Report on Cheneil

The large dorsal stepped in Valtournenche (left) and Val d’Ayas (right) seen from Mont Barbeston opposite the mouth of the Dora. The first floor houses the large step in the village of Promiod. – Photo © Donato Arcaro, touristic and naturalistic guide of the Aosta Valley

This text is taken from the report prepared for Montagnes Valdotaines, periodic CAI Aosta Valley, December 2010

Geographical context and circumstances

The Cheneil valley, in the municipality of Valtournenche, is part of the series of landscaped terraces that follow stepped on the ridge between Valtournenche and Val d’Ayas from 1500 m to over 2200 m Promiod of La Salette through La Magdeleine and Chamois.

Geologically, these highlands peneplanate you set the boundary between the aquifer deep ocean called the Zermatt-Saas (rocks of magmatic origin in iron and magnesium) and the overlying oceanic upper aquifer called the Combin (rocks of sedimentary origin with marble and silicate). The thin end of the Triassic White Tops from Cheneil visible in clear quarzitiche cliffs and limestone-dolomite at the base of Becca d’Aran, marks the contact between the two units ocean. These large undulations suspended in altitude, mostly invisible from below, open to the view of the Matterhorn, the Rose or the Grandes Murailles, equipped chemistry mixed siliceous limestone, forming the ground of choice for pastures and villages that characterize civilization Alpine. The biodiversity of flora and fauna is stimulated and enriched by the variety of substrates.

Geological interpretation
Geological interpretation of the photo 1 – Photo © Donato Arcaro, touristic and naturalistic guide of the Aosta Valley

In particular, the village is located on historic street Cheneil local inter-vallive from Crétaz, a large fraction of Valtournenche in Champoluc in the Ayas Valley through the pass of Nanaz. Equally important was the way in which combined share Cheneil the lower terraces of Chamois and La Magdeleine. Given the smaller size and the greater share of the lower terraces, the valley of Cheneil was never erected Parish or to the City and did not have the road. In more recent times, the completion of the road, but drawn up to a hundred meters from the edge of the basin, was opposed by the majority of tourists and a regular part of the general public. The microcosm collected and bright the basin became for many a symbol of life in harmony with nature.

The village looks like from the surroundings of the church, with the first dusting of snow. – Photo © Donato Arcaro, touristic and naturalistic guide of the Aosta Valley

Environmental balance on the eve of the works

For generations of citizens, travelers and mountaineers, looking out of the basin was every time a moment of intense emotion.

In the area of ​​the basin the land is owned by a consortium undivided uti singuli with about forty members, except for some patches of flat land with grass, including the esplanade in front of the village, which are private.

Modern buildings are a dozen on the outskirts of the esplanade, size small or very small, hidden in green, rustic characteristics, used as second home as a tourist, but to a larger chalet in the middle of the esplanade, which is used throughout the year. All are, however, prior to 1968.

The traditional buildings of the village are built on land consortium but were equipped with a private relevance. These buildings originally mixed use (residential / production) and production (breeding / services) of modest size, with an all-stone. Some dwelling houses, despite large practical difficulties (transport construction materials) and bureaucratic (parameters space, ownership structure), were the subject of good unplanned maintenance, for the most part, however the buildings are in a state of neglect and in poor condition, but with adequate resources appear to be recoverable.

Within the village, and well-aligned with it, there are two stone buildings larger, three-story, dating the beginning of the twentieth century, historically used as a hotel. In their appliances at the edge of the meadows, have been obtained already from the source space to the terrace and to the game of bowls. One of these hotels is still in business. The planning tools building already provides for the possible construction of a third building to be used as a hotel.

The internal roads, covered by previously approved plan, is now on clay in continuity with the external paths.

The village is connected to the national grid by an airline power that goes along the river.

The edge of the plateau is home to the abutment of a private cable car that allows the transport of goods not too bulky car from the square below. It also serves for the evacuation of waste. Various metal shacks and operating vehicles parked cluttering the area of ​​the cable car arrives, however high landscape value.

The main public interventions carried out since the eighties are as follows:

  1. tracking a dirt track for special vehicles on the right side basin, and its continuation until near dell’alpeggio of Château;
  2. construction of the aqueduct;
  3. channeling of sewage;
  4. burying power lines in the village and in the esplanade in front (it is a pole with a transformer on the edge of the plateau);
  5. tracking hiking Alta Via n. 1 through the basin.

For some time the owners of the area press for a tourist exploitation of the basin.

The large pastures Cheneil the path to Chamois.
The large pastures Cheneil the path to Chamois. – Photo © Donato Arcaro, touristic and naturalistic guide of the Aosta Valley

What do according to sustainable development criteria

The beauty of the place lies in the fact of being a complete nucleus of civilization authentic mountain and at the same time a historic meeting with the urban civilization, set in a natural environment with a high intrinsic value and landscape. Cheneil civilization is authentic mountain for the territorial integrity and architecture, as well as the presence of traditional activities; Cheneil is also a place of encounter with the historic urban civilization to the vestiges of “archaeological tourism” and the prestigious mountaineering.

