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The smallest region of Italy, Aosta Valley has some spectacular skiing on offer. But what if you don't want to play on the slopes all day?

Photo: Red Photographic

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From the international cross-border resorts of Cervinia and La Thuile to the challenging slopes of Courmayeur and Monterosa (Champoluc and Gressoney), and all the way through to the family friendly resort of Pila, Italy's Aosta Valley has a deserved reputation as the home of some truly great skiing, for everyone from beginners to thrill-seekers, due to its mix of spectacular mountain landscapes and mix of diverse ski resorts.

But for visitors looking for a more rounded winter holiday experience, Aosta's non-ski activities are a great draw for families, non-skiers and anyone who just fancies a day off from the downhill.

Where is the Aosta Valley?

At the heart of the Alps and bordered by France and Switzerland, the Aosta Valley, located in Italy’s Northwest area consists of a central valley crisscrossed by the Dora Baltea, from which 14 side valleys extend, carved by glaciers and torrents. The Aosta Valley has always been an important crossroads in the Western Alps, linked to France by the Mont-Blanc tunnel and the pass du Petit-Saint-Bernard and to Switzerland via the Grand-Saint-Bernard pass and tunnel.

With Turin, Milan and Geneva airports all within easy reach, the Aosta Valley resorts are among the easiest to get to from the UK making it an ideal destination for a weekend or short break, as well as longer trips.

Highlights of the Aosta Valley

Surrounded by the highest mountains in Europe, including Mont Blanc, the biggest of all, the Aosta Valley is a superb winter sports destination, with 19 resorts, more than 800 kilometres of slopes, 8 snow parks and a single ski pass.

A popular holiday destination with everyone from pro skiers to families, the variety of ski terrain on offer draws visitors year after year, offering everything from challenging freeride and black pistes, to wonderful ski schools and easy slopes for beginners.

Photo: Enrico Romanzi

Is the Aosta Valley good for non-skiers?

Aosta is an autonomous and bilingual region (Italian-French), which entrances visitors as much by its art of living, gastronomy and its history, as by its geography and its nature.

One of the elements that makes the Aosta Valley so interesting as a ski destination is the rich history of it's high altitude resorts- from spectacular Roman ruins, beautiful churches and fascinating archaeological sites of Aosta town, to the ancient castles dotting the valley.

But it also has a satisfying range of off-ski options for those who prefer to enjoy snow and the alpine scenery in a different way: snowshoeing, dog sledding, high altitude dinner & spa within spectacular alpine setting are all popular activities with skiers and non-skiers alike. You can also head to a viewing platform to take in the stunning views of the surrounding mountains, or just enjoy family fun tobogganing or ice skating.

The best non-ski things to do in the Aosta Valley

So what are the best activities for non-skiers in the Aosta Valley? Here's a snapshot of what's on offer.

Photo: Enrico Romanzi

Dine at high altitude

There are many resorts in the Aosta Valley offering their guests unique settings for a special dinner, to fully enjoy the absolute charm of mountains in winter, especially in the evening, when the landscape takes on a mysterious, silent beauty. Several restaurants and huts are reachable by cable car, snowmobile or snowcat and are open in the evening (by reservation only).

At Pila, for example, two snowmobiles, each carrying up to 20 people can safely take diners at altitude to have dinner surrounded by an unforgettable landscape. At La Thuile you can travel by snowmobile or snowcat up the ski runs or in areas magically carpeted with snow and dine in traditional restaurants that combine a unique mountain atmosphere in the moonlight with the pleasures of good food. And at Courmayeur the cable-car is open until midnight so, after the lifts close, you can get to Plan Chécrouit to sample an aperitif or dinner at 2000m altitude.

Photo: Stefano Carletto

Snowshoe in the Aosta Valley

For non-skiers or those looking to explore a different side of the snowy landscapes, snowshoeing is a great way to experience the mountains at a relaxed pace. Slow down, even stop and just enjoy the peace and serenity in parts of the mountains that skiers and snowboarders can't reach. Connect with nature and try and spot some of the shy alpine wildlife which call this place home. Snowshoeing is a wonderful way for all ages to explore this winter wonderland and soak in the tranquility of the mountains.

Photo: Red Photographic

Go dogsledding in the Aosta Valley

Experience the thrill of exploring unspoilt nature with a team of sled dogs! This activity is available in Cervinia and Courmayeur, where specialist guides will take you on an unforgettable journey with the help of their furry companions. After a short introduction you will actually get to drive a sled pulled by 3-4 huskies and experience the unique bonding experience of this sport. Time spent with the dogs varies from an hour to 90 minutes and is dependent on weather conditions, group size and the quality of the snow.

