Ski holiday in the Italian Alps

Italy's part of the Alps is located in the northern parts of the country and here are several of the most popular ski resorts that the Alps have to offer. A skiing holiday in the Italian Alps rarely leaves anyone disappointed. The only disadvantage compared to its neighbours is that it is somewhat longer to travel if you live in the northern parts of Europe, at least if you intend to drive down, but this is well compensated for those who love Italian cuisine and that the prices of many things are somewhat lower here.

The normal ski season in Italy

So, what time of the year should you go on a ski trip to the Italian Alps? Normally, the ski resorts open in December and close sometime in late March or mid-April, depending on the season's snow conditions. There are also several glaciers here, which mean that some ski resorts have a slightly longer season. As an example in Ponte di Legno, the season starts already in November and lasts until the end of April/beginning of May.

But there is also year-round skiing in Italy. Thanks to the Plateau Rosa glacier and its proximity to Breuil-Cervinia, they can be open all year round here, as is Valtournenche, which is also in the area.

The best ski resorts in the Italian Alps

These are some of the most popular and considered to be the best ski resorts in the Italian Alps.

  • Livigno is one of the most famous Italian ski resorts and this is partly because it is in a tax-free zone, but also because it is a very beautiful village with excellent skiing. Very popular with families, but it has suitable skiing for all skill levels.
  • Cortina d'Ampezzo, or sometimes called just Cortina, is one of the most popular ski resorts in the giant Dolomiti Superski ski area. Among other things, James Bond movies have been filmed here and the village is known for its good food, which is proven by the fact that they have three Michelin restaurants here.
  • Canazei is a pretty little village but still lively, and the skiing here is world-class and is part of the well-known Sella Ronda ski area.
  • Breuil-Cervinia is located in the Aosta Valley in the shadow of the Matterhorn, and thus close to the Swiss border. This ski resort is widely regarded as one of Italy's most beautiful.
  • Madonna di Campiglio is a ski resort that often holds World Cup competitions in slalom and has an extensive skiing area.
  • Passo Tonale is a snow-sure ski resort with many hours of sunshine. The Ghiacciaio Presena glacier at an altitude of over 3,000 meters secures a long ski season here.
  • Sauze d'Oulx is a picturesque village and hosted competitions during the 2006 Winter Olympics. Known for good food and many challenging slopes.
  • Courmayeur is located on the southern side of the Mont Blanc massif, in the Aosta Valley on the border with France and thus close to the popular French ski resort of Chamonix. In this cozy village, the dining experience is just as great as the skiing.
  • The village of Sestriere is located at an altitude of over 2000 meters and was created specifically to be a ski resort. Here you will find good après-ski and high class Italian food.

Are you missing some ski resorts in the list above? Yes, there are plenty of other well-known world-class ski resorts in Italy and we could have also included ski resorts such as Bormio, Alta Badia, Champoluc, Gressoney and Selva Val Gardena in this list, as well as probably a dozen other ski resorts.

If you are looking for ski resorts that often are forgotten when you talk about Italian ski resorts but are well worth exploring, we can recommend for example Alagna Valsesia, Valtournenche and Ponte di Legno, but also this list could be extended. If you want to try skiing in a more unusual place, you can actually ski on Mount Etna in Sicily during favourable winters (which unfortunately are becoming fewer and fewer).

Several large well-known ski areas

One of the reasons why Italy has so many big and famous ski resorts with great skiing is that there are many bigger ski areas here. The connected ski resorts mean that there are lots more ski slopes to explore even if you get tired of the ones at the ski resort you are staying in. It is also always fun to explore and experience other villages, which is therefore easy to do on the same ski holiday.

We start with Sella Ronda, which is Italy's largest ski area with over 500 kilometres of pistes, and this includes the major ski resorts of Canazei, Selva Val Gardena, Arabba and Alta Badia.

Hiwever, perhaps the most well-known ski area is Vialattea, which means "The Milky Way" in Italian. This ski area is located in the Piedmont region on the French border and includes the ski resorts Sauze d'Oulx and Sestriere.