This microcosm retains its charm due to lack of intrusiveness of disturbing elements and / or simplistic, and are in any case already. It is clear that the value of the place, single engine tourist present, must be defended and strengthened by initiatives that enhance the original character of cultural proposal, if we are philosophical, even in a commercial context. Thus the action, we recognize necessary, would seem to be realize in two main directions.

  • The establishment by the government, advanced tools for operational planning to make available to the owners, in particular a technical and cultural authority (architects trained and experienced in the restoration of anthropology Alpine, but not only) to assist the owners in their projects of restructuring / conversion guide and carry forward their legitimate demands in order to achieve an acceptable level of livability planning. Good examples of such advisory teams are operating in the countries of the Alps, where their work largely replaces that of the surveyor, designer and municipal technical office. One of the results obtained is generally more rational solutions, coordinating and optimizing the problems of infrastructure, transport and heavy impacts.
  • The preparation of a draft binding orientation of economic activities in the territory of the basin, the construction of which is subject to any financing public works, and compatibility which is released every building permit. This draft guidance should provide for the big launch of activities related to natural and cultural history, with, approximately, an alpine garden, a Geopark, a park for the observation of the night sky, cultural tours and nature (“key -to-nature “), open pastures, exhibitions of documents and objects relating to the rich history of local halls and laboratories for workshops, taking advantage of the position of the stage on the Alta Via (where do generally a little more effort, adapting the Grandes Randonnées). Given the extensive trail network, a group of tour guides might be present in a semi-permanent.

It is also suggested to restore the “historical” bowls and enhance the observatory telescope about climbing the Matterhorn and the surrounding mountains (privacy permitting).

In both cases, they are likely periods of training through courses that can be prepared on purpose or predict the frequency in external institutions.

It is believed that any attempt to engage the rickety train instead of mass tourism, even with good credentials, is subject to great risk of losing both the delicate environmental value, as a consequence, the tourism income.

The dreamy atmosphere of Cheneil
The dreamy atmosphere of Cheneil is imprinted in my memory, one generation after another. – Photo © Donato Arcaro, touristic and naturalistic guide of the Aosta Valley

The infrastructure project in progress

Includes the following actions:

  1.  an inclined elevator automatic capacity of eight people, with a path length of about two hundred meters from the square around the car to the edge of the plateau, with two small stations of departure and arrival;
  2. a dirt road less than a mile on the left side basin, three meters wide side surfaces of service, lorry, with the bar closing and limited use for productive activities, services and emergencies, impassable in winter in wheeled vehicles;
  3. a hot load for hydroelectric use to increase the power of the central Maen through siphon (CVA, the side project);
  4. restoration of the right side with the destruction of the current track, there are no interventions in the yard-parking.

The total cost (excluding CVA works) is provided on three million euro.

  • The stated purpose of the lift is to increase the tourist clientele, with the opening of a real winter season, it would serve well as for the supply of daily consumer goods, as well as the transits of the residents, as an alternative to the path . In these circumstances it seems inevitable the construction of a road section from the square at the departure station, which is not expressly provided for now, and given the chronic overcrowding of the square, it is easy to predict the demand for its expansion in that direction.
  • The stated purpose of the track is first of all to the service of heavy infrastructure construction (construction of private restructuring of production facilities and works in the public interest), and secondly would transport management and livestock activity. You give up formally in the presence of cars “private” in the basin, except unspecified “electric vehicles”, but it is assumed that the system of track will be the general of crofting Valle d’Aosta, with permission to owners and guests, and the presence of permanent settlements can still be a legal obstacle limitations. The route of the road is excellent for winter use of snowmobiles, now affected by the difficulties on the right side.

A margin can be seen that the construction of a farm track at public expense with no apparent institutional purposes (or maintenance of rural or compulsory service to the public, but only on request of individuals) is not justified without a social utility control and environmental development of the overall project.

The perspective indicated by the infrastructure project seems undeniably that of a tourist development standard, connection-oriented with the operation of Chamois (as stated by the local tourist entrepreneur). Business proposals are in line and in competition with those of other small stations and tourist Valle d’Aosta alpine in general. Even the residual environmental characteristics of the site after the work, they have no guarantee of being at the center of future entrepreneurial actions. If it is considered a priority for tourism development is maintained and enhanced the environment and culture of the valley, one can not give a negative opinion on the ongoing project.

Where to stay in Valtournanche

There are high quality hotels, apartments, guesthouses and B&Bs available, check them out and make a reservation here.