Great Little Ski Resorts: Aprica
There comes a point in the life of any skier when the cost of a lift-pass becomes perhaps the most important consideration when choosing a winter holiday destination.
That point is when the kids are no longer young enough to qualify for free lift-passes.
Skiing with a family is never, of course, a cheap pursuit. Flights, car hire, accommodation, ski hire, lift-passes, ski school: it all adds up. Over the past few years however, we have visited a number of great little resorts — all bar one in Italy — which make things just about manageable.
Trust me: if an impoverished travel writer like me can afford to take the kids to these resorts, anyone can.
So where’s Aprica?
An hour south of chic and expensive Bormio, straddled either side of the SS39 at the top of the Aprica Pass, a perennial feature of the Giro d’Italia. In fact, given its closeness to both the Stelvio and the Gavia passes, chances are more cyclists and drivers have heard of Aprica than skiers.
The drive from Bergamo airport is easy: barely a single hairpin to worry about. Unless it has just snowed the road will be clear, although beware that by law to use the SS39 you need to have snow chains on board, even if you never have to use them. The fine for being caught without is huge. And remember that as a rule, rental cars in Italy (even up north) are not fitted with winter tyres.
The vast majority of the skiing is through the trees on sheltered, relatively easy runs suitable for most skiers except absolute beginners. Of the three (connected) ski areas the most challenging is the Magnolta, although the wide blue run from the Pianna Galli is cruising heaven for improving youngsters. Just make sure you turn off before you get to the vicious black below. There are long reds from the top of the Colle Paso drag lift and, unless you visit at Christmas, New Year or during Italian half-term the chances of standing in a queue are zero. The slopes — of which there is a total of around 60km — are likewise empty most of the time. There is a wide nursery area which can get crowded late in the afternoon when local school groups turn up.
Aprica is not a high-altitude resort but snow making machines cover almost the entire ski area. Indeed, at village level there is a fair chance the only snow will be on the pistes, and that it will be artificial. The black runs can get very icy. Sharpen your edges. Six-day lift passes cost €156 for adults, €122 for kids.
Off the slopes
There’s very little to do in Aprica if you are not skiing. There’s a skating rink, but like the municipal swimming pool it keeps odd hours, and appears to be more for the benefit of skiers once they come off the slopes than an alternative to skiing. There’s langlauf and snow-shoeing up at the spectacular Pian di Gembro, a tricky drive up some nightmarishly narrow roads. There are some good cafes (Gelart for ice cream), while Grizzly Bar is your best bet for post-piste Peronis.
We liked the food at the Parco so much we ate there three times in a week. You will need a car (it’s closer to Corteno Golgi than Aprica) but it’s worth the trip. There’s no menu, they just bring you what they have, direct from the tray or pan it’s cooked in, and then keep bringing you food until you say stop. Ask for pizzoccheri, the local pasta made with potatoes and cabbage. Prices are cheap (as they are throughout Aprica). A wood-fired pizza cooked in front of you will cost no more than €8 at most places. We particularly enjoyed the pizza at little Spuntineria on the high street.
If you don’t have a car you should stay central. Most hotels are small, family-run places but can be on the expensive side, and many are a long walk from the lifts. Self-catering apartments offer better value, but again: always check the location. (There is a ski-bus but it only runs every 40 minutes or so).
To keep costs down even further we stayed in a charming apartment in Corteno Golgi (this one) and drove the 10 minutes to the slopes each morning.
Aprica in one paragraph
Good value, queue-free, snow-sure skiing an easy drive from Bergamo airport. Not all that much for experts, but the steeper slopes (and thermal baths) of Bormio are close enough for a day trip. Little for non-skiers. Good, cheap food. You will need a car.