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Aosta or Dolomites - family trip for half term 22

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Planning a family trip for half term 2022... just planning, but thought I'd poll the collected SnowHead hivemind.

I would like to take my family to Italy, and am weighing up Aosta Monterosa ( Champoluc? Gressoney?) against Dolomite Sella Ronda resorts (Val Gardena? Arrabba?). Does anyone have experience of a family self-drive from the UK to either Monterosa or the Dolomites? And I'm guessing it would be a hotel rather than a chalet.

We are a family of intermediate cruisers, fond of the blues and reds of Val Thorens on SFaB trips. But even the delights of Val Thorens in springtime have their limits. For our next trip, I want trees, and nice lunchtime stops!

Timing has to be half term. @emmaj is a teacher, and various junior Js will have exams in 2022.

We would be driving there. We are fairly experienced in driving to 3 V, stopping on the way. I'd imagine stopping somewhere like Bourg en Bresse for Aosta. I don't know where one would stop on the way to the Dolomites - Innsbruck?

Of course, as it stands all bets are off for planning trips. Who knows if any trips will be possible; there are many threads elsewhere on SH where people who want to can debate the likelihood of Covid or Brexit putting the kibosh on travel. I'm asking this on the basis that we would be able to drive to the mountains to ski.
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@tomj, I have done half-term in Gressoney three times, it wasn't busy apart from at the weekend.
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Aosta and surroundings would be an easier drive from the UK (via the Mont Blanc tunnel) than the Dolomites. Quite a bit of skiing options that western side, with a lot less "off motorway" driving. It's quite a schlep up to somewhere like Arabba - though I've only driven to Arabba from the French Alps, through the MB tunnel, not from the UK. More chance of serious disruption from traffic and/or snow going to the Dolomites too, I'd guess.

Arabba might not be the best choice of centre for cruising the blues. But the Dolomites are unrivalled in so many ways!
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I am a fan of the Dolomites. And if you want cruisey pistes and lunch stops then you are also a fan. It might be that you just don’t know it yet. Which resort you go for depends on other factors such as type of accommodation / cost / après ski / etc
Maybe somewhere like Corvara / San Cassiano?
We go for San Vigilio which may not suit you as it is not well linked into the main Sella Ronda central resorts. But it is only 90 minutes from Innsbruck. So if you are driving to one of the more Northerly towns / villages then you could stop overnight further North than Innsbruck
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I've driven to Dolomites from London a few years ago early February (not half term). Got the Friday off and left Thursday night via tunnel. Drove all the way via Luxembourg, Stuggart, Munich, Inntel motorway and Innsbruck to a place called Steinach am Brenner. Had a lovely afternoon and dinner round the village and then went night skiing on the local hill (Bergeralm). Up early next day (Saturday) for an easy drive to Selva. Skied all day then checked into apartment. Way back was after skiing the following Saturday over Fern Pass and we stopped at a roadside hotel near Ulm (Q Hotel) for the drive back on the Sunday. Back home in time for dinner. 8.5 days skiing for 6 days off work. Was a great but tiring trip. Not suit able for some though but we loved it.
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Driving from the southern part of England to the Aosta valley is a straightward almost non stop drive. I would not contemplate an overnight stop driving there. It is a far tougher drive to the Dolomites. Though we did once drive from Venice to the Midlands without an overnight stop it is not an easy drive and we would not do it again. The last couple of times we have driven to the Dolomites we have stopped overnight in the Saarbrucken area. The drive across Germany, through Austria then across to the Dolomites is very slow. In fact, though longer, I would reccomend crossing the Alpes further west and approaching the Dolomites from the south. You could then find yourself driving past the likes of Champoluc but with another day's driving ahead of you.

Last year we found it took us about 9 hours to get from home to Sarrbruken then 10 hours to get from there to Alleghe (about an hour less to get to Wolkenstein). It takes me about 14 hours to get to Les Arcs and I imagine about an hour less to get to other side of the Mont Blanc tunnel. These times were with very favourable queues at the channel tunnel. They could easily be 2 hours longer with the normal tunnel delays.

