La Thuile's ski area is surprisingly quiet during the week, offering uncrowded pistes, minimal queuing and far reaching mountain views including Mont Blanc, Monterosa and Cervino (the Matterhorn). The slopes in La Thuile mostly face north and north east whilst those in La Rosiere predominantly face South.
The combined area, the Espace San Bernardo, has 39 ski lifts and 85 pistes, divided into 36 easy blue runs, 36 moderate red runs and 13 difficult black runs. The total length of the ski runs amounts to 152km if measured the 'straight-line' way any normal person would measure a piste, or 196kms if measured by the method most ski resorts use to exagerate their piste length (they bulk up the quoted figure by including an estimate of the distance incured by skiers traversing across the piste as they descend - pure madness!) In summary this is a good mid-sized ski area, mostly aimed at intermediate level skiers, and big enough to keep most of them busy for a week.
Many of the ski lifts offer the option of a blue or easy red run, alongside a more difficult alternative. Thanks to its orientation and proximity to Mont Blanc, La Thuile is pretty snowsure. The resort runs are wooded and north-east facing and even the lower slopes normally maintain good snow conditions throughout the season. However, the ski area is a bit exposed and vulnerable to wind and poor visibility when the weather is bad.
The Espace san Bernardo was extended for the 2018/19 season to cover a new sector, Mont Valaisan. Two new lifts were constructed and five new red pistes created, plus some freeriding for advanced skiers. The top lift reaches 2800m, the new high point of the whole area. Even before the lifts were built, Mont Valaisan was a famous destination for ski tourers and off-piste skiers and snowboarders who were prepared to make the two hire hike up from the Col de la Traversette, and now it's much more accessible. Although some of the off-piste routes have been swallowed up by the new pistes, a guide can show you many that haven't, including itineraries 'off the back' to La Thuile.
The snowy bowl above the village and the Les Suches gondola, up to Chaz Dura (2,579m), has pisted runs for all abilities. The Les Suches chairlift and the La Combe drag lift provide access to wide, gentle blue runs which return to the top of the Les Suches gondola and are ideal for beginners or warming up. More confident skiers can head straight for Chaz Dura, from where red runs lead either back to the gondola, or all the way down to the village, on a fabulous 11km run (Red 7).
Advanced skiers can choose one of the steep black runs from Les Suches through the forest, back to La Thuile. Red piste number 4, offers a gentler alternative for the descent from Les Suches to the village. To the left of the gondola, the Arnouvaz chairlift offers a quiet, scenic and sheltered area with a variety of red runs. Another long red run leads from Arnouvaz back to the resort of La Thuile. Both Col de Fourclaz and Chaz Dura are panoramic spots with fabulous views towards Mont Blanc. They are focal points at the top of the resort, with onward runs leading to Belvedere, the San Bernardo area and La Rosiere.
The Belvedere - Piccolo San Bernardo area is reached by the Belvedere chairlift which rises to 2,641m, the former high point in the La Thuile - La Rosiere ski area before the Mont Valaisan extension. It provides access to numerous high altitude red runs, some of which include some reasonably steep sections. Advanced skiers can try black piste number 25, a challenging run which descends steeply from the top of the Belvedere chairlift to the base of the Fourclaz Express chairlift, or head off the marked piste to sample some of the excellent off-piste available in this area. Red run 7 from Chaz Dura is the longest run in the ski area. This 11km red run passes ancient buildings and winds through woodland, and there are two good restaurants if you want to take a break en- route, before eventually reaching the village.
From the top of the Belvedere chairlift (2,641m) a choice of blue runs lead to the Chardonnet chairlift which gives access to Col de la Traversette and the La Rosiere area. The south facing slopes of La Rosiere are easy to navigate with a choice of red and blue runs, serviced by a row of chairlifts, leading to the valley bottom. For the return to La Thuile, head for the Du Fort chairlift to Col de la Traversette, and from there ski to the long Bellecombe drag lift. Boarders and less confident skiers should allow for extra time on the Bellecombe drag lift as it has some long flat stretches which can be difficult, particularly with a board. The Combe des Moulins has plenty of off-piste and freeriding possibilities. La Rosiere also has a snow park/boarder cross close to the resort in the Zittieux area above the Ecudets lift, with some freeriding above it and beside it.
