Ski history in Limone
Through its stories and testimonies, the documentary 'Skiing in Limone' by Barbara Allemand illustrates the main stages in the development of the town as a tourist and ski resort of reference within the lower part of Piedmont. It spans from the first ski practices at the beginning of the 20th century to the birth of the Riserva Bianca ski resort.
At the beginning of the 20th century, skiing made its appearance in Limone as a means used by the military. The newspaper called "La Sentinella Delle Alpi" recounts that on 4th March 1907 the Alpine 'skiers', who had been following the annual ski course in Limone for over a month organised a show.
At the end of the races, a grand ball was organised at the Albergo della Posta Hotel, which was later turned into the Touring Hotel and it is now the Fiocco di Neve Relais.This was the first important ski-related event in Limone. Over the following years, the military performances were repeated and were opened up to civilians as well, so the town began to structure itself as a winter tourist resort: a local sports club called 'Terrasole' was founded and some Limone athletes trained with it, then later on also the Proloco and a 'Ski Club' were created.
After the First World War, Limone began to look at the new-born ski market as a possible source of income, also taking advantage of its strategic topographical position, boasting proximity to the western Ligurian Riviera and the Côte d'Azur. Limone in the early 1920s became 'the mountain of the two Rivieras'.
In this video, there are Domenico Clerico's account and Catterina Orsini's testimony.
The Bottero Cup
In 1928, the first edition of the Bottero Cup was organised. It was one of the most important races of the time and was dedicated to the memory of Giovanni Battista Bottero, a native of Limone who founded the newspaper called "La Gazzetta del Popolo".
Thanks to this event, which was repeated over the following years, skiing became deeply rooted in Limone’s society, which actively participated in the event, as recounted by Catterina Bottero and Catterina Orsini.
The race involved valley residents as well as athletes registered with the FIS –the Italian Ski Federation, and took place on a Sunday along a route made up of ascents and descents parts, covering more than 1,000 metres of altitude difference as until the 1930s, in competitions there was no clear division between the Alpine and the Nordic disciplines.
In 1929, three mountain-loving friends, Cesare Beccati, Amilcare De Carli and Umberto Gandolfo ('Niculin'), built the 'Tre Amis' refuge at an altitude of around 2,000 metres in the Gherra region. Originally it was a small wooden hut, then in 1936 it was renovated by the newly founded FU.LI.SA. company, thus allowing its capacity to be increased up to 80 places.
At the same time, the construction of the first ropeway in the entire area was begun and then inaugurated in 1937. It was a big sledge linked to a low rope and it connected the Tende Pass with the Gherra peak, thus allowing a direct access to the large ski fields lying above 1,800 metres of altitude: an area already known for a long time because it was regularly frequented by ski mountaineers.
The Tre Amis large sledge is an important step because it is the first attempt at high altitude to make new tracks available for ski competitions, as well as to their public.
In the video, there is story of the lawyer named Brunello Olivero.
The Feit Sledge Lift
In 1938, a new sledge lift was put into operation in Limone, leading from Campo Principe to the summit of Feit (Casetta Rossa): it is a 550 metre long facility powered by an oil engine.
It is shorter than the Col de Tende lift, but has two sledges, a to-and-fro model, each carrying 12 people.
With Italy entering the war, the relations with France changed radically.
In the immediate post-war period, skiing in Limone languished for at least a year. If before the conflict the town had experienced an exceptional development, above all due to its topographical position and easy communication ways, in 1945 it found itself with ruined roads and the Cuneo-Nice railway destroyed. The railway line was restored only in 1979.
The first important post-war event linked to winter tourism was the resumption of the Feit sledge lift in 1946 on the occasion of a downhill race called the Carlo Dalmastro Cup. For the first time, a ski lift was used to take the competitors of a race to the top.
The Golden Torch
Limone also rediscovered its identity after the war through a series of events of symbolic value. These include the Fiaccola d'oro (Golden Torch), which since its first edition in 1947 has proved to be a very popular race with the local community, because for the people of Limone it represented a beginning for the winter tourism. It is a mixed race: uphill, cross-country and downhill, and is held on the evening of 24th December. The choice of such a date clearly demonstrates a greater focus on the inhabitants rather than on tourists.