To me the skiing was slightly more intersting in the Monterosa area but much more extensive in the Dolomites. Both areas are bashed to death and will suite blue piste cruisers to a T. Both areas have restraurants so you can get lunch. I cannot comment on the difference between them since a plate of pasta is a plate of pasta. The scenery in the Monterosa area is magnificent. It is even better in the Dolomites.
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Quote:

They could easily be 2 hours longer with the normal tunnel delays.

which at half term are highly probable
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johnE wrote:
I would reccomend crossing the Alpes further west and approaching the Dolomites from the south. You could then find yourself driving past the likes of Champoluc but with another day's driving ahead of you.

Another route is to go through Switzerland: Basle - Lucerne - Gotthard tunnel - Lugarno - Milan then to the Dolomites from the south.
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It's quite a way from the Italian motorways up to somewhere like Alleghe - I've done it twice, once when all the passes were closed. The proximity of a lot of good skiing to the motorways on the Aosta side would be a deciding factor for me, driving with the family, especially at half term. Queues at the MB Tunnel can be significant, too. When I was researching the best way of getting to Alleghe from the northern French Alps several Swiss-based Snowheads warned me off the Swiss route. I'd only contemplate driving to the Dolomites at half term if I were able to arrange extra travelling days to avoid the worst of the weekend traffic which could be awkward with school dates. The Dollies are wonderful though - and cheap flights to one of the Italian airports, and hiring a car, would be the way I'd go!
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@rjs, That was the route I was thinking about but couldn't remember the details.

@pam w, in 2019 a friend of mine set off to drive from Les Arcs to Alleghe. He sensibly ignored the Petit st Bernard and took the Frejus tunnel instead. I don't think he even got as far as the Italian motorway system before the snow on the road caused him to stop for the night. You always hve to be flexible when travelling in winter and be prepared. We did drive from Les Arcs to Misurina one summer over the Petite st Bernard. It took all day. At least in winter the scourge of camper vans is minimised.

There are risks flying to Venice aside from Covid. The first is that there are not that many direct flights. The last tme we flew to to Venice our luggage didn't make the transfer at Frankfurt and was 3 days before they delivered it to us. Innsbruck is another option and I think there are more flights during the winter. The second is cost. Last summer we discovered that flights alone were more expensive than driving including overnight hotel. The car high was also on top of that. Yes we did go to the Dolomites last summer.
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Being a bit reluctant to stay in mountain huts due to Covid we investigated staying in hotels in St. Ulrich or Wolkenstein and the prices were eye watering. In the end we stayed in a hotel in Sala, just sout of Alleghe and drove more than we planned.
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Might be worth also considering the Brenta Dolomites. It’s nearly all cruisey blues and reds (not overly demanding), much of it tree-lined. Some really nice mountain huts/restaurants and not overly expensive. If you are happy without lively towns, stay in Folgarida. If you want a bit more going on, look at Madonna di Campiglio.

The area offers a good feeling of travel, decent uplift (in the main), more challenging stuff if required and is very picturesque.
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Quote:

It's quite a way from the Italian motorways up to somewhere like Alleghe - I've done it twice, once when all the passes were closed.

Sorry - I meant Arabba. I've not driven to Alleghe, but from riding in a bus, it's a lot easier than getting to Arabba!
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@tomj, done the Dolomites 3 times driving from the UK, early morning crossing after 4 hour drive from our home, then stopped near Karlsruhe overnight in an Ibis , from there it took us 6 hours to the Dolomites. We travelled on a Friday morning in Germany so traffic was quite light, then went into Austria via the road from Garmisch dropping down into Innsbruck. Year later did the auto route via Kufstein and there isn't much in it depending on when you travel and the conditions.
Its a nice drive both ways and found the roads quite good, other than the road works from Stuttgart to Munich which I beleive are still ongoing.
Try not to travel on the weekends as it is really busy.
Have also driven to Aosta town coming in from Switzerland through the Saint Bernard tunnel and this is roughly the same distance as the Dolomites. Only skied in Pila so cannot comment on The Monterosa area.
My preference would be the Dolomites just on the scenery alone, just stunning.
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There's a big thread on half term self drive to Aosta Valley from last year with lots of info on it about getting the best of of a week there. We loved it. I wouldn't have wanted to drive further tbh.
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 Poster: A snowHead
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Quote:

I wouldn't have wanted to drive further tbh.


