The Stelvio’s numerous hairpins and tunnels have become a magnet for anyone on two or four wheels during the summer months – that is, once it reopens after winter hibernation, which lasts from October to May. During these months, thick snow, several metres deep, makes it impassable. Guard rails and barriers in susceptible locations are dismantled to prevent damage from the sheer weight of snow. Heavy machinery used to clear the snow is stored in tunnels lower down the pass until they can be used again next spring.
Come March, Anas (Azienda Nazionale Autonoma delle Strade), the organisation responsible for keeping the road open, swings into action, clearing the way with snow milling machines which are reminiscent of giant cheese graters. Rocks and timber that now litter the road are removed too – a reminder of the constant danger from landslides and avalanches, which are common during the spring melt. The work can be a thankless task if winter returns overnight, dumping fresh snow back over the area. The process must be repeated to ensure a route is clear when the road reopens on May 1st, with tourism an essential part of the economy. And of course there’s also the Giro d’Italia to consider.