Italy is one of the world’s leading ski nations with some 300 ski areas spread right across the country, from the west where it is possible to ski over the border in to France, to the north where you can ski in to Switzerland, the east where you can ski in to Slovenia and right down to the south, where there are even ski lifts on Mount Etna in Sicily.
Italy’s ski areas are also to be found throughout the nation, with resorts in the Alps in north west, amongst the dramatic pink precipices of the Dolomites, to the north east and along the Appenines that run down the Italian peninsular between the Mediterranean and Adriatic seas. There are some good little ski centres an hour’s drive in land from Rome.
The first ski areas in the country opened a little over a hundred years ago, with Claviere on the French border recently celebrating the centenary of its ski school. Italy was the first country to have specially built ski resort villages in the 1930s, starting with Sestriere, financed by the Fiat car company, and Cervinia, which shares its giant ski area with Zermatt over the border in Switzerland.
Many of the country’s resorts are traditional villages that have expanded with the ski boom. Key regions which are well represented in our search engine include the Aosta Valley, which runs down the French border in the north west of the country, and includes resorts like Pila, La Thuile, Cervinia on the Italian side of the Matterhorn, and Courmayeur on the Italian side of Mont Blanc. Both have direct access to some of Europe’s highest ski areas.
Trentino includes the 2006 Olympic venues of San Sicario, Pragelato, Sauze d’Oulx, Bardonecchia and Sestriere. Most of these are lift linked to Montgenevre over the border in France, creating the Via Lattea or ‘Milky Way’ one of the world’s most extensive linked ski areas with 400km (250 miles) of piste.
An even bigger ski area is the famous Sella Ronda within the Dolomiti Superski pass area in the country’s north west above Venice. Much of this area is within the South Tyrol, an area that was once part of Austria and gives equal value to German as well as Italian and, in places, a third option, the local Ladin dialect.
The Sella Ronda is possibly the world’s second biggest lift-linked area. It is a network of lifts and pistes surrounding the huge Sella massif. From this central ring valleys radiate out like spokes on a wheel â€“ Fassa, Badia, Gardena giving a huge choice of runs. Many of the local resorts like Canazei and Campitello in Val di Fassa, Arabba or Selva in Val Gardena, are to be found in our search engine.
These and about 50 other villages are all part of the vast Dolomiti Superski pass, a huge marketing success of Italian skiing, which more than 30 years ago organised one of the first computer controlled lift ticket systems, with a single ticket valid for more than 450 lifts serving over 1,200km (75 miles) of runs, from day one.
Other, larger ski areas have been created in Austria and France in the past few years but none so simple to use and transparent in operation. Today the ticket system is hands free and the pass takes most of all Italian ski business.
Other famous Italian areas are Lombardy, where the World Championships resort of Bormio and the duty free village of Livigno are located, and the Val di Sole, home to Madonna di Campiglio and the glacier skiing of Passo Tonale.
Sestriere was a pioneer of snowmaking technology, and for many years claimed to have the biggest snowgun arsenal in Europe and possibly the world. Over the past decade or so many Italian resorts have been modernised, replacing old surface lifts with high speed chairs and expanding their snowmaking coverage to ever greater proportions of their terrain.
Italy also has a splendid history in international ski competition, with the famous slalom racer Alberto Tomba one of the all time greats of the sport.
For ski holidays to Italy, guests should expect friendly and typically laid back ski village experiences, with a sense of Italian style evident on the slopes, and in resorts like Cortina, Cervinia and Madonna di Campiglio in resort as well, where the fur coat count can be high!
Facilities in the resort are not typically as good as those in Austria and Switzerland. Public swimming pools, nurseries and special ski schools for children are rare in all but the very biggest ski areas, but prices are perhaps slightly lower than further north, the locals are friendly and you will no doubt enjoy the Italian food.