The Alta Valtellina, inside the national park of Stelvio, is in the heart of the Retiche Alps, where the borders of Italy, Switzerland and Austria meet. Bomio is the valley (known as Valdidentro, Valdisotto and Valfluva) that has been known since ancient times for its thermal baths, so its has a history of having tourists.
The ski areas of Bormio, Santa Caterina San Colmbano are famous for hosting international ski races, being the locatation of the 2005 World Cup, its modern ski lift system and world-class slopes, as well as enchanting skiing itineraries and numerous cross-country ski courses.
Bormio is a charming medieval Italian town. The skiing is mostly red-coded intermediate runs and there is not a very wide variety of those. There is a free bus that goes to the Val di Dentro-San Colombano area, to Santa Caterina, and even to Livigno. Located in Italy near both the Swiss and Austrian borders, Bormio is unlike most other Italian ski resorts. This town dating back to the Middle Ages has cobblestone streets and old clock towers. One can walk about town, visiting churches and shops without the expense, and snobbish atmosphere that one normally finds in other Italian ski resorts.
The center of Bormio dates back to the 17th century and with its narrow streets and lack of sidewalks, its better to walk than to drive. The town is real and alive, without any pretension and this is not the place to see and be seen, but more the place to relax and enjoy oneself in a laidback atmosphere that is one of the most charming and affordable places to ski in Italy.
Due to its small size, Bormio does not have the huge discothèques, or thriving nightlife as seen in other resorts. The town does not shut down completely in the evening, but the townspeople generally go to bars and cafes and yes, there is even a disco for those who want to dance. One who goes to Bormio is generally a person who wants to enjoy their skiing, and then relax in a laidback atmosphere, passing the evening enjoying a wonderful din local specialties and drinking grappa and Braulio, which is from Bormio.
Ski Area Map and Description
The town may be old, but its ski facilities are thoroughly modern. The mountain contains 21 trails that offer beautiful views.
With over 31 miles of trails in and over 60 miles of the whole High Valtellina area, skiers at each level can enjoy quality skiing at this resort. Beginners can expect gentle trails. Intermediate skiers and advanced skiers will be thrilled with the 5,879 foot vertical drop that will give them long runs on the mountain.
Those who wish to ski a long and panoramic slope can go down the “Bimbi al sole.” Those who want to feel the emotion of skiing on a slope where the best athletes in the world have skied can try the “Stelvio” which is one of the most beautiful and difficult downhill courses in the world and will be scene of the men’s alpine ski races during the next world championship in 2005.
There is great off-piste skiing and glacier skiing during the summer as well at the Stelvio Pass. The runs of Vitelli, Madaccio, and Scorluzzo valleys are great for long runs that are great on summer morning when the temperature is routinely in the seventies and people ski in shorts and t-shirts. Glacier skiing can be done from May to November.
Lifts and Tickets
Some of the lifts at Bormio are modern and some lifts are ancient, but every season the lift society is improving its service. The new fast gondola Bormio-Bormio 2000 and the two new quad chairlifts are going to make the system even faster.
Sundays tend to be the most crowded day and the resort policy of not limiting ticket sales does nothing to help the situation.
During the summer months, the eight surface lifts at the Stelvio glacier have access to individual trails, and Passo Stelvio reaches the ski area itself.
One great thing about Bormio is that its lift tickets are inexpensive. A one-day pass will cost about $30, while a six-day pass will run around $140. This Alta Valtellina Skipass is valid for Bormio, Santa Caterina, San Colombano and some lifts in Livigno. Good discounts for children and senior and free baby skipass.
The beginner trails at Bormio and blue-coded and first-time skiers will not be overwhelmed. These runs make up about 48 percent of the mountains runs and are usually very open and not crowded by other skiers.
Due to the fact that most of these easy runs are at the base of the mountain, there may be a lack of adequate snow, especially during the early and late parts of the season. Also, new skiers may find the draglifts hard to master, but there are chair lifts as well and there are also two beginner areas, one at Cluk and at Bormio 2000, with tapis roulants.
Intermediate skiers will best enjoy what Bormio has to offer which is 43 percent of its runs at the intermediate level.