I've driven back and forth to the Alps a lot, both stopping overnight and one long drive (usually dependent on weather conditions). I wouldn't want to drive further than Aosta for a one week stay.
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tomj wrote:

We are a family of intermediate cruisers,



I cannot imagine a more appropriate area than the Sella Ronda group of resorts.

That being said I have never been during half term and as others have mentioned, the drive will be much longer than the Aosta alternative.
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I found the Sella Ronda crowded, with some significant lift queues, during the Birthday Bash. Other areas were much preferable - but I would have struggled to find them without some knowledgeable SH guides.
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I've skied in Aosta Valley last year at HT and have skied many places in the Dolomites at HT and other times.

I've never driven from UK in winter to ski, always flown into one of Milan, Verona or Venice airports (Turin is closest to Aosta though).

If you're definitely driving, I would say discount the Dolomites as it's so much further. You only have a week and straight back to work, it's not worth the slog.

So then it's a matter of where to go in Aosta Valley...

We stayed mid Valley not far from the motorway exit at Nus just east of Aosta and drove up to Champoluc, Cervinia, Courmayeur & La Thuile, all about 45-60mins drive. Pila gondola was only 10 mins away though.

We preferred to be central as we wanted to explore the different resorts, and accommodation was certainly cheaper away from the resorts, but the drive at the beginning and end of the day might not suit some.

If you base yourself at Gressoney, you will be realistically only skiing MonteRosa as it's a long way from there & back to anywhere else. You will pretty much ski this out in a couple of days, over to Champoluc and all around it one day, then over to Alagna and back the next, but if you don't mind repeating runs, it's a nice place and wasn't too crowded.

Courmayeur is in a stunning setting, the ski area is varied but small, you can ski it in a day. But combined with La Thuile and Pila, you could see quite a bit without too much driving about. Choose somewhere central to all three and do acouple of days in each. La Thuile was busy at the base and lift pass office on Sunday, but it has so much uplift there weren't queues up on the mountain, you can ski over to France here. Pila had a lot of British school trippers, which did impact a bit on the lower mountain, but as most were beginners, you could soon lose them by going higher around the bowl. The motorway is expensive here though, they want €23 flat rate anywhere between Aosta West and Mt Blanc Tunnel, consider using the main road SS26.

Cervinia combined with Zermatt is a vast area with iconic views of the Matterhorn and lots of long sweeping runs, we got right over to the Gornergrat on our day there. There's enough to keep you busy for a week if you can go over to Zermatt side, so if you based yourself there, you wouldn't need to go anywhere else.

There are a number of smaller resorts in Aosta Valley that we didn't try as we wanted to do the Big 5, but they might well be quieter in HT, particularly midweek.

https://www.bergfex.com/aostatal/

If you decide to fly, I can tell you more about the possibilities in the Dolomites.
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OK, just had a quick look, Gressoney is 11hrs from Calais via MB Tunnel, Arabba is 13.5hrs via Brenner Pass, so a fair bit extra, but German autobahns are free and no MB Tunnel to pay either, just the Austrian toll sticker and Brenner toll.

Closest areas in both...Courmayeur at 9.5hrs and Selva di ValGardena is just under 13hrs.

If you're driving from the UK via Brenner Pass and want cheaper accommodation, a good spot to stay would be along Val Badia, somewhere like Badia/Pedraces. There's the local hill at Santa Croce, you can ski over to La Villa for access to more. Or drive/skibus down to Piculin for access to the extensive Kronplatz area. You can also drive up to Corvara for quicker access to Sella Ronda and areas off it. If you want to pay more for convenience, many places in Colfosco are ski-in ski-out right onto Sella Ronda. Stunning location too!!

