In winter, the holiday emphasis in Italy tends to be based around fun and relaxation rather than sporting excellence on the slopes, and as a result, the enjoyment factor is all the higher. Not only is Italy much more laid back than its rivals in France, Switzerland and Austria, it is also cheaper.
Precious Euros will stretch a lot further compared with other mainstream Alpine destinations, making Italy a sensible choice for anyone on a tight budget this season. What’s more, families with young children are welcomed even in the chicest hotels and restaurants in the nation’s ski resorts.
Italy is blessed with a number of giant ski areas. For beautiful scenery and variety of terrain, the central core of the Dolomites is unbeatable. This area is also home to the famous Sella Ronda – a circular network of lifts and pistes around the Gruppo del Sella, a majestic limestone massif, taking in a host of resorts. With its big piste network and off-piste routes, the vast Monterosa ski area is already heaven on earth for both intermediates and experts. And plans are afoot to build a cable car to Cervinia, also in the Aosta valley and linked to Zermatt in Switzerland, as part of the long-planned AlpLinks project to create one of the world’s biggest ski areas.
Snow cover over the past 40 years has not always been as reliable in Italy as elsewhere in the Alps. The Sella Ronda resorts and other destinations in the Dolomites don’t always catch the regular winter storms that strike the peaks of the Austrian Tirol, less than 100km to the north. However, highly efficient snowmaking means that even when there is almost no natural cover, Italian resorts are able to maintain many kilometres of piste in pristine condition.
Below you'll find where's best to go for a ski holiday in Italy, whatever your ability or budget.
Best for beginners
This compact, value-for-money village lies at 1,880m, with lifts going up to 3,088m. It’s one of the few Italian resorts to be snowsure from late October to mid-June, thanks to the Presena glacier at 3,000m, which is why Italian national ski teams train there. The marked runs are mainly suited to beginners and intermediates, and Passo Tonale is also linked by lift to the slopes of Ponte di Legno and Temù, which offer challenges for the more advanced and 100km of runs in total. All are covered by a single lift pass and the ski area as a whole goes by the moniker Ponte di Legno-Tonale.
The high slopes of the Presena glacier are accessed by a gondola that goes from Passo Paradiso at 2,585m to Passo Presena at 3,000m. The only piste down is red, but non-skiers and nervous beginners can also use the lift to enjoy panoramic views of the Italian Alps.
However, the overriding reason for a visit to Passo Tonale is to enjoy the gentle open slopes that form a near-perfect nursery area for learning first turns and gaining confidence, without the threat of more accomplished slope users whizzing scarily by. There are two ski and snowboard schools, Tonale Presena and Ponte Tonale, and both offer a decent standard of instruction. However, when booking a lesson with either, it is advisable to insist on having a fluent English-speaking instructor. Another option is the international online portal Maison Sport, which has local independent instructors on its books.
The resort village was developed mainly to service the slopes, with a road running through the middle, and features predominantly chalet-style buildings. It’s generally quiet during the week, but comes to life during the Italian holidays and at weekends.
One après option is a meal at Hotel La Mirandola, situated way above the main resort. It dates back to the 12th century, and the restaurant has a vaulted stone ceiling, oodles of atmosphere and can be reached in the evening by snowmobile.
Where to stay
For a warm welcome and friendly service, the three-star, family-run Hotel Adamello is hard to beat. Good food, including a regional buffet, is served and there’s also a children’s games room with ball pool, climbing wall and slides. From £621 with Crystal Ski. For more of the best accommodation in Passo Tonale here.
Bardonecchia, Pila and Madesimo are all uncommercialised resorts much loved by Italians. Each has easy, uncrowded slopes that are ideal for learning.
Best for intermediates
This quaint little village, along with family-friendly Corvara and neighbouring San Cassiano, is situated at the crossroads of two huge intermediate playgrounds in the heart of the Dolomites, covered by the giant 1,250km Superski Dolomiti lift pass. The local 130km Alta Badia ski area gives easy access to the Sella Ronda circuit, and both are rich in cruisy, confidence-boosting red runs that are usually well groomed. Efficient snowmaking here is quite exceptionally extensive. In a dry, cold winter a circuit of over 200km of runs can operate without any natural cover at all. In total there are 500km of linked pistes to explore, and they’re also home to some delightful mountain restaurants.
