Italy’s buget-friendly bolthole
The Italian resort of Livigno is set in a high, wide, remote valley close to the Swiss border, meaning that airport transfers to get here are long and winding. Most of the slopes are above the tree line, and Livigno is known as ‘Little Tibet’ because of its height and remoteness. For centuries it has enjoyed duty-free status, which makes shopping here (especially for alcohol and tobacco) a bargain.
The slopes suit beginners and moderate intermediates best, and add up to a modest 115km of pistes. Thanks to its high altitude the resort is very snow sure and has a long season that lasts from the end of November to the beginning of May. The main terrain park is top-notch and has hosted many international competitions – indeed the resort will host the freestyle and snowboarding events of the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Olympics.
Inside the resort . . .
The resort village stretches for 4km from beyond the Carosello gondola at one end to beyond the Cassana gondola into the opposite end of the Carosello side at the other. The local road is lined with accommodation for most of its length – mostly built in attractive, low-rise chalet style. There’s also some accommodation out near the Mottolino gondola on the other side of the village.
The village centre at the northern end, with gondolas towards the Costaccia sector of Carosello, is a pleasant car-free pedestrian area just over 1km long that is lined with hotels, apartments, bars, restaurants and shops. It includes side streets that branch off towards the main road that bypasses the village.
An efficient free bus service with three different lines operates from 7.30am to 8pm, linking all parts of the resort with the main lift bases. From 9.30am to 4pm a shuttle runs every 10 minutes between the Mottolino and Carosello gondolas.
A big attraction of Livigno is the duty-free shopping. As well as huge savings on alcohol and tobacco, there are worthwhile savings to made on perfumes, cameras, computers and other electronic equipment, and leather and fur clothing. Fuel is around 50 per cent cheaper than in the rest of Italy.
There are several beginner areas on the lower slopes of the ski area. Most of the pistes for intermediates and better are above the tree line, and most of these are undemanding cruises, including some very long runs of almost 1,000m vertical.
There is also 30km of good and varied cross-country tracks.
Many of the old wooden houses in the traffic-free village centre have been converted into atmospheric bars, restaurants and clubs. As well as lots of lively places to eat and drink, there’s a leisure centre, Aquagranda. As well as an indoor pool and gym there’s a wellness area with saunas of different temperatures, a steam room, salt water and normal pools with massage beds, treatment rooms and relaxation areas.
One of the most inaccessible resorts in Europe, it takes the best part of three hours to get there from Innsbruck, and even longer from Italian hub airports. It’s worth the long journey, though, not only for the quality of its terrain parks but for its low prices and reliable snow cover.
On the slopes . . .
Navigate Livigno’s ski area with our insider’s knowledge of the local slopes and beyond, on and off piste, ski schools and terrain parks.
The slopes in Livigno are split on either side of the valley resort village. Most accommodation offers easy access to the Carosello-Costaccia-Cassana side of the valley, with gondolas at each end of the slopes and drag-lift and chairlifts in between linking to pistes to the gondolas. The slopes here face mainly south-east and get the morning sun. From the high point of the optimistically named Carosello 3000 (actually 2,797m), there’s a piste down the other side of the ridge to Federia, which is served by a fast six-pack.
On the opposite side of the valley is the Mottolino sector, accessed by a gondola or a high-speed chairlift. The main slopes here face west and get the afternoon sun, but pistes over the back to Trepalle get the morning sun – the return is via a fast chairlift.
Although most of Livigno’s runs are classified as red, most are not steep, are very well groomed and can be tackled even by unadventurous intermediates. They also usually have very good snow because of the high altitude and lots of snowmaking. The blue run from the top of the Costaccia area under the fast chairlift is a delightful easy cruise. The blue linking back to here from Carosello is almost flat and poling may be needed. More adventurous intermediates will love the not-so-steep groomed black runs on Mottolino.
There are good beginner areas and short, easy blue runs at the foot of both sides of the slopes, but much more choice on the Carosell0-Costaccia-Cassana side. Progress to longer blue runs is possible on both sides.
For experts, the main interest is off piste and heliskiing. Every Sunday from 6pm to 7.30pm the resort organises meetings at the Birrificio Livigno (the local brewery), where freeride experts advise on safe off-piste, the equipment needed (which includes transceiver, probe and shovel) and how to check the daily avalanche report. Heliskiing with a mountain guide is available in packages from one helidrop (€190 per person for four people) to two-, three- and six-day packages which can include ski touring too.
Keen intermediates and experts might like to buy the Alta Valtellina lift pass. This covers the slopes of Bormio, around an hour away by bus, and some other ski areas as well as Livigno. Both the Livigno and Alta Valtellina lift passes include a 50 per cent discount on a one-day pass for St Moritz in Switzerland – also an hour away by bus.
Livigno is one of Europe’s best resorts for terrain parks – hence it being chosen to host the freestyle and snowboarding events of the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Olympics. The main park is on the back side of the Mottolino slopes and has three lines for different standards and a jib-line. At the top of Carosello 3000 there’s The Beach, where people chill out sunbathing among palm trees and coconuts, listening to music and watching the antics in an easy terrain park and jumps into an airbag. A snowcross course starts here too.
As well as all that, freestyle attractions include another park near the Amerikan lift in town, a 1.2km freeridecross course combining natural terrain features with man-made jumps on Mottolino, and various other mini-parks scattered around.
The ski schools have a good reputation and English is widely spoken.
The main lifts are all gondolas or fast chairlifts but drag-lifts and a couple of slow chairs serve the lower beginner slopes.
Who should go?
Livigno is one of Europe’s best resorts for terrain parks – hence it being chosen to host the freestyle and snowboarding events of the 2026 Milan-Cortina Winter Olympics. The ski area is great for beginners and low intermediates – and parents who’d rather leave the terrain park to their kids. Livigno suits those on a tight budget partly because it has a special tax status that dates back to Napoleonic times. There’s no VAT, which makes drinks, petrol and consumer goods some of the cheapest in Europe.
Know before you go . . .
British Embassy/Consulate: Via 20 Settembre, 80a, 00187 Roma; 0039 06 4220 0001; gov.uk
Police: dial 113
Fire: dial 118
Emergency services from mobile phone: dial 112
Tourist office: See livigno.eu, the website for the Livigno Tourist Board, for piste maps, weather reports, lift status, webcams, traffic details and local event listings. Pick up maps, leaflets and other information from the office in the centre of the resort.
Telephone code: from abroad, dial 00 39, then leave off the zero at the start of the 10-figure number.
Time difference: +1 hour
Local laws & etiquette
- A simple ‘buon giorno’ in the morning or ‘buona sera’ in the afternoon or evening goes a long way. ‘Ciao’ is for friends, family or young people. If somebody thanks you by saying ‘grazie’, it’s polite to say ‘prego’ (you’re welcome) in return.
- Italians tip very little; 5% is ample, and it’s often enough just to round the bill up to the nearest 5 or 10 euros