Following on from part one in our Italian series, Amy looks at why skiing in Italy is a winner for everyone from off-piste gurus to beginner bambini.
Often overlooked in favour of it’s Austrian or French neighbours, Bella Italia quietly delivers some of the best ski experiences for those in the know…
Heli-ski the biggest vertical in Europe
Italy is one of the only countries in Europe that has a thriving heli-skiing industry. It’s actually illegal in France, so for those seeking an extreme element to their off-piste thrills on their ski holiday, look no further than the resorts of the Aosta Valley.
Gressoney and Champoluc in the Monte Rosa ski area are a mecca for off-piste and heli-skiers. You can ski some of the biggest vertical in Europe here – so no wonder Ski Sunday’s Graham Bell is often in the area.
In summer 2011, he marked the Summer Solstice by skiing from top of the Monte Rosa and was back heli-skiing here in April with his daughter. He descended all the way to Furi in Switzerland, a total of 4000m vertical and was back in Italy in time for tea.
Amazing day heliskiing @aostavalley with daughter Lottie and Herman’s family from the Hotel Castor, dropped at 4000m skied to Furi in Swiss
— Graham Bell (@skigrahambell) April 6, 2012
Over in little-known La Thuile, heli-skiing is also growing in popularity. One of the most popular heli-ski routes is the Ruitor glacier which offers a 20km run down to Ste-Foy in France, which is then a short taxi ride back to La Rosiere. You can then use your La Thuile lift pass to take you back across the border and home to Italy.
High altitude and glacier ski resorts
Although many people automatically think of France as synonymous with glacier and high-altitude skiing, across the border in Italy also competes admirably. After all, Italy borders the summit of the highest mountain in Europe – Mont Blanc.
High altitude favourites include Sestriere, where the downhill events of the Turin Winter Olympics took place in 2006. The vast majority of the skiing is above the resort at 2050m, meaning conditions remain excellent all season long.
Secondly there’s Cervinia, sitting at 2035m. Skiing increases this week from weekends only to open more of the resort for skiing ahead of the season. Local skiers head up to Plateau Rosa to enjoy the year-round snow on the glacier.
Across in the Dolomites, the Marmolada glacier lures skiers from across the Dolomiti Superski to it’s heights at 3269m.
There’s also the Presena glacier at Passo Tonale, which is a great spot for beginners to gain confidence. The glacier sits at 2730m, and both skiers, boarders and walkers can travel up to the base of the glacier to explore, have a coffee above the clouds, or catch some high-altitude sunshine (something very popular with the Milanese looking to top up that bronzed Italian skin the midwinter).
Family-friendly ski resorts
Italians put the family at the heart of every part of life, so no wonder this love of the family extends to the ski slopes, with dedicated children’s skiing areas for the little ones to take those first tentative slips and slides on their skis.
Claviere is tucked away at over 1700m in altitude and keeps great conditions all season long. Right next to the ski school and beginners area you will find the Grande Hotel Claviere – home to our Pepi Penguin club and Whizz Kids club.
Babes in arms to high-energy rugrats are all welcome here, with combinations of full-day childcare, lunches, ski school pick-up and lessons from child friendly instructors all available at the click of a button.
If your kids want to spend as much time on the slopes as you do, the resorts of La Thuile and Passo Tonale are ideal. Accommodation is right near to the lifts and the ski school, and both offer wide and gentle areas for your kids to hurtle past you at breakneck speed. And if you want to burn off some energy going solo, there’s plenty of reds and blacks to give Mum and Dad a work-out too.
Visit the Crystal Ski website for more Italy ski holidays.
Do you love Italy for your ski or board holidays? Which resort do you return to time after time? Leave a comment and share your experiences.