La Villa is the long-established home of Wow Ski Tours which runs guided day tours both on- and off-piste around the linked Dolomite resorts for men and women, but specialises in group tours for solo female skiers. They choose to holiday here for a wide variety of reasons, but essentially to ski without pressure in the company of other like-minded women.
The Dolomites themselves have been called the most beautiful mountain range in the world. At sunset, the cliffs and crags turn a vibrant shade of pink. The panorama is so enchanting that eyes are perpetually drawn to the skyline, and sometimes it’s hard to concentrate on the snow underfoot.
For dining at altitude with superb mountain views, the Piz Boè Alpine Lounge located alongside the upper station of the Boè cable car that departs from the centre of Corvara, is recommended.
Where to stay
WoW has a choice of family-run three-star hotels in La Villa and Corvara including Hotel Rezia in La Villa. The Scottish couple who run it live in the resort and have been skiing here for a couple of decades, so know it intimately. From £1,699 with – importantly – no single room supplements. Transfers from Venice airports are included, but not flights. The women-only package comprises five-days qualified guiding with daily resort transfers, with WoW Ski Tours.
Kronplatz in the Südtirol numbers an extraordinary 22 gondolas among its 33 lifts. These give access to 119km of mainly intermediate slopes, with plenty of wide open red and blue runs. La Thuile in the Aosta Valley offers a wealth of gentle reds and blues, and is linked to La Rosière in France, where more challenging reds await.
Best for experts
This picturesque little village – complete with stone church and ancient wooden farmhouses in the giant Monterosa ski area has a cult following among powderhounds. Away from the limited local pistes, glorious snowfields provide endless entertainment and tough challenges for experts. In fact, many claim the backcountry terrain here rivals that of Chamonix, in France.
It’s not a place for beginners though, or anyone interested in any form of nightlife – lights out is almost directly after dinner. But to make the most of the off piste, plenty of sleep is required.
Alagna itself has only 15km of pistes, but it’s linked to the more intermediate-minded resorts of Gressoney and Champoluc – all covered on the Monterosa Ski lift pass and offering 200km of pistes of varying difficulty. However, it’s best to stay in Alagna for the off piste.
The village is situated at 1,212m from where lifts ascend to a heady 3,275m, starting point for some dramatic freeriding. There’s also a wickedly long black run down towards the resort from Passo Salati at 2,971m. Expert help is essential to explore this truly dramatic terrain, which means hiring the services of a mountain guide. Book through Alagna Ski Guides, a group of self-employed local guides who all speak good English.
Where to stay
The four-star Mira Alagna Resort & Spa looks like a traditional local building of stone and wood. Inside, the rooms are beautifully wood-clad and all of them different. Some have separate sleeping areas and others have mezzanines, and there are family rooms with extra bunk beds. There’s also an in-house swimming pool and spa. From €967, B&B including an early evening buffet, but travel not included, with Alagna Mountain Resort & Spa.
Arabba is on the mainly intermediate Sella Ronda circuit, but is also a convenient base from which to explore some of the most challenging slopes in the region. The pistes here are some of the steepest in the Dolomites and include spectacular off-piste routes. Cortina d’Ampezzo also has some challenging black runs, tough couloirs and serious off-piste runs. Madesimo has the notorious Canalone off-piste itinerary run.
Best for snow reliability
This is a high-altitude resort with fabulous long runs where conditions top-to-bottom are virtually guaranteed from December to the end of April, even in the driest winter. The glacier is also normally open for summer skiing and snowboarding from June to September. Plus, there’s good grooming and snowmaking on key runs.
Cervinia itself has 160km of pistes covered on the local lift pass and is also linked by lift to the slopes of Zermatt in Switzerland. The more expensive International pass covering both resorts brings the ski area total up to an extensive 360km. Visitors can cross from Cervinia to Zermatt with or without skis, with the opening of a cable car, Alpine X, connecting Plateau Rosa directly with Klein Matterhorn. Cabins accommodate 28 people and the journey time is five minutes.
This isn’t the prettiest resort village in the Alps, with some rather ugly architecture, but its slopes offer a wonderful playground, dictated by the easy gradient of its seemingly never-ending runs. These allow beginners and wobbly intermediates to gain enormous confidence in an extensive high-mountain area.
The 8km Ventina red run, with breathtaking views of 4,000m peaks, descends a mighty 1,833m from the top of Plateau Rosa (3,480m) all the way down to the resort, and if completed without a stop is guaranteed to turn even the strongest legs to spaghetti.
All of this means Cervinia is somewhere Italy should be proud of. Il Duce, Benito Mussolini, felt exactly the same and decreed in the 1930s that the then embryonic resort should change its name from the Swiss-German-sounding Breuil to Cervinia, to reflect the Italianate glory of the mountain above it. However, most of us think of this mountain as the Matterhorn rather than Il Cervino – and there’s a less spectacular but still impressive view of its iconic shape from the Italian side of the peak.
Where to stay
A good choice for families on a tight budget, Hotel Punta Marquignaz was originally built in the 1950s, with lots of wood and stone, and there’s a bar and a spa area. The hotel offers a choice of B&B or half board and is located 100 metres from the lifts. From £639 B&B, including flights and transfers, with SNO. Find more of the best hotels in Cervinia here.
Best for partying
In the 1970s and 1980s, Sauze d’Oulx had a reputation as a Magaluf on ice, where pub was more important than piste, and many of its British youth following never made it on to the snow before midday. These days Sauze has cleaned up its act. The charming Italian village that it once was is back on form, although the party atmosphere never completely went away.
The village has an attractive, cobbled centre, but most of the resort is made up of modern, block-like buildings. Away from the centre, there are quieter, more secluded areas.
Part of the vast 400km Milky Way (Via Lattea) ski area served by 69 lifts, Sauze has some of Italy’s best pistes, with undulating terrain linking to the resorts of Sansicario, Sestriere and, across the French border, to Montgenèvre. The local slopes are spread out across a wooded mountainside. At the heart of these runs is Sportinia – a mid-mountain collection of restaurants, hotels and a nursery area.
The prices here are roughly a third of those in premier French resorts like Courchevel and Val d’Isère, so eating out and entertainment needn’t cost a fortune. Après begins with live music at Capanna Mollino in the Sportinia area, and moves on to the Village café-bar on the home run into the resort. For a quieter drink, the Caffe della Seggiovia or Enoteca Il Lampione wine bars are popular with both locals and visitors. Other lively places include Ghost bar, and later on the action moves to Moncrons cocktail bar, Vagabondi’s and Bar Mira.
Where to stay
The distinctive circular four-star Grand Hotel La Torre was built by Fiat boss Giovanni Agnelli in art deco style in 1937. An internal spiral walkway weaves its way to all the floors (there are lifts too). La Torre was designed to allow in lots of natural light and give wonderful views all round, and modern art decorates the bedrooms and public rooms. Its impressive wellness centre next door includes a small pool, sauna, steam room and gym (charges apply). The hotel is just outside the centre, 500m from a chairlift, but the hotel has a free minibus service. From £849 with Inghams. Find more of the best hotels in Sauze here.
Best for charm and romance
Italy’s chicest destination is an ancient mountain town in the Dolomites surrounded by soaring cathedrals of sandstone. The centre of Cortina is dominated by a green and white bell tower and a glittering confection of grand 19th-century mansions.
Despite being variously occupied over the centuries by foreign invaders, including Austria and even the Americans in 1945, Cortina has stubbornly maintained a spiritual independence of its own. While the residents of surrounding towns and villages primarily speak Italian or German, native Cortinese cling to their ancient Ladin language to converse among themselves.
Cortina’s 120km of marked slopes and 36 lifts (covered by the local lift pass) are divided into three main areas, and best suit intermediates and experts. There is a handful of tricky black runs, plus countless off-piste opportunities in good snow conditions.
Buses connect the three areas – Tofana-Socrepes, Faloria-Cristallo and Cinque Torri-Lagazuoi. From the furthest reaches of Lagazuoi it’s possible to link into the vast Sella Ronda ski area with over 400km more pistes, covered by the more extensive Dolomiti Superski pass.
The quickest way to get there is via a half-hour bus ride from the centre of town to Passo Falzarego at the connection between the Cinque Torri and Lagazuoi areas, followed by a cable-car up to the 2,788m summit of Lagazuoi. From here there’s a red run down the Hidden Valley to the hamlet of Armentarola and on to the rest of the Sella Ronda.
Cortina has an impeccable sporting heritage – it hosted the Winter Olympics in 1956, and is to hold them again in 2026, with Milan. However, in the resort itself, the business of skiing and snowboarding plays second fiddle to the social sport of seeing and being seen outside and inside the elegant boutiques and antique shops lining the Corso Italia, the pedestrianised main street.
Encroaching twilight is the signal for Cortina to come out and play. A colony of voluminous fur coats and designer ski wear gathers noisily in the Piazza Venezia at the start of the evening passeggiata. Much later, the party atmosphere is transferred to intimate wine bars, expensive restaurants, and a smattering of softly-lit nightclubs.
Where to stay
At the lower end of Corsa Italia, Parc Hotel Victoria former four-star hotel is now a chalet-hotel and has 37 rooms spread over five floors. It was built in 1892 and both the public areas and the bedrooms feature lovely old wood. The small spa area has a sauna and steam room and there’s a free mini-bus service to and from the lifts six days a week. From £929 self-drive with Channel crossings included, with SNO. Find more of the best accommodation in Cortina here.
The market town of Ortisei in the Val Gardena is packed with charming buildings and churches and surrounded by majestic peaks. Its local slopes offer lots of relaxed cruising linked to the extensive Sella Ronda circuit and also, in the other direction, to the gentle runs of charming Alpe di Siusi/Seiser Alm, the highest Alpine meadow in Europe. The small, quiet village of San Cassiano in Alta Badia is set in an attractive, tree-lined valley and has a traditional atmosphere.
Best for families
The 200km Monterosa ski area is one of the most underrated in the Alps and Champoluc is a charming village, with a typically Italian laid-back atmosphere and some decent bars. The scenery is beautiful, there’s a general lack of crowds in the area and traffic is slight. There’s a choice of airports – Geneva has the most flights from the UK, but it’s a three -hour drive via the Mont Blanc Tunnel. Turin is half the distance (90-minutes away), but offers a much smaller choice of flights.
From the village, a gondola goes up to Crest, where the beginner slopes are situated. From the nearby hamlet of Frachey, served by a free ski bus, a funicular gives more direct access towards Gressoney, Alagna and the rest of the Monterosa area.
Do be aware that childcare is extremely limited in Italy because Italian families tend to bring along granny and grandpa to look after the little ones. The number of British specialist family tour operators across the Alps has declined sharply post-Covid. Pre-Brexit and Covid sadly defunct travel company Ski2 had a major presence in the village, with its own ski shop and ski school. However, British operator Esprit Ski now has the Hotel de Champoluc and runs its own childcare programmes.
Champoluc Ski School has been around for 50 years too. These days it has some 40 instructors and the standard of tuition is high. It offers a full range of private and group lessons. New this season are their €450 6x5 group lessons: these run daily for six hours, from 9am to 3pm, on five days of a week’s holiday, for a minimum of four people. They include lunch with your instructor at a restaurant on the slopes, allowing the group to travel further afield in this extensive ski area.
Where to stay
Families with young children would do well do stay in all-inclusive accommodation with other like-minded families. Ski school and childcare can both be organised. From £1,079, with Esprit Ski.
Cervinia has excellent nursery slopes right in the village centre, and Selva is also popular with families.
Best for terrain parks
Livigno is one of the most inaccessible resorts in Europe. It takes the best part of three hours to get there from Innsbruck, and even longer from Italian hub airports. However, it’s worth the long journey, not only for the quality of the terrain parks but for its low duty-free prices and reliable snow cover.
The remote village is strung out along 10km of mountain road that comes to a full stop in winter at 1,816m, close to the Swiss border. Not for nothing is it nicknamed Little Tibet. It’s a great beginner and low-intermediate area, with terrain on both the Mottolino and Costaccia/Carosello sides of the valley. The main park is on Mottolino, and has more than 60 features, and four kicker lines to suit abilities from beginner to pro. There’s also an airbag for honing tricks and GB Snowsports freestyle ski and snowboard squads have been known to train here.
The second main park is at Carosello, and is geared more towards intermediates. It also has a large airbag, rails and tabletops, plus a boardercross course. Two more parks – Amerikan, near the Carosello gondola, and Del Sole, near the centre of town – are aimed at beginners and children. Cable Park, a fifth park near lift 20 on the Costaccia side, features a variety of rails, boxes and jumps of varying difficulty. A dedicated drag-lift pulls riders through the park, making tricks easier. Helmets are compulsory in all parks.
