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If you're in the market for a cheap, medium-sized resort with reliable snow and a decent après-ski scene, put Livigno on your hitlist...
Livigno has long been seen as a bargain-basement alternative to Andorra. Both are now beaten by the ski resorts in Romania and Bulgaria on price, but have risen to the challenge by upgrading their infrastructure.
Resort height: 1,820m
Livigno ski holidays have another priceless asset on their side, too - Livigno is buried deep in the heart of the Italian Alps, in a high, cold, snow-sure valley. It's a little bleak, to be sure, and the wind can be a problem during storms - shutting many of the higher lifts. But at least you should have enough of the white stuff!
Livigno offers 110km of pistes, spread out on both sides of town. To the north, you'll find all the nursery slopes - strung out right along the valley, and for the most part well away from the rest of the pistes. This is a good thing - it means beginners won't be freaked out by faster skiers and snowboarders blasting past them without warning. Another attraction for first-timers is the highly-rated ski school. Brits have been coming to Livigno for years to learn, and the instructors are well used to our little idiosyncrasies. One word of warning, however: the lifts on these nursery slopes are all drags, which first-time snowboarders will hate.
Above these easy slopes are the Carosello and Costaccia areas of the lift system, offering plenty of easy pistes. They're at a good altitude, but do suffer from prolonged exposure to the sun, so you could find them icy in places. If that's the case you should go hunting for softer, grippier snow on the other side of the valley, which has a more northerly aspect. Taken as a whole, these pistes suit intermediate skiers best, who will also enjoy day trips to ski nearby Bormio and St Moritz.
One other group will enjoy Livigno - freestylers, thanks to the top-notch terrain parks in the Mottolino and Carosello sectors.
Livigno's remote location is a drag when it comes to transfers…
The shortest is from Innsbruck airport, and takes a good three and a half hours.
You can have a great time skiing or snowboarding in Livigno - as long as you're not an expert looking for a challenge away from the park...
Beginner and intermediate level skiers in particular will love the 110km ski area, although those trying snowboarding for the first time may struggle with the draglifts that service the nursery slopes.
A night out in Livigno will seem cheap in comparison to many British cities, while the mountain scenery will delight you on a clear day…
There's an oft-quoted fact that Livigno has more bars than any other ski resort. That doesn't mean, however, that it has the best nightlife. Its linear layout works against it, because the bars are scattered about all over the place. Best to head for the bottom of the slopes at the end of the day (try Tea de Vidal), and the old village centre of San Antonio later on. Benny's pub at Galli's Hotel, which has live music, is one of the most popular venues, and is full to bursting in busier weeks. Most of the restaurants are aimed at budget travellers, but there are several which cook their food with flair, including Bellavista and La Pioda.
Livigno is not a very romantic destination, but there's lots of fun to be had here in the snow. Skating, tobogganing, ice-climbing, dog-sledding and ice-driving are all on offer, and the trip to the labyrinthine Bagni Vecchi spa in nearby Bormio is a must. For really serious (and expensive) shopping you should make the day trip to St Moritz.
Cost of living 8/10
Drinks aren't as cheap as they are in Bulgaria - but if you live in a big British city you will notice the difference in prices. Package prices are similar to other Italian resorts, and Andorra.
Attractiveness of the resort 7/10
Italian planning laws are very lax, and people tend to build where they want to. Mostly, in this part of the Alps, that means along the main road, and three villages which make up the resort have fused together in one long strip of ribbon development. So you couldn't call Livigno cute. For the best atmosphere, try to stay in the middle of San Antonio. Once you get up on the mountains however, the scenery is breathtaking.