The Vallone delle Cime Bianche or Courtaud Valley rises at the top of the Val d’Ayas, in Valle d’Aosta. It is an unspoilt alpine environment, the last area in the whole Val d’Ayas where there are still no roads, ski lifts and slopes.
Late spring in the Vallone delle Cime Bianche. Photo by Annamaria Gremmo.
The Vallone, or gorge, is a unique ecosystem that has remained unchanged since the last ice age, considered by the Italian Botanical Society as a biotope of “outstanding natural interest and worthy of conservation”, as a unique example of biodiversity.
The Vallone has been included in the Special Protection Area ‘Glacial Environments in the Monte Rosa Chain’ (IT1204220), part of the European Natura 2000 network, for the following reasons: “Possible modification of habitats due to the effect of climate change. Strong tourist pressure in the Valtournenche-Cervinia area. Additional infrastructure projects. Modification of the surface water regime.”
In fact, in 2014 the old idea of linking the Monterosa Ski area to Cervinia was revived. In 2015, a Feasibility Study was presented for the link: a ski lift system extending from Frachey to Vardaz, followed by a three-cable lift system up to the Colle Superiore (Upper Hill) of the Cime Bianche.
Two years later the Aosta Valley Region Cableway Service presented a different study, indicating the Colle Inferiore (Lower Hill) of the Cime Bianche as the point of arrival and proposing a quadruple structure, extending from Frachey to the Vardaz Alp, the Lower Hill, the Upper Hill and the Cime Bianche-Laghi station.
The threat has not passed, because at the end of January 2020 the Valle d’Aosta Region approved the 2020-2022 Regional Economic and Financial Document which provides for a new feasibility study for the construction of the lift system.
Summer in the Vallone delle Cime Bianche. Photo by Francesco Sisti.
The Vallone and other similar situations in our Alps
Obviously, the case in question is not the only problem. In 2019 an attempt was made to develop heliskiing in the central Valpelline, in Valle d’Aosta. In Piedmont, in the heart of the Veglia and Devero Nature Park in Ossola, there is the risk of a link with the San Domenico district, on the borders of the protected area: a danger very similar to that of the Vallone delle Cime Bianche. The wild Val di Mello, a well-known attraction in the Valtellina, is threatened by a road project.
L’Ultimo Vallone Selvaggio is a photography project in favour of the great ideal of Conservation: a term that is used all too rarely in our country, that we associate with contexts far from us, for which we feel powerless to act.
Today, however, while the “man-nature” conflict is exacerbated even in our mountains, we cannot forget that our voice can help to make a difference, to make a positive change. All of us, no one excluded, will leave a trace of our passage. Choosing the type of trace depends on us alone.
Something that remains over time: the photography project has become a book
Our promotional activity in favour of the Vallone delle Cime Bianche has been crowned by the photography book “L’Ultimo Vallone Selvaggio. In difesa delle Cime Bianche” (Annamaria Gremmo and Marco Soggetto, 208 pages, 28×22, 150 photographs, ISBN: 9788894487909. Info: email@example.com), with a preface by Alessandro Gogna and Francesco Sisti.
A song of love for a land that is still intact and beautiful, an invitation to get to know, protect, preserve.
Finally, for those who wish to contribute by making their voices heard, there is an active pro bono petition on Change.org which has already been signed by 6,700 people. At the same time, it is possible to vote in favour of the Vallone in the 2020 Places of the Heart Census, held by FAI, the Italian National Trust.
By Annamaria Gremmo, Francesco Sisti and Marco Soggetto