In a fantastic recent trip to Livigno in the Italian Alps, we discovered everything you need to know about a winter break in the “Little Tibet” of Italy.
Now it’s time to discuss in more detail three of the top activities we recommend you do whilst you’re there.
Alongside the fantastic skiing, snowboarding, shopping, eating and drinking, below you’ll find our ‘must do’ activities.
1. Snow touring
Livigno is famous for its off-piste opportunities, it has thousands of acres of ski-touring (or free-riding) opportunities within the untouched valleys. The snow here is almost guaranteed all season, so you can ski through winding trails, steep slopes or through the woods with complete freedom. However, before we start it’s important at this point to highlight some important safety guidelines;
1. It is always recommended to go ski touring with a guide, or at least someone who is experienced and has avalanche training. Never go alone.
2. Take safety equipment and learn how to use it! It is mandatory to take avalanche safety equipment such as a shovel, probe and transceiver.
3. Ski with caution and wear a protective helmet.
4. Check the snowfall and local weather conditions and if in doubt don’t go!
5. In an emergency, provide aid and call 112 immediately.
It was my first time ski-touring, and doing anything other than a small off-piste run near the marked slopes, so I was quite nervous about it. We were up at the crack of dawn to meet our guide Davide from Mountain 360, who began by explaining how the safety equipment works. The transceiver which is on constantly and beeps when another is close by (to locate someone under the snow), the extending probe to prod someone under the snow, and a shovel, which I could figure out myself! Our guide also had an avalanche airbag.
The next important piece of equipment are your skis. Ski-touring skis have unique bindings which allow your heel to release for walking uphill, and when it’s time to ski you secure it back in like a conventional ski. For snowboards, you can hire a ‘split board’, which is quite literally a short set of skis (for the uphill section) that you fix together as one, you turn the bindings and you’re ready to snowboard. That’s as technical as my explanation gets. The final piece of equipment are touring skins, that attach to the bottom of the ski, giving you surprisingly good grip. They’re then ripped off before the descent.
The ski touring started at Trepalle, known as the highest village in the Alps. Legend has it the name was mistranslated from Travelle, which means three valleys, to Trepalle which means three balls. Either way we were about to traverse one of the valleys (or balls) at incredibly high altitude. The beginning of the climb wasn’t too bad, we’d pick our way left to right taking our time, capturing the view as we got higher over Trepalle. It was around an hour in, when I made a revelation, skis weren’t designed to go uphill, not at all. This was absolutely exhausting. A combination of the slow uphill climb and the altitude took your breath, the air was very thin, so this is not for the fainthearted.
But then every time you’re struggling for breath, you just take in the view, take a rest and get a lung-full of fresh mountain air, appreciate the fact that you are the only people on the mountain, making tracks in perfect fresh powder, while watching the sun glisten in the snow like small crystals. It was a wonderful feeling, and we hadn’t even started the descent. At the top it was time to take it all in, at around 2,500 metres the views were unbelievable and there’s no greater feeling than earning a view, be it hiking, cycling or snow touring. We had certainly earnt this one.
Then comes the descent, the moment we had waited for. We took the skins off our skis, switched the bindings and Melvin fixed his snowboard, we were ready. There really aren’t many greater feelings in skiing than untouched, fresh, fluffy powder. Skiing in the middle of nature, through the trees, in the softest freshest powder with views over Trepalle. Off-piste at its finest. Davide picked a safe route, and it was up to us to find our way through, 2.5 hours going up, and 20-30 minutes coming down. And totally worth it.
2. Aquagranda Active You - Spa
I’m not going to lie, when I first heard about Aquagranda I didn’t expect it to make a top 3 list. I expected your typical swimming pool / spa combination and a relaxing hour or two after a day on the slopes. But I was wrong, Aquagranda is so much more than that. It’s split into three sections, the relaxation area, the fitness area and the family area. The latter being of less interest to me albeit a pretty impressive selection of pools and water slides to keep the kids happy, or perhaps bring out the kid in you. It’s also the area you get a free hour’s entry with your ski pass, so effectively accessible to anyone.
Before I delve into the others, I want to explain the history of the building. It was the work of an out-there architect, who designed a number of private spa areas and pools. However the ‘unique’ design wasn’t as popular as expected and Livigno took the building on as a project and transformed it in to a multi-use state of the art leisure centre, now with a distinctive Alpine feel. There’s even a touch of history from the moment you arrive, with a selection of athlete’s photos, often signed, on the wall, and the medals they’ve won. The athletes are either from Livigno or trained here. The high altitude makes it a popular training spot for world class competitors, and the 350 square metre gym connected to their own App and cloud based fitness system, along with a pool and fitness centre. You really have everything you need.
I was far more interested in the wellness and relaxation area, which has a number of pools, massage jets, saunas, steam rooms, a cold area, relaxation (ie. sleeping) areas, massage and a wellness bar linked to the Bistro. Every day there are several traditional “Aufguss” routines, performed by the sauna master. The area has a perfect blend of locals, tourists, couples and friends all chatting and socialising, topped off with live acoustic music. Part of the bistro is also found next to the pool, offering exquisite cuisine and a selection of healthy smoothies or Italian wine (I can also recommend the seabass!). It’s popular for ski resorts and hotels to offer a jacuzzi or sauna for use after skiing, but a fully equipped spa with a variety of pools, saunas and jacuzzis? Yes please.
3. Sunrise skiing
We’ve all seen it on busy slopes: battling the crowds for the ski lift, crowds, noise, and stress. At peak times it can be hard to find a run to yourself, or with the space to enjoy the slopes. Although Livigno as a resort has a lot of space and doesn’t have many queues, there’s still nothing like being the first person on a freshly groomed slope. And that’s what Sunrise skiing offers, for only €34 per person.
Sunrise skiing at Carosello 3000 in Livigno is offered twice a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays), it gives up to 70 people the opportunity to make fresh tracks on a pristinely groomed slope. The group meets at 7am at the Livigno Centro gondola where you make your way up with your ‘special’ ski pass, activated for only 2 hours. From Costaccia you have access to the Valandrea Vetta chairlift and two blue runs, which you can ski as much as you like until 8:30, when the mountain is open again to the public.
A little like the ski touring above, the appeal is the peaceful, stress-free nature of sunrise skiing. Once the 70 of you spread out you really have these runs to yourself, skiing from top to bottom without seeing another person, you can jump straight on the chairlift and do it over and over again. And once the sun starts to rise the mountains look even more beautiful and you can slowly feel the temperature rise and you realise this is the perfect time to stop for breakfast.
Breakfast is served in the private upstairs room at Costaccia, and is a brilliant fresh selection of cereals, fruits and hot food offering everything you could need. The breakfast alone makes the €34 good value. To finish your breakfast, you’ll be served Rosumeda, a nourishing treat made from coffee, eggs and marsala. It was traditionally drunk by a newly married couple who used it to give them the energy needed to consummate the marriage! The energy was welcomed by me spending another day exploring the slopes.
So when you visit Livigno, whether you’re looking for adrenaline away from the slopes, relaxing after the slopes or even the slopes to yourself, then be sure to try each of the three activities I’ve mentioned above.
For more practical tips about Livigno, have a read of my first Travel Dudes article A Guide to a Winter Break in Livigno.
Travel tip shared by Scott Tisson for Travel Dudes