When you think of a holiday in Italy, you are probably thinking of beaches and sunlit piazzas. When you think of team-building and incentive travel, you are probably thinking of adventure trails, canoeing, salinig and other summertime activities. Isn’t it amazing how wrong you can be about things? Of course, you can’t be blamed for having a certain image of either Italy or team building, since the narrative regarding both tends to be universally centered on the hot season. However, considering Italy for your winter team-building or incentive plan could be surprisingly effective. This is due partly to the fact that the northern regions of Italy have much to offer in winter: breath-taking scenery, mouth-watering local cuisine and heart-warming hospitality. There is also the fact that winter sports are excellent team-building activities: it is easy to draw a connection between overcoming the difficulties of a snowy mountain trail and pushing through a difficult task at work. We have been planning winter incentives for our client Phadia, a leading firm in the field of scientific and diagnostic equipment, for three years. In 2015 we went snowshoeing in La Thuile, a lovely location in Val d’Aosta.
Not many tourists are aware of its existence: La Thuile is the only town in the valley by the same name and it is also the furthermost western point of the region of Valle d’Aosta. With Mont Blanc on one side and the peak known as Testa del Rutor on the other, this quaint little village a mere mile away from the French border is the ideal place to go if you want to experience nature at her best. Beautiful snowy slopes, forests and glaciers make it a favourite spot for hikers and skiers. Val d’Aosta is one of the many multilingual regions of Italy and you are likely to come across french speakers or to hear puzzling conversations in the local patois.
Skiing and snowboarding are great, but not exactly everyone’s cup of tea. It takes training to become a passably proficient skier and it can be frustrating for those who excel at this sport to have to be confined to the easier slopes so that others can brave them without running risks. This, of course, makes skiing a poor choice when it comes to team-building sports, unless your team happens to share a passion and an advanced level of mastery of it. Snowshoeing, on the other hand, is pure, unadulterated fun for everyone. If you can walk, you can hike. If you can hike, you can snowshoe. The gear is paramount: it is, in fact, what makes this sport a perfect fit for almost anyone. The special, tennis-racket-shaped shoes that allow even children and grandparents to tread safely on powdery snow guarantee safety and comfort. Of course, it takes a certain amount of energy to proceed on snowy terrain, but it is easier to endure the physical effort if a mug of hot chocolate and a hearty meal are waiting at the end of the trail
Our team-building project for Phadia
The snowshoe hiking trail was the core of our project, but we had much more in store for the 7 teams who took part in our team-building incentive trip. We wanted to focus on problem solving and creative thinking in a complex situation: if there is one thing a mountain has in common with your average workplace, is the condition of not having the faintest idea where you are standing at any given time and having to find your way around an unfamiliar, extreme and potentially hostile environment. For this reason, orienteering was among the first activities that we decided to schedule, as it helps improve both problem solving and leadership skills. We also took our teams to an archery range, where they got a chance to practice. We added a blindfolded archery session, which, of course, required careful preparation so that it could be made safe and fun for all parties involved. Since we wanted our project to be an exercise in quick thinking and decision making with limited resources, as well as creative problem solving, we added two more tasks for our contestants to complete. Before the end of their trail, participants were asked to construct a stretcher, on which a team-member could be carried. The task had to be completed with materials sourced on site, as well as the limited supplies that had been provided. Finally, teams were given 5 matches each and asked to light a self-sustaining fire. It might seem easy to start a fire with matches, but remember that everything else had to be sorted out on site, which included finding usable, dry kindle on a snowy mountain. Our guests’ physical labour was rewarded with a lovely dinner, with mulled wine and pub quiz in a quaint mountain cottage at the end of the trail.