Plenty to keep you busy for 2 weeks!

You definitely need winter tyres for Germany & Austria though.

As Pam said, the Sella Ronda does get busy in peak season, particularly when Bavaria has school hols. There are areas on the periphery that are a lot quieter, particularly midweek when Italian daytrippers aren't about.
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@luigi, the Dolomites do have a reputation for being too far to drive but in reality it is possible- depending on exactly where you go.
San Vigilio (part of Kronplatz area) is 11 hours 31 minutes from Calais according to Google SatNav. 10 hours 49 minutes from Hook of Holland if you get the ferry from Harwich. 10 hours 42 minutes from Amsterdam if you live in the North and get the ferry from Newcastle. 10 hours 35 minutes from Rotterdam.
None of which I would care to do in a single stretch but perfectly possible and not too dissimilar to other destinations.
Winter tyres are an absolute MUST. I completely agree
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Quote:

Winter tyres are an absolute MUST

and chains. And a big shovel. Though my views are a bit affected by having driven to Arabba over a closed pass the Year the Snow Came and the Snowheads Didn't. There is definitely such a thing as Too Much Snow.
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rjs wrote:
johnE wrote:
I would reccomend crossing the Alpes further west and approaching the Dolomites from the south. You could then find yourself driving past the likes of Champoluc but with another day's driving ahead of you.

Another route is to go through Switzerland: Basle - Lucerne - Gotthard tunnel - Lugarno - Milan then to the Dolomites from the south.


This imo is quicker than going through Germany and Austria and over the Brenner Pass.

The driving is more relaxed through France and Switzerland with better roads than the German/Austrian route.
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Sweedish wrote:
rjs wrote:
johnE wrote:
I would reccomend crossing the Alpes further west and approaching the Dolomites from the south. You could then find yourself driving past the likes of Champoluc but with another day's driving ahead of you.

Another route is to go through Switzerland: Basle - Lucerne - Gotthard tunnel - Lugarno - Milan then to the Dolomites from the south.


This imo is quicker than going through Germany and Austria and over the Brenner Pass.

The driving is more relaxed through France and Switzerland with better roads than the German/Austrian route.


Calais to Moena in Val Di Fassa (good area for a base in SW Dolomites) via Reims-Basel-Gotthard-Lugano-Milan is showing around 15.5hrs on Google maps, tolls pretty much all the way in France & Italy plus Swiss vignette. I have driven through Switzerland in Summer, spectacular scenery, but for a quick week away it's got to be better to fly...or choose somewhere nearer to drive!!


Last edited by You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net. on Wed 10-02-21 20:42; edited 1 time in total
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@luigi, You can cut cross-country just after Reims to Nancy then through the Vosges to Colmar, it avoids a fair bit of tolls.
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rjs wrote:
@luigi, You can cut cross-country just after Reims to Nancy then through the Vosges to Colmar, it avoids a fair bit of tolls.


Yes, looking closely, that's the route Google suggested: Nancy-Luneville-St Die des Vosges.

According to viaMichelin, the tolls for the route one-way assuming a passenger car: €33.50 in France, €21.40 in Italy and €38.50 for Swiss vignette, though you can use the Swiss vignette for the return.

Total: €148

You can usually rent a car for a week and refill it with fuel for that in N Italy in winter!

You pays your money and takes your choice! snowHead
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Pay more for tunnel? The MB tunnel is quite expensive but I recall one or two of the Swiss ones are free.
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Wow, Snowheads never disappoints! I'm very grateful to you all, much to ponder here.

The Sella Ronda is definitely on my wish list. Based on the advice here, maybe not for a family road trip in February. Maybe I'll just have to enjoy it on a Birthday Bash. Agreed, it does seem crazy to plan to drive across the Alps in winter time. Some interesting suggestions on route, I'll have a play around with GoogleMaps but you can't really beat repeated personal experience.

The right way to do it must be by flying into Italy and approaching from the south. I think we are past the era of cheap flights, if they ever were very cheap in the peakest of peak weeks in February. Buying flights and transfers for 6 people can work out pricey, but may be better for everyone's sanity than a couple of days in the car!

