Just over a two-hour drive from the city, Lombardy, Piedmont or the Aosta Valley offer an array of ski resorts lying at the foot of the Alps. Here is a pick of the best winter sports destinations, ideal for downhill skiing enthusiasts but also for those who enjoy snowboarding, telemark and freeride skiing.
Snow Thrills in Lombardy.
There are roughly 25 ski destinations in Lombardy, including ski areas and smaller resorts, boasting an overall offer of more than 700 kilometres of downhill runs. Among the most popular destinations, a hot favourite with the Milanese is the Alta Valtellina which offers enthusiasts an opportunity to enjoy a variety of winter sports at Livigno, Bormio, Aprica and Santa Caterina Valfurva.
The “White Galaxy” of Piedmont.
Long associated with snow and ice sports, this region, which hosted the 2006 Winter Olympics, offers a vast range of options for downhill ski enthusiasts: 53 ski resorts, more than 1,300 km of runs and over 300 drag and chair lifts. The international ski area of the Via Lattea (the Milky Way), located between Italy and France, boasts as many as 212 pistes for all tastes, roughly seventy drag and chair lifts and the option of purchasing a single skipass for all the valleys between Sestriere, Sauze d’Oulx, Sansicario, Cesana, Pragelato, Claviere and Montgenèvre. www.vialattea.it
The Aosta Valley, a Snow Paradise.
Spectacular scenery framed by a chain of mountains that extends over a stretch of 4,000 metres, 45 lifts and 95 pistes suitable for skiers of all levels, acres of untracked powder and just one skipass for the d’Ayas, Gressoney and Valsesia valleys: these are the highlights of the Monterosa Ski area which offers an evocative crossing on skis. The trail starts from Champoluc, crosses through the Gressoney-La Trinité area and ends in Alagna.
On the Italian side of the Mont Blanc chain, Courmayeur, also known as the rooftop of Europe, is a top choice for all skiers. www.courmayeurmontblanc.it
You start at an altitude of 1,500 metres until you reach the Plateau Rosa ski area located at an altitude of 3,500 metres. Boasting the best snow record in Europe and trails stretching for 350 km, you can ski day-long without ever crossing the same piste: all of this and more is Breuil-Cervinia Valtournenche Zermatt, one of the most extensive ski areas in the Alps, boasting kilometer after kilometer of sweeping pistes that stretch along the three valleys bordering Italy and Switzerland. www.cervinia.it
Lastly, particularly worthy of note is the picturesque town of Chamois. The highest town in the Aosta Valley, it can only be reached via cablecar. This small, snow-covered hamlet (one of the several communities in Italy that cannot be accessed by car) offers an old-world atmosphere and trails suitable for skiers of all levels. www.chamois-lamagdeleine.it