The Aosta Valley is the smallest autonomous region in Italy but boasts many of Italy’s, and indeed the Alps, highest peaks. Throughout the valley there are over 800km of marked pistes and 150 ski lifts, mostly spread amongst the resorts of Courmayeur, La Thuile, Pila, Champlouc and Gressoney.
Marked by Mont Blanc at the western end and stretching to the
Monterosa in the east, the Aosta Valley is also home to the Italian
flanks of the Alps most famous peak - the iconic Matterhorn and one
of the valleys best known resorts - Cervinia.
The resorts form the base of several distinct ski areas, La
Thuile, Courmayeur Mont-Blanc, the Monterosa, Alagna in Piemonte,
of course, Cervinia which now includes the entire Zermatt ski area
linked at high altitude across the glacier. Although not all lift
linked, one pass now buys you access to all these slopes, along
with an extraordinary quantity, quality and variety of off-piste
The Aosta Valley is also one of the best places in Europe to
heliski. While never cheap, heliskiing in Aosta is certainly more
affordable than many other areas with single drops available from
less than £150. You can heliski from all the major resorts and the
terrain ranges from wide open areas for adventurous intermediates
to the steeps and drops of extreme ski movies - only for the brave
Like other Italian regions the Aostans are fanatical about food
and the region boast a number of Michelin starred restaurants; but
of more interest to most visitors is the fantastic quality and
value to be found in small, local restaurants.
The historic mountain town of Courmayeur is one of the world's
top ski resorts. It sits on the Italian side of Mont Blanc, western
Europe's highest mountain, which it shares with Chamonix over on
the French side. The scenery all around you here is spectacular,
with fourteen 4,000m plus mountain peaks above and Courmayeur is a
very atmospheric resort where ancient buildings huddle around
cobbled streets so that the whole place oozes traditional
The resort offers skiing for all standards, including famous
runs such as the resort's World Cup Downhill and the International,
a 6km (4 miles) run which drops 1,000m (approximately 3,300 feet)
as it descends. Many runs are covered by snowmaking and the resort
has a very good snow record.
Serious skiers are likely to head for the more limited lift
network of Mont Blanc, which serves steeper, more spectacular trail
and links over to Chamonix which, along with Argentière further up
the Chamonix Valley, is included on the Courmayeur lift pass.
Beginners have wide open slopes to gain confidence on, with
tuition from the Mont Blanc Ski School, founded in 1936 and one of
Italy's oldest and most prestigious. Intermediates are the most
spoilt having both the wide open spaces and testing routes above
Courmayeur and the ability to tackle the incredible runs that are
unique to Mont Blanc.
La Thuile is one of the most popular Italian destinations for
British skiers. Friendly and affordable like all Aosta Valley
resorts, La Thuile has free childcare and also has the unique
attraction in the Valley of being one of less than a dozen in the
world where you can ski across an international border.
La Thuile has excellent skiing for all ability levels with north
facing slopes which, along with its proximity to Mont Blanc,
normally ensure good snow conditions. There's a range of passes to
suit all needs and a variety of terrain which can cater for
everyone from beginner to expert.
For beginners there are two gentle nursery which have their own
drag lifts and are separate from the main ski area but
intermediates will enjoy the terrain the most. There are seemingly
endless blues and reds that radiate out to the peaks of Le
Belvedere and Chaz Dura and from there you have a variety of routes
over to La Rosière which sometimes offers the sunnier skiing.
Experts have a dozen black runs to choose from, some of the
steepest down through the woods above La Thuile itself and boarders
and freestylers have a fun park to enjoy in La Rosière and the
predominance of chair and gondola lifts makes getting around the
big and varied area pretty well hassle free.
Pila is an old town with a big vertical high in the Aosta
Valley. It is one of the most snowsure destinations in the Alps,
with the ski area running from 1,765m right up to more than 2,700m.
Pila's skiing offers the best of all worlds with skiing through
woods of birch and larch in total safety and freedom on lower
slopes, and open powder snow areas above the treeline. Beginners
and children have easy ski runs such as Baby Pila , Baby Gorraz and
The more advanced progress on to steeper slopes which usually
have excellent snow where you can turn and model curves endlessly,
especially good news for carving enthusiasts in search of thrills
and excitement. The snowpark is popular with boarders and
freestylers, combining natural terrain features with created
structures. There are jumps, slides and half pipe for those of all
ages and experience. If you are already expert then the thrills of
fun box, spine and the big jump await you.
Cervinia is one of the world's leading resorts; lift linked to
Zermatt across the Swiss border it has access to Europe's highest
lifts, skiing and boarding summer and winter, and one of the
world's biggest ski areas with 400km of runs. You also have access
to one of the world's longest ski runs, from the Klein Matterhorn
above Zermatt down to Cervinia's lift-linked neighbour,
Valtournenche, an epic 20km (13 mile) descent.
Cervinia is a good choice for beginners and near beginners as
the wide open slopes above the resort and on one side down from
Plan Maison are ideal. Experts perhaps have the least to shout
about, even with the long runs, but there are five shorter black
runs - mostly just above the resort, and then the steep runs of
Zermatt over the border . There is also a thriving heli-skiing
business, taking skiers up to the 4,500 metre (nearly 15,000 feet)
high Monte Rosa for long powder runs down to Valtournenche or
Champoluc. For cross country skiers there are three high-altitude
loops, one at resort level.
The wide slopes are good for free boarding and large chunks of
the terrain can be accessed by chairs and gondolas, but facilities
for 'boarders are generally limited otherwise in comparison to
other top European resorts.
Champoluc lies at one end of the giant Monterosa ski area, also
known as the Italian Three Valleys, an impressive 17km in lifts and
piste from the other end at cult skiing Mecca, Alagna. The ski
region is one of the world's largest and you can ski or board
without needing to stop for 180km on slopes that extend up to a
snowsure 3275 metres.
The ski slopes are unusual here in that they mostly follow one
after another, covering big distances between resorts, rather than
the usual model of often dozens of routes down from one lift. So
for most skiers and boarders the day begins with the gondola ride
from Frachey and from there it's on to Gressoney in the central
valley. Beginners will find good nursery slopes served by carpet
lifts at the top of the gondola.
The free riding terrain in the Monte Rosa region is a dream for
boarders. The opportunity to open up 2000 metres of vertical above
Alagna with a couple of cable car rides up is a truly wonderful
thing, and the wide open powder fields all the way down
Gressoney should really be 'Gressoneys' as there are two
neighbouring villages, a kilometres or so apart, Gressoney La
Trinte and Gressoney St Jean. Both are well positioned in the
central of the three Italian ski valleys that make up the Monterosa
ski area. Head one way and you find yourself high above legendary
Alagna, in the other above rustic Champoluc.
Alagna is well worth skiing over to if just to look round, but
be warned that unless you are an expert skier you may wish to ride
the cable car down to the village as the only piste is an infamous
It's also worth making a pilgrimage up to the Guglielmina refuge
at 2880m on the Col d'Olen, between Gressoney and Alagna.
Boarders will love the freeriding opportunities across Monterosa
and there's also the region's only boardercross course right above
Gressoney. Telemarking is also popular in the area and there' a
special club for Telemarkers. Cross country skiers have valley and
altitude routes (at 2025m high Pianalunga for example) around the