News from the snow
One of the highest genuine villages in Europe, Livigno is able to offer skiers natural snow skiing from November to May. It is situated in what was a remote mountain valley between the Alps to the north and the Dolomites to the south - protected from both the cold northerly winds of the former and the snow-melting warm breezes of the latter. It is located just south of the Swiss border, with St Moritz one of it nearest neighbours. The resort is famous because it is 'duty free' and contains over 200 shops - most of them selling alcohol, tobacco and perfume products at tax free prices. The ski area is very big for a single resort and has a modern, efficient lift system. The resort is actually based on three older villages and stretches for 8km (5 miles) along the road with various access points to the skiing along this length and the hundreds of small-medium sized shops, hotels and apartments filling almost all available space. The resort's duty free status is really just a by product of its long struggle for an independent identity which was recognised as far back as 1600 when the local people were granted economic and religious independence. At that time the village was virtually cut off from the rest of the world for much of the year. This special status has been reinforced over the years by the various national rulers, including Napoleon in 1805, the Austro-Hungarian empire, in control in 1818, and most recently by the European Community in 1960. One of the later arrivals on the winter sports map because of its isolation, only intrepid visitors arrived by sledge in the snowy months before 1952 when the road down to Bormio was opened. The first ski lift appeared as recently as 1958 and in 1964 there were just four hotels and still only one ski lift. Today there are more than 100 hotels and other places to stay.
One of the largest and highest ski areas in the region, actually based on three original villages spread out along three miles of road. Excellent intermediate skiing, and very close to St Moritz, also famous for being duty free, due to its historical remoteness. There are over 200 shops, mostly selling alcohol, cigarettes and perfume.
On one side, the toughest skiing is accessed by the Mottolino gondola and ultimately rises up to 2785 metres at Monte Della Neve from which the resort's two blacks descend back towards the tree line. The larger skiing sector is accessed by the two stage Carosello 3000 ski centre from the southern end of the village or by a series of chair lifts from the village centre. It is a centre of wide smooth trails well above the treeline and classified red, which will delight intermediates.
Advanced skiers may wish to take advantage of the Alta Valtellina area pass which, with a 6 day pass or longer, includes a day's skiing in the Swiss Engadin region. That famous region includes about a dozen resorts, most famously St Moritz, but also Pontresina, Samedan, Silvaplana and Zuoz . Unrestricted access to Livigno's Italian neighbours, including World Championships centre Bormio as well as Santa Caterina and San Colombano is also included - but it's a bit of a trek to all of these centres.
Back in Livigno the area of Trepalle, beneath Monte Della Neve, is particularly appealing to off piste skiers and 'boarders, telemarkers and ski tourers. It's Europe's highest permanently inhabited parish between 1900 and 2250 metres and is an area of immense peace and splendour throughout the year. Cross country skiers have 40km of trail around the sunny valley and there's a famous international cross-country race, the Sgambeda, a few days before Christmas each year.
Off the slopes there are good family friendly eateries (especially if your children love pizza and pasta) and children will have fun bowling, ice skating, or horse riding.
In addition to local food specialities the Valtellina area produces some excellent wines, including the 'almondy' red, Grumello Doc, best with cheese or red meat and the less full bodied Valtellina Doc, suited to first courses, white meat and soft cheese.
There's a huge choice of establishments including video bars like Marco's, karaoke joints like Bivio, and discothèques like the very Italian Cielo and Kokodi. A full program of events is organised throughout the season including ice scuplute displays and classical music concerts.
There is one half pipe on the Mottolino side where there's also a fun park with jumps. The resort also boasts two boardercross courses.