The Great Italian Skiing Adventure

My family and I love to ski. We haven’t gone since we moved to Italy 10 months ago, probably because there was so much else to do and the balmy weather made us forget it was even ski season. When we did remember, we couldn’t figure out how to get tickets online. Maybe it was because the website is glitchy. Or our internet is glitchy. Or because we were using the automatic translate feature to get the site from Italian to English, which delivered such helpful booking options as “Go on,” or “Out.” Now, we could have perused the website in Italian, as was intended. But our Italian isn’t that strong yet. We’re really good at saying hello and ordering food and picking out gelato flavors but there are lots of words we don’t know, which is especially true when it comes to ski vocabulary.

(Side note/Public Service Announcement: When I was a kid growing up in Montana, I remember people saying things like “If they’re going to live in America, they should know how to speak English.” Clearly, the poor souls who said these things had no idea how hard it is to learn another language with any measure of fluency. We’ve been at it for a year now and are still nowhere near fluent. So, next time you encounter someone struggling to speak your language, please be kind. It may take a year, or two, or 30 – or they may never fully make it at all because it’s freaking hard. Show them some compassion and use Google Translate on your phone when needed. Thank you for your time.)

Anyway, we finally figured out how to get adult tickets online, but no matter how hard we tried, we couldn’t manage to add the kids’ tickets. An Italian friend even tried to help and couldn’t figure it out. So, there’s that. We weren’t about to pay full price for the kids in our group, so we stalled out there for a few weeks.

But we couldn’t let the whole season pass without hitting the slopes, so we decided to just drive up there and try to figure it out in person. After all, the ski resort was only an hour away!

It was not.

It was over two hours away with large sections of the journey traversing one-lane roads with two-lane traffic, zig-zagging up steep mountain slopes until even my husband, who was driving, got sick. At least the scenery was breathtakingly beautiful.

Not to be deterred, we continued until we arrived at the top of the mountain and discovered a delightful German-esque town, complete with quaint white houses and dark wood trim, but no snow. Like, none.

As we drove, we spotted a couple patches of it – at the back of a parking lot, under a dumpster, in the shady part behind a building – but that was it. I don’t know if you know this, but snow is kind of a requirement for skiing.

Nonetheless, we’d come all that way, so we kept driving.

Finally, we rounded a corner and spotted two tiny ski areas and two lifts – an Italian bunny hill! And, hallelujah, there was snow! It was manufactured snow laid like a perfectly edged carpet rolling down the slopes with grass lining both sides, but snow nonetheless! Our hope was rekindled.

We drove on until we located the main ski hill, which was similarly painted with snow. We had made it! Now we just needed to find parking.

Imagine your favorite ski hill – or any major attraction, really. Now imagine it without a parking lot.

This was that.

Ok, there were two miniscule parking areas (about what you’d find at a Gas n Grub) but that was it.

So where did everyone park?


The answer is everywhere.

Cars lined both sides of the windy mountain road, making the requisite two-way traffic almost impossible. Moving vehicles inched along, jockeying to pass without scraping either parked or oncoming cars.  Others had forsaken the roadway altogether and were parked almost vertically on the dirt mountainside or in the ditch lining the road. Complicating matters, everyone who’d been forced to park several kilometers away were now walking to the slopes on the narrow, windy road, with gear and children in tow. It was all the madness of downtown Delhi transposed onto the Italian Alps. 

We finally located a spot about 20-walking-minutes away, prominently marked with a Do Not Park sign. Normally we wouldn’t have parked there, but with no other options and everyone else ignoring the signage, we thought “When in Rome,” and went for it.

Walking through traffic to get to the ski slope was easier than I expected, since everyone was going so slow to avoid hitting each other. We just ducked behind parked cars every few seconds to let moving cars pass like real-world whack-a-mole (where we were the moles). Slowly, we made our way to the resort.

Now, at this particular ski hill, there isn’t a ski rental place; there are dozens. Ski rentals are privately owned enterprises, so you can elect to rent from a number of competing businesses. I thought this would be confusing or stressful but it was actually really fun to compare all the different offers.

We decided we should get tickets before getting our skis and boots, so we located the window and attempted to figure out what our options were. Through the language barrier we discerned that we could get tickets for a whole day or a half day, and we could buy them for the whole mountain or only certain sections.

“Momento,” we said to the ticket lady and stepped aside to discuss. Since there was only 45 minutes left until the half-day pricing started and we still needed to get our gear, we decided to go for the half-day option. And because the full-mountain pricing wasn’t much more than the partial pricing, we decided to go full bore.

I stepped back to the window to make our purchase. “Possiamo avere cinque biglietti per sciare tutta la montagna per mezza giornata?”

BOOM! Nailed it!

The attendant pointed up the mountain and said, “Hanno dovuto chiudere a causa del vento.”

I understood “chiudere” (to close) and “vento” (wind).

Turns out, in the 3.5 minutes that we were discussing our options, those options blew away on the rapidly accelerating wind. The ski resort had just decided to close the lifts for safety.


Life’s funny, isn’t it?

I asked the lady about any other options we might have. The only one she could think of was another resort that was still operating on the other side of the mountain, but which closed in less than an hour – not nearly enough time to get gear, walk back to the car and drive there.

Then I pointed to the little bunny hill on the map, the one we had driven past on our way to the resort, and asked if it was still open.

“Si, e aperto,” she replied.

Which just goes to show, if you just keep trying, you’ll find something, even if that something is an adorable fake-snow bunny hill.

After making our way back to the car, wiggling it out of the forbidden parking spot, driving back down the hill, and renting gear from the cutest father-son rental shop in town, we finally hit the slopes. And you know what? It was AWESOME. Turns out that after a year of not skiing, the bunny hills were just fine. There were even a few good-sized jumps for the kids to play on. And, because it was so late in the season, we had the place almost entirely to ourselves.

Plus, there was a rapidly thawing-out soccer field emerging from the snow beneath our skis, which was the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen on a ski hill.

What an adventure!

Published by Andrea

Writer and avid explorer of all things.

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