I'm going to look further at the Aosta valley. I do remember that thread about driving down, so will trawl through that.
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Gressoney erc gives more iff piste and difficult skiing.
Dollies better cruising.

Dolomites about galf the orice to drive to - Luxemviurg fuel, bo tolls and no MB tunnel..
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Gressoney erc gives more iff piste and difficult skiing.
Dollies better cruising.

Dolomites about galf the orice to drive to - Luxemviurg fuel, bo tolls and no MB tunnel..
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 Poster: A snowHead
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luigi wrote:
rjs wrote:
@luigi, You can cut cross-country just after Reims to Nancy then through the Vosges to Colmar, it avoids a fair bit of tolls.


Yes, looking closely, that's the route Google suggested: Nancy-Luneville-St Die des Vosges.


Or, if you’re not trying for the quickest route, Brussels, Luxembourg (cheap fuel), Nancy then as above. Toll free.
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Plenty of driving advice above, If you plump for Aosta Valley, I'd agree with Luigi, Aosta town makes great base to visit a lot of resorts and give some variety for your week. Plenty of accomodation be it hotel or self catering in Aosta, and Pila resort is right on the doorstep (couple of ski hire places at foot of the gondola if needed), and La Thuile/La rosiere, Courmayer, Champoluc/Monterosa, Cervinia all within 45/60 mins drive. We did all of those bar Cervinia in last years half term (fly/drive) and had a great week. All good resorts, not particularly crowded / queue-y despite HT, with a mix of terrains, plenty of cruisy blue/ red with some more challenging stuff for those that want it, and great cheap food etc on the mountain.

Champoluc/Monterosa was truly stunning on sunny day, but you're some way out from the other resorts if you base yourself there, and if its windy etc then the access over the valley tops is very high and prone to closure. Staying more centrally gives you more choice.
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luigi wrote:
Sweedish wrote:
rjs wrote:
johnE wrote:
I would reccomend crossing the Alpes further west and approaching the Dolomites from the south. You could then find yourself driving past the likes of Champoluc but with another day's driving ahead of you.

Another route is to go through Switzerland: Basle - Lucerne - Gotthard tunnel - Lugarno - Milan then to the Dolomites from the south.


This imo is quicker than going through Germany and Austria and over the Brenner Pass.

The driving is more relaxed through France and Switzerland with better roads than the German/Austrian route.


Calais to Moena in Val Di Fassa (good area for a base in SW Dolomites) via Reims-Basel-Gotthard-Lugano-Milan is showing around 15.5hrs on Google maps, tolls pretty much all the way in France & Italy plus Swiss vignette. I have driven through Switzerland in Summer, spectacular scenery, but for a quick week away it's got to be better to fly...or choose somewhere nearer to drive!!


It's not the quickest way agreed. But it's the most relaxed driving to the Dolomites imo and as its main motorway pretty much all the way the roads are pretty much always clear with plenty of rest stops and facilities en-route with little chance of actually driving on snow much. Taking your car also allows for benefits that flying does not..like taking extra skis Very Happy

I've don't the Dolomites for 3 days skiing before (I really like Alta Badia) i would suggest this is not long enough for the time taken to get there and back...but sometimes you have to do these things when the opportunity arises.

If the op is concerned about lack of ski terrain in the Valle D'Aosta I suggest basing perhaps nearer to La Thuile (my personal fav resort in the area) and then going off to Courmayeur or ...dare I say....the Chamonix Valley!! There is an agreement with the Tunnel that if you buy a special ticket (I think it's 2 day minimum) that the tunnel is free. If you stay near Pre St Didier (a good base for La Thuile and Courmayeur) you can be in Chamonix in about 30mins. Quicker than getting to Aosta. Just a thought...

You can get into Vda by the St Bernard Tunnel. Toll is lower and return is not limited to a week unlike the MB tunnel.
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Quote:

All good resorts, not particularly crowded / queue-y despite HT

Possibly because there isn't a half term holiday as such in Italy.
Quote:

Plenty of accomodation be it hotel or self catering in Aosta, and Pila resort is right on the doorstep (couple of ski hire places at foot of the gondola if needed), and La Thuile/La rosiere, Courmayer, Champoluc/Monterosa, Cervinia all within 45/60 mins drive.

