Ski resort takes inspiration from the slow food movement

As ski lovers in Europe dust off their snow suits and prepare for the 2010 winter season, Italian resorts are offering more relaxing ways to enjoy the slopes as part of a new movement dubbed "slow skiing."

An Alpine resort at the foot of the Matterhorn mountain has created a cross-country trail specially tailored to holidaymakers who want to ski at their own pace and take time out to enjoy their surroundings.

"This is a new approach to skiing in Italy," said Walter Galli, a spokesman for the resort. "It's about getting away from the competitiveness of the main slopes, leaving the stress of the office behind and taking a moment to yourself."

The Breuil-Cervinia resort in the Valle d'Aosta region of northwest Italy has prepared the trail for skiers of all levels, complete with picturesque viewing points and wooden benches for those who want to catch their breath.

Organisers have named it after Italy's slow food movement - a campaign to get people to improve their quality of life and take pleasure in a more relaxed way of living.

Galli said the area is perfect for exploring on skis the ancient trails that have linked the Swiss and Italian sides of the border for centuries.

"The trail has benches set at strategic panoramic points to look over the snow-capped surrounding mountains, perfect for those who want to take things slowly, or even settle down with a favourite book," he said.

Other Italian resorts have also recently begun to explore the idea of offering customers the possibility to slow down and enjoy the scenery and food that the Alps have to offer.

At Alta Badia in the Italian province of Bolzano-Bozen, a group of Michelin-starred chefs have organised the "ski with taste" initiative.

"We've created a gastronomic route where hungry skiers can stop and indulge in delicious meals made from local produce," said Arturo Spicocchi, who came up with the idea along with fellow chefs Norbert Niederkofler and Fabio Cucchelli.

"There are 10 mountain huts, each run by a different chef. We create our own signature dishes from local ingredients such as honey, apples and speck (a mountain ham)," he said.

"The dishes are designed to energise skiers and walkers, and we explain the origins of the ingredients to our customers and how the meals are prepared," he said.