When To Ski Italy

Gorgeous locations like Sesto in 3 Peaks Dolomites ski resort can be aamzing at Christmas time
Skiing powder is the goal for all Powderhounds & Livigno is a reliable snow location
Nothing better than a mountain village in snow in the Alta Valtellina
February is the time to visit the lesser known Italian ski resorts like Crevacol
Cervinia has one of Italy's longest ski seasons & is open in summer too!
Tonale & its glacier open early for skiing in Italy
Bormio ski resort is awesome to visit when it is top to bottom snow
Arabba Marmalada has the best early & late season snow in the Dolomites
Madesimo ski resort is best visited on weekdays
Popular ski resorts like Val Gardena in the Dolomites are quietest in January
The Italian backcountry is the place to ski & board on weekends (pic=Livigno)
Val di Fassa is wonderful when its backcountry routes like off Saas Pordoi are fully snow-covered
Santa Caterina is a quiet ski resort worth visiting all season long
Bardonecchia ski resort is just off a motorway so is best avoided on weekends
Smaller Italian ski resorts are super in peak season including Cima Piazzi- San Colombano
If chasing couloirs, Cortina d'Ampezzo is best to ski after a deep cold snowfall
Summer skiing in Italy is available at Stelvio Pass
Monterosa ski resort's high off-piste glaciers area best explored in March & April
Passo Fedaia on Marmolada at the top end of Val di Fassa opens its lift in May
Ski Italy all season long at the high elevation Sestriere

When To Ski Italy

Year-Round skiing in Italy

In Italy, as with Austria & Switzerland, it is possible to slide on snow in a ski resort using lifts for upward movement every day of the year. From late autumn, winter & early spring at high altitude, ski resorts with glaciers like Cervinia, Solda-Sulden, Tonale & Val Senales have skiing from October to June. The summer skiing resort at Stelvio Pass has you covered for the rest of the time. In the peak of the winter season the diversity is enormous.

When is the Best Time to Ski Italy?

The second question asked about skiing Europe after 'Where is the best place to ski?' is 'When is the best time?'. There are a few rules of thumb, spelt out below & made specific to Italy.

Europe generally has a large population near the Alps & Italy is no exception with major cities like Milan, Turin, Verona & Venice all within a couple of hours drive to the mountains. To maximise the enjoyment of our Italian skiing experiences, the main factors we consider are:

  1. Crowds;
  2. Snow quantity & quality;
  3. Open lifts & terrain;
  4. Price.

Factors 2 & 3 are often beyond our control due to mother nature, but crowds can make even the greatest powder snow day a disappointment. So, we try to avoid crowds AT ALL COSTS.

The other lovely element associated with when to ski Italy, is that one can be safe in the knowledge that it is possible to ride a ski lift and schuss a piste every month of the year. Read on to find out where is best and when.

Best Times to Ski Italy with Low Crowds

It should go without saying that sleeping in until 10am & starting skiing at 11 is not a good crowd avoidance strategy. Dress for the cold, get to first lifts & let it rip for a couple of hours of bliss. Have an early lunch & then hit it again when everyone else heads in.

Beyond the actual time of day, in a broader sense, the following is rule of thumb for the best times to ski powder in Italy with low crowds:

  • November & December before Christmas;
  • Anytime in January after the first week;
  • Anytime it snows midweek until Easter.

Italy does not have mid-winter school holidays (unlike everywhere else in Europe), however there are still times to absolutely avoid if you don’t like too many humans sharing your powder:

  • The two weeks following Christmas day;
  • *Weekends in peak season during February & March, particularly in larger more popular ski resorts.

A general rule for any self-respecting Powderhound is ski backcountry on weekends & avoid the resorts. (*Note. Saturdays are often a changeover day though, so if the nearby local population isn’t large, Saturdays can be surprisingly good in a few remote resorts.)

