It’s easy to get tunnel vision when talking about Italian skiing: the Milky Way and the gargantuan Dolomiti Superski tend to grab – and run off with – everybody’s attention. And justifiably so, they offer some of the best and most picturesque skiing in Europe. There’s more to Italy than the big names though, and we thought we’d spend a bit of time introducing you to some resorts that are lesser-known, overlooked, or simply a little bit different. Here’s our run-down.
Ok, so maybe ‘lesser-known’ is stretching it a bit for Cervinia, but it’s still not part of one of Italy’s two biggest ski areas. One of the two primary ‘Matterhorn resorts’, Cervinia’s a fun, lively village in the shadow of Europe’s most recognisable mountain.
A paradise of wide, cruisey slopes – ideal for beginners and intermediates – Cervinia also allows you to ski the glorious and challenging Zermatt ski area without paying the Swiss premium. Cervinia itself has a fun après ski scene with lots of bars, ranging from the laid back to the more bustling. It also has a modern, purpose-built resort centre that’s compact and traffic-free. Midweek lift queues are rarely long and the sun-bathed slopes are usually quiet. Sounds like a winner, no?
Italy’s ‘Little Siberia’, La Thuile’s East-facing slopes enjoy excellent conditions, a great snow record and amazing views of the Matterhorn, Monte Rosa and Mont Blanc. High capacity lifts mean midweek queues are almost non-existent. La Thuile’s spread of long, wide piste is mostly suited to intermediate skiers, with some of the home runs back into the village being some of the resort’s most challenging – although you can always get the cable car back down if you prefer.
On top of all La Thuile’s own – excellent – piste, it’s also one half of the Espace San Bernardo, the ski area it shares with La Rosiere over the French border. Totalling 160km, this partnership means you’ll have plenty to keep you occupied, and offers the opportunity to ski two countries in one day.
La Thuile has plenty of places to eat and drink, having improved greatly over the past few seasons. The village has a relaxed après atmosphere which calms right down after midnight – only King’s Bar stays open into the early hours.
Widely considered one of the prettiest resorts in Italy’s particularly beautiful Aosta Valley, Gressoney is chock-a-block with picturesque woodland runs, great off-piste areas – If you’re a boarder, you’ll love the freeriding – serious black runs and loads of excellent reds. What’s more, Gressoney’s a convenient gateway to the Monte Rosa ski circuit – one of Europe’s best kept secrets. If you fancy it, there’s even the opportunity to go heli-skiing, allowing you to descend into all three valleys from more than 2000m.
The two villages of Gressoney offer great access to the slopes – with shuttles if you don’t fancy the walk – along with a sleepy ski village atmosphere and some of the best Italian scenery you’ll find.
Nestled comfortably at the foot of Mont Blanc, Courmayeur’s typically Italian. With its cobbled streets, stylish shops and top-notch bistros, the town’s a medieval – yet cosmopolitan – delight.
80% of Courmayeur’s entire ski area is covered by snow cannons, meaning that even if you’re cursed with spectacular sunshine for your entire stay, you’re more-or-less guaranteed snow. We can’t see a downside, to be honest.
The drive through the Aosta Valley on your way up to Pila must be one of the most impressive in the Alps – as the road climbs, the valley drops away below and the imposing Matterhorn, Monte Rosa and Mont Blanc come into sight. A fantastic intermediate ski area, Pila is mostly made up of red runs, with a few black runs and some decent off-piste action. It also has superb snow-making equipment and some really beautiful tree skiing. Higher up, there are some cruisey open areas with great pockets of powder.
A modern, purpose-built village, Pila is set above the Roman town of Aosta. It busies up at the weekends with locals driving up from Milan and Turin creating a small but lively après scene. Sounds pretty good to us!
So there you have it: if the buzz of bigger ski areas isn’t for you, or you’ve skied them and enjoyed them, why not try something a bit different?