Valtournenche is a sizeable and attractive mountain village that's filled with character. Terraced into the sunnier west-facing flank of a long north-pointing side valley off Italy's major Aosta Valley, it is located just 9km south of the more internationally renowned ski resort of Cervinia (Breuil-Cervinia), with which its slopes are linked at high altitude.
Valtournenche has much more traditional charm than its busier and brasher neighbour, and is surrounded by softer yet no less dramatic scenery, whilst still offering access to the same tremendous ski area, shared and linked with the top-notch Swiss resort of Zermatt on the far side of the Theodul Pass between the Piccolo Cervino (Klein Matterhorn) and Monte Cervino (Matterhorn).
This is first-class big-mountain territory, and yet the Valtournenche ski area mainly consists of undemanding novice & intermediate-friendly terrain. It's a good choice for discerning intermediates who are seeking a more laid-back and authentically Italian Alpine experience.
The sole access lift to the ski area from Valtournenche is a gondola based about one kilometre to the north of the village centre, just off the main valley road which continues on up to Breuil-Cervinia. An infrequent ski-bus service runs between the village and the lift station, but many local hotels also operate shuttle services for their own guests.
When snow conditions are good, there's a tremendous red home run all the way to the car park in front of this base terminal; when conditions are poor everyone has to download on the gondola.
The core Valtournenche ski area covers the slopes immediately above Salette where the upper terminal of the gondola is perched, well above the tree line at 2,245m. Perhaps surprisingly for such a region of dramatic big-scale mountains the slopes here are mostly all gentle blue runs, with an excellent beginners' zone and a spacious snowpark within easy reach of the gondola.
Two chairlifts provide uplift to the slopes above Salette, again mostly straightforward blues, one linking to a further series of lifts into the more challenging upper sector plus the link across the watershed of the Cime Bianche col into the Cervinia ski area; from where an onward cross-border cable car links with the Plateau Rosa sector of the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise ski area shared with Zermatt in Switzerland.
All of the pistes on these upper-sector links, including the return routes, are of average intermediate level, but they are very exposed and can be tricky, or closed, in poor weather.
When snow and weather conditions are good, the run back to Valtournenche from the uppermost slopes on Piccolo Cervino (Klein Matterhorn) is one of the greatest home runs in the world.
Off the slopes and apres ski
Although most of its streets are quite hilly, the centre of Valtournenche village is a pleasant place for a stroll and contains a fair selection of small shops, cosy café-bars, and good-value family-run restaurants.
Valtournenche has no substantial entertainment facilities, but it does have a large leisure centre with a swimming pool, sauna, steam room, gym, climbing wall, indoor tennis courts and multi-sports hall.
Apres ski and nightlife are limited to relaxing evenings in a handful of local bars and hotel lounges; a livelier scene exists at the resort of Cervinia, only 9 km further up the valley road, but be aware that the local bus service doesn't run late in the evenings and taxis are expensive relative to the short distance.
Bars and clubs