The weekend of my birthday trendy millennials amassed in Chamonix, France for something called The Ski Week. A week long, let’s call it a festival, where you ski all day and then enjoy epic après-ski parties. Probably in a hot tub. Most definitely with a bottle of Dom. And someone’s playing Daft Punk [because France!]. Actually, Daft Punk is here! Late night set! #aintnothinbutaparty
I may sound like I’m jealous, but really, I’m not. Under special circumstances I can get down, but this type of crowd is not usually for me. And definitely not my scene as a newbie skier. I’d much prefer a smaller mountain with plenty of beginner/intermediate slopes. And little pressure of being flattened as I weave back and forth to make my way down. Fortunately for me, I found skiing in Italy that checked all my boxes. 🙂
SECRET SKIING IN ITALY
In the Abruzzo region of central Italy [2 hour drive from Roma or Napoli] sits the modest Apennine ski town, Roccaraso. Abruzzo’s western Apennine Mountains just also happen to be the home of Italy’s fifth largest ski area, Skipass Alto Sangro. Pretty much a best kept secret by local Italians as the area is relatively free of non-IT tourists. And because it’s so elusive it was difficult to pull together our normal list of things to know and do. But lucky for you, we took good notes!
HOW TO GET THERE
Once again we used EasyTerra Car Rental. I’m going to become their biggest spokesperson if we keep getting these awesome deals – Friday thru Sunday only $35!!! Be sure to request snow chains as it’s illegal to drive without them when there’s snow covered roads. As mentioned above, the area is a quick drive from Roma or Napoli and by car is probably the most direct route. *There will be a €15 toll each way if coming from Roma.
For day trips, there does seem to be an express bus from the Napoli area that could be ideal – check out THIS site. If coming by train, you’ll need to get to the Venafro station and from Venafro bus to Roccaraso. Review THIS site for schedules but be sure to do extra research as it doesn’t appear the buses run all day and have limited times on weekends. Closest airport is Pescara at about 1 hour 20 minutes away and then Napoli or Roma [2 hours]. My advice: do yourself a favor and rent a car! Working out the train and bus connections seems unreliable and not worth the hassle – plus you’ll probably end up spending more.
ONCE YOU’RE THERE
Plenty of options for lodging. And if staying in Roccaraso, you’ll be closest to the ski parking areas at Aremogna and Pizzalto. We stayed at Hotel Petite Fleur which comes highly recommended from us. It’s quaint and a bit more traditional than our normal accommodations, but the hotel is clean and the staff is attentive and friendly. The husband [Brad] had mentioned we were coming for my birthday and when we arrived the room was stocked with chocolates and a special bottle of Eau de Parfum – how fancy!
I’ve read online about a bus you can pick up from Roccaraso and will shuttle to and fro the ski resort. But through all this sleuthing, I can’t I find a concrete company or price or where to pick up. The Skipass Alto Sangro site gives the most detail with time and hotel and suggests the roundtrip price to be €4. Ask your hotel before or when you arrive and if you happen to find more detail please comment and I’ll be sure to add it in!
As referenced, there are two main lift areas in Roccaraso – Aremogna and Pizzalto; however, your one ski pass [€37/each daily; €71 for 2-day] will allow you access to all 5 lift areas. We skied both of our days in Pizzalto and drove as it was the easiest option; there’s a free parking lot followed by two paid. The resort opens at 8:30a and I suggest getting there early if you need to rent equipment. We arrived at 9:30a and didn’t hit the slopes until after 11a and that’s even with a tag-team effort. I waited in the equipment line while Brad got the passes. Note that your photo will be taken for the ski pass. Since I wasn’t in line with Brad, he used my passport photo. Photo of a photo – meta-photo? You can leave your skis overnight for no charge and there’s a €3 fee to leave your boots otherwise take them with. Bonus for leaving your boots? Heated over night 🙂
The winter season of the Abruzzo region is generally from December to April and the mountainous areas can expect around 190 days of snow cover. With a combination of natural and artificial snow, you’ll experience a mix of variable and packed powder conditions and we found the trails to be a little icy in some areas. The novice prepared runs were a little congested but were easy enough for this newb to navigate and when Brad headed to the veteran trails the pistes were nearly deserted.
Altogether, if you’re looking for affordable and low-key skiing in Italy the Abruzzo region fits the bill. And if you can swing a mid-week trip you’ll have the slopes nearly to yourself with far less ski schools and massive, unorganized congestion at the lifts. I’m already looking forward to our trip back!
Bonus Cut: Need date night eats? Head to Ristorante Gio. Great staff – super friendly and helpful. And delish food. From the carpaccio to the raw seafood antipasti [the squid was amazing!!] and onto the primi and secondi of pasta bolognese and whole sea bream filleted tableside. Everything was perfectly seasoned and flavorful. It’s rare that we enjoy every dish – usually we can find at least one that didn’t hold up – but not the case at Ristorante Gio. It definitely wasn’t cheap [be aware: the seafood was €60 per kilo so make sure you ask!] but the dinner was well worth the euros.