Not only sandwiches between one downhill run and another but the opportunity to try some traditional cuisine after the joys of skiing, fresh air and bracing views. The mountain huts, guest houses and restaurants in Bielmonte (1,482 m), Oasi Zegna’s ski resort in the Biella area, are ideal for trying the experience of being pampered by the warmth of mountain places and people. The best time to arrive? As the sun goes down and sets ablaze a panorama embracing the Po Valley plains and the alpine peaks from Monte Rosa to Monviso. For visitors wishing to stop over after a day’s skiing there’s plenty to choose from in the facilities that offer accommodation.
We recommend the following four.
Rifugio Monte Marca: in addition to the tables in its restaurant, it seats another 70 people on its two big panoramic terraces perfectly placed for enjoying the spectacle of the Alps and the early afternoon Bielmonte sunshine. The cuisine is based on the Piemonte tradition, where the main dishes are meat stews and polenta made with course stone-ground maize flour from the local mill. Fresh and cured meats, cheeses and fruit and vegetables are provided by local farms in accordance with short supply chain criteria. The refuge can be reached from Bielmonte on skis or using the famous single-seat chair-lift, taking only a few minutes.
The key feature at Agriturismo Alpe Moncerchio (in winter open only at the weekends and on holidays - it’s best to call to make sure) is that the cheeses, and above all its Maccagno, as well as the meat, bull and goat salamis, mocetta, bacon and lard, are all produced on the farm. The managers here also rear cattle in fact, of the ‘Bruna Alpina’ breed, and the meat and cheese boards are the pride of this refuge, to be enjoyed with fig or lime flower jam and traditional dishes like risotto al Macagn or meat cooked to the family’s recipes. Moncerchio too is by the ski slopes.
With the welcoming warmth of a typical mountain chalet, all stone and wood, the Albergo Ristorante Bucaneve is just two minutes walk from the ski-lifts. Recently renovated, it has retained its original character, with all the details and styling created in 1963 by the architect Luigi Vietti, famous for many projects, above all in Cortina and on the Costa Smeralda. Breakfast here is a must, a fitting prelude to splendid day’s skiing, with homemade bread, croissants and cakes made with sourdough and course ground flours. The honey and jams are produced in Oasi Zegna. The panoramic terrace, overlooking woodland, pastures and the vast expanse of the Po Valley plains, is for guests of the bistrot, a great hangout at all times of day. The hotel’s rooms, all in wood, are warm and cozy. And its restaurant, dominated by an imposing fireplace, is headed by chef Ernesto Tonetto, who finds inspiration for his dishes in the environment: woods and pastures, alpine peaks, Valsessera and the Po Valley plains, offering a variety of rice, wines and vegetables.
Tradition is undoubtedly what inspires the culinary offering at Locanda Bocchetto Sessera, on the mountain pass of the same name just a few kilometers from Bielmonte. The irresistible menu includes bagna cauda, polenta moia (made with Maccagno cheese and cream), game (deer with bilberries and wild boar with cocoa) and other traditional recipes typical of the Biella mountains. Here too the ingredients are locally sourced, with cheese and butter from the alpine pastures in Oasi Zegna, flour from Biella mills and locally picked herbs. In winter, the place is the trail head for various snowshoe and cross-country ski routes. The 19th century Locanda Bocchetto Sessera was built on the site of what was already a stop-off on the transhumance route used by herdsmen to reach the upland pastures of Valsessera and Valsesia. During the last war it was one of the places that symbolized the partisan resistance.
RIFUGIO MONTE MARCA
Altitude: 1,616 m, the high point of the Bielmonte alpine zone Info: Tel. 015.744131, www.montemarca.it - Open all year round Services: restaurant, bar, two panoramic terraces
Accommodation: 7 rooms, all with private bathroom
Access: on foot or by single-seat chair-lift. In the fine season, also by mountain bike.
Altitude: 1,500 m
Info: Tel. 015.744184 - 393.5453705, www.bucaneve.eu
Services: panoramic terrace, restaurant, wellness center specializing in holistic treatments, services tailored for families with kids, bikers and lovers of outdoor activities
Accommodation: 20 rooms, each decorated in a different style
Access: in Bielmonte, on the Panoramica Zegna road.
RIFUGIO ALPE MONCERCHIO
Altitude: 1,450 m
Location: in Bielmonte, by the cross-country ski trail on the flank of Monte Cerchio
Info: tel. 339.7289682, 329.2060620, www.alpemoncerchio.it
Accommodation: 4 rooms with bathroom
Access: on foot for 2 km (in winter also with snowshoes). In the fine season, also by car from Bocchetto Sessera on an unsurfaced road (2.5 km).
LOCANDA BOCCHETTO SESSERA
Altitude: 1,380 m
Location: Bocchetto Sessera-Tavigliano
Info: tel. 015.744115, www.bocchettosessera.it
Accommodation: 8 rooms
Access: 1 km from Bielmonte on the Panoramica Zegna road