Livigno – you may well think if it in the same way as I do; or used to. This is probably summed up by the brief description of the skiing here on the Ski Club of Great Britain’s website, which tells us: ‘There are three key ski areas – Carosello, Costaccia and Mottolino – which provide varied terrain for beginners and intermediates but little for expert skiers.’

Well, I’m afraid the good people at the Ski Club are wrong, as was I until a few days ago.

For if the skiing here offers ‘little for expert skiers’ how do you explain the fact that last week saw the 20th International Telemark Festival – apparently the biggest such shindig in the world – which has 1,500 free heel monkeys descend on the town? These are not people normally noted for their love of intermediate groomed pistes.
And how to explain the helicopter rides I was fortunate to take into the spectacular mountains above Europe’s highest village (allegedly – I believe there may be some debate on this…) for some late season heliskiing? You don’t shell out for these aerial taxis just to faff around on beginner and intermediate pistes.

Skiers on the pistes,Livigno
Clearly things are changing in what was once regarded as a cheap and cheerful destination for skiers looking for undemanding fun on the pistes and plenty of good value après-ski action (although I’m pleased to report that all these are still very readily available).

For Livigno has taken the freeride phenomenon on board and decided to make it as easy as possible for visitors to access the plentiful off-piste terrain above the town.
This has involved opening up a large freeride area on the back of the Mottolino pistes – this remains unpisted but stacks of information on snow conditions, avalanche risk, snow safety and use of safety equipment is made freely available to skiers wishing to access it, whilst some areas are only accessible with a guide.

A skier out on the slopes in Livigno
There’s also a free weekly ‘lecture’ and video every Sunday evening for visitors to provide all possible info on skiing this area safely.

By ‘stacks’ of info I mean detailed daily analysis of snow data, which is e mailed to over 650 outlets including ski shops and hotels and even broadcast on TV screens on the free local ski buses, plus info all over the lift stations and slopes on where and how to ski off-piste safely.

I skied the freeride area on Tuesday along with hundreds of freeheel types to access a splendid party on the sunny slopes that showcased what I think is one of the best things about skiing in Italy – it’s cheerful, inclusive and just lots of fun.

Alf setting off for heliskiing in Livigno
The same applied the following day when we went heliskiing; ok it’s not especially inclusive at €250 per person for two drops and ‘cheerful’ may not be quite the word you’d use to describe our initial traverse of a rather steep and intimidating bowl, but once this was over the sunshine and powder we encountered was certainly lots of fun.
The heliskiing in Livigno is also a new thing with a couple of areas being opened up to the well-heeled (as opposed to the free-heeled) and if you can afford it this is a great way to experience the ultimate high in skiing; if not, just check out to ensure snow conditions are favourable then head to Mottolino with you avy-gear and hit the freeride area.