This nation is the underdog of skiing in Europe (and it's all the better for it) – The Telegraph

According to science, Italy's ski resorts fall short of being the best in the world – which means fewer crowds and cheaper prices
While Italy overall may lack the kind of multi-million-euro infrastructure that boosts the likes of France and Switzerland to the top of the international ski resort tree, it’s becoming an increasingly attractive destination for British skiers. It does so because it majors in two factors that are sometimes in short supply among its Alpine neighbours – oodles of charm coupled with comparatively low prices.
Overall, there’s an emphasis on La Dolce Vita – enjoying life to its full in a laidback way. It’s the maxim that millions of Italians employ in their daily existence, so it’s inevitable that their ski resorts wholeheartedly embrace it. 
Skiers of a certain age may recall a long-ago period when snow cover across the country to the south of the Alpine backbone was notoriously unreliable. Lifts were primitive by today’s standards and snow cannons had yet to be invented. You couldn’t always guarantee that your winter holiday in Italy would be a ski holiday. 
In those days, lifties tended to live the good life. At midday sharp, they turned off the lifts for a full hour, opening up a bottle of Orvieto or Chianti and settling down to the much more serious business of lunch. 
Yes, it’s true that Italy is not always blessed with the same amount of snowfall as the countries immediately to the north of it. But high-altitude Cervinia on the frontier with Zermatt has year-round cover and Sestriere on the French border is confidently reliable. Both are among the resorts that sometimes catch the weather patterns that drift upwards from the Mediterranean to produce huge dumps of the white stuff. 
These days, lift systems are regularly being updated, and so sophisticated is the snowmaking around the Sella Ronda in particular that resorts there can open 200km of flawless pistes without almost any assistance at all from Mother Nature. 
The ski holiday emphasis in Italy tends to be based around fun and relaxation, rather than sporting excellence on the slopes and as a result the enjoyment factor is all the higher. Holiday here, and you come away with batteries fully recharged after skiing your heart out and feasting on some of the best cuisine in Europe. Switzerland is the only comparable country for the sheer quality of its mountain restaurants. But the eye-watering prices that this incurs in resorts such as Zermatt, Verbier, and Andermatt bear zero comparison with their Italian counterparts.   
Nowhere do you eat for better value for money, be it in a remote corner of the Monterosa ski area, Alta Badia or – of course – in the Dolomites. Nothing is more enticing than the scent of cooking wafting at midday from a tiny wayside mountain hut above, say, Courmayeur or Cortina d’Ampezzo where an unknown chef is working his solitary magic on a tiny two-ring gas stove, replicating a secret pasta sauce passed down to him by his grandmother and from hers before her. Delicious culinary aromas draw you in from the piste outside and, when the weather is cold and visibility poor, you leave only reluctantly just in time to catch the last lift home. 
Not only is a ski holiday in an Italian resort much more chilled than in its highly-strung rivals in France, Switzerland and Austria, it is also considerably cheaper. Precious euros will stretch a lot further here compared with other mainstream Alpine destinations – during straitened times Italy is a sensible choice for anyone tightening their budget. Families with young children are welcomed even in the chicest hotels and restaurants too. But be warned that childcare is not as regularly available as elsewhere in Europe – Italians tend to holidays with free carers in tow in the form of grandparents. 
Everything from a cup of coffee and lunch on the mountain to a lift pass and equipment rental is cheaper. True, major resorts fail to muster the same volume of outrageously expensive five-star hotels – even Italy’s ski capital of Cortina d’Ampezzo is outranked 21:5 by Courchevel in this respect. But, for me, nothing beats a friendly hostelry that’s still being run after 50 years by the latest generation of the same family. Italians make the greatest ski hosts, winning on quality, attention to detail, value and a genuine welcome. 
Quite simply the Italian Dolomites are the world’s most beautiful mountains, with their soaring cathedrals of limestone that turn such a startling shade of pink at sunset. On the home run back down to Cortina or San Cassiano in the dying light of the day the colours are so intense that it’s hard to concentrate on your next turn. 
If you travel via Venice Airport, you can combine skiing with a visit to the floating city. Get an early flight, hop on a vaporetto (water taxi) outside the door of the arrivals terminal and lunch near the Grand Canal on risotto al nero (squid risotto) and other seafood fresh from the lagoon, before travelling on into the mountains. Winter is the best season to explore Venice when it is emptier and its glittering canal, with the dome of San Simeon Piccolo beyond, all the more heart-stopping. 
Unbeknown to many, Italy is blessed with a number of giant ski areas, suitable for every level of sliding. For variety of terrain, the central core of the Dolomites is unbeatable. This area is home to the famous Sella Ronda – a circular network of lifts and pistes around the Gruppo del Sella, a majestic massif, taking in a host of resorts. 
The vast Monterosa ski area is ideal for both intermediates and experts, with Champoluc and Gressoney suited to beginners and intermediates, while Alagna rivals Chamonix for its demanding off-piste terrain. 
Also in the Aosta Valley, Cervinia has guaranteed snow cover, long intermediate runs, and the opportunity to ski over to Zermatt beneath the iconic Matterhorn. 
The Milky Way (Via Lattea) is a collection of Italian and French resorts including Sestriere, Sauze d’Oulx, and Montgenèvre linked by 400km of mainly rolling intermediate pistes. Then there’s magnificent Madonna di Campiglio, Kronplatz and a host of smaller resorts that offer a wide variety of skiing. 
Almost everywhere you go in the mountains of Italy, ancient lifts are now being regularly upgraded as the country’s resorts undergo a renaissance. After a span of 70 years, the Winter Olympics will return to Cortina in 2026. Let’s hope the Games will act as a showcase for Italian skiing and its myriad resorts, which at present fail to gain the recognition that they deserve. 
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