ITALY: Laid-back culture, short on pretension, long on old-fashioned Alpine charm, not crowded and the atmosphere is more relaxed than in France and Switzerland. Everything is a bit more relaxed, civilised, it’s more stress-free skiing in an area looking like it’s been frozen in time.
The Italians know better than anyone how to rustle up excellent food at 2,000m, and the food is among the best you’ll eat anywhere. You will find small and informal resorts that might not be the hottest in Europe, but with charm. It feels like somewhere you can bump into Tom Cruise or George Clooney – rather than Prince Harry and his hooray friends.
Nowhere is more picturesque than chic Cortina d`Ampezzo, the most up market of Italian resorts – the Queen of the Dolomites. Dramatic pink-tinged peaks rise sheerly from the top of the slopes, giving picture-postcard views from wherever you are.
Cortina’s slopes are fine for its regular up market visitors, many of whom have second homes here and enjoy the strolling, shopping, people-watching and lunching as much as the excursion on to the slopes. For beginners and leisurely intermediates, the slopes and long, easy, well-groomed runs are ideal.
Cortina will suite you perfectly if your sports are ice polo, shopping and Michelin-star dining. El Toulà is one of the most up market places to eat and meet.
The skiing region of Alta Badia located in south-east South Tyrol, between 1,300 and 2,778 metres about sea level, is perfect to explore on skis and snowboard. Alta Badia is 2,5 hours drive from Venice. It’s separated from the package hordes – and isolated enough for the locals to speak their own language, Ladin.
La Villa, Dolomites
La Villa is located 2 hours drive from Venice and has 11 lifts and 19 slopes to suit all levels, perfect for beginners and children. The chalets might look like you are in Austria, but in the evening it’s all about Italians and gourmets. This are has 18 Michelin-starred restaurants.
Tucked in-between the sunny Susa and Chisone valleys, Sestriere are a friendly town with a mix of Italians and families coming to enjoy over 400km (249 miles) of pistes connected to the Milky Way. Sestriere was built for snow – high, with north-west-facing slopes – with extensive snowmaking. So if you are let down by the erratic snowfalls in this corner of Italy, you’ll be safe here with 146 skiable pistes and a floodlit run for night skiing.
The town is not very charming. One of the best things about skiing Sestriere is that you are in Italy. Your appetite will be well satisfied by Piedmont specialties and all the Italian favorites.
If you like cobbled medieval Italian towns and don’t mind a lack of Alpine resort atmosphere, you’ll find the centre of Bormio very appealing – though you’re unlikely to be staying there. The slopes, too, suit a rather specific and perhaps rather uncommon breed of visitor: you need to enjoy red runs and very little else, but you need to be happy with a limited range of them – unless you’re prepared to take the free bus to the Val di Dentro-San Colombano area or make longer outings, to Santa Caterina or Livigno.
Bormio attracts some boarders, but it has no special appeal. The slopes are too steep to make first-time boarding enjoyable, and apart from some good long carving runs, there’s little to attract experienced boarders either: no park or pipe; limited off-piste potential, little enthusiasm from the ski schools to teach boarding; and a mainly skier orientation on the slopes. At least the main area’s lifts are mostly chairs, gondolas or cable cars. Nightlife is sedate and really gets going only at the weekend.
Based on the Italian side of the Matterhorn, Cervinia is lift-linked to Zermatt, with 200km of its own runs. Because of its high altitude, it has a long season, great snow and is an absolute haven for intermediates. Advanced skiers will need to head over into Switzerland for extended challenges.
On the downside, Cervinia is not the most attractive resort and is entirely purpose-built. It was founded in the 1930s by Mussolini and still doesn’t cater very well for non-skiers. There are good restaurants on and off the mountain, but their prices are nearly as steep as the Matterhorn itself. Weekend crowds can put pressure on the old lift system, but also improve the quality of après-ski.
Access from the accommodation to the lifts is inconvenient, requiring an uphill walk. Cervinia is great for lower ability skiers and boarders and much cheaper than its Swiss neighbour. Experts, kids and party animals may not find Cervinia ideal.
Italian neighbor to big boy Chamonix has 100km of its own pistes, most of which cater mainly for intermediates. Advanced skiers need not panic however, as Courmayeur offers access to the all of the other resorts in the Aosta and Chamonix valleys (via the Mont Blanc Tunnel), which have a combined total of near 800km of runs. Cross-country skiers will also find excellent trails.
The Alpine village has cosy chalets, luxury hotels, slick designer boutiques and stylish cocktail bars. Weekend guests are generally keener to party than hit the piste.
Alagna, Alps, Piedmont
People come here because they are dedicated to skiing rather than party or shopping. Alanga itself has only 15km of piste, mostly for expert skiers, but has links to nearby resorts and a total of 75km. The ski lift pass gives access to them all.
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Make it Happen!
Touch Down: Most of the Ski Resorts in the Dolomites are 2-3 hours drive away from Venice and Innsbruck (Austria).
Stay: There are 4532 hotels in the Italian Dolomites. Any of the local tourism associations will be glad to inform you about room availability in the various hotels or apartments.
Eat: The Dolomite area is rich in typical foods, some of which are very well known. Examples include cheeses from the Fiemme and Fassa valleys, speck (smoked raw ham), apples, and many wines that are highly renowned all over the world. The great tradition in the Dolomites is famous all over the world for its unique cheeses.
Play: South Tyrol, Trentino and Veneto; Unique scenic beauty, surrounded by the Dolomites, one of the most impressive mountains of the world. Hotels are devoted to well-being, wellness centres, saunas, special treatments with hay, and a bath in wine - countless pleasures offered by wellness facilities.
Mini Guide: After the last Olympics, curling is now in fashion, so ice stadiums have been equipped to host competitions where the famous heavy granite disks called “stones” take the field. Dolomiti Superski offers you the opportunity to spend a cool ski holiday with a single skipass and the best resources: 1220km ski runs, 450 ski lifts, 475 ski runs, 12 mountain valleys.