Mt. Etna, the roof of the Mediterranean, rises 3,340 above sea level and majestically dominates the northeastern part of the island. Despite its latitude, abundant winter precipitation make it ideal for ski mountaineering.
Warm humid southern winds from Africa constantly mix with cooler drier winds from the north so every season abundant snow cloaks the lava desert in a mantle of white, which against the azure sky and bright green Mediterranean flora offers a spectacle that is a feast for our eyes as well as our souls.
On Etna you may come across strong winds, lava beds or even sudden eruptions which cover the white mantle with abrasive black sand.
It’s hard to find all of this in one place! That’s why ski mountaineering races are organized in Valle del Bove, a valley that’s been popular with back country skiers since the 1930s. A small mountain hut (Gino Menza) was even constructed there but, alas, it was covered by a lava flow in 1992.
The sudden and marked difference in temperature between night and day as well as the vicinity of the mountain to the sea benefit the cycle of snow transformation, that is to say it leads to an acceleration of crystals forming and clustering.
For backcountry ski enthusiasts there is a low risk of avalanches and often an abundant, compact base, perfect for skiing.
While it’s possible to ski from the first snowfall in December until well into May, the best months are generally February, March, and April.
The sides of Mount Etna are ideal for backcountry skiing: the canals of Pizzi Deneri, which take you from 2,840m. down to Piano Provenzana (1,800 m.). Then there’s the wide, white swaths of Montagnola with its sandy terrain, as well as the Schiena dell Asino which takes you up to the top of Montagnola (2,642 m.). You can get down via Piano del Vescovo (1,500m.) or by way of the rugged western side of the mountain, where Punta Lucia (2,930 m.) is the most prominent peak in the area.
For adrenaline seekers Valle del Bove offers numerous very steep canals.
In February you can visit the mountains of Madonie Park, where people from these mountains and nearby Palermo have enjoyed ski mountaineering on the highest peaks in the area since the 1930s. Pizzo Carbonara (1,979 m.), Mount Ferro and all of the surrounding peaks when covered in snow, among beech trees and and spectacular views, are the perfect play place for beginner ski mountaineers. The canals of Mount Quacella, on the other hand, which are sometimes icy, offer terrain adapted to more experienced skiiers.