Italian Skiing Month by Month

Italy is the one of only four countries in the world (the others being Switzerland, Norway & Austria) that have lift served skiing & snowboarding all year round. Here is our guide to tick off the ‘I skied every month in Italy last year and avoided the crowds’ list for Italy.

December

Skiing the Italian Alps in early December is usually restricted to the glacier & high elevation resorts, or those with great snow-making. The usual suspects include the glacier ski resorts of Solda-Sulden, Tonale, Val Senales, Arabba Marmolada & Cervinia. Of the resorts with excellent combined early natural snow plus snowmaking, the one’s worth looking at include Madesimo, Livigno, & Sestriere. All should lifts turning early for sliding down hills!

Christmas in Italy at the snow fields is a major event. Prices are up & crowds are aplenty, but just like in Austria, it can be a magical time to visit, especially as a family. The Italian Christmas Markets are wonderful, especially to the north-east of the country in the Alta-Valtellina, Dolomites, Brenta & Ortler regions. Snow may be hit and miss so it will be best to choose high elevation ski areas. Christmas in a pretty, snowy mountain village is also an important ingredient to a memorable holiday. The best resorts with snow guaranteed high-elevation villages include Livigno, Madonna di Campiglio, Courmayeur, Sesto in 3-Peaks Dolomites plus Selva & Ortisei in Val Gardena. Some of the villages in the Val Venosta near Belpiano ski resort & Lake Resia (including the amazing walled city of Glurns) make for gorgeous Christmas locations, but snow in the lower valleys is not guaranteed these days. Bormio is similar.

January

January (after the first week anyway) is the best time to ski the larger, more popular Italian ski resorts & those with relatively with low bases (less than 1400m elevation). Cold temperatures, short days & low crowds are the norm. Some amazing powder days can be had.

Explore the Dolomites Sella Ronda resorts (Alta Badia, Arabba Marmolada, Val di Fassa & Val Gardena) or other popular spots like Kronplatz & Cortina d’Ampezzo. Around the Brenta Dolomites, Madonna di Campiglio is prime for a visit. Further west Aprica, Bormio & Livigno can be combined with sneaking up to St Moritz in Switzerland!

In the Valle d’Aosta it is a wonderful time to visit the likes of Cervinia & Courmayeur. Further south the wonderfully affordable Via Lattea resorts (Sauze d’Oulx, Claviere, Cesana - Sansicario, Sestriere) will provide endless trails to explore.

If the lakes are frozen in the upper Val Venosta, make the pilgrimage to Belpiano & the surrounding resorts.

February

Snow-packs are deepening. Generally, the start of the next ‘high season’ will coincide with increasing crowds. The price of lift tickets and lodging are often higher as well, but not everywhere. Numerous quiet & cheap but amazing ‘small’ resorts (with BIG terrain) exist right across the Italian Alps.

The larger Italian resorts can be over-run from the second week of February onward. If you must ski in February, but dislike crowds, seek out the smaller resorts or the remote sections of larger ones. Always ski the storm as numbers of fellow skiers (the competition!) will be less. In or near the Dolomites seek out Plose (above beautiful Bressanone), Reinswald, Monte Bondone, Monte Cavallo (above gorgeous Vipiteno) & Civetta. In the Val di Sole check out Pejo. In the Alta Valtellina, look up Cima Piazzi-San Colombano & Santa Caterina. North of Milan near the Swiss border is remote Macugnaga & the under-rated but superb San Domenico. In the Aosta, the three ‘Cs’ of Crevacol, Chamois & Champorcher are sensational. Even larger Valle d’Aosta resorts like the excellent Pila & La Thuile can be quiet during the week in February. Many of the smaller Italian ski resorts are unknown outside of their own region, but if you are ever going to visit them, mid-week in February is the time to do it. If all else fails, go skinning somewhere on Monterosa & find your own piece of paradise.

