Passo Tonale, a reasonably priced, family-friendly ski resort in Italy

Passo Tonale, a reasonably priced, family-friendly ski resort in Italy

Passo Tonale is one of those places that oozes family friendliness. The place is part of the Pontedilegno-Tonale ski resort, on the border of Trentino and Lombardy in Italy. On our recent trip there with Crystal Ski, I did run into a few couples and singles brushing up their snowboarding skills, or heading off-piste. But on the whole, the skiers there were families, with children from babies through to older teenagers. Ours was a multi-generational group of ten. We ranged in age from five years old up to seventy-five – and we weren’t the only ones that travelled in a big family group.

Skiing for beginners

Passo Tonale

Passo Tonale’s pistes leap into life early in the morning, with the first skiers heading out just after dawn. At 9am the ski schools gather up their charges, from eight year-old black run afficionadoes to fifty year-old first-timers. The meeting point is Fantaski, an outdoor playground in the snow, where young children leap around on a bouncy castle while their parents head off to the slopes.

Passo Tonale

With loudspeakers and loud fanfares, the cheery teachers divided us up into groups based on our ability. Beginners were ushered to the resort’s wide, open pistes. Two schools run in the area: Pontedilegno-Tonale and Tonale-Presena, but the slopes never felt crowded when we were there, even on those rare moments when there was a bit of a queue for the lift.

One of the longest pistes in Europe

The sheer volume of pistes probably had something to do with the feeling of space compared with some other Alpine resorts. Pontedilegno-Tonale has 100 km of slopes, including one of the longest pistes in Europe: 11km down from the 3,000m Presena Glacier to Ponte di Legno.

Passo Tonale

Bucket-list ski experiences

Skiing the Presena Glacier really was a bucket list experience. It’s handily divided up into black, red and blue runs, with gondolas to transport you to each stage. This meant that even relative newbies like me could try out the blue. And what an afternoon it was. The bright sunlight threw up aquamarine hues from the dazzlingly white snow, and the altitude gave me a bit of a giddy headrush as I skied along, with the Adamello-Presanella mountain range as a backdrop.

Presena Glacier

Even people who don’t ski at all can enjoy the stunning views. A mountain hut right at the top of Presena serves snacks, sandwiches and bollicine, the local sparkling drink, so you can look across to the Pian di neve (the largest glacier in the Italian Alps) while enjoying a glass of fizz, and then travel back down on a 12-minute gondola ride, without ever laying hands on a set of skis. If you wanