Last Updated on 5th June 2022 by Steve
Five of the best ski resorts in Italy
It comes as no surprise that the top Italian ski resorts can be found in the alpine region of northern Italy. Here the Italian Alps are at their highest, running from Mont Blanc on the border with France through to the shared ski area with Switzerland across the Matterhorn.
A little further over to the east, however, the mountain ranges dip down into Italy to form the Western and Eastern Dolomites – filled with stunning ski areas and rock formations.
The ski resorts chosen below start in the north-west of Italy and end in one of Italy’s historic ski towns in the Eastern Dolomites….
The ski resort of Courmayeur is near the end of the Aosta valley and sits below the imposing bulk of Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in western Europe. Like the French ski resort of Chamonix on the other side of Mont Blanc, Courmayeur has a long history of alpinism and of tourists drawn to the beauty of the surrounding mountains.
Courmayeur is linked to Chamonix by the Mont Blanc Tunnel, an important road connection between the two countries which was opened back in 1965. Courmayeur itself is a few kilometres away from the Mont Blanc massif, but the famous Vallée Blanche descent to Chamonix can be reached by the mountain lifts up to Punta Helbronner on the French-Italian border. Skiers can descend from here or take in the spectacular views from the Vallée Blanche cable car across to the Aiguille du Midi station in France.
The experience of skiing the Vallée Blanche and some other back-country ski routes (guide required for the Vallée Blanche and highly recommended elsewhere for those new to the ski area) are a big draw for expert and advanced skiers.
Courmayeur’s own ski slopes have a decent vertical of just over 1500 metres and can be accessed via two cable cars and a gondola from three different locations (the town itself, Dolonne and Val Veny). The area is excellent for intermediate skiers with plenty of red and blue runs available. As well as the trip on the Vallée Blanche, more advanced skiers can head over to nearby ski resorts such as La Thuile and Pila for some more variety.
Courmayeur Ski Video
Courmayeur Ski Facts
Ski lifts: The ski area above Courmayeur is served by 18 ski lifts, including four cable cars and two gondolas
Ski vertical: The vertical drop in the Courmayeur ski area is 1545 metres
Skiable terrain: The ski runs above Courmayeur cover 42 kilometres
Height of Courmayeur: The town is situated at an altitude of 1200 metres
Nearest airport to Courmayeur: The access provided by the Mont Blanc Tunnel makes the international airport at Geneva the closest to Courmayeur, with a distance of 115 kilometres. Turin airport to the south is around 150 kilometres away.
The ski resort of Cervinia is named for the Italian version of the Matterhorn which towers above the town: Il Cervino. Visitors to the area will often see the name Breuil-Cervinia used as Breuil is the original name of the area in the local dialect, while Cervinia was the name imposed by the policy of italianisation prior to the Second World War.
Cervinia is another town which can trace its origins back to mountaineering, with the battle to be the first to ascend the Matterhorn from the Swiss and Italian sides. Alpinism brought the start of tourism in the area and the first ski lift was built in the 1930s. Much more substantial development took place in the post-war period and a winter connection to the ski slopes above Valtournenche was built in the 1980s.
Cervinia is the highest ski resort in Italy and the ski area above Breuil-Cervinia is linked into the Swiss side above Zermatt to form a region which is called the Matterhorn Ski Paradise (on the Swiss side) and Cervino Ski Paradise (on the Italian side). Summer skiing can also be reached from the Italian side, although the slopes which are open for the summer are on Swiss territory.
A new 3S ski lift is planned between the highest Italian point (Testa Grigia) and the Klein Matterhorn lift station in Switzerland, which will allow foot passengers to cross the Alps with views of the Matterhorn.
The skiing above Cervinia is full of sunny pistes ideal for intermediate skiers. There are areas suitable for beginner skiers at Plan Maison, with an altitude of more than 2500 metres ensuring that snow conditions should not be a problem. Those looking for more testing runs can try the lengthy run all the way from Cime Bianche at just under 2900 metres to Valtournenche at 1500 metres (snow conditions permitting).
Cervinia Ski Video
Cervinia Ski Facts
Ski lifts: The skiing in the Matterhorn Ski Paradise is served by 52 ski lifts, including over 20 trains, cable cars and gondolas
Ski vertical: The vertical drop to the town of Cervinia from the highest point is 1850 metres
Skiable terrain: The ski runs in the linked Zermatt-Cervinia-Valtournenche ski area cover 322 kilometres
Height of Cervinia: The town is situated at an altitude of 2050 metres
Nearest airport to Cervinia: The closest airport to Breuil-Cervinia is the one at Turin, at a distance of 122 kilometres. Milan Malpensa is the next best option at around 180 kilometres.
Madonna di Campiglio
Madonna di Campiglio is a ski resort in the Dolomites in the mountains to the west of the Adige valley which splits the South Tyrol. It is part of the Trentino Alto Adige, which is an autonomous region of Italy stretching up to the Austrian border at the Brenner pass.
Madonna di Campiglio is a fashionable sprawling town which plays host to regular World Cup ski races. Tourism here started way before skiing back in the 19th century when it became a popular mountain destination for nobility and the wealthy.
The ski area is a great winter destination for intermediate skiers. It rises on both sides of the town and offers lengthy runs which either descend from above the treeline back down through the forest to the resort or link in to the connected areas down the valley at Pinzolo or up the valley at Folgarida.
