Italy Skiing, best ski resorts

Dolomites mountains in snow, Italy

The Italian Dolomites. Photo by MaiDireLollo.

Why go skiing in Italy?

Italy ski facilities and expertise have improved dramatically in the last few years.
There are now a number of high quality, uncrowded and reasonably-priced ski resorts in Italy close enough for a weekend ski break from Milan, Turin or Venice or a week’s skiing out of UK by air.

Most of the better resorts cluster in Italy’s north-east (primarily the Dolomites) or north-west (Mont Blanc or Monte Rosa) and are most easily reached from the UK via Bolzano or Turin airports.

Downsides

– Public transport in these areas is slow and unreliable, so car hire is the best way to get there. This is not Switzerland!
– Even in mid-winter snowfall can be erratic due to the relatively southern location of the resorts.

Some of Italy’s best ski resorts

Cervinia

Snow certainty 5/5
Cervinia (also known as Breuil-Cervinia or Cervino) in the far northwest of Italy is not an attractive town but is spectacularly located 2, 000m up the south face of the Matterhorn mountain, not only offering fabulous views but also almost certain snow.

Cervinia works well for families and all levels of skill, though the very experienced movers and shakers will probably wander over the the Matterhorn’s Zermatt side of the shared life zone.
Some runs stretch to 22kms. Ski Cervinia resort guide.

Total pistes 350km. Highest lift 3, 899m. Cervino official site.

Cortina d’Ampezzo

Snow certainty 4/5
Cortina, 1224m up in the Dolomites is the most glamorous snow resort in Italy -possibly in Europe – in a stunningly beautiful location. So gorgeous that the place is often packed with rich and famous Italians who are simply there to enjoy a life of luxury in a spectacular setting. They focus on aprés-ski rather than actual-ski so there are masses of baby-sitting and kid’s facilities to boot.

If you can afford the prices you won’t find the pistes crowded, especially early morning or at lunchtime, though you may find some old-fashioned lifts, limited advanced runs and poor bus services.

In summertime Cortina turns into a vast, well-organised hiking area.

Get there via Verona and Venice to the south and Innsbruck and Klagenfurt to the north.

Total pistes 70km. Ski Cortina resort guide.

Passo Tonale

Snow certainty 5/5
Passo Tonale is a small, family-friendly town providing intermediate runs at best, but at low cost. It operates from late October to end of April, but also hosts rare year-round skiing on the Presena Glacier to the south.

Total pistes 87km; Highest lift 3, 088m.

Livigno

Snow certainty 4/5
One of the cheapest ski resorts in Europe, Livigno’s four little villages in far north Italy, near the Swiss border also offer reliable snowfall up to 2, 800m. The downsides are that runs only stretch to intermediate – so it’s a great starter snow sport community, and that it’s rather remote so will take a little time to reach.

Total pistes 115km; Highest lift 2, 800m. Livigno official site.

Madonna di Campiglio

Snow certainty 4/5
This lovely, high-valley town in north-east Italy hosts a large ski area across both sides of the valley and, like Cortina d’Ampezzo, is much favoured by wealthy Italians who are perfectly happy sliding around the shops and bars rather than the pistes, so most Europeans find the gentle, manicured slopes pleasantly free of traffic.

The town is lively, cultured and discreetly luxurious so binge-drinking aprés-ski bars and clubs are not to be found here.

Total pistes 152km; High life, plenty. Campiglio official site.

Some of Italy’s best skiing regions

The Piemonte region encompasses: Cervinia, Courmayeur and La Thuile in Valle d’Aosta, while west of Turin there are Sestriere, Sauze d’Oulx, and Bardonecchia.

The Dolomites, a mountain range in the north offer: Italy’s most scenic landscapes and the fashionable ski resorts of Madonna di Campiglio and upmarket Cortina d’Ampezzo.

Other popular snow activity areas are Campo Imperatore in Abruzzo, Abetone in Tuscany, the Aspromonte massif in the south, and Mount Etna in Sicily.

A couple of ‘secret’ Italian ski resorts

Folgarida

Hidden away but with links to surpeb skiing in the Dolomites, Folgarida is perfect for families. It’s a modern resort with a big ice-skating rink where you can try your hand at ‘broomball’ (smashing balls into nets using brooms as bats). A cinema shows English language films.

San Cassiano

Connected by gondola to the Alta Badia ski area with more than 1, 100km of pistes, San Cassiano is a peaceful spot in the Dolomites. It’s at 1, 537m, and sometimes suffers from unreliable snow, though there are plenty of snow-machines. Runs are best for intermediates. The village has a handful of fine restaurants.