Hidden away in the Italian Alps, a stone’s throw from Switzerland you’ll find the beautiful town and ski resort of Livigno, where ‘the snow never ends’.
In the province of Sondrio, Italy at 1816 metres above sea level, Livigno is a relatively new resort in a natural valley surrounded by untouched forests and stunning snow-capped mountains. This was to be our home for the next few days, experiencing the array of activities, soaking up the vibe and exploring the food and drink culture of Livigno.
Here is your Livigno Winter Guide:
We flew into Zurich Airport, the most popular way to arrive if you travel by plane (book your flights into Zurich). We hired a car from the airport which we had for the duration of our trip, from Zurich it’s around a 3.5 hour drive (when all roads and tunnels are open). Whichever way you arrive, it’s worth checking the weather conditions before you travel, as heavy snowfall could result in road or tunnel closures, to prevent risk from avalanches, though usually the roads are fine.
For arrival by plane other options include Innsbruck (Austria), around a 3 hour drive, or Milan which is 4-5 hours depending on the route you take. There is the option to travel by bus and train, however none of them are straightforward, and involve at least 2-3 changes but it is possible if you like to travel this way. Once you arrive in Livigno your ski pass entitles you to free travel on the regular buses around the resort, connecting you to each of the main gondola’s and popular attractions.
Skiing & Snowboarding
As one of the highest ratings for snow probability, Livigno has some of the best skiing and snowboarding on offer. With over 115km of runs for all abilities (see the facts below) and even plenty of off-piste opportunities to explore, you’re spoiled for choice.
The slopes are effectively split in two halves, the East and West. We started on the East slopes in the Mottolino area, using the Mottolino gondola which is the quickest and most popular way to get up the mountain. As an alternative there is the Teola Pianoni Bassi chairlift, which takes you directly to Camanel, where you’ll find Camanel de Planon, one of the best spots to take a break for lunch or a beer, with impressive views over Livigno.
From here you can ski to the Valfin Monte Neve chairlift which takes you to the highest point, Mount Della Neve at 2785 metres, with incredible views over the back of the mountain and towards Bormio. I strongly recommend this area as a great place to start, especially if you’ve already got some ski experience, there’s a nice mix of blue, red and black runs to choose from.
If that wasn’t enough Mottolino has its own Snow Park, regarded as the best snow park in Italy and one of the top three in Europe. There are 4 lines for different abilities stretching the 800 metre park, with 3 of them accessible to anyone, and only the harder ‘XL’ course reserved for professionals. You can expect to regularly see freestyle snowboarders, freeride skiers and amateurs grinding and jumping their way down the mountain. Click here for more information and a live webcam of the park.
Carosello 3000 & Costaccia
On the West side of Livigno you’ll find the Carosello 3000 and Costaccia areas. Both offer beginner and ski school slopes at the bottom, a nice and easy way to practise and build your confidence. Once you make it further up you’ll find a perfect blend of long sweeping blue slopes, running almost parallel to more challenging reds. I love the way the runs and lifts in the area connect, in just one day you can explore the whole mountain, finding your way from Costaccia to Carosello 3000 or vice-versa.
During our stay we were lucky enough to see the opening of a brand new, state-of-the-art gondola named Carosello 3000. The artistic opening performance typifies the mountain motto of ‘the mountain is freedom’, and featured live music, choreographed skiing and fire-dancing. The gondola itself is very slick, in design and speed. The black cable cars symbolise the black eagle, seen first thing in the morning watching over the mountain, and it’s design and style isn’t dissimilar. It was an amazing engineering accomplishment, built in just one summer. There’s a full documentary video, and highlights of the opening ceremony found on the Carosello 3000 website.
Ski Passes vary in price from mid to high season and you can get anything from a half day upwards. Look out for the beginning and end of season promotion where participating hotels offer a free ski-pass during the less popular weeks. Not a skier? Take a look at the sun pass which gives you access to the Carosello 3000 and Livigno Centro gondolas.
Did you know? Due to its geographical location, Livigno is a tax-free haven making it a great place for shopping, so allow some time to wander the local shops before you leave, but check not to exceed the limits.
Livigno offers a sunrise skiing experience twice a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays), giving you the opportunity to be the first people on the mountain and ski freshly groomed, untouched slopes with just a handful of other people. From 7am just 25 of you can take the Livigno Centro gondola and Valandrea Vetta chairlift and enjoy the piste to yourselves for only €34, and this includes a luxury breakfast at Costaccia Hut! Make sure you book early as this really is great value, and the feeling of skiing without the crowds, on untouched snow as the sun comes up, is truly memorable.
