Skiing Mount Etna – A Unique and Inspiring Adventure

October 3, 2007 by  
Filed under features

Have you ever considered snow skiing along the slopes of an active volcano? Well you can! Visitors to Sicily between November and March each year can enjoy spectacular skiing on the impressive slopes of Mount Etna and thousands of skiers are known to take advantage of this. With a height of approximately 3350 meters, Mount Etna is Sicily’s highest mountain as well as being Europe’s highest active volcano. The height of its summit changes with each eruption and in the past some lava flows have reached the coast. Mount Etna occupies much of the eastern part of the island, covering an area of 1190 square kilometers, with the towns of Messina and Catania in close proximity.

Mount Etna offers 1400 meters of downhill, cross-country and alpine skiing. Snowboarding is very popular above 2000 meters as there are no trees at that level. There are two main skiing stations on Mount Etna – Rifugio Sapienza in the south and Piano Provenzana in the north. Both offer hotels, chalets, ski lifts, ski rentals and expert skiing instruction.

Mount Etna is classified as a stratovolcano, which is a tall conical volcano composed of many layers of hardened lava, volcanic ash and tephra. Stratovolcanos are characterized by steep profiles and the lava that flows from them is viscous, resulting in cooling and hardening before spreading very far. Mount Etna is the subject of intense volcanological study, due to the fact that it has ongoing measurable activity.

Thousands of people live on the slopes and surrounding areas of Mount Etna. The fertile volcanic soils support extensive agriculture, notably vineyards, which are spread across the lower slopes of the mountain. Various species of oak, birch and beech trees cover a large area of the lower slopes with shrubs and other plants in between. Mount Etna’s deciduous trees change during the autumn, resulting in stunning scenery painted in shades of copper and gold. Turtles, toads and frogs live in the streams and small ponds of Mount Etna’s forests as well as foxes, squirrels, weasels, hares, hedgehogs, porcupines and even a few wild cats. Bird species include owls, falcons, golden eagles and partridges. Located on the Alcantara River north of Mount Etna is the scenic Alcantara Gorge, an unusual rock formation composed of basalt which was created by volcanic activity.

Visitors may be attracted to Mount Etna with the promise of some exciting skiing and that is what they will get! But clearly this part of the island of Sicily in Italy has much more to offer. So take some time to explore the unique natural beauty of this area when you go skiing on Mount Etna.