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. therefore every season abundant snow cloaks the lava desert in a mantle of white, which together with the light blue sky and to the bright green of the Mediterranean flora is for our eyes, but most of all for our soul, an intense emotion.
On Mt. 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 just one place! That’s why ski mountaineering competitions are organized in Valle del Bove. The valley has been popular from the ‘30s, so to guest a small shelter “Gino Menza” that was covered by the lava in February 1992.
The sudden temperature variation between night and day and the proximity to the see enhances the trasformation cycle of the snow, the crystals aggregation, in a sped up way.
For the backcountry ski lovers this means a low risk of avalanches and often an abundant, compact base, perfect for skiing.
It is possible to ski since the first snowing in december, and often through may, even if, the best time is on 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 been enjoying 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, offers terrain adapted to more experienced skiiers.