The big vertical drop allows skiers to take long uninterrupted passes down the mountain on slopes that are not crowded. The nine miles give intermediate skiers an enjoyable ride to the base but one must pay attention: depending on the snow, red-coded runs can become black-coded runs, and especially late in the afternoon, runs may become a bit icy.
The runs in the middle of the mountain give skiers the chance to try drops and banks and long runs. Skiers who just want to relax and enjoy long rides can do that here while checking out the beautiful scenery due to the fact that the trails run together easily and there is not a good chance of losing one’s way.
The two expert runs at Bormio only go for three miles, so there is not much for the advanced skier here. However, some intermediate trails may become more advanced, depending on snow conditions.
The Valbella and Betulle slopes will be the place for expert skiers to try their hand. These slope have moguls and sudden drops as well as fast bends, while other runs above the tree line offer amazing jumps in wide-open spaces. When Bormio experiences a snowfall, skiers can try out their stuff in steep conditions with deep snow.
The off-pist runs will be interesting to advanced skiers who can try out the Pista Stelvio, which was the site of the World Championships in 1995.
What is great about Bormio is that people can try out the racing gates here. Open to both individual and groups, people can also organize their own race by going through the ski school.
There is no weekly night skiing, but if you are lucky you can help a particular demonstration and night race. Sometimes the restaurants organize dinners one arrives at by Sno-Cat and leaves by skiing down the mountain
by the light of the moon.
Heli-skiing in Bormio is not as good as in other areas. The snow cat is no available as well, because the area around Bormio is in the national park of Stelvio.
Bormio offers eight miles of beautiful scenery on it cross-country skiing course. There is the option to do only a three-mile route, and the trail begins near the bottom near the cable car and follows a stream to the village of Santa Lucia. Bormio’s cross-country skiing and rentals are average, but a better bet would be to head toward Santa Caterina Valfurva.
Santa Caterina is a place that is historically wonderful for cross-country skiing. The two routes located here offer nine miles of 11 miles of skiing that goes through the forest and past huts where locals are known to invite skiers in for something to eat and to relax.
Also, during the summer months, it is possible to cross-country ski on the Stelvio glacier. There are three loops there of 1.6, three and five miles in length.
Only For Snowboarding
Bormio does not have the facilities for snowboarding that are found at many other resorts. There are no half-pipes or rails or snowboard parks. Boarders may use the intermediate runs, where they can practice carving or trying out the natural gullies found there. There are jumps on all levels of trail and skiers and boarders use the slopes here harmoniously.
The lifts are comfortable for snowboarders: mostly chairs, gondolas and cable cars.
Bormio offers its visitors some snow activities done without skis attached to you feet.
For the more adventurous is possible to ice climb at the Stelvio Glacier where there are natural ice towers that are good either in the winter or summer. One can reach the glacier in 20 minutes by car.
One can also snow hike alone or hire a guide to trek the mountain near Bormio. There are many levels of difficulty as well as lengths of the trails. Contact the Guide Alpine Del Cevedale e Ortles for a guide hike.
Whoever wants to go snowshoeing must bring from home his shoes because in Bormio, snowshoeing isn’t a popular activity and not many shop rent the equipment.
You can admire the beautiful view on dog sleds through the natural countryside.
For something faster, there are not great snowmobiling options in Bormio, but it is still possible to do some in Livigno, with is 12 miles away. Several shops in this town have rentals. There are maps available to take one into the backcountry. January, February and March are generally the best times to go because the snow is packed solid in these months. There is a bus that runs from Bormio to Livigno. The price is about $5 round trip.
Mountain biking is popular here, and in the winter people snow mountain bike. There is a challenging, yet beautiful trip that takes one to St. Moritz.
Neighboring towns can satisfy those who want to try a more “exotic” sport. The famous Crest Run and curling can be tried here.
For the Ice skating lover there is the indoor rink on Via Manzoni, where one can ice skate or play hockey year-round. There are lessons available as well as skate rentals. International skaters sometimes have shows there during both the winter and summer months.For the lazy and the romantic if there is sufficient snow, there is the possibility of taking a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the streets of Bormio. Prices run $30 per half-hour, but can be more expensive during the holidays.
Unlike other Italian ski resorts, there is a lot to see and do in Bormio other than skiing.