La Thuile's ski lifts are usually open from early December until late April and the Espace San Bernardo lift pass covers all the lifts in the La Thuile and La Rosiere ski area. The area was considerably extended for the 2018/18 season by adding to new lifts (the highest reaching 2800m) and 5 new pistes in the new Mont Valaisan sector,
The La Thuile lift system is modern and most of the main runs are served by high speed lifts and all of the 'Express' lifts are high speed chairlifts covering longer distances. Just a few older lifts remain on the La Thuile side of the domain, all on the least critical ascents. La Thuile's pistes are invariably quiet during the week, and even at the weekends when the Italian skiers come up from Turin and Milan, queuing for lifts is rarely an issue.
Lift passes can be purchased at the bottom of the Les Suches gondola.
The standard lift pass which most skiers get is the Espace San Bernardo lift pass. This is is valid on all ski lifts in the linked resorts of La Thuile and La Rosiere. Certain Espace San Bernardo passes can also include limited days in other Aosta Valley ski resorts including Cervinia, Courmayeur, Pila , and sometimes Monterosa too - for instance in most seasons, a six day Espace San Bernardo can include up to two days in the other Aosta Resorts, but this can change so check before buying. The coverage of Courmayeur is the most useful because it is the easiest to get to - there is a regular bus service.
Both La Thuile and La Rosiere usually sell slightly cheaper 'local area only' day passes which cover just their half of the Espace San Bernardo. For most skiers skiing a full week, the Espace San Bernardo pass is better value but if you are only in the resort for one or two days and know you won't be crossing over into France (or vice versa) these can be worthwhile. They can also be good value as 'follow-on' passes for beginners to buy once they are ready to ski beyond the nursery slopes.
Absolute beginners who will be confined to the nursery slopes for the fisrt few days should buy the special beginner lift tickets, which give access to the beginner's areas and carpet lifts.
Non-skiers at La Thuile can purchase tickets for the gondola out of the village, so they can meet their friends for lunch up the mountain.
Skiers staying for more than a week or who intend to travel around the region a lot, can buy an Aosta Valley ("Valle d'Aosta" ) ski pass. This covers all the Aosta Valley ski resorts including Cervinia, Courmayeur, Pila and Monterosa, plus several smaller ones, without any restrictions on how many days you can spend in the other resorts. Although both La Rosiere in France and Alagna (part of Monterosa, but in Piedmont) are technically outside of The Aosta Valley, skiing in these resorts is included because they are lift linked to respectively La Thuile and Gressoney which are inside.
Reduced rate passes are available to the over 65's and under 14's and children up to 8 years of age qualify for a free lift pass when an accompanying adult buys one of the same duration.
The resort level nursery slopes are not free, but they have a special low-cost pass and are high quality.
At over 2,200m good snow is virtually guaranteed in Les Suches and the gentle gradients of the many long runs provide ideal terrain for beginners to make good progress. Much of the ski area is open to more adventurous beginners with many of the lifts offering the option of an easy blue or easy red run alongside a more difficult alternative for more experienced skiers. Beginners should allow extra time for the long Bellecombe drag lift, which has some long flat sections and is more difficult for beginners to negotiate. (The blue piste beside it is very beginner friendly though). And novices should be especailly careful of taking the Chardonnet lift up to Fort de la Redoute and crossing over to la Rosiere, because the only return route is via the red Bouquetin piste. It's quite short but it's also narrow and quite steep, and whilst crowded slopes are rare in the San Bernardo ski area, this is one possible bottleneck. But if they can negotiate that, La Rosiere has plenty of blue pistes for them to explore.
One disadvantage of la Thuile for beginners, though, is that once they have started venturing out beyond the confines of the nursery slopes, they will have to return to the resort in the Les Suches lift: the red and black runs back are too steep.
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The area around the Arnouvaz chairlift offers a quiet, scenic and sheltered skiing with a variety of red runs. A red run of almost 6.5km and a vertical drop of 870m, leads from this area back to the resort of La Thuile.