Advanced skiers should not worry about being forgotten however. There are some challenging black trails (remember, the ski resort is a stop on the World Cup ski circuit) and those with transport can also explore other resorts in the Brenta Dolomites on the extended ski pass, such as Passo Tonale.
Madonna di Campiglio Ski Video
Madonna di Campiglio Ski Facts
Ski lifts: The skiing in the Campiglio Brenta Dolomites ski area is served by 59 ski lifts, including 18 cable cars and gondolas
Ski vertical: The highest point in the ski area is just over 2500 metres (at Passo Grostè) while the lowest point is just outside the village of Pinzolo at around 850 metres. The vertical drop to the town of Madonna di Campiglio is just under 1000 metres.
Skiable terrain: The total length of the pistes in the ski area is 156 kilometres
Height of Madonna di Campiglio: The town is situated at an altitude of 1550 metres
Nearest airport to Madonna di Campiglio: The small airports at Bolzano and Brescia are the closest to Madonna di Campiglio but are quite limited in choice of winter flight options. The airports at Bergamo and Verona may be slightly further away but are likely to prove more convenient.
Selva di Val Gardena
Selva (or Wolkenstein, as it is known in German) is one of the villages in the Val Gardena (or Grödnertal). Yes, it can be confusing in this part of the South Tyrol as it is not only part of the former Hapsburg empire (which means there is a large German-speaking population in this autonomous region of northern Italy), but the vast majority of the locals also have their own distinct language of Ladin (the villages of the Dolomites being some of the remaining few areas which speak it).
Selva is the most convenient of the Val Gardena ski resorts, as it not only links in to the skiing above the neighbouring town of Santa Cristina (which holds a regular World Cup downhill ski race) but it is also a connecting point for the Sella Ronda, a day circuit which crosses the other Dolomites ski regions of the Alta Badia and Val di Fassa using the Dolomiti SuperSki pass.
Santa Cristina is pretty much the same in all the languages, but the town further down the Val Gardena is known as Ortisei, St Ulrich or Urtijëi. Whichever visitors choose to use, it is well worth a visit for the spectacular views of the Dolomites while skiing on the interesting trails at the Seiser Alm (or Alpe di Siusi, Mont Sëuc), a high-altitude plateau above the town.
The gondola up to the Ciampanoi from Selva links in to the Santa Cristina skiing and offers the opportunity to take the long black World Cup downhill piste (there are also easier alternatives). The Ciampanoi is also the start of the connection into the green route (anti-clockwise) around the Sella Ronda and links to the slopes above the Val di Fassa ski resorts of Canazei and Campitello.
On the other side of Selva, lifts rise to the Passo Gardena before the long easy run down to Corvara, the main ski resort in the Alta Badia region. This is the start of the orange circuit (clockwise) around the Sella Ronda massif.
Val Gardena Ski Video
Val Gardena Ski Facts
Ski lifts: The skiing covered by the Val Gardena ski pass is served by 78 ski lifts, including 12 cable cars and gondolas
Ski vertical: The vertical difference for the skiing above Selva is just under 750 metres from the town to the Dantercepies area.
Skiable terrain: The total length of the pistes in the Val Gardena is 175 kilometres
Height of Selva: The town is located at an altitude of 1563 metres
Nearest airport to Selva: The closest airport to Selva is Bolzano, but this option has a very limited choice of destinations and also suffers from winter weather closures. Innsbruck airport over the border in Austria is probably the best flight option at 130 kilometres with a decent choice of winter scheduled and charter flights. To the south Treviso and Venice airports are alternatives.
The Italian ski town of Cortina d’Ampezzo can now proudly boast that it is the only winter sports destination in the country to be twice picked as a host for the Winter Olympic games.
Cortina is scheduled to share the 2026 Winter Olympic hosting duties with the city of Milan, 70 years after the Cortina event in 1956.
Cortina is the ‘grande dame’ of the Italian ski resorts, with a history of tourism dating back into the 19th century, when rich Italians and foreigners discovered the beauty of the European mountain landscapes. Although it is part of the Dolomiti Superski area it is one of the southernmost ski resorts and is actually administratively in the province of Belluno in the Veneto region of Italy.
Cortina has three separate ski areas, with two of them – the Tofana and Faloria-Cristallo ski slopes – accessible by cable cars on opposite sides of the town. The Tofana may be familiar to followers of World Cup ski races with the Olympia run through spectacular cliff faces.
The Falzarego-Lagazuoi area is reached by ski bus and is on the road up to the connection with the Alta Badia group of ski resorts. The lengthy and atmospheric red run off the Lagazuoi peak should not be missed – from the bottom skiers have the choice of heading back to the starting point or taking a bus further into the Alta Badia.
Cortina d’Ampezzo Ski Video
Cortina d’Ampezzo Ski Stats
Ski lifts: The skiing covered by the local Cortina d’Ampezzo ski pass is served by 27 ski lifts, including eight cable cars and gondolas.
Ski vertical: The vertical difference between the top station and the town at Cortina d’Ampezzo is just over 1600 metres.
Skiable terrain: The ski slopes in the Cortina d’Ampezzo areas total 120 kilometres in length
Height of Cortina d’Ampezzo: The town is located at an altitude of 1224 metres
Nearest airport to Cortina d’Ampezzo: Like Selva, the closest flight option is Bolzano airport with its limited choice of destinations. Treviso and Venice airports are the closest alternatives to the south while Innsbruck airport to the north is also a good choice.