Overall, snow conditions should be fabulous in all Italian resorts in February, but to avoid the worst of the crowds, unless it is a powder day, only ski during the week & visit places fascinating places like Milan, Bolzano or Bressanone on the weekend!

March

Everywhere is glorious as sunshine increases & temperatures are sometimes balmy, but powder days are still on the cards. Make sure you are out during any winter storms to get the best of it. All resorts with cold north-aspects will be awesome still, but sunny south-facing slopes will be getting bony by the end of the month. With the days longer, a ski safari linking all the best Dolomites ski resorts mixed with long lunches & après ski sessions is a stellar way to ski Italy. Same goes for the Via Lattea. Snow-sure Livigno is great all through the month as well.

March can be the month for couloir skiing in legendary Cortina d’Ampezzo. Heavily dependent on snow-pack, it is a case of be able to go at a moment’s notice – unless of course it is a cold, deep snow year, then go anytime!

Check out the Aosta Valley resorts. Freeride & touring routes on Monte Bianco (Mont Blanc) are amazing on March & into April. Access via Courmayeur & the Skyway Monte Bianco.

April

April can bring some huge snow dumps to the higher elevations but expect lots of milder temperatures and ego corn snow. If it does snow, get out there as the crowds have gone & prices are low. April is glorious up high on the Monte Rosa massif above Monterosa & Macugnaga ski resort. Use the lifts to get high the skin further up for huge lines. Heli skiing would be on the cards too.

Most Italian Alps ski resorts will close in the first two weeks of April. The sun is out, snow is soft, days are long, and partying is on. Check out Livigno, Sestriere & Tonale for late season action.

May

Aside from the glacier resorts, including Tonale & perhaps Cervinia, everything shuts down in May with two clear exceptions.

One is Stelvio. Its high elevation base (over 2,800m) ensures it is snow-choked through winter. By May the road has been opened and the resort can start operation for its lengthy summer season all the way into November

The other is a fascinating lift & ski area to explore on the northern flanks of Marmolada, Val di Fassa’s Passo Fedaia lift. It is only open for one month & offers a unique ski experience, particularly if there is a powder day to be had.

High alpine ski touring is possible in amongst the 3000m+ peaks of the Italian Alps.

June

Early June can be a great time to ski the backcountry in the high Alps. Use the many ski resort lifts that operate throughout summer to access into the remaining snowpack.

The only ski resort lifts running for skiing will at Stelvio & Cervinia. Cervinia opens piste trails on the Plateau Rosa glacier. The cable car top station links in with the diverse summer ski terrain amongst spectacular scenery on the glaciers of Zermatt.

July

Seriously warming up in July & everyone is looking for a beach. Do not fear though, Stelvio Pass & Cervinia are still open for early morning turns in the snow!

August

Lean times in the northern hemisphere, but Stelvio Pass & Cervinia are still open for some early morning summer skiing. Good time to hit the snow park for a few tricks whilst wearing a t-shirt!

September

A long warm summer will be taking its toll on the glaciers. In early September, Cervinia closes, but its neighbour Zermatt in Switzerland will still have 21km of trails (or so) open. The Stelvio Pass is operating for the entire month.

October

October is probably the month with the slimiest pickings for skiing in Italy. Stelvio Pass will still be running. If condition allow, some of Italy’s glacier ski resorts are starting to open a few high elevation runs including Solda-Sulden, Tonale and Val Senales.

Non-glacier ski resorts will not be open in Italy during October.

Throughout the month, if desperate, one may have to journey across the border into Austria to check out Hintertux Glacier & Mölltal Glacier for turns because of course, they are still open!

November

As with October, the start of November is limited to the high elevation glacier ski resorts. However, in a good season, by the end of November, many places are starting operations, although some will only be on weekends and with limited lifts. Livigno & Cervinia will looking to open. As the snows get deeper in the high elevations, ironically Stelvio Pass will be forced to close!

By late November it is just getting cold again for the snow to drop right down into the low valleys. Winter is back. Yay!