Rosa is the second highest peak in Europe, next to Mont Blanc.
Monte Rosa prides itself on being dog friendly and the Pawsome Foursome are welcome in mountain huts, on cable-cars and gondolas and in shuttle buses. They should wear muzzles on public transport, but it is Italy. Flexibility with rules is common, although not universal...
A short drive away, above Fontainemore, the remote and beautiful area of Coumarial is one of our favourite places to walk. High in the mountains at the foot of the Mont Mars Nature Reserve, there are miles of pisted tracks with rapturous views at every turn.
Another firm favourite is the walk to the off-piste-only Orestes Hütte. At 2,600m (8,530ft), this mountain refuge is beautiful, cosy and modern. It rewards an hour’s hike from the lift station at Gabiet with snowy silence, a sunny terrace, top-notch vegetarian food and water from its own spring. You can also expect a warm welcome from The Boss, the magnificent Norwegian Forest Cat, who rules the roost.
A little way down the valley from the main ski area is the village of Gressoney St Jean; home to La Passeggiata della Regina, ‘The Queen’s Walk’. This is the route that Queen Margherita of Savoie (Savoy) used to take from her summer residence, the Disney-like Castel Savoia, to the village. Our Blue-Blooded little Princess Ruby certainly thinks that she is qualified to walk in the footsteps of a Queen!
La Passegiata is a gorgeous walk through a pine forest, past huge boulders and secret caves. The views are beautiful; if the afternoon sun catches Gressoney St Jean, it looks like a city of gold in the valley below. Depending on which way you walk, you will be admiring the glaciers of Monte Rosa or the snow-covered, fairy-tale turrets of Castel Savoia.
Built in 1904, the castle had a relatively short Royal life. Founded in 1003, the House of Savoie is one of the oldest Royal houses in the world. It led the unification of Italy in 1861, although the House was deposed following the constitutional referendum of 1946, when Italy became a republic.
The House of Savoie still exists and is worth a mention since the leadership is contested by two Bad Boy Royal cousins. In one corner is Vittorio Emanuele, Prince of Naples, who used to claim the title ‘King of Italy’. In the other, Prince Amedeo, Duke of Aosta, who is still titled ‘Duke of Savoy’.
In our first season we walked regularly along a number of the summer footpaths, including Footpath 7 from Staffal to the hamlet of Cortalys. In our second season, we were rather chastened to find a number of these paths buried under enormous avalanches! As such, I recommend seeking local advice regarding snow conditions and the avalanche risk. It is also worthwhile keeping an eye on the weather, since even well-marked tracks can be difficult to follow in poor visibility.
For further advice on traveling with dogs during the winter see Bee Walker’s excellent blog on
winter travel tips for dog owners.
It seems to be a truth universally acknowledged that DOGS LOVE SNOW! In fact, walking in a winter wonderland has added another amazing dimension to our ski trips. It brings me so much joy to see our Fur Family playing so happily in the snow, while winter walking is another delightful way to stretch those skiing muscles, experience the backcountry and get away from the crowds.
Wishing you happy travels in 2019.
Jacqueline Lambert writes a blog www.worldwidewalkies.com about her travels in Europe with The Fab Four. She has recently published ‘Year 1 – Fur Babies in France – From Wage Slaves to Living the Dream’; the first book in her series ‘Adventure Caravanning with Dogs’. It is available worldwide on Amazon as both an eBook and Paperback and has already received five-star reviews. Her second book ‘Dog on the Rhine – From Rat Race to Road Trip’, which details a dog-centric tour of Germany, The Czech Republic, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia and Italy, is available for pre-order on Amazon pending publication on 1st March 2019. ‘Dogs ‘n’ Dracula’- a Romance with Romania – will be available in mid-2019.