There are still undiscovered waves, you can be sure. You might have to go to Antarctica to paddle into them, or they might break only rarely on some lonely flyspeck of rock that doesn’t often see a passing boat. But they’re out there — the ocean is too big, surfers too few, even in this connected age. But undiscovered ski resorts? Good luck.
When you do stumble across some unheralded gem, it’s critical that you keep quiet. Word always gets out eventually, but why hurry it? For many years, La Grave, France, was known in the media tribe only as Valley X, the better to keep the hoards at bay a little while longer. Another ridiculously powderful resort not far from La Grave became known as Val Terces, a seemingly obvious invention (read it backwards) that actually worked — few people know Val Terces’ real name and fewer still know its secrets.
Then there’s Valley Y, so named because it was the valley to be discovered after Valley X. It was almost mythologically big — 7,000 vertical feet, with another 4,000 if you wanted to hike for it — with only one cut run and an ancient gondola lift going ever higher in stages, just like La Grave.
Valley Y is Alagna, Italy, as you might already know. Word’s been out on Alagna for at least 15 years, so I’m not exactly spilling the beans. What protects Alagna is its inconsistency. Located on the south side of the Monte Rosa, Italy’s tallest peak and the second highest in the Alps, Alagna is blocked from the prevailing alpine storm track. It only has big years when storms swoop in from the south, off the Mediterranean, and get stuck against Monte Rosa. Much like Southwest U.S. resorts, Alagna is a feast or famine kind of place, and with little infrastructure and a village of just 900 at its base, few are banking their winter holiday on it.
And even if they do and the place should get overrun, the valley next to Alagna’s pretty sweet. It’s not as big as Alagna, but it’s bigger than most North American resorts. The next valley over, too. In fact, keep going west along the southern side of this range and you might be surprised. You might find Valley Z. But if you do, keep your dang mouth shut.
Photo: Henrik Windstedt in Alagna, Italy, by Mattias Fredriksson See more from Mattias here.
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