Although the Dolomites are often regarded as Europe’s most spectacular slopes, the rest of the Italian Alps are home to plenty of rewarding destinations for ski enthusiasts. From ancient market towns to remote villages, these charming ski resorts offer an opportunity to enjoy the winter season while discovering local hospitality.
The Italian Alps are formed by a diverse range of mountain landscapes which leaves one spoilt for choice when it comes to picking the best ski areas, but thrilling runs are not the only attraction to look out for. Known for their fabulous scenery, cultural offerings, shopping opportunities and regional gastronomy, these charming ski resorts provide plenty of things to do off the slopes, as well as on them.
Once known mainly for the party, Sauze d’Oulx has revamped its reputation as a charming mountain village. It remains the most popular destination in the Vialattea Ski Area, boasting record sunshine hours and wide slopes best suited to intermediate skiers. Located near the motorway, it is easily reached both from Milan and Turin, and in 2006 it hosted the Freestyle competition during the 2006 Turin Olympics. A rich nightlife still livens up the village’s small hours, while earlier in the evening, visitors can choose from a plethora of bars and restaurants scattered around its cobbled centre.
Located 80km from Turin, Sauze d’Oulx is easily reached both by car and train. It’s a one-and-a-half-hour drive from Turin airport.
Corvara is the main hub of Alta Valle Badia, which comprises some of the most famous mountains of the Dolomites. This blessed location at the feet of the Sassongher Mountain has made it a popular destination for tourists, excursionists and researchers since as early as the 18th century. Today, its claim to fame is the fine balance between a quiet, intimate resort and an upscale tourist destination, where high-end restaurants, nightlife and fashion brands meet local traditions. The slopes have modern infrastructure and highly regarded pistes (the ‘Boé’, to name one), while other popular locations such as Colfosco, Val Gardena and Arabba are within easy reach.
Smaller than neighbouring Corvara, Arabba is more of a haven for expert skiers. Its modern lifts and pistes range from 1,600 to 2,500 meters in altitude, winding through mountain scenery that will make one linger awhile before heading downhill. ‘Porta Vescovo’ is the slope to look out for, a thrilling mix of black and red runs flanked by rocky slopes and dense coniferous forests. Ski mountaineering is also popular, and Arabba’s trails are part of the Sellaronda Skimarathon. The village, located in the Fodom Valley, is a typical Dolomites gem known for its hospitality and landscapes.
Both Corvara and Arabba are located around 140km away from Innsbruck airport (Austria). Treviso, Venezia and Verona are the closest Italian locations to fly to.
The Alps’ “Little Tibet”, Livigno is a remote and vast plateau located near the Swiss Border. The village stretches along the course of the Spöl creek, an indirect tributary to the Danube, offering pristine nature and postcard landscapes. What’s more, a special duty-free allowance makes shopping here particularly convenient. The adjoining slopes are marked by 110km of pistes and 30km of cross-country trails peaking at 2,900 meters, while the Mottolino Snowpark is consistently listed among Europe’s best. The local parish also claims to be the highest permanently-populated hamlet on the continent (Trepalle, 2,069 to 2,250 meters).
Located next to the Swiss border, Livigno can be reached from Milan both by train and by car (a three-and-a-half-hour drive). The closest airport is Innsbruck (Austria), 180km away.
The 2,275-meter peak of the Plan the Corones watches over the Medieval town of Brunico. The town’s Christmas market is one of the most famous of the Alto Adige region, but the pretty Via Centrale welcomes visitors throughout the year with a rich display of majolica, woodwork, loden fabrics, ironwork and other artisanal products. The slopes around Brunico include some of the most challenging runs in the Plan de Corones ski area (‘Sylvester’ and ‘Herrnegg’), but easier pistes are also available.
In addition to Italy, Brunico can be reached from Austria, Germany and Switzerland. Innsbruck airport (Austria) is around 100km away.
The Ayes Valley, in northwestern Italy, is surrounded by imposing 4,000-meter peaks. Among the villages nestled here, Champoluc is known for its quaint and relaxed atmosphere disturbed only by the stream of the Evançon Creek. Glorious forests of pines and larches stretch out in the surroundings, while the neighbouring hamlet of Antagnod is home to remarkable traditional buildings and the 15th-century Parish Church of San Martin. A gondola links the centre of Champoluc to Crest, 400 meters up, providing an excellent access to the Monterosa ski area.
Gressoney-La-Trinité and Gressoney-Saint-Jean are also part of the Monterosa ski area. La Trinité is a modern skiing hub which hasn’t lost the charm of the remote mountain village it once was, conveniently located in the middle of the Monterosa’s three valleys. Saint Jean is a delightful composition of evocative landscape and quaint barns, where the main attractions include the ancient Saint John the Baptist Church, Savoy Castle and its botanic garden, 19th-century villas and the regional museum of alpine fauna. This area’s language, architecture and traditions are influenced by the Walser culture, a Germanic population that settled here nearly a thousand years ago.
Gressoney and Champoluc can be easily reached from Turin and Milan. It’s roughly a one-hour-and-a-half drive to Turin airport.
A market town, Ortisei is an elegant resort of the Val Gardena. The typical religious wood sculptures made it famous long ago, establishing the town as an internationally-known hub for the woodcarving trade. Pastel-colour buildings adorn the town centre, as well as rich churches and chapels such as Saint Ulrich, Saint Jacob and Saint Anne. The adjoining slopes suit mainly beginner and intermediate skiers, while more challenging runs can be easily reached through a direct link with the Dolomiti Superski and Sellaronda ski areas. Ortisei is also regarded as an excellent shopping hub.
Not far from Corvara and Arabba, Ortisei is located 115km away from Innsbruck airport.
Bormio’s town centre has distinguishing art and architecture, which reflects its storied history. Churches, historical buildings and beautiful towers are scattered across the town, while a peculiar covered amphitheatre (Kuerc) is perhaps the most symbolic feature. The famous thermal baths are no less attractive, immersed in nature at Stelvio National Park. The resort offers 50km of slopes, and the Stelvio Glacier welcomes skiers also during summer. Every year, the ‘Stelvio’ slope plays host to the Ski World Cup.
Bormio is easily reached from Milan, Bergamo and Brescia. Milano Malpensa and Bergamo Orio Al Serio are the two closest airports.
Although not considered a proper ski resort, Lagazuoi is a 2,835-meter mountain with a refuge on top. One of the two pistes available here, the Armentarola, is alone worth a trip to the Dolomites: a 7,300-meter track winding past spectacular rocky walls and frozen waterfalls, made of steep and gentle slopes which are suitable for experts and intermediates alike. At the end of the run, a horse-drawn carriage takes skiers to the Armentarola ski lift, with links back to the Lagazuoi cable car or to the Alta Badia ski area. To better enjoy this thrilling skiing experience, the Lagazuoi refuge provides accommodation and offers authentic local hospitality surrounded by stunning views over the Dolomites.
The cable car that reaches Mount Lagazuoi operates only during high season. It starts in Passo Falzarego, 17km west of Cortina D’Ampezzo.