Skiing in Italy – here’s what you need to know.
Skiing in Italy is not one of the first things that come to mind when thinking about Italy. Rather, what comes to mind are the idyllic hills and sunny grape farms, where you can spend the day making wine and watching the sun set as you enjoy some tasty Italian treats.
There are very few people who immediately associate Italy with snow, let alone as a place that offers perfect skiing grounds. It may come as a surprise to some, but Italy offers some of the best skiing terrain in the world.
Skiing terrain in Italy
Europe’s highest mountain ranges, the Dolomites and the French, Swiss, and Savoy Alps, form Italy’s borders on the north and west. On their snow-covered slopes are some of Europe’s most famous ski resorts.
At these high altitudes, more than a dozen peaks in the Dolomites alone exceed 3,000 meters. This means that snow is almost certain from November through April. The season is also often longer than other European ski resorts.
The most skiable terrain and the broadest range of opportunities are in the Dolomites. There are 12 major ski areas here that total to more than 1,200 kilometres of ski trails. Whichever region you choose, the Dolomites, the Val d’Aosta, or the Savoy Alps, you will be rewarded by spectacular scenery and single ski runs.
These runs can take several hours and drop from high in the mountains all the way into the resort town at the base. You’ll find plenty of things to do here in your off-slope time as well. Furthermore, the cost of a vacation here is usually lower than at ski resorts in France or Switzerland.
What to consider …
If you are considering heading out to Italy for skiing, we have done all the research for you. The following resorts are a few places that you should consider visiting. We evaluated the resorts based on their terrain, difficulty, vertical drop, and accessibility.
Also included are some other factors for you to consider when choosing a resort – accommodation, nightlife and food. We are sure that you will be able to experience some of the best skiing in Italy at these resorts!
Nestled between two mountain ranges and spread across the 12 km beautiful Valtellina alpine valley, Livigno ski resort is a must-go holiday location for families and ski enthusiasts.
Three main skiing areas surround the ski resort. The bigger Carosello and Costaccia areas to the east and the recently extended and challenging Mottolino ski terrain to the west.
Locally known as Piccolo Tibet (little Tibet), Livigno ski resort is famous for its all-season ski weather and sports-packed winter season. The resort is also well loved for its affordable and duty-free shopping experiences, extreme snow-parks and excellent après ski.
The combined area consists of 115 km of slopes, with altitudes ranging from 1,700 to 2,900 meters. In total 78 pistes awaits, distributed across 12 blacks, 37 red, and 29 blue pistes.
Serviced by a modern lift mechanism, the skiing range has various access points. The mechanism comprises of 6 cableways, 14 chair lifts and 12 ski lifts. The bus service is also free for all ski pass holders.
Livigno ski resort’s specialty is winter sports. Besides alpine skiing, there are locations in the resort that are ideal for telemark skiing. There is also 30 km well-developed network of cross-country skiing trails.
There are plenty of options for hard-core, thrill-seekers too. An extensive and well-functioning snow cannon grid ensures that the slopes are regularly topped up with snow.
Considered as Europe’s biggest fun park for skiers, Mottolino Snowpark will surely keep snowboarders and freestylers entertained.
Heli-skiing is an offering for advanced skiers. Heli-skiing is where skiers are carried up to the steepest and unexplored summits of the resort by helicopters instead of traditional ski lifts.
The resort boasts over 200 ski experts, all trained at the Italian Ski School. The cutting-edge ski schools offer training for first-timers, children and for those with disabilities too.
Accessibility and accommodation
Almost inaccessible, reaching the resort is a challenge, requiring three hours travel by the Innsbruck. If you’re travelling in from any hub airports, it will take longer to reach the resort.
However, the long travel times are more than worth it as Linvingo has high quality parks, reasonable costs, as well as reliable snow fall. Livigno’s low-slung prices and festive atmosphere naturally entice the skiing crowd.
Afterski activities are a must for any ski break. Livigno is considered the Mecca of après ski. With over 150 drinking dens, guests won’t need to walk far. Most of the bars and pubs are located along the main valley road.
Nightlife is traditionally loud and riotous during peak season, but there are areas which are a bit calmer and sophisticated during the après ski hours too. Check out Kosmo, Club Bivio and Stalet bar.
Cortina D’Ampezzo is the best known of the dozen Dolomite ski resorts. The setting is nothing short of spectacular. Towering over town are the Cinque Torri, five peaks that not only give Cortina a stage-set backdrop, but provide day-long runs from near the top right down into town.
More than three dozen lifts carry skiers almost from the door of their hotel to snowfields just below the summits, at the crests of the highest ridges.
Families with beginner and intermediate skiers will find plenty of terrain at Cortina d’Ampezzo. There are slopes and pistes for beginners and about half the skiable terrain is intermediate. The rest of the pistes cater for expert skiers.
The full use of lifts and trails of the 11 other resorts, all covered in the single Dolomiti Superski pass.
While Cortina D’Ampezzo has the largest concentration of downhill ski facilities in the Dolomites, it also has plenty of cross-country ski trails through spectacular mountain landscapes, a bobsled run and the Olympic rink (from the 1956 Winter Olympics), Stadio del Ghiaccio, for ice skaters.