Intermediate skiers have a choice of red runs back to the village including the resort's longest run. Piste number 7, an 11km descent from Chaz Dura (2,579m) at the top of the resort, is a road during the summer months and passes through the wide San Bernardo bowl before winding through the forests on the lower slopes, to reach La Thuile. Piste number 4 is a delightful 6km resort run, which is accessed by turning skiers left towards the bottom of blue piste number 14, and crossing under the Chalet Express chair lift.
La Thuile has a great snow record and conditions are normally excellent with well marked, well groomed pistes throughout the season. Pisted runs are long and varied and the magnificent mountain scenery with views towards Mont Blanc, Monterosa and the Matterhorn make for some exceptional skiing.
The slopes above La Rosiere are also good for intermediates, with a wide choice of red and blue runs on the high altitude slopes above the village. The highest slopes in the whole San Bernardo ski area are now in the Mont Valaisan sector where 5 new red runs were created for the 2018/19 season, with a top height of 2800m.
Intermediate skiers also have the opportunity to ski in neighbouring Courmayeur, easily accessible by local bus.
La Thuile's advanced skiers don't have to go far to find testing slopes (which can be handy for parents of young children and other time-pressed skiers and boarders). Often the first piste they can see from the village is black piste number 3, dedicated to Franco Berthod, the great local skier, which has hosted many a European Cup downhill competition. The slope gradient reaches 37 degrees in places as it plunges 800m down towards the village. It faces North so holds its snow well for a a resort-level run. Another black run in the same area with similar steepness is piste number 2, with 710m of vertical, and piste number 5.
Moving further away, Piste 25, descends steeply from the top of the Belvedere chairlift to the base of the Fourclaz Express chairlift. Piste 23 is also worth a visit.
The black runs in La Rosiere are testing too, although this is partly because they tend to be low and South-facing, and therefore are often slushy or icy. This is certainly true of Ecudets and Ecureil coming down to Ecudets, and Marcassin down to the Petit Bois chairlift at Le Vaz. Get to them when the snow conditions are right (either fresh snow has just fallen or they have just been piste-bashed) and they are steep enough to be highly enjoyable. A safer bet is the higher and more East-facing (but not as steep) black Chevreuil run from Roc Noir. The red runs in the Fort and Mont Valaisan sector are worth a visit as well.
Close to La Thuile, reasonably safe (but not totally safe) off-piste terrain can be found on the wooded lower slopes bordered by piste number 4. There is a similar area (except it faces South West) at La Rosiere, between Roc Noir and the les Ecudets lift and close by the snow-cross area called Les Zittieux. Provided you're sensible and can both see what you are doing and know what you are doing, you shouldn't come to too much harm, although hiring a guide is still recommended.
The top of the Fort sector has steep runs on both sides. Be particularly careful about going off the back without a guide - there are some very big cliffs here.
The Mont Valaisan extension opened up some interesting off-piste opportunities. Before the Mont Valaisan lifts were built for the 2018/19 winter season, this was already an off-piste destination for ski tourers and others prepared to walk up hill for two hours. Now the need for an ascent has been largely or totally removed, although some of the off-piste skiing on the South face has been coverted into red pistes. But the North-face is an unofficial freeride zone. It's easy to access - just look for the Piste Hors signs near the top of Piste 2800 - but only a guide can tell you if its safe to ski or not. And there are much longer intineraries linking into the Combe des Moulins on the South-face and descending down to the Petit Bois chairlift or even lower to the small villages of les Moulins or Le Mousselard outside the ski area (take a taxi back); or heading North-Eastwards, towards La Joux and La Thuile.
La Thuile offers reasonably priced heli-skiing for good skiers and boarders with spectacular views of some of the highest mountains in the Alps and guiding by the Rutor Mountain Guides Association. Heli-skiing in La Thuile is available from early January until May with helicopter flights to a number of landing points in the area including Pointe Lechaud, Monte Miravidi, Mont Ouille, Mont Freduaz and the head of the Rutor Glacier. Some of these have descents into France from where you catch a taxi back to La Rosiere.