In the stories of the protagonists of that season, the emotional involvement of the population in the event emerges clearly: everyone remembers that Christmas appointment with nostalgia and participation.
In the video there are the testimonies of Catterina Bottero, Catterina Orsini, Andrea Dalmasso and Brunello.
In the same years also the first editions of Giro Sciistico di Cuneo took place.
The Cross-Country Girls
In the 1950s, a group of young women from Limone stood out in cross-country skiing. They were Margherita Bottero, Anna Tosello, Catterina Tosello, Elisabetta Astegiano, Elisabetta Bellone and Franca Bottero.
Under the guidance of their coach, Mr. Severino Compagnoni, these athletes of the Limone Ski Club won numerous Italian titles and reached excellent placings in international competitions, thus dominating the national Nordic skiing scene for almost a decade.
Despite their brilliant results, these women skiers were denied the participation in the 1958 World Championships and the 1960 Olympics, due to a lack of funds on the part of the Federation, which decided to invest in men's cross-country and downhill skiing champions.
The story of these women cross-country skiers from Limone inspired the novel titled 'Tempo di anelli e di ragazze’ (Time for rings and girls) by Domenico Clerico (2008, published by Araba Fenice), and the related film adaptation by Barbara Allemand 'Le ragazze di Limone' (2009, produced by Baracan).
The Vallone del Cros, with its natural amphitheatre overlooking the village, has always had a special charm for the people of Limone as well as for tourists.
In 1947, a group of people from Cuneo founded Sacit, Cuneo Autonomous Touristic Industries, and started working on the construction of a modern chairliftthat leaving from the town leads to the Maire del Cros, at 1,493 metres of altitude. The following year, the system was put into operation: it was the first chairlift in Limone and also the first cable car, leaving from the town centre and leading to the slopes at altitude.
In the following years, the Cros area underwent considerable development, with the construction of new lifts and the 'Capanna Chiara' refuge-restaurant.
In spite of its success, in the coming years the ski resort will have to face alternating fortunes, dictated by the particular conformation of the valley and the characteristics of the soil, which make it unsuitable for skiing.
The occurrence of adverse natural phenomena and the impossibility of connecting it with the rest of the Riserva Bianca, decreed the endCros' activity in 2002.
The "Tre Amis" society
During the Second World War, the Col de Tende ledge lift suffered serious damage to the point of being unusable, while the Feit one remained in operation.
In terms of skiing the area upstream the pass came back to life in 1957, the year of the founding of the 'Tre Amis' society, so called in memory of the protagonists of the season that had initiated the experience of ski lifts in that area.
The newly founded company inaugurated the Gigante ski lift in 1958 and it followed the route of the old sledge run and later on built a surface lift to connect the arrival of the Gigante with the Gherra peak and this was baptised by the public as 'the Fùrius'.
In the video there is Brunello Olivero's story and the testimonies of Bartolomeo Tosello and Giuseppe Bottero.
In 1946, Don Francesco Brondello arrived in Limone. This parish priest from Valdieri, was to play a decisive role in the development of tourism in Limone. In order to get in touch with the local community, Don Francesco learned to ski and soon realised that new skiing infrastructure was needed to boost the local economy and create new jobs related to snow tourism.
At that time, the Col de Tende and Cros ski resorts were not connected to the town and this was a weak point. Therefore Don Francesco, together with Commendatore Giacomo Marro, promoted the development of a new area upstream of Feit, which was then called 'Sole'.
In 1957, work began on a new, state-of-the-art facility, which would come into operation the following year: a single-seat chairlift, equipped with two independent electric motors (the first of this kind in Italy), with a stop halfway along the route and a small bar at the arrival point in the Maire Buffe locality.
In the twenty years between 1960 and 1980, when Italy was experiencing its economic boom, the productive sectors also awoke in Limone: winter tourism largely increased, the building market was booming, the number of accommodation activities in the town grew, the new ski school was officially established, the facilities and slopes developed considerably, and the area took on the overall characteristics it has today.
In 1976, the year in which Limone hosted the Absolute Italian Alpine Skiing Championships, the project to link the town’s three ski areas ('Sole' in Limone, Tre Amis and Limonetto) into a single ski resort was finally realised.
In this was the Riserva Bianca was born.
In the video there is Brunello Olivero’s story.