So you say you want to ski in Italy but the only destination that comes to mind is Cortina, thanks to the 1956 Winter Olympics and an incredible stunt sequence in 1981’s For Your Eyes Only. I’m going to introduce you to Italy’s best kept ski secret – the shy and sumptuous Valle d’Aosta.
Bordering France and Switzerland, Italy’s smallest region is where you want to put down your bags and put on your skis. And here are four charming villages with extensive and varied range of pistes that are easily reachable via train stations and airports in Turin and Milan.
Courmayeur Mont Blanc
Valle d’Aosta’s beloved Courmayeur Mont Blanc is a picture-perfect traditional Alpine village at the base of Mont Blanc (Italy’s highest mountain). Courmayeur boasts Italy’s oldest ski school and is host to the World Cup Downhill and the International, a four-mile run that drops 3,300 feet on descent.
Rest your head at Grand Hotel Royal e Golf, a beautiful yesteryear ski lodge looking out on the mountains, with a lovely outdoor pool and a vibe a bit Grand Budapest Hotel.
10-plus miles in lifts and wide pistes, the Monterosa area is one of the world’s largest ski regions (the tri-valley of Champoluc, Gressoney and Alagna) and ski tourism at its best. Expect all levels of skiers and lots of socializing.
Drop your bags at Champoluc stunner Hotellerie De Mascognaz, eight luxurious, multi-room chalets hidden in the mountains (and accessible by snowmobile). Beyond the private, convenience-filled units, you can also expect a spa and wellness center, gourmet restaurant and a virtual golf station in a restored farmhouse.
Italians love La Thuile for its family friendly vibe and it is easy access to France. It’s one of the few towns where you can actually ski into another country for the afternoon. Charming La Thuile is perfect for a quiet getaway, and it’s ideal for beginning skiers and experienced, off-piste daredevils.
Chalet in style at Montana Lodge, 55 rooms of rustic chic plus an on-site spa, sweeping mountain views and a pet-friendly nature.
Welcome to the Italian side of the Matterhorn, an area exceptionally well known as a great destination for all levels of skiing and heli-skiing. Cervinia is linked to the renowned Zermatt resort across the Swiss border. Ski schools and instructors are available throughout the entire region, with a ski pass offering access to all slopes.
Ski in, ski out at Principe delle Nevi, a super-chic mountain lodge with six chalet suites. Aside from stunning vistas, you’ll also discover an on-site Balinese-themed spa, indoor and outdoor pools, a gym, an apres-ski bar with a barbecue terrace and a restaurant.
Off the slopes
When not on the slopes, Valle d’Aosta visitors head to the thermal springs of Prè Saint Didier and Saint Vincent, historic wellness spas founded in the early 19th century as healing destinations. The Skyway is literally breath-taking — a panoramic and rotating cable car connecting Courmayeur with Pointe Helbronner that reaches an altitude of nearly 11,000 feet and supplies spectacular looks onto Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn.
For alpine history and culture, visit The Duke of Abruzzi Alpine Museum in Courmayeur or Jovecan’s Center for Ancient Remedies. Generally speaking, enthusiasts of the past will love all of the ancient Roman ruins — arches, theater, towers and roads — radiating from Aosta.
And when it comes to dining, the Aosta Valley is a bread basket of incredible dishes, from fresh pasta and meats to world-renowned cheese and cured meats. The region also has some shining-star restaurants, including Morgex’s Café Quinson, Courmayeur’s Petit Royal and Aosta’s Osteria da Nando, all rustic and incredible eating experiences. If you can’t get to those eateries, never fear — after all, this is Italy. Most any mountain rifugio (like Frantze Le Rascard in Champoluc) or village trattorie will do you well when it’s time for a good meal.