The 17th century Baroque church called the Chiesa Collegiata SS. Gervasio e Protasio, is located to the east of Piazza Cavour. The old court of justice, the Loggia of the Kueerc is to the left of the church. There is also the civic museum or the Museo Civico, which has a historic art collection. The main tower in the town, the Torre Civica is just in front of the Kuerc.
Taking a side trip to one of the nearby towns can allow one to experience a different atmosphere than Bormio. Livigno is only a 12 mile drive away, or one can take the bus which leaves 4 times a day, or twice on Sunday for about $5. Livigno is more of a typical ski-town, and will see more action in the way of clubs and pubs, but is less architecturally interesting.
For shopping Livigno is duty-free, so stock up on perfumes, Italian fashion, or sporting goods.
The Santuario del Crocifisso otherwise known as Sant’Antonio Abbate is 14th century church in which one can find beautiful frescos. The Museo Mineralogico Naturalistico Valli di Bormio or the mineralogical museum in the north end of the town has geologic and mineral exhibits. The Botanical garden is close by and a beautiful place to visit if the weather is nice.
There is a swimming pool with thermal water at the Bormio Terme in the centre of town.
One could visit Bormio simply to experience its thermal baths. The Bagni Vecchi baths are a spa/thermal center that is located on a hill in Valdidentro
less than 2 miles out of town. The Bagni Vecchi, already known in the late Roman Age, were visited by Leonardo da Vinci in 1494 and were the holiday resort of the Imperial Court of Austria. This spa is truly luxurious, fed by a thermal spring. This is something that everyone should experience.
The center is a castle filled with pools. There is a route to follow through the different pools, but one is free to wander about and go in any pool one desires. There is an outdoor mineral pool fed by small streams that is a wonderful juxtaposition of the cool outside air with the warm water. There are three other pools inside where hot water from the springs comes in waterfalls to rush over your body. The Bormio hot springs are detoxifying, regenerating, relaxing, anti-stress and anti-inflammatory water and the sulfur pool is therapeutic for health problems such as arthritis.
The spa can be reached by taxi or one can take one of the buses from town. Tickets are about $22 per person.
There is another more utilitarian spa with a thermal swimming pool called the Stabilimento delle Terme Bormiesi. The whole combination of Bagni Vecchi and Bagni Nuovi offers 55 different spa facilities to the Bormio visitors.
Bormio is not the best place to shop and with the duty-free status of Livigno, one should head there instead, but the town does have more charm than its duty-free neighbor.
One can find boutiques, sporting goods stores, and small art galleries. If one is in Bormio around the end of the ski season, the rental ski equipment can be had for a great price.
In Bormio you can buy typical Valtellina handicrafts too: “pezzotti”, rustic mats in bright colors, that are combined and alternated with taste and imagination, and pot stone, a soft greenstone which retains heat, used in olden times for making cooking pots and other household articles.
The apres-ski scene in Bormio will seem a direct departure from that witnessed in other major Italian ski towns. The town will not shut down at night, but people will be relaxing in the laidback atmosphere.
The usual apres-ski activity is to head to one of the restaurants for a good meal. After a few glasses of good Italian wine, people generally go to one of the village’s cafes, bars or pubs, which may have a generally festive atmosphere. For a truly late night, the disco starts to hop around twelve a.m. for some dancing.
The cafés of Bormio will not disappoint anyone with a sweet tooth. The pastry shops and bakeries will be emitting aromas that will tempt everyone to go and sample one of the local desserts. Try the bisoˆle, which is a cake that contains dry fruits and is a specialty of the region.
The croccanti are waffles made with nuts, and the “Sunday treats” are like tarts meant to be eating with a spoon. For those who want something salty, try the pizzoccheri, a past boiled with cheese, butter and cabbage.
Bormio can be counted upon to give diners a wonderful meal, without the expensive price. The relaxed atmosphere of the town can be also be seen in its restaurants.
There are many options, and the meals are usually pasta, polenta, or rice based so even vegetarians will find something to suit them. Enjoy the traditional cuisine of the Valtellina: pizzocheri, sciatt, polenta taragna, made with buck wheat flour, the original bresaola, the typical dry salt beef, Bitto cheese and the Bisciola, a rustic cake containing walnuts, raisins and figs. The wine of Valtellina should accompany everything: Valtellina Superiore DOCG and the famous grappa and Braulio, the alpine herbal liqueur made in Bormio.