Advanced skiers should also consider visiting Courmayeur. The piste skiing there won't appeal to experts but Courmayeur's off-piste and ski touring is outstanding. You can catch buses there and back, and some of the descents return you to the Espace San Bernardo (or close to it). At least one day's skiing in Courmayeur is usually included in most Espace San Bernardo ski passes, or if you are going to be a frequent visitor you can buy a Valle d'Aosta pass.
Guides will usually provide all the specialist equipent you need for off-piste skiing (including harnesses for glacier skiing) and, very importantly, show you how to use it correctly. But if you're meeting a guide, you should still bring your own water/drinks flask, snack including energy bar, mobile phone, and extra layer and make a note of the local emergency numbers. If you are skiing off-piste without a guide (never recommended) you should at least have all the items already mentioned plus your own transceiver, poles and a shovel. In more and more of Italy, this is not just good sense but a mandatory legal requirement, enforced through spot checks.
The blue pistes at the top of the Les Suches gondola provide ideal terrain for learning to snowboard and in most parts of the ski area the pistes are wide, un-crowded and boarder friendly except for a few flat sections where you may need a skier buddy to give you a ski pole tow.
Great powder can be found on the wooded lower slopes bordered by piste number 4 and in the San Bernardo area of La Thuile. La Rosiere has a dedicated off piste zone in the Zittieux area as well as a snow park served by the Poletta drag lift, and a boarder cross close to the Le Fort chairlift, on the south facing slopes above La Rosiere.
The majority of the routes are serviced by high speed chairlifts but there are a couple of long drag lifts to negotiate, of which the worst for boarders is the Bellacombe drag lift, on the route back from La Rosiere, which has some long flat sections.
La Thuile's mountain restaurants and bars are reasonably priced with a wide range of menu options ranging from fast food options including sandwiches, burgers and chips, hearty soup, pasta or polenta dishes, or a long and leisurely lunch in either a cosy Alpine restaurant or alfresco, on a panoramic, sunny terrace.
Many of La Thuile's mountain restaurants offer good authentic Italian cuisine with lots of local specialities and seven more mountain restaurants in the linked resort of La Rosiere, over the border in France, offer a choice of French cuisine.
The Panoramique, a large self service restaurant at the top of the gondola is a practical, though rather uninspiring option! Also close to the top of the gondola, the Mélèze is a self service restaurant serving traditional cuisine and freshly made desserts. The outdoor terrace offers terrific views of Mont Blanc and deck chairs can be rented on a sunny day!
Lo Chalet de Cantamont is a small bar and restaurant located just beyond the race starting gate, on ski run number 16. The menu includes locally sourced mountain dishes with excellent cured meats, cheeses and desserts. The La Clotze bar and restaurant is found at the arrival point of the Bosco Express chairlift and offers a fantastic sun terrace. Enjoy a variety of salads, sandwiches and local dishes, accompanied by some great music.
Located at the arrival of the Chalet Express chairlift (2,430m), the Le Foyer bar and restaurant offers a self service buffet, sandwiches, crepes and pizza in a panoramic location. The Maison Carrel has great food, fabulous views and a cosy Alpine ambience in the Argillio Express chair lift area.
The Bar & Ristorante San Bernardo is a friendly and affordable restaurant offering traditional Aosta Valley specialities alongside ski favourites, accompanied by a wide selection of wines and liquors!
Lo Riondet is a warm and welcoming mountain refuge with a wide menu which includes typical Aosta Valley fare, such as soup, polenta, pasta, cured meats and cheeses. Evening meals can also be organised, with transport by snow cat. Also an excellent hotel, the Maison de Neige offers authentic Italian and Aosta Valley cuisine and the pasta, bread and cakes are all homemade.
Both Lo Riondet and Maison de Neige are located to the side of piste number 7, en-route to La Thuile.
Named Ariolica in Roman times, La Thuile was an important town on the route from ancient Rome to Gaul. The San Bernardo pass remained one of the principal routes between Italy and France right up to the 18th century. Renamed La Thuile in 1760, it became an important coal mining town with some 1,400 inhabitants at its peak. Later, as the mines went into decline, it gained popularity as a mountaineering centre, and in 1862 two Englishmen, Mathews and Bonney, climbed the Rutor for the first time having stayed in la Thuile.
