Viva Italia: Skiing the Italian Alps

Italy remains one of the best kept skiing secrets in Europe, but perhaps that’s how the Italians like it. Though often overshadowed by France and Switzerland, Italy offers skiers some of the finest resorts and hotels in the Alps.

Italia has a relaxed charm and a unique Italian ambiance that is not found in other Alpine countries. With its excellent cuisine, fine wine, chic boutique shopping and sophisticated après ski night life, it’s no wonder that the Italian Alps are a popular luxury winter holiday destination for the discerning skier.

And off course, skiing and snowboarding aren’t the only winter sports on offer; increasingly more people who prefer not to risk life and limb by hurtling down a mountain at break neck speed are enjoying more sedate winter holidays. Snow-shoeing for example, makes for a relaxed walk on the white side; technology has come a long way and snow shoes no longer resemble unwieldy tennis rackets. New modern designs mean light weight manoeuvrable shoes, perfect for exploring snowy forested trails.

Or if you want a real work out, why not give cross-country skiing a go? This sport is the oldest form of skiing, and is one of the best forms of exercise possible. These narrow skis use soft, comfortable boots which are attached to the ski at the toe only, allowing uphill travel as well as down. The sport is good for all levels of ability, and a great way to get out and enjoy the snow at your own pace.

As hosts of the 2006 winter Olympics which took place in and around Torino (Turin), Italy has proved itself worthy of competing as a ski destination in the international arena, and for many clued-in Brits, Italy’s laid back attitude to life, love of fine food and wine, good value for money and beautiful mountains are an ongoing draw.

Italy has over 100 resorts scattered over the northern part of the country, in the Italian Alps and the jagged Dolomites. The mountains of Piedmont, where Pragelato and Sestriere are located, hosted the 2006 Winter Olympics and are a particular favourite for ski holidays.

Pragelato is set within the Chison Valley between two spectacular national parks, the Val Troncea and Orsiera-Rocciavre. Swathed by larch and fir woods, wide alpine grassland and glaciers, these natural sanctuaries dominated by silence, are ideal habitats for an array of wildlife, and the area offers some of Italy’s finest skiing and snowboarding.

With a flight from the UK taking under three hours, Italy is just as accessible as other Alpine nations and generally considered slightly better value compared to other British favourites such as Switzerland and France. So, maybe it’s time you tried skiing the Italian way.

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