Where to stay
Hotel San Giovanni is a small hotel 20 metres from the nearer ski lift. It's almost ski-in/ski-out location makes it popular. The hotel bar is open to the public, so has a good atmosphere. From £939 B&B, with Inghams. Find more of the best hotels in Livigno here.
The huge Snowpark in Bardonecchia was the venue for the snowboarding events at the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics. It has a vertical drop of 1,100m and is divided into five zones based on the difficulty of the jumps and features. There’s also the Olympic halfpipe. Cervinia’s Indian park is regarded as one of the best in Italy, and features three courses of kickers, rails and walls for different abilities.
Best for value
This is an attractive old village situated above Lake Como, a 2.5-hour drive from Milan and Bergamo. It’s much loved by Italian families in search of high-quality slopes at realistic prices.
The 60km of runs are mainly intermediate, but there are plenty of challenges for experts, including one of the top 10 classic off-piste runs in Europe – the ungroomed Canalone itinerary route, which descends 1,000 vertical metres. Madesimo’s ski area isn’t extensive, but there’s plenty of variety in the terrain.
The resort tends to get very busy on high-season weekends, due to its proximity to Milan and Bergamo, but during the week it’s blissfully uncrowded outside Italian holiday times.
The village has an impressive range of restaurants, pizzerias and bars. Prices for food and drink are a fraction of what you’d expect to pay in an equivalent French resort. The Dogana Vegia restaurant on the edge of town (about a 25-minute walk from the centre) is particularly well regarded. This ancient coaching inn has a roaring log fire and is decorated with a bizarre collection of antiques. It serves tasty fare, and the house wine is good value.
Adult six-day lift pass cost from €211 for six days, while child prices range from €169, a far cry from what you will pay in France’s Les 3 Vallées or Val d’Isere. Bergamo and both Milan Malpensa and Milan Linate are all with a two-and-a-half hour drive and offer plenty of low-cost flights for thrifty British skiers.
Where to stay
Hotel Capriolo is a family-run three-star hotel with lots of atmosphere and great half-board food. It’s also centrally located for easy access to the lifts. From £745, with Momentum Ski.
Livigno and the low-cost resorts of Folgarida and Marilleva. The latter are purpose-built resorts that link directly into the Madonna di Campiglio ski area in the Brenta Dolomites. They share the slopes, but not the high prices, and attract a more budget-conscious clientele.
Best for weekends
The essential component for a weekend on the slopes is easy transfers from a choice of airports with lots of flights. Courmayeur lies less than two hours from both Turin and Geneva. This charming, traditional mountaineering village is situated in the lee of Mont Blanc at the Italian end of the Mont Blanc tunnel. Chamonix in France is at the other end.
Well-heeled Italians from Milan and Turin arrive in numbers on Friday evening. They throng the pretty pedestrianised Via Roma, with its smart designer boutiques and comfortable cocktail bars. However, this doesn’t mean that the pistes will be crowded in the morning – fortunately, only a small proportion of these predominantly Italian weekenders hit the slopes early. They come for the party rather than the pistes.
Restaurants both in town and up on the mountain are of a particularly high standard, and Courmayeur is one of the spiritual homes of the long lunch.
At 41km, the ski area, which best suits confident intermediates, isn’t huge and can easily be covered in a day. The off-piste terrain, however, offers a considerable challenge. There are classic off-piste runs from Cresta d'Arp (2,755m) at the top of the lift network, while the SkyWay Monte Bianco cable car from Entrèves, a five-minute drive from Courmayeur, provides access to some serious descents, including the famous Vallée Blanche. The cable car has rotating cabins giving 360-degree views during the ascent to Punta Helbronner (3,462m).
Where to stay
The three-star Central is decorated in rustic style and has 32 rooms. As the name suggests, it is in the resort’s pedestrianised centre and convenient for the shops, bars and restaurants – yet only 300m from the main cable-car. The hotel features a comfortable communal lounge area, bar, sauna and fitness area. From £1,367 B&B, with Skiworld. Find more of the best accommodation in Courymayeur here.
Pila, at the other end of the Aosta Valley from Courmayeur above the city of Aosta, has intermediate slopes and easy access from Milan and Turin airports.
Unless stated otherwise, package prices are per person, based on two sharing a double or twin room, half-board, for seven nights, including flights and transfers