Nowadays it's very much a town of two halves. The modern and convenient, but not very atmospheric, half is close to the Les Suches gondola and the pistes coming down the mountain. This is dominated by the Planibel complex of hotel, apartments and leisure centre. The other half is the old centre of town which is much more visually attractive with some nicely restored hotels, traditional buildings, authentic restaurants and charming local shops, but it's more than five minutes' walk to the lifts and slopes (and sometimes a lot more). Fortunately however the ski bus service which connects the two halves, is free and efficient, and runs till the small hours.
The range of leisure facilities and varied piste network make La Thuile an ideal base for families and mixed groups looking for skiing first, and après-ski second. That said, there are a number of good restaurants on and off the slopes, andsome friendly, informal bars in the attractive old town. There is one night club/disco that stays open late and things hot up a little on Saturday nights and public hilidays when it also becomes more noticeably Italian as the weekenders arrive from Turin, but overall La Thuile is not a ski town for hard core party crowd.
There are plenty of ski rental shops, but their prices are quite high if you simply walk into them when you arrive. Some hotels and tour operators have recommended shops, but they rarely offer the best value even if they give a small discount (usually 5% or 10% at most) to the hotel or tour operator's guests. Generally, if you want to save money, you're much better off booking in advance with a reliable service provider like the one below.
Skiset has an excellent reputation for hiring out good modern equipment for skiers and boarders of all standards and has an outlet in La Thuile very close to the main lifts - you can check the exact location here. If you book online in advance, you can save up to 50% on what you would pay if you walk into the shop. You will also save time when you arrive in the resort, because your ski rental equipment is reserved, fully prepared and ready and waiting for you. Check Skiset advance booking discounts currently available in La Thuile >>>
La Thuile Tourist Office
Consorzio Operatori Turistici La Thuile
Via M. Collomb, 3611016
La Thuile (AO)
Tel: +39 0165 884179
Email: [email protected]
La Buvette, at the bottom of the gondola is a popular place to meet for drinks after a day on the slopes, and is also good for snacks and sandwiches during the day. The Bar Berthod is one of a number of small, but cosy bars, great for an Italian 'aperitivo', and the Bar and Brasserie du Bathieu is open from 10am until midnight with food, including sandwiches, crepes, pastas and pizza, available all day.
La Cage Aux Folles is a lively bar which stays open late and also airs major sporting events throughout the season. With a friendly and relaxed atmosphere, it offers good music, and a wide range of beers and wines. Chocolat is a fabulous cafe in the centre of town, which specialises in all things chocolaty, including fondue. Drop in for a steaming cup of hot chocolate served alongside delicious homemade cakes and ice creams.
La Thuile offers a great variety of restaurants for a small Alpine town. Good value pizzerias, restaurants specialising in Aosta Valley favourites such as fondues and raclette, and traditional Italian restaurants are all available. For the area's traditional after dinner coffee try the 'grolla d'amicizia', (friendship cup) a hot drink made with coffee, grappa, génépy, and aromatic spices, served in a wooden pot which is passed around the table. Advance booking for dinner is recommended at weekends when the town fills up with Italian visitors.
Taverna Coppa Pan
Excellent regional specialities including Pierrade, Fondue and Raclette served in a traditional but modern Alpine environment, just after the Les Suches gondola lift station.
Taverna Coppa Pan
Fraz. Villaret, 68
Tel: +39 0165 884797
Tuscan specialities, local specialities and tasty pizzas cooked in a wood fired oven, are all available in this excellent restaurant.
Fraz. Piccola Goletta, 103
Tel: +39 0165 884999
In the heart of the Planibel complex, La Raclette offers authentic Aosta Valley cuisine and is a great choice for fondue!
Fraz. Entrèves, 158
Tel: +39 0165 884394
Pizzeria La Grotta
A good value pizzeria restaurant, La Grotta offers excellent pizza and pasta dishes. Fondue and other local specialities are also available, but should be booked in advance.