As stated before, party animals may find the nightlife a bit lacking, but that said, there is still plenty to do on an evening out on the town. As an inexpensive place to go out, one can start from Via Roma and try the myriad of bars and pubs where skiers and locals hang out together.
Festivals & Events
There aren’t many festivals here, but on Mondays nights, there is an exhibition in the piazza near the church in which locals will dress in period costume and there is music and dance, as well as free grappa for the crowd.
Sometimes the ski schools organize a very nice torchlight skiing procession on the slopes and guests’ snow competitions.
During the Easter season, check out the parade with the handmade floats done by the townspeople who dress in period costume.
From the 28th of January to February 13th, Bormio and Santa Caterina host the Alpine World Ski Championships. Other than sporting events, there are many events to entertain the spectators. Dal 28 gennaio al 13 febbraio 2005 andranno in scena on the Bormio and Santa Caterina slopes the Alpine World ski Championships. Oltre allo spettacolo sportivo sono in programma numerosi eventi di intrattenimento per i numerosi spettatori attesi.
Location and Elevation
Suspended between Lombardy and Central Europe, Valtellina occupies an entirely mountainous territory, from the top end of Lake Como, to the peak of the Bernina at 4000 meters, offering a variety of landscapes with
its nice villages, vineyards, rivers, the gorgeous and wild nature of the park, and almost unlimited possibilities for mountain activities.
Bormio is in the northeast part, the High Valtellina, included in the Stelvio National Park, which is the biggest in the Alps.
Resort Base: 4,019 feet or 1,225 meters
Base of Lifts: 5,862 feet or 1,787 meters
Top of lifts/mountain: 9,882 feet or 3,012
Vertical Drop: 5,879 feet or 1,792 meters
The third biggest Italian vertical drop guarantees long interrupted runs on the slopes. One should be prepared for strong winds at the top of the mountain, because the top is exposed, above the tree line so there is now protection from the wind. The top of the lifts are at about 10,000 feet, so some people may have altitude sickness and should get off mid-mountain.
Snow and Weather
Bormio prefers to have natural snow but if it is lacking they have brand-new snowmaking equipment. The snow cannons can cover 20 slopes or more than a third of the mountain. It is this equipment that helps out
when the lower slopes lack for snow, but even so at times the lower slopes have inadequate coverage and skiers must take the lifts to the base.
Surprisingly, the end of the season months of March and April tend to be better than January and February as far as snow coverage goes. Slopes are in their best conditions before 1 o’clock in the afternoon due to the high winds that can blow away the powder.
The Stelvio glacier tends to have powder late into the spring months, and the snow is usually compact in the summer, but the powder can return as early as September, when the glacier is at its most spectacular.
Ski & Snowboard School
Private lessons and group lessons are available and go from the beginner level to the advanced level. The instructors are nice and helpful and you will enjoy a skiing day all together. Federal Trainers teach the advanced skiers so their classes will be more professional. Instructors will generally speak English and there are instructors that are trained to teach physically handicapped skiers.
Snowboarding lessons are not as good as ski lessons. In the early season lack of snow tends to limit the number of runs available to learn on, therefore late season lessons will be more attractive.
There are lessons during the summer at the Stelvio Glacier as well, and there are competitions put together by the ski schools.
The array and assortment of equipment rental is excellent in Bormio. There is equipment available to all levels and it is even possible to rent clothing from the shops.
Some shops offer demo-skis at a multi-day or seasonal discount where different skis can be tried out each day. In Bormio, the best equipment will cost more at the nicest shops. The best idea is to rent equipment the night before to avoid a long wait or hassle in the morning. Usually, rental shops will give a lot of leeway in the pickup and return times of the rentals.
The better rental shops have the latest models of carving and deep-snow skis but one should call to reserve in advance, as these models go quickly. Rental prices are about the same as other resort, or maybe even lower. For a group rates or discount it is a must to arrange this in advance, and some shops will sell their equipment at a good discount late in the season.
It is best to use a credit card while renting equipment so as to avoid the problem of leaving a large cash deposit.
Why don’t you extend your Italian holiday…
…pass a day in marvelous Venice with its mysterious canals and its colorful Carnival, famous throughout the world. Or else travel to Milan, and walk in the shadow of the Duomo through the shops along one of the most famous streets in the Italian fashion world.
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