It’s that time of year in the Northern Hemisphere when the snow is fresh, and skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts get a twinkle in their eye and a thirst for powder.
When deciding where to go, the world is your oyster. There is no lack of world-class ski resorts to choose from, and one of the most famous of them is Switzerland’s Matterhorn. But let me urge you to consider the lesser-known, equally striking Aosta Valley of northwest Italy – the south side of the Matterhorn.
Why? Let me count the ways..
- The terrain: The smallest autonomous region in Italy boasts some grand mountains such as the spectacular Mont Blanc, the Matterhorn, Monte Rosa and the Gran Paradiso. With stunning scenery and enjoyable runs, it’s perfect for those who are looking for an Alpine experience but don’t necessarily need to go the extreme (although it offers fantastic off-piste skiing).
- The resort choices: With 25 resorts across the Aosta Valley, there’s a diverse range of options for all skiers. The highest extends up to 3,899m and links Zermatt/Breuil-Cervinia/Valtournenche (yes, you can actually ski across to Switzerland with just the one pass). Be prepared to feel some light altitude sickness if you reach the top, but it’s all part of the experience, right?
- The peace: Although increasingly popular, Aosta Valley is notably less crowded than its better-known European counterparts.
- The cuisine: Pizza, pasta, wine; need I say more? There’s no greater comfort food after a long day on the slopes than Italian cuisine, and here you’ll often find dishes typical to the region, cooked using seasonal ingredients.
Northern Italy is home to some of the best wines in the world, and there’s no better way to defrost and unwind than with a glass of renowned Nebbiolo or Barbara red.
- The people: Passionate, friendly and fun. Who wouldn’t want to holiday among the Italians?
Now that your interest is piqued, here are some exquisite picks for the ultimate Italian ski experience.
Where to stay
This chalet-like, 5-star hotel sits 2,000m up the Matterhorn and offers all the luxuries and remedies your heart desires after a day on the slopes.
Step away from the crowds to Les Neiges d’Antan, where you can enjoy some R&R in a Turkish bath, and some top-notch food and wine. Set in a quiet village high in the Alps, it’s only 4km from Cervinia’s town centre.
Lovers of the great outdoors, CampZero Active Luxury Resort has been developed with you in mind. You may not want to leave the hotel, what with its fitness and wellness facilities, 23-metre indoor swimming pool, indoor climbing wall and multiple on-site dining options.
Bellevue Hotel and Spa offers guests a traditional Italian alpine environment with cosy rooms, a stunning view, multiple award-winning restaurants and incredible spa experiences.
Where to eat
Dine in an elegant converted mill with local dishes that highlight “innovation with respect for tradition”. There are three tasting menus and an extensive wine list with more than 220 labels.
Hotel Bellevue also offers an intimate Michelin-starred restaurant with only six tables, traditional top-quality Italian ingredients and a view to die for.
Chalet Etoile is a historic dining experience halfway up the mountain. For more than 40 years, the quaint ski lodge has provided skiers with a comfortable yet unforgettable break from the slopes and offers exceptional, creative menus.
Another Michelin-starred establishment, Wood is a Swedish–Italian restaurant that opened in 2013 at the foot of the Matterhorn. It focuses on using local and peak season ingredients from Italy, Sweden and Asia.