Pizzeria La Grotta
Via M. Collomb, 27
Tel: +39 0165 884474
A charming pizzeria and restaurant with friendly service
Fraz. Bathieu, 28
Tel: +39 0165 883121
Within the Hotel Miramonti, the Dora Restaurant offers high standards of food and service in an elegant Alpine environment.
Via Piccolo San Bernardo,3
Tel: +39 0165 883084
La Maison de Laurent
An excellent restaurant for meat dishes and charcoal grilled steaks
La Maison de Laurent
Fraz. Bathieu, 71
Tel: +39 0165 885100
A cosy and modern restaurant, with a wide menu, including pizza, pasta and steaks
Fraz. Entreves, 12
Tel: +39 0165 883047
A traditional and welcoming restaurant in the delightful hamlet of Thovex
Fraz. Thovex, 188
Tel: +39 0165 884806
Brasserie du Bathieu
Aosta Valley specialties, pasta dishes, grilled meats, crêpes and pizza, and is open from 10am to midnight. A Take-Away service is also available.
Brasserie du Bathieu
Fraz. Bathieu, 13
Tel: +39 0165 884987
There are some lovely cross country ski trails in the Arly area, just past the La Thuile cable car, and a larger cross country centre, the Piste di Arpy in neighbouring Colle San Carlo, between La Thuile and Morgex, which also offers dog sledding, cleared walking paths and snow shoe excursions. Lessons in both classic and skating technique are available at the Foyer de Fond d'Arpy in Colle San Carlo. Equipment can also be hired at Piste di Arpy.
Dog sled tours with guides are available in the picturesque hamlet of Colle San Carlo, 9km from La Thuile. After a short briefing session you will have the opportunity to drive the sled yourself on the 5km wooded trail up to a panoramic view point. Transfers to the centre, and lunch or dinner arrangements are also available as required.
Tel: +39 335 1829414
Email: [email protected]
The heli-ski drops are operated by the Pellissier Helicopter Company who also offer helicopter sightseeing flights and transfers, as well.
Pellissier Helicopter Company
Fraz. Bussan Dessus, 7511010 Saint Pierre (AO)
Tel: +39 0165 903758 or +39 348 3161723
Email: [email protected]
Snow kiting is available in the area close to the Piccolo San Bernardo Express chairlift.
The natural ice skating rink in the centre of La Thuile is open until late March, conditions permitting.
There is a mini club for children aged four to 12 at the Planibel complex and the Grande Albero crèche offers childcare for babies up to three years old. There is a spacious outdoor play area for children, close to the bottom of the pistes in La Thuile. Snow tubing and tobogganing are also available in this area.
The swimming pools, sauna and steam room at the Planibel complex are open to the public and the Hotel Miramonti also has a pool and excellent spa facilities. The public swimming pool in neighbouring Pre San Didier, 6km from La Thuile, is open in the late afternoons and evenings, and the recently refurbished thermal baths and spa, also in Pre St Didier, should not be missed! They offer a fabulous range of indoor and outdoor spa pools and treatments in superb surroundings, with views towards Mont Blanc.
The Planibel complex, open to the public, offers a good fitness centre with gym. Massage is also available. The Centro Sportivo Konver Music Café in the Arly area, is open daily until midnight, and offers various leisure facilities including a climbing wall, gym, tennis, five-a-side soccer and volleyball.
La Thuile has some interesting small shops as well as a couple of specialist snow sport equipment and clothing shops, but the best shopping is in the up-market ski resort of Courmayeur, a 15km bus ride from La Thuile. Courmayeur is a charming town with narrow streets, old stone churches and an attractive pedestrianised centre with some excellent shops.
The ancient Roman city of Aosta, the principal city of the Aosta Valley is just 40km from la Thuile. Its Roman walls are still largely intact and six of the original 20 towers are fairly well preserved. Also of interest in Aosta are the Cathedral (rebuilt in the 11th century), and the Romanesque-Gothic church of Sant'Orso.
For more information about other activities contact the Tourist Office in La Thuile
La Thuile Tourist Office
Via M. Collomb, 3611016
La Thuile (AO)
Tel: +39 0165 884179
Email: [email protected]