The big swap

Trade your favourite ski resort for its Italian counterpart

We are often creatures of habit in the UK when it comes to planning ski trips. Sticking to tried and tested favourite resorts invariably ends up with trips to well known areas like the Three Valleys in France or Maryrhofen in Austria, but venturing beyond these main players can open up a whole new dimension to the ski experience. There sometimes seems to be a little hesitancy when Italian ski is mentioned, but those who have tried it are often converted and rarely look back. 

The big resorts of France and Austria are of course popular for good reason. Huge ski areas, high up and snow sure, well groomed runs and with excellent facilities, but when you can get all this without the crowds at a much cheaper price you may be tempted. Next season 21/22 could well be all about avoiding the crowds, so discovering new resorts in Italy could really pay off. 

The benefits

Empty runs, minimal lift queues, good value accommodation, great food at good prices, friendly locals…the list goes on. And, if you are worried about losing either mileage or quality, think again, there are plenty of big ski areas with well groomed runs and efficient lifts. 
Families do particularly well in Italy too. The ski schools are all about friendly fun and enthusiasm, the resort facilities are family focused and the kids are always fussed over, plus,  find me a child that doesn’t love pizza, pasta and ice cream. 

So here’s a handy guide on how you can do a resort swap. From the all time Brit favourites to a cheaper and quieter alternative in Italy.

Top Five

Swap Val D’Isere for Champoluc

With amazing off piste and free ride opportunities, a high up area of 180 kms and deserted predominantly reds, this resort gives you a great alternative to the French super resorts. Heli skiing is also available here for those who are looking for extra adventure. The Camp Zero resort in Frachey is great for those who want some luxury accommodation, or you can choose from one of many lovely hotels, BBs and Guest Houses in the resort centre. A good selection of great quality local restaurants both on and off the mountains and of course local pizza and Bombardinos are plentiful. The resort is smaller than Val D’isere so less apres (although whether apres is a thing anywhere for next few years remains to be seen).

Resort height 1, 600M
Area size 180KM
Transfer time 1.45 hours

Swap Kitzbuhel for Kronplatz (San Vigilio) 
Although Kitzbuhel resort centre is much larger, the chocolate box charm of San Vigilio with it’s centre piece church and South Tyrol architecture is comparable, and they also both lay claim to a hair raising challenge. For those who have tried the Hahnekamm and are up for a new challenge, the Piculin is famed as the hardest black to ski in Italy. Its challenge is its gradient and it drops down into a beautiful deserted valley, a welcome and peaceful reward after the exciting ski down. San Vigilio also offers a great long blue for beginners, and links to plenty of wide red runs to practice technique up on the Korona mountain as well as some gentler blacks.  Some internationally recognised restaurants serve great local food in resort and its peaceful atmosphere coupled with the stunning Dolomite backdrop make it an unforgettable visit. Take the Italian flair for design, coupled with Austrian cozyness and you get a range of lovely accommodation in resort from upmarket hotels to value Gasthoffs, Agritursmos and self-catering. 

Resort height 1,200M
Area size 110KM 
Transfer time 2 hours 

Swap Courchevel for Madonna di Campigioni
Glitzy and glamorous but without the big price tags, Madonna is a great option for intermediates and beginners looking for  a scenic mid sized (150kms) resort to cruise.  A mostly modern lift network connects with neighbouring Folgarida, and Madonna sits in a beautiful bowl with both tree lined and higher up skiing options. This is a ski resort with an equal split for skill level between beginners, intermediate/advanced. 

The resort is family friendly with a pedestrianised centre and some great runs for beginners. Boutiques and fine dining await off the slopes as do plenty of activities like swimming and sledding for the younger ones. 

Resort height 1,500M
Area size local 150KM  
Transfer time 2.5 hours 

Swap La Plagne for Sestriere
If height, mileage and convenience are your thing then Sestriere will suit you down to the ground. A part of the Milky Way with 400kms to ski, this is a brilliant practical resort for all the family whatever the ability. Plenty of slopeside accommodation with a host of facilities for all ages plus restaurants and bars offering great prices. Visit other Italian resorts Pragelato, Sauze D’Oulx, Claviere on your area pass then ski over to France and enjoy the wide reds of Montgenevre. 

Resort height 2000M
Area size 400KM’s 
Transfer time 1.5 hours

Swap Mayrhofen for Arabba
Strong boarders and skiers alike have high regard for Arabba and The Marmolada glacier. This is the place to head for challenging runs and some good off piste. A part of the Dolomites ski area which covers over 1000k to explore, the potential is massive. A long 12 KM run with spectacular views takes you down the Marmolada glacier or join the Super Ski area on the far side of Arabba.  The resort has an awesome Alpine feel but is much much quieter in the evenings than Mayrhofen (but it’s going to be a while before the apres of Mayrhofen resumes). 

Resort height 1,600M
Area size local 63KMS, area 1, 200KMS
Transfer time 2 hours