Etna, the roof of the Mediterranean, with its 3340 m height, majestically dominates the north-eastern part of the island, and thanks to its abundant snowfall, despite its latitude, it is an ideal destination for ski mountaineering.
The warm, moisture-laden southern currents from the African continent constantly exchange with cooler, drier currents descending from the north. As a result, in every season, the lava desert is covered by large amounts of snow. Combined with the blue of the sea and the intense green of the Mediterranean scrub, the spectacle before our eyes is truly powerful.
On Etna, you may encounter strong winds, lava flows, and unexpected eruptions that cover the white mantle with a black blanket of abrasive sand.
It’s rare to find all that in one place! That’s why ski mountaineering competitions have been organised in the Valle del Bove for many years. Popular since the 1930s, it was home to the small Gino Menza refuge, which was covered by lava in February 1992.
The extreme temperature range between night and day and the proximity to the sea contribute to the acceleration of the snow transformation cycle, i.e. the aggregation of crystals.
For off-piste skiers, this means little risk of avalanches and often compact, load-bearing snow that is perfect for skiing.
We can ski from the first snowfalls in December and often until May, although the best months are generally February, March and April.
Etna’s flanks are ideal for off-piste skiing: the gullies of the Pizzi Deneri, which from an altitude of 2840 m take us to Piano Provenzana (1800 m), the wide white spaces of the Montagnola with its sandy terrain and the Schiena dell’Asino, which from an altitude of 2642 m (the tip of the Montagnola) slopes down to Piano del Vescovo (1500 m); or the wild western slope with Punta Lucia (2930 m), the most prominent peak in the area.
For experienced skiers looking for an adrenaline-fuelled experience, the Valle del Bove is perfect thanks to its countless steep channels.
Let us now move on to the mountainous reliefs of the Madonie Park. Since the 1930s, many locals from Madonie and Palermo have practised ski-mountaineering on the highest peaks in the park: Pizzo Carbonara (1979 m), Monte Ferro and all the surrounding snow-covered peaks, amidst beech trees and spectacular views, have been and still are a perfect ‘toy’ for novice ski-mountaineers, while the sometimes icy gullies of Monte Quacella are the preserve of experienced ski-mountaineers.