Ski touring (or freeriding) are especially popular in Livigno. There are a number of routes and trails mapped out for you to explore and experience, and at Travel Dudes we always suggest going with a guide and it’s compulsory to carry avalanche safety gear. If you don't have your own, you can rent it and the other gear at Mountain Planet.
We went ski touring with Davide from Mountain 360. We started in Trepalle, known as the highest village in Italy at 2096 metres above sea level. Already fitted with touring skis, we headed up (yes up) the mountain. In my eyes, skis were never designed to go up the hill! You’ll need to hire special skis or a split board (for snowboarders), the skis have a heal release for walking and a ‘skin’ attached to the bottom to prevent the ski from slipping. You then remove the skin and secure the heal for your descent.
We walked for around 2 and a half hours and let me tell you it’s not for the faint hearted. At altitude the climb is tough, you can take your time but really the only thing that gets you through are the amazing views and incredible feeling of isolation in the spectacular mountain surroundings. Then once you reach the top (around 2500 metres), it’s time for the fun part, the descent. We skied for around 20-30 minutes through pristine fresh powder, and it was fantastic.
Livigno Altitude: 1816 metres above sea level
Trepalle Altitude: 2096 metres above sea level (the highest village in Italy)
Slopes: 115km (Blue 29km, Red 27km, Black 12km)
Cross Country Skiing: 35km
Fat Tire Bike trails: 20km
Live Webcams: 10 Check them out here.
Did you know? Livigno has it’s own dialect. It has similarities to Romansh and sounds a bit like German, due to the close proximity to Switzerland and its ancestral history.
If you like Italian food, you’re in the right place. There’s a lot of choice in Livigno, and I have a few recommendations, starting off on the slopes, we ate at Camanel de Planon on the Mottolino side, and at Costaccia on the West mountain, which is also where the sunrise skiing hosts the amazing breakfast. Camanel is beautifully perched halfway down the mountain with stunning views over Livigno. My recommendation: start with Cuccagna Livignasca.
Then for a truly local restaurant with a difference, check out Latteria. Not only do they have a lovely restaurant with views across Livigno, they also have a dairy farm right underneath. You can watch them process the milk from 25 local dairy farms and then make cream, butter, ice-cream, yoghurt and cheese in front of your eyes, and then buy it all in the shop.
In addition to the food above, there’s the brewery and restaurant of 1816, which also falls in to the Apres Ski. It’s apparently the highest beer in Europe – as in brewed at the highest altitude. And the beer here is unique, firstly it’s only distributed around Livigno doesn’t export, and secondly there are 4 special beers with a unique flavour to Livigno. For example their take a classic English bitter includes their own blend of hops with pines only found locally to Livigno, and the Enzian Bock beer has radish only found at 2000 metres. My recommendation: Harmony Bitter.
Of course, no guide to a ski resort would be complete without some information about Apres Ski, which is effectively where to go and drink! I was impressed to find a few options here, starting with the newly opened Kosmo bar, found next to the lower Mottolino Gondola station. The party starts immediately after skiing, people were literally dancing on stage in ski boots and ordering Jagerbombs, it was only 5:30pm, I love it!
Did you know? In the 1950s Livigno had a population of around 200, which is why it’s viewed as a modern and well-designed ski resort, as most of the infrastructure has been built in the last 40 years. It now has a population of around 6000.
Livigno has some great activities for those who want a break from skiing or snowboarding. My first suggestion; Aquagranda, an exclusive spa come leisure centre offering a variety of options for all the family. Aquagranda is divided into several zones, there’s the relaxation area featuring a number of sauna’s and Jacuzzi’s, a slide and fun area designed to entertain the entire family, and a fitness area with an outdoor gym and swimming pool. And I’ve not mentioned the onsite beauty salon and restaurant. I really do recommend putting some time aside for a visit.
If you still have the energy, then why not try fat tire biking around the 20km of trails through the valley. You’ll be impressed at the level of grip and fun to be had on these bikes and they even have e-bikes to give you that extra power when your legs give up! There are several shops where you can rent bicycles & fat bikes, one is Silene Sport, which is a good starting point to explore the valley.
In Livigno you really have a winter resort that has it all, a snow paradise with long winters and plenty of sunshine.
You’ll never want to leave Italy’s “Little Tibet”.
Travel tip shared by Scott Tisson for Travel Dudes.