There are places you don’t want to leave. For me, Italy’s Aosta Valley is one. My wife and I just completed a week of skiing magic, visiting five fantastic resorts with tour operator, Alpskitour.

Despite 6+ decades of passion for the sport, I wasn’t aware of this valley’s skiing treasures. It cuts across the Alps, giving surprisingly easy access to many of Europe’s best-known resorts. One day we skied in Courmayeur at the base of Mont Blanc. Another day, we were in La Thuile and La Rosiere, crossing the Italian-French border several times. We drove to Cervinia and skied at the base of the Matterhorn. The snow conditions were wonderful but winds prevented us from using the lifts that would have taken us to Zermatt in Switzerland.

Alpskitour takes a hub and spoke approach with its guests. Stay centrally at Hotel Bijou in Saint Vincent, a lovely small hotel in a lovely small city, and each day, following a breakfast feast of local delicacies, venture to a different resort. Where we skied was a daily decision, based on conditions and anticipated skier traffic. Before arriving, my concern was the length of the daily ride. But the scenery is beautifully distracting. We looked forward to the drives.  

I wouldn’t want to do this on my own; too many valleys; too many roads; too many options. To paraphrase the old TV show, Alpskitour knows best. Proprietors Mauro Cevolo and Andrea Jory exude friendliness and were warmly greeted wherever we went.

Each day was spectacular in its own way. Each area has vast ski fields served by every uphill conveyance imaginable. In Cervinia, alone, we rode multiple types of gondolas, a true cable car carrying 125 people bottom to top — no towers — and many chair lifts with bubbles.

Skiing the Alps is different from skiing New England or the Rockies, where, once on top there are multiple options down: groomed, ungroomed, side and backcountry. In this part of the Alps, you exit a lift and have the option to take one of a few trails or go “off-piste.” If you choose the latter – at least in Italy – you’ll need beacon, probe, and other backcountry gear. The trails are well groomed, mostly blue, and sometimes very long. One morning in Cervinia we skied an 11-mile run. It was about the width of a six-lane freeway. If you wanted to, you could exceed most US speed limits.

Then there’s the scenery. Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn are two of the world’s iconic peaks. We skied under each. There were times when they stood against clear blue. At other times, the peaks snagged fluffy clouds. The afternoon at Cervinia, thick valley clouds raced up the Italian side of the Matterhorn, a phenomenon Mauro had not seen in 20 years. It was dramatic from our blue-sky perch; the French Alps,  distant spikes of white.

Scattered across each skiing paradise are small wood and stone structures housing restaurants and bars. Virtually all serve versions of local cuisine: dried meats, lardo (delicious thin-cut fat bordered with prosciutto), Fontina, blue, and other cheeses; polentas, soups, fresh-made breads, honey-soaked chestnuts, sinful pastries, etc. I made Pam promise not to tell my cardiologist!

Mauro and Andrea know which are the best and the best priced. The places they took us were steeped in authenticity; not too many tables, reservations required. 

Pam and the chef

Each afternoon they dropped us back at Hotel Bijou on Saint Vincent’s main plaza. Pam’s birthday was mid-week. To celebrate, we drove with them and other new Italian friends to a tiny village several kilometers above Saint Vincent and dined in a two table restaurant where the 81-year old cook and her middle-aged son prepared one regional dish after another: steak tartare; polenta with cheese; potato,  sausage; rabbit; ribs;. Throughout the meal, local wines and beers. Toward the end, desserts, then home-stilled génépy, with its distinctive balsam taste. There was no room for more, when I saw the son spooning something into short tumblers: grappa-soaked blueberries to aid digestion.

Yes, it’s caloric. But it’s also a holiday, so I’ll choose to believe it gets worked off on the slopes or will get worked off at home in the gym. 

If you’re considering a trip like this, visit the Alpskitour website. You can leave skis, poles and boots at home. Everything is available. Our gear, high quality and well-tuned, came from La Genzianella Sport in Cervinia. 

Yesterday we took taxis and trains to the pretty village of Castlerotto in the Dolomites where we’ll be on a six-day ski safari with Inspired Italy. Will report on that next week


  1. Jim McGuire says:

    You will find Dolomite skiing as exciting as Aosta Valley. The Sella Ronda is one winding valley all the way around the Sella Groupa

  2. I just returned from a trip to the Aosta Valley and it is just as you described. We skied Cervinia, Courmayeur, La Thuile, La Rosiere, and Pila. The best skiing vacation I’ve ever taken! The food was fabulous, the people very welcoming and the skiing superb. We wanted to go to Verbier, but didn’t have the time. BTW- the skiing is VERY cheap compared to the US!

  3. Bruce Sherman says:

    Gressoney ain’t so bad either…starting point for some great Heli-Skiing.

  4. Hi Jon, really pleased you and Pam had such a great trip. Perhaps next time you’ll head up to Monterosa and ski Champoluc, Gressoney and Alagne. I would love to show you the amazing back country here.

    Best wishes
    John Arnold
    Mindful Mountains.

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