Resort Guide: Livigno, Italy

Livigno is situated in the Spöl valley in the northern Italian Alps, not too far from the Swiss border and St.Moritz. The traditional village is essentially spread along one long 10km road which runs through the wide valley, with the ski area on either side. All of the action is located in the small centre and either side of the street that runs through it. The village retains its duty-free status, and is a great place to try and pick up a bargain. The shopping prices don’t really extend into restaurants and bars though, but it is still one of the cheaper places to head to. The village sits at 1800m and the season is very snow-sure, lasting into May. Early and late season the resort offers free lift passes if you book with certain hotels.

The Parks

The Italians take their freestyle (and shred fashion!) seriously, and Livigno has a long and well-deserved reputation for building good parks; it was host to the first three years of the Burton European Open, and hosts the TTR 5*River Jump which Jamie Nicholls came 4th in last season. There are two main terrain parks competing on opposite sides of the valley.

On one side of the valley is the Mottolino Swatch Snowpark, served by the Trepalle chairlift. It usually features four long kicker lines for differing abilities, including a crazy pro line with its 25m booters, and each line has four hits. They don't build the superpipe anymore but the the top section features an airbag. A bit lower down is a separate jib area with various features ranging from easy to tech. On the other side of the valley is the Carosello 3000 terrain park. This 1km long park usually features three long lines of ten or so features. It is geared towards to the intermediate rider and mixes some interesting jib features with the kickers and they have an airbag as well. Running alongside this park is a fun little boardercross banked corner course, called the Boarderzoo. Apparently it’s really designed for kids, but that shouldn’t stop you getting stuck in!

Don’t forget that all parks require you to wear a helmet in Italy – no helmet and you won’t get far. If you don't have one, then pop  into the chillout huts in the park and they'll lend you one usually in exchange for your passport.

The Powder

Going off-piste without a guide has been banned here ever since December 2010 and you risk a fine of between 50-500 euros if you get caught – and possibly even a jail sentence if you accidentally set off an avalanche! Which is a bit of a bummer. They don’t seem to enforce this strictly, but remember that it may well invalidate your travel insurance if you need to claim.

The good news is that last season they introduced six designated freeride routes on the Mottolino mountain. Pick up a copy of the freeride map as it provides information on each route to makes sure you don't end up somewhere beyond your ability level. The resort stresses the importance of safety, and provides good value guiding and courses, and will even provide you with the necessary avalanche gear.

If you ignore the advice there are some nice bowls to ride with some hikes and traverses from the Della Neve to the valley floor, but it is still best to hire a guide. There are plenty of stream and gulley lines that run into the lower forested areas on both sides of the valley, but the trees do get tight quickly. Runs under the Mottolino gondola into the lighter trees can be fun, but you’ll need to be careful crossing the road if you venture too far down. As with most places you’ll find plenty of easy fun stuff between the pistes, and the geography of the mountain here means there are lots of banks and small drops to hit.

The Pistes

You’ll have the 110km of pisted terrain licked within a few days, however there are plenty of well groomed, wide motorway pistes perfect for cruising and it’s a good place to spend a week. You can get serious air off some of the undulating slopes on the Carosello side of the valley, so be careful not to chop someone’s head off when you’re tanking it! The area doesn’t have too many steep runs but the best ones are over at Della Neve. It’s a good resort for learning if the beginners in your party can put up with the drag lifts on the lower slopes; the pistes here are nice and wide and separated from the main area, so there is no intimidating through traffic. If you get fed up with drags then take the gondola and slow chair to the Vallandrea area and do loops of the four-man chair.

The Parties

The resort attracts a good crowd who come here to party, and whilst the duty free prices don’t tend to have any real effect on the price of drinks in bars, the staff tend to free pour the spirits in large quantities. At the bottom of almost every lift in the village you’ll find at least an après ski umbrella bar that is pumping with dodgy Euro tunes or Italian dance music – if not with hundreds of people. Après is pretty popular but most bars don’t really get going until after you’ve eaten, brushed up and got the medallion out. You won’t have any issues finding bars, and the obligatory Kuhstall bar in the centre of the village is a pretty good place to start your search. Most of the bars are closed by 2am, so head to Kokodi which is the big nightclub in town and open until 5am.