That's a long drive every morning there and back. If you are only going for a week's holiday that is up to 2 hours a day spent sitting in a car
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I have a related question.

As someone looking at half term 22 in the alta badia area how bad does the sella ronda get at half term?

Currently Venice flights are cheap and we are looking for an option that would allow our friend who's a teacher to come. It's all idle speculation currently as we dont want to book until the summer.
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On the point about basing in one location and driving each day to ski here or there - that's something I'd consider if it were just me and a mate, but it's definitely not the way I would choose to spend a family holiday. Particularly not if we had just spent a long time in the car getting to wherever in the first place.

Still, this is all in the realms of 'fantasy ski holiday' at the moment. I'm learning a lot of interesting things about routing and the relative benefits of this or that way of getting through the mountains: MB, Gotthard or St Bernard tunnels, Vs Brenner pass. All could be bottlenecks, all could be severely affected by normal winter conditions.
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Quote:

As someone looking at half term 22 in the alta badia area how bad does the sella ronda get at half term?


I'm hoping to be there the same week having missed it this year after 5 years in a row.

The Sella Ronda doesn't get too bad at half term, the worst time is when half term clashes with Carnivale but in 2022 Carnivale is the week of the 1st March (Ash Wednesday) so it should be fine.

And you'll only do the Sella Ronda once or twice as there's so much great skiing elsewhere that even on a busy week there's no reason to avoid the area.
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johnE wrote:
Quote:

All good resorts, not particularly crowded / queue-y despite HT

Possibly because there isn't a half term holiday as such in Italy.
Quote:

Plenty of accomodation be it hotel or self catering in Aosta, and Pila resort is right on the doorstep (couple of ski hire places at foot of the gondola if needed), and La Thuile/La rosiere, Courmayer, Champoluc/Monterosa, Cervinia all within 45/60 mins drive.

That's a long drive every morning there and back. If you are only going for a week's holiday that is up to 2 hours a day spent sitting in a car


Courmayer was about 30 mins each way, La Thuile 40 mins, Champ 45 mins, and Pila 5 mins, all easy valley bottom driving mainly on dual carriageway. Also you often you can have a 15 mins stroll to the gondola if you are staying "in resort" you need to factor against.

Yes its not ski in ski out, but then you get a good variety and choice each morning to vary where you go if weather is poorer at one end of valley to the other. Its not for everyone, I certainly wouldn't do it with little kids, and probably wouldn't do it every year, but it worked well for us (2 dads and 2 teenagers). It gave the teenagers a chance to catch-up on social media!!

If you want Italy - a much better bet than France at HT, what about Sestriere or Sauze d'Olux. similar drive to Aosta, but one big ski area in via latte, a lot of terrain to explore.
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olderscot wrote:
Quote:

As someone looking at half term 22 in the alta badia area how bad does the sella ronda get at half term?

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Thanks! Have been before but only in quiet weeks!
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olderscot wrote:
Quote:

As someone looking at half term 22 in the alta badia area how bad does the sella ronda get at half term?


I'm hoping to be there the same week having missed it this year after 5 years in a row.

The Sella Ronda doesn't get too bad at half term, the worst time is when half term clashes with Carnivale but in 2022 Carnivale is the week of the 1st March (Ash Wednesday) so it should be fine.

And you'll only do the Sella Ronda once or twice as there's so much great skiing elsewhere that even on a busy week there's no reason to avoid the area.


1st March 2022 is Shrove (Fat) Tuesday/Mardi Gras/Carnevale/Fasching, it's the high point of the pre-Lenten carnivals, the party carries on up until midnight.

Then Lent starts on Ash Wednesday 2nd March 2022, time to mark your forehead with ash, start the fasting, praying and self-denial for 40 days!! wink

But you're right, it doesn't clash with English HT in 2022
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