The town is well equipped with hotels in every range, restaurants, cafés, and several spas. If jet-set glamour is part of your Italy ski dream, you’ll find it here. But you can also find mid-range lodgings in Cortina, such as the chalet-style Hotel Natale, with magnificent views from its carved wooden balconies.
An Italian resort which is renowned for its consistency in snow, the Cervinia is worth a visit. With summer skiing also being an option, Cervinia offers great snow runs that are any skiers’ perfect playground.
Sharing the Matterhorn massif with its Swiss neighbour Zermatt, Cervinia occupies the highest pisted ski area in Europe. Connected to Zermatt via the lift in Switzerland, skiers get to enjoy access to both resorts with the help of an international pass that gives them access to around 251km of prime skiing ground.
While the Cervinia isn’t as scenic as other resorts, you are guaranteed to find snow here even when the winters have been dry. The Indian Park here is considered among the best in Italy.
Surprisingly, given its rugged high-altitude location, Cervinia’s ski area mostly consists of easy to mid-range intermediate runs. Cervinia’s slopes are all well above the tree line and some are at glacial heights.
The ski area is split into two main sectors: one extending to the Theodulpass ridge that marks the Italian-Swiss border, the other a narrower sector that extends to the glacial Plateau Rosa, shared with Zermatt as the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise ski area – the highest ski slopes in the Alps.
The resort also links into Valtournenche, however the exposed nature at altitude means that the links to both Zermatt and Valtournenche are prone to closure.
Accessibility and accommodation
The resort contains plenty of cosy café-bars and good restaurants and some good upmarket hotels. Après is pub based and centred on the village; happy hours just after the lifts close are fun and quite animated.
You can also ski to the terraces of a couple of bars in the base area, the stylish bar at the Hotel Principe delle Nevi is definitely one to check out. A number of bars also offer free tapas-style snacks to skiers.
This picturesque little village – complete with stone church and attractive old wooden farmhouses – in the giant Monterosa ski area has a cult following among powderhounds. Away from the limited local pistes, glorious snowfields provide endless entertainment and tough challenges for experts. In fact, some claim the backcountry terrain here rivals that of Chamonix, in France.
It’s not a place for beginners though, or anyone interested in any form of nightlife – lights out comes almost directly after dinner. But to make the most of the off piste, plenty of sleep is required.
Alagna itself has only 15km of pistes, but it is linked to the more intermediate-minded resorts of Gressoney and Champoluc. The Monterosa Ski lift pass covers all the runs.
The village is situated at an altitude of 1,212m from where lifts ascend to a heady 3,275m. This is the starting point for some dramatic free-riding. There’s also a wickedly long black run back down towards the resort from Passo Salati at 2,971m. Expert help is essential to explore this truly dramatic terrain, which means hiring the services of a mountain guide.
Accessibility and accommodation
The four-star Alagna Experience Resort consists of three buildings connected by porticoes. The accommodation varies between luxury hotel suites and single to three-room apartments. There is a restaurant, bar, beer stube and a spa with indoor heated pool too.
Some other resorts to consider:
This compact, value-for-money village lies at 1,880m, with lifts going up to 3,088m. It is one of the few Italian resorts to be snow sure from late October to mid-June, thanks to the Presena glacier at 3,000m.
The marked runs are mainly suited to beginners and intermediates. Lifts link Passo Tonale to the slopes of Ponte di Legno and Temù. These slopes offer challenges for more advanced skiers and include 100km of runs in total. A single lift pass covers all the runs.
If you’re looking for the best ski resort for beginners, Passo Tonale is the place to go. With two ski schools and plenty of hotels and resorts available, there is plenty to see and do at Passo Tonale. One of these hotels includes the Hotel La Mirandola, which has been around since the 12th Century.
Sauze d’Oulx built a reputation in the 1980s as big party town, popular with the Club 18-30 crowd and famed for its organised pub crawls. Things have calmed down a lot now but there are still several lively bars.
Skiing here is a wonderful experience as you get undulating, snow covered runs, many of which are thought to be the best ones in Italy. It also shares terrain and links with other resorts such as the Sestire, Sansicaro the Montgenevre and the Milky Way.
In total, you get access to over 400km of pristine skiing runs and have access to 66 lifts.
One big advantage of the resort is the short transfer time from Turin airport (only 95km away). This makes it a great destination for short breaks as well as week-long holidays. The local town is also cost effective. Going to the local bars, pubs and restaurants isn’t going to cost you an arm and a leg.
A family friendly ski resort, Corvora is located near the craggy Dolomites range. The runs here are extremely suitable for cruising and are perfectly suited for beginners. With close proximity to the Alta Badia and the Sella Ronda skiing areas, there are plenty of skiing runs to access here.
The panoramic view at Corvara are also great, with an enchanting quality that attracts the eye. With the presence of luxury hotels available for accommodation, you can enjoy some of the best skiing in Italy and well as some of the best relaxation in Italy here.
The holiday emphasis in Italy tends to be on fun and relaxation rather than sporting excellence, and as a result, the enjoyment factor is all the higher. Not only is Italy much more laid back than its rivals in France, Switzerland and Austria, it is also cheaper.
Precious euros will stretch a lot further here compared with other mainstream Alpine destinations. Italy is therefore a sensible choice for anyone on a tight budget. What’s more families with young children are welcomed even in the most chic hotels and restaurants.