For Day 3, it's time for another visit to Oddball-Ski-Area Heaven.
Exactly halfway between the previous day’s Savognin and world-renowned St. Moritz is the small mountain village of Bivio, which lies right alongside Julier Pass: the watershed line between the Rhine and Danube Rivers (a Continental Divide-esque situation). In addition to Rätoromanisch und German, Italian is also spoken here; in fact, it’s reportedly the official language of Bivio.
Over the past five years, several laudatory trip reports on Bivio have been posted on Alpinforum (including this from March 2014 and this from February 2017) –- all of them on stunning bluebird days. As I drove into the municipal parking lot, I thought that I might score a similarly gorgeous setting.
Bivio: "The Pearl on The Julier Pass"
The de rigueur stop at the parking-fee machine:
Unfortunately, between getting booted up at my car and walking less than five minutes to the ticket counter, the sky became mostly cloudy, which quickly changed the atmosphere from colorful and majestic to feeling like an almost black and white photo:
2,600 vertical feet covered by three ancient t-bars: no chairs for you!
After paying $42 for a lift ticket, I headed up the lower t-bar past something I've rarely seen in the Alps: small to medium-sized bushes in a relatively high-altitude setting. The only time I recall seeing something similar is at Snowbasin in Utah.
Funny to see people skiing through them:
The place seemed pretty abandoned for a Sunday morning; in fact, I couldn't have seen more than 80 people the entire day. You could stand on a trail for ten minutes and no one would come by: country-club skiing + no snowmaking so it was like skiing on velvet.
While the map above had numbered trails, there were absolutely no signs on the actual ski terrain to indicate which one you were on. Just stakes to tell you where they groomed.
The pistes were almost exclusively blue pitch/maybe double-blue in spots, but intermixed with loooooong flats. Not enough to need to tuck or carry a ton of speed, but sometimes difficult to get into a proper rhythm.
At mid-mountain, you passed the only restaurant on the ski area:
And switched over to the upper t-bar:
You know that I'm a fan of t-bars because they feel less visually imposing and keep skier traffic down; however, 2,600 verts -- even on comparatively mellow terrain -- using nothing but surface lifts all day does eventually take a toll on your legs. Each ride to the top of the mountain is 4 kilometers/2.4 miles long. Still, better than walking:
The thing which limited the fun was that anything not groomed was seriously wind affected from the previous two days, so the extensive offpiste terrain wasn't really doable (and I tried).
Down toward the bottom, you'd ski past a number of really old stone houses:
And finally a few trees near the base:
A sledder being dragged uphill on the t-bar:
In short: due to the cloudy skies and being limited to groomers, I didn't have quite as grand a time as the people in the Alpinforum reports. The most interesting part for me was the old-school, ski-museum atmosphere and the "Bobcat Effect" -- the odd feeling that you were at a lost ski area which still happened to be open. What's especially fascinating is that this throwback mountain is only 25 minutes from one of the five most exclusive ski resorts/villages in the world.
If you've made it this far and are thinking, "is this guy ever going to visit a ski area that I've heard or read about?" -- hang on, the big show is coming up.