Italy does things differently, and its ski resorts are no exception. Forget about being the first one on the lift. Make a lunch reservation at that lovely mountain rifugio and cruise down the immaculately groomed pistes without having to worry about hordes of baying British tourists.
Italy is generally less expensive than its main European rivals, France, Austria, and Switzerland. Its relaxed vibe makes it perfect for families and anyone more interested in simply enjoying the snow than skiing faster, further, or steeper than the next person.
However, if you’re looking for genuine free ride, Italy’s ski resorts have plenty to offer – you have to know where to go. With that in mind, we’ve prepared a list of Italy’s best three ski resorts, picked for their combination of piste variety, off-piste quality, and, of course, food. How do you invest in ski property?
Alta Badia is located in the Sella Ronda’s north-eastern corner, in the centre of the enormous Dolomiti Superski area. Corvara, San Cassiano, and La Villa are the three largest settlements in the resort. It has 130 km of lines of its own, but it’s also an excellent starting point for exploring the Dolomiti Superski area.
Most Alta Badia’s skiing is on an undulating plateau, with only the trails back down to the villages providing much of a challenge for advanced skiers. According to experts, there is one black run here: the Gran Risa World Cup descent to La Villa. There are many off-piste in such a large area, including the Val Mezdis, sometimes known as the “Vallé Blanche of the Dolomites,” and the 1,400-metre plunge down the Val Setus. They don’t come any better than Alta Badia when it comes to Italian food and wine.
Bormio is a medieval Lombardia spa town with plenty of character and a continuous summit-to-base slope boasting the highest vertical drop ski resort in Italy. Vallecetta, on the slopes of Cima Bianca, rises from the town’s southern end, is Bormio’s primary ski area. A bustling plateau at the mid-altitude Bormio 2000 hub area has a few small slope-side hotels with pleasant café-bar/restaurant terraces; this level also offers a beginners’ room and several ski-tows serving the surrounding tree-lined slopes, including a well-maintained snowpark.
The bulk of the slopes are red, including the problematic Stelvio piste, where World Cup races are held. They’re all fun for mid-level intermediates, but the summit-to-base route with the highest vertical drop in Italy – almost a mile – is a must-ski. To the west of Bormio, San Colombano, a tiny ski region offers a few more tree-lined red and blue routes.
Shares the Matterhorn Massif with its Swiss neighbour Zermatt, is home to Europe’s highest pisted ski region, which should be reason enough to put it on your list of the most outstanding ski resorts in Italy. Cervinia is perfect for long-distance cruisers who enjoy the mountain scenery. Despite its challenging high-altitude position, Cervinia’s ski resort consists mainly of simple to mid-range intermediate runs. The majority of the slopes are above the tree line (some are at glacial heights). The ski area is divided into two main sectors: one that stretches to the Theodulpass Ridge, which marks the Italian-Swiss boundary, and the other, which is shared with Zermatt as the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise ski area.
The resort also connects to Valtournenche, although due to the exposed nature of the lifts at this elevation, both Zermatt and Valtournenche are susceptible to closure. Cervinia’s après ski is pub-based and centred on the village; happy hours shortly after the lifts close are entertaining and lively, and you can ski to the terraces of a few restaurants in the base area.