Home to some of Europe's best skiing, scenery and food - skiing in Italy consistently impresses with many vowing never to return to the overloaded pistes in neighbouring countries. Perhaps it’s the sunny climate or the national temperament, but family ski holidays in Italy are quite different from those in the other Alpine nations. In general, the Italians are laid back, late to arrive on the slopes and big on lunch. Many of the top ski resorts in Italy are in the Val d’Aosta (where you’ll find Cervinia, Champoluc, Gressoney and Pila), the Olympic ‘Milky Way’ resorts (Sauze d’Oulx, Sestriere and Claviere) or in the exceptionally scenic Dolomites (with famous resorts such as Cortina d’Ampezzo and Selva-Gardena). A firm favourite with us is the duty-free resort of Livigno which excels in combining value and fantastic skiing.
Most places to ski in Italy tend to be marketed as being on the “sunny side” of the Alps. Certainly it’s not uncommon, for example, to enter the Mont Blanc tunnel from an overcast Chamonix – or even when it’s actually snowing there! And enter Italy basking in glorious sunshine. One reason why the Italians love to lunch is the quality of the food. The cuisine in the Dolomites in particular is a wonderful mix of Italian, Austrian and Ladin (a language based on a local dialect and Latin which dominates some of the local valleys). The Dolomites are also the location for the celebrated Sella Ronda – a leisurely all day circular tour taking in several resorts, including Selva, Corvara & Colfosco and four mountain passes.
Cervinia, linked across the Swiss border with Zermatt, has extensive high altitude slopes, wide and well-groomed. Cervinia’s Val d’Aosta neighbours Gressoney and Champoluc in the Monterosa ski area, combine to give extensive family-friendly Italian ski holidays with exciting heli-skiing options for the more adventurous.
Those who have never encountered the Dolomites while skiing in Italy will be inspired by some of the most astonishing scenery in the Alps. These sheer and towering limestone peaks are so different in appearance that some people think of them as a completely different mountain range. At dawn and dusk, sunlight produces variety of shades of pink and flaming red as it glints on porphyry - a reddish-purple rock of large feldspar crystals embedded in the limestone. In some Dolomites valleys the Ladin culture is still very much alive, and the locals are determined to preserve this heritage through the language, local dress, old customs, songs and the local cuisine. Skiing round the truly impressive Sella massif is one of the great highlights of a skiing in the Dolomites. This panoramic 25-mile circuit includes more than 16 miles of skiing and takes you through four Ladin valleys. The tour can be comfortably completed in five or six hours, even by less experienced skiers.