Italy – the Alps sunny side up

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A crisis for some equals an opportunity for others, like us! Yes, with the Aussie dollar high Euro skiing is great value right now, and of course the biggest and best European skiing is in the alps.

So why not head to Italy, on the sunny side of the range? Same massive ski areas, but better weather, food to die for, even more history and culture too ..

It’s not just the legendary slopes and snow parks that make the Italian Alps such a fairytale destination. It’s also the architecturally-inspiring historic villages, the magnificent local cuisine and wines, and the lure of muscle-reviving hot spas dating back to Roman times.

Alta Valtellina in northern Italy’s Lombardy region delivers all this and more. Whether you are into alpine skiing, cross-country, telemark, snowboarding or freeskiing, the magnificent Valtellina valley, stretching to the glaciers of the Ortles-Cevedale mountain range, is not to be missed.

Between them, the region’s top ski villages – Bormio, Livigno, and Santa Caterina Valfurva – offer 200km of perfect runs, serviced by nearly 70 ski lifts.

Bormio is the home of the iconic Stelvio slope, one of the most spectacular and technically difficult courses on the world cup downhill circuit, which, over 3100 breathtaking metres, delivers fast turns, challenging jumps and outrageous speeds. If you’re not quite ready for that sort of adrenaline rush, don’t despair, there’s something in Bormio’s 50km of trails to excite all skill levels.

While the mountains will always be the star attraction, visitors are wowed by picture-perfect Bormio itself. The village’s pedestrianised heart is packed with shops, restaurants, and bars.

It’s a great place to sample Alta Vatellina food specialties, such as pizzoccheri and sciatt, cheeses such as bitto and casera, and some superb local wines.

Just out of town lies Bormio’s famed thermal baths. The swimming pools, sweating caves, saunas, mud baths and Roman baths of Bagni Vecchi (Old Baths) will soon have you revived, recharged and raring to hit the slopes again. The outdoor tubs, swimming pools and thermal trails of the Bagni Nuovi (New Baths) offer a similarly rejuvenating experience.

This region boasts some of Europe’s best snow parks, including the renowned Mottolino in Livigno. The park’s super pipe, half pipe, boardercross track, rails, boxes and jibbing area make it a Mecca for snowboarders and freeskiers alike.

Livigno, with its traditional wood and stone houses, sits between two mountain ranges and is known for its duty-free shopping. Everything from perfume, alcohol and cigarettes to electronics, clothing and ski gear are available at bargain prices.

This is also après ski central. As soon as the ski lifts stop for the day, the numerous bars at the foot of every mountain spring into life.

It’s all a little bit more peaceful at the picturesque ski village of Santa Caterina Valfurva. As well as skiing and snowboarding, the surrounding 40km of tracks are popular for winter walking with the ‘ciaspole’ snowshoe. There really is something for everybody in the region.

While the Medieval magic and white-hot slopes of Alta Valtellina may seem a world away from Australia, one-stop flights to Milan, Zurich and Munich – and easy transfers from there – make it anything but.

You expect history, great coffee, food, wine and apres ski in Italy. Maybe you didn’t know they have some of europe’s best parks & freeride ski & board events?

For great deals for the area from a family run business with several generations links to the area check www.skiitaly.com.au

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Roman thermal baths, Bormio
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View of Bormio
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Livigno Ski School
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Bormio has top class parks