The Train des Neiges is a special train and shuttle bus that takes people to the snow for winter sports certain weekends of the year. This one departs from Nice [others leave from Marseilles and Aix and have different snowy destinations].
We had been intending to take the train des neiges to the snow for years and never managed to get organised enough to do it [a booking needs to be made a few days in advance] so it was great to finally get there.
Casterino is a tiny hamlet , high up [altitude roughly 1550 m/5085 ft] in the Alpes Maritimes close to the French-Italian border. Its strange to think that this is higher than Ben Nevis [Scotland and Britain's highest mountain] which is only 1344 metres/4406ft.
The scenery is amazing as Casterino is in the middle of three mountains - Mont Ste Marie [2740m, just under 9000ft] Monts Chajol [2293m /7500ft] and Mont Agnelet [2201m/7220ft].
Unfortunately , snow fell all day so visibility was not prefect, although it added to the impression of walking around inside a Christmas card.
I wasn't able to work out which mountain was which from my photos-maybe next time we visit, I will pay more attention.
There aren't very many buildings in the hamlet but most of them are beautiful wooden Alpine houses , with carved balconies.
I think the man standing with the bundle of red snowshoes is one of the mountain guides. In the summer people trek out from Casterino with guides ; on foot, in 4x4s and on horseback to see the famous ancient rock carvings of the Vallée des Merveilles.
I saw a man clearing thick snow from the roof -its hard to imagine that this is just a couple of hours from Nice.
The rich tones of the wood contrasted beautifully with the grey local stone stairs and snowbanks.
Casterino is surrounded by wooded slopes so there are no formal downhill ski slopes. Most of the skiing is cross country but other sports are also available such as snow shoeing, dog sledding , ice climbing, paragliding and sliding on sledges and building snow men .
Next time we go, hopefully early next month, we have decided to hire snowshoes and see more of the trails around Casterino.