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The full Monte

I have good satisfaction," Nic Libero, chief ski instructor, said as the T-bar hauled us to the top of Monte Pora mountain at 6,300ft.

The 56-year-old had built an easy rapport with the top group of skiers in the party from St Joseph's RC High, Horwich, and was most impressed at their progress and willingness to learn. It was one of the best groups he had ever taught.

But even they could not cope easily with the lift system. Falling off T-bars comes naturally to many, as does catching edges on icy button-lift tow tracks. That assumes cheaply hired skis have edges.

Beginners and shaky intermediates found the drag lifts particularly challenging and instructors were often left to ski back down and pick up the stragglers who had tumbled.

Like all resorts, Monte Pora, an hour north of Bergamo and two hours from Verona if the airport is not fog bound, has its pluses and minuses. A dose of investment would not go amiss. It is primarily a resort for weekends and Italian holidays and alternates between busy and deserted. However, certain lifts were closed midweek, narrowing the ski area. The pistes offer enough challenge to attract regular slalom training.

The Vareno side is at a healthy 4,500ft and the Malga Alta village is at 5,000ft. The snow is more reliable at the higher village, although there is a better nursery slope at Vareno but less easy access back from the main pistes. Scenery is impressive.

In early January, the snow level was down to the villages and conditions were good, although shimmering ice caught out a few in busy channels. At Malga Alta, you can ski back to the hotel in the main square. It is one one-ski-shop, three-bar village. The Bucaneve Hotel is basic.

There is 40km of piste, most poorly signposted, although it is difficult to lose your way in a tight area. As party leader Barry Lord put it: "I want a small resort where I know where my kids are." He confined his party to twice-daily two-hour lessons with the ski school, mainly for safety reasons.

At around Pounds 450, pupils were paying Pounds 100 less than they would at half-term. In early January, they only lost three days' classroom teaching.

And the tour operator, Equity?

"We've never been let down."

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