Italy Ski Holidays Guide

Italy Ski Holidays Guide

Italian ski resorts cluster predominantly around the northern borders of Italy and have a cosmopolitan flavour due to their proximity to France and Switzerland. However European the feel, a ski holiday in Italy is distinctively Italian. Italian ski holidays are as much about eating, drinking and showing off the latest fashions as they are about skiing. For the serious skier, this means swathes of uncrowded slopes and freedom to explore off-piste opportunities.

Contents of this guide:

The Dolomites

Ski lifts connect over 700 miles of pistes and several ski resorts to make up the vast ski area known as the Dolomiti SuperSki area. The skiing is diverse, as are the fifty odd ski resorts scattered throughout the region.

Alta Badia comprises five villages in the Dolomites for an excellent Italian ski holiday. Corvara and Colfosco are the largest and offer easy access to the most skiing. The hotels are upmarket and the restaurants have their fair share of Michelin stars. Alta Badia is breathtaking. It makes up part of the Stella Ronda ski area and is perfect for confident skiers with 26 miles of pistes winding around the mountains and valleys.

For an Italian ski holiday full of glamour Cortina d’Ampezzo is the place to go. Cortina is luxurious and beautiful and Italian holiday makers prefer to eat, drink and shop rather than ski. This, of course leaves the 90 miles of pistes blissfully quiet. The après-ski is second to none and skiers can choose from gourmet restaurants to cheaper bars once the lifts close and the passeggiata (evening stroll) begins.

Madonna di Campiglio is a lively town and popular with Italian families on weekends and holidays. There are 95 miles of pistes on both sides of the valley and although the slopes are generally busier than some of the other Italian ski resorts, the locals are still lured by the smells of pasticcerias emanating from the cafés around the town. It’s entirely possible to set out from the town centre on skis and return to the nearest café without having to remove them.

The Aosta Valley

One of Italy’s best known resorts is Courmayeur which shares a border with Chamonix. Courmayeur is ideal for beginners taking their first Italian ski holiday and intermediate skiers looking for a chilled ski holiday in Italy. The snow cannons ensure snow throughout the season and the off-piste possibilities mean that advanced skiers and snowboarders are not left out. The village itself is a mix of French and Italian and has a bewildering array of restaurants and bars to choose from after a hard day’s skiing.

The modern resort of Pila, near Aosta is great for a family ski holiday in Italy with pistes for different levels of skiers well connected by lifts. The cable car ride from Aosta takes a scenic 18 minutes. Children are more than welcome with reduced rates and easy, safe pistes. There are children’s clubs and even a small amusement park with games and a conveyor belt. There are cafés and restaurants in the village for lunch and a hot chocolate between runs.

Monterosa Ski

Whereas most people have heard of the Three Valleys in France, few know about the Monterosa Ski region outside Italy. Like its French counterpart, Monterosa spans three valleys and is a large, inter-linked area. The skiing is predominantly intermediate, but there is exciting off-piste terrain too. Free-riders and boarders have started to discover Alagna, which is becoming a somewhat cult Italian ski holiday. The other two main villages of Champoluc and Gressoney offer affordable, peaceful family ski holidays in Italy.

The Milky Way Ski Area

Six Italian ski resorts make up the Milky Way ski area in the Piedmont region of Italy. They offer excellent ski holidays in Italy and France. The best resort is Sestriere with slopes for beginners, intermediates and advanced skiers. Having played host to the 2006 Winter Olympics, Sestriere has top notch amenities and because of its altitude, the snow is first class. For a family Italian ski holiday, Claviere is hard to beat thanks to its wide range of childcare facilities. Sauze d’Oulx is ideal for groups due to its nightlife and range of restaurants. The accommodation here is varied and affordable. The Milky Way ski pass allows skiers to head over the border into France and experience skiing in two countries from the same base.

Sicily

It is possible to have ski holidays in Italy on the slopes of Mt. Etna in Sicily. The south side has around five pistes and the north side has one. While the skiing may not be as varied as the mainland resorts, the 3000 metre altitude and the lack of crowds are an enticing prospect, not to mention the thrill of taking an Italian ski holiday on the sides of an active volcano.

Snowboarding in Italy

Snowboarders are well catered for in Italy. The two most popular resorts are Livigno in the northern Italian Alps and Passo Tonale. Livigno’s pisted terrain is open with wide runs for beginners and intermediates. The more advanced boarder will appreciate the off-piste areas and gorgeous powder fields on both sides of the valley. There are snowparks with easy jumps for those just starting out and more challenging wedges for those looking for an adventurous ski holiday in Italy.

Passo Tonale is growing in popularity but its wide runs remain largely uncrowded and lift queues are few and far between. The snow is generally good with the snow cannons making up for what nature sometimes fails to provide. This Italian ski resort is good for beginners and intermediates with lots of chairlifts and cable cars.

When to Go on an Italian Ski Holiday

Italian ski resorts tend to be less busy due to the popularity of their neighbours and the relaxed Italian attitude to skiing. Christmas and New Year are the busiest periods, with the Italian holidays falling between the 22nd of December 2010 and the 10th of January 2011.

There is no half term in Italy so the ski resorts are likely to be quiet in February. The 2011 Italian Easter holidays don’t begin until the 17th of March and carry on until the 27th of April. January can be cold and the days short, but February is ideal with the best chance of a good covering of snow. A lot of the Italian ski resorts have snow making machines to guarantee the opening of as many pistes as possible.

Ski Accommodation in Italy

As with all ski destinations, all-inclusive ski holidays in Italy are widely available. There are companies offering flights, transfers and catered chalets. Guests can concentrate on skiing in the knowledge that they don’t have to cook or clean. Advice is on hand with regards to the best skiing areas, which is handy in a lesser known resort. Depending on the company, wine can be included in the price of the holiday.

Italian ski holidays are generally cheaper than other destinations and there are a good mix of hotels, chalets and apartments. Hotels are a popular option and range from the luxurious to the standard.

Whether skiers crave independence or prefer a helping hand, there is accommodation for everyone on a ski holiday in Italy.

How to Get There

The Dolomites can be reached via Eurostar from London St. Pancras to Innsbruck. Local trains travel from Innsbruck to Cortina where there are buses to take skiers to nearby resorts. Alternatively, there are trains to Venice where the Cortina Express awaits to take holiday makers to Cortina. Low cost flights fly to Venice, Treviso and Milan and there are airport transfer services to the major resorts in the Dolomites.

The airports of Milan, Turin or Geneva are within two hours driving distance of the Aosta Valley and Piedmont.

The Monterosa region is no more than 90 miles from Turin and 105 miles from Milan. The airports are linked by trains to nearby towns and there are bus services to the various resorts

For a ski holiday in Sicily, Easyjet fly from London to Palermo and British Airways goes from London to Catania. From Manchester, Thomson fly direct to Catania.

Car Hire

Car hire is available at the major airports and skiers may find it fits in more with their plans to drive to their chosen resorts. Public transport once in Italy is not quite as available or convenient as in some of the other skiing countries, but the resorts are within easy reach of the airports and booking ahead means less expensive car hire.

Italy is a mostly unexplored and unheard of ski destination. Italian ski resorts have excellent facilities and beautiful, quiet pistes. The atmosphere is relaxed and children are treated as kings, as is the Italian way. Families looking for a first ski holiday, groups seeking nightlife and entertainment and couples craving a romantic getaway will all find the Italian ski holiday to suit them.