Children between 4 and 7 ride in the sled with a guide. From the age of 8 upwards they can drive alone just as their parents do!

Photo: Pré Saint Didier Spa

Have a wintry spa experience in the Aosta Valley

The region is well-known for its magnificent spa facilities. Wellness tourism is not new to Aosta, having been at the heart of its early tourist industry as far back as the early 1800s, while the curative properties of its natural thermal springs were known back in Roman times. Top picks for popular wellness spots to clear your head and unwind include:

The natural springs of Pré Saint Didier: In business since 1800, this majestic spa located at the foot of Mont Blanc features the elegance of the 19th-century palace, with breathtaking mountain views. Just a few kilometres from the ski resorts of Courmayeur and La Thuile, this is an ideal place to sample invigorating waterfalls, whirlpools with thermal water from the depths of the Orrido river and wood chalet-saunas combining all the scents of the mountain.

Monterosa Spa: An ideal choice for families. Located in the heart of the Aosta Valley in Champoluc, the SPA Centre is easily accessible. Younger children have a dedicated shallow pool as well as aquatic toys to play with. In addition, there is also a dedicated facility that will look after your kids, while parents either enjoy the wellness of the spa area or can even go skiing!

Terme di Saint-Vincent: Open year round, this modern spa is the result of a major redevelopment programme that begun in 2007. Aside from its trademark treatments such as hydrotherapy, massage and inhalation therapy, bonuses include huge picture windows and a panoramic terraced pool area which let you make the most of the jaw-dropping views and help to keep you a relaxed state of mind.

Photo: Marco Spataro

Explore Aosta's historical towns and castles

The town of Aosta is nothing short of a cultural delight and is just a 20-minute gondola ride from the exciting ski resort of Pila. As you meander through the old streets of the historical centre, you will find that Aosta is like a large, open-air museum, with a wealth of Roman and medieval monuments, art exhibitions and prestigious buildings. It's also a buzzing Italian town full of interesting bars, boutiques and delicatessens.

Five centuries of Roman civilisation have left their mark in the Aosta Valley, from the ‘Via delle Gallie’ consular road to the Pondel aqueduct-bridge; and above all the imperial town of Aosta itself. Highlights include the arch of Augustus, the Roman Theatre and the Cryptoporticus - a semi-subterranean gallery supported by strong arches, which was part of the Forum complex.

From frescoes of dragons to statues of the Virgin Mary, Aosta’s churches are beautiful and fascinating in equal measure, while its museums provide a great way to discover and absorb the history and culture of the region.

Venture further into the valley and you'll find even more hidden gems and attractions to visit, such as the impressive Sarre Castle, Bard Fortress, or Savoy Castle, the former summer residence of Queen Margherita, which looks like it has jumped straight out of the pages of a fairytale. 

Ride the Skyway Monte Bianco and soak in the views

Skyway Monte Bianco is much more than a cableway to reach 3,466m. It’s an idea: drawing man closer to nature, suspended between the mountain and the sky, broadening horizons, overcoming boundaries. And this is no ordinary mountain. Monte Bianco - Mont Blanc - is the highest in Europe, and the views from the skyway are stunning. The cable cars rotate a full 360 degrees along the route, affording a full view of the surrounding peaks.

The system was opened in 2015 and today includes 3 stations: Courmayeur/The Valley (1,300m), Pavillon/The Mountain (2,173m) and Punta Helbronner/The Sky (3,466m). At the top, the main attraction is a circular scenic terrace 14 metres in diameter with a unique panoramic view over most of the highest peaks of the Western Alps: Mont Blanc, Monte Rosa, the Matterhorn, the Gran Paradiso and the Grand Combin. Inside is a crystal exhibition hall, a self service restaurant, a bar, and multimedia information points.

Photo: Enrico Romanzi

Go cross country skiing in the Aosta Valley

Cross-country skiing is a brilliant way to explore some of the Aosta Valley's lesser-known resorts, such as Rhêmes-Notre-Dame and Brusson, where you can really appreciate the authentic Italian atmosphere and welcome. The Aosta Valley offers hundreds of kilometres of trails that are always perfectly prepared both for skating and classical skiing. Trails often pass through the wilderness at the foot of majestic mountains where it is not unheard of to see wild animals too. 

Several stations feature a "Foyer de fond" with ski waxing rooms, changing rooms and showers. At some places - such as Cogne or the Val Ferret - you will even find marked out walking tracks.


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