Another famous ski area is Monterosa, also close to the French border but a little further north. It is formed by the three ski resorts of Gressoney, Champoluc and Alagna Valesia and some smaller villages around. There are around 180 kilometers of ski slopes here, more than enough for most skiers.

You also have the Dolomiti Superski area in Italy, which connects 12 ski areas and larger ski resorts, giving an unparalleled 1,200 kilometers of pistes to discover. This area includes the already mentioned Sella Ronda ski area together with ski resorts such as Cortina d'Ampezzo, Alpe di Siusi and Kronplatz. However, this is not considered a "real" ski area as you need a bus to get between, but there are lift passes that cover this entire huge area.

This is where you fly when you go to the Italian Alps

Thanks to Milan being so close to the Italian Alps, it is very easy to find direct flights.

Fly to the western parts of the Italian Alps

The largest airport in the Italian Alps is Malpensa, which is just west of Milan, which makes it convenient to fly here if you want to reach one of the ski resorts in the western parts of the Italian Alps, such as the Monterosa or Vialettea ski areas and the ski resorts included. In Milan there is also the slightly smaller Linate airport, which is also possible to fly to, but as it is more centrally located in Milan, the transfer time from here is longer.

If you want to go to one of the ski resorts northeast of Milan, the best place to fly to is Bergamo's Orio Al Serio airport. It is also where Ryanair have their Milan hub, which makes it easy to find low-cost flights here.

Turin is also perfect to fly to if you want to reach the ski resorts in the western parts, actually even better in terms of distance than Milan, but as the airport is not as big as Malpensa there are fewer flights here. However, it is big enough to have direct flights from most European major cities.

Fly to the eastern parts of the Italian Alps

If you want to reach the ski resorts in the eastern parts of the Italian Alps, such as those in the Sella Ronda ski area, the very best airport is Bolzano, which is located in the middle of the Alps. This is however a very small airport and there are few direct flights here. It is instead Venice's Marco Polo airport that is the primary airport to fly to as there are plenty of direct flights here, but Verona airport is even more suitable if you can find flights to here.

It is also possible to fly to the Austrian city of Innsbruck. From here it is between 2 and 3 hours by transfer to the Dolomiti Superski area and all its ski resorts.

Price level in the Italian Alps

Of all the four major Alpine countries, Italy is considered the cheapest country, at least when it comes to food and drink. But of course, when we talk about resorts in the Alps, the prices are higher than in a normal Italian village.

Looking at the price of pizza as an example, the price is normally a bit under 10 euros, which for being in a ski resort in Europe is very cheap. However, other food in a normal restaurant is often about the same as in other countries. When it comes to drinks such as beer, a pint usually costs around 5 euros.

When it comes to ski rental, prices in Italy are about the same as in other countries, expect between 150 to 200 euros for a week's rental of skis, boots and helmet.

The average price for a lift pass in the Italian Alps is 58 euro, which can be considered fairly standard in the Alps. You can find the cheapest lift pass for one day's skiing in Macugnaga where it costs 30 euro, while the most expensive is in Breuil-Cervinia and the price there is 106 euro.

Interesting food in the Italian Alps

Italian food needs no introduction, we all know and love pizza and pasta. Since this is the homeland of these dishes, you should of course try them here too, it is almost guaranteed that no one will be disappointed, but there are of course other local dishes to try as well. Here are some of the local specialties you should try if you are on a ski holiday in the Italian Alps.

  • Fonduta valdostana is quite simple a fondue, but here made with the local cheese Fontina as a base, mixed with eggs and cream. Perfect energy-rich meal after a tough day on the slopes.
  • Canederli is the Italian name for dumpling, or Knödel in German. Although it is not a specific Italian dish, it is also very popular in northern Italy, especially around the Dolomites.
  • Polenta concia is a specialty of the area around the Aosta Valley. Polenta is made with cornmeal and the variant here is creamier than normal as it also contains melted cheese, usually the local Fontina cheese.
  • Strudel di mele is simply apple strudel that is served a lot in Südtirol (South Tyrol), which is the Italian part of the Tyrol region. This dessert is primarily associated with Austria and Germany, but thanks to Südtirol's proximity to Austria, and perhaps also because this region once belonged to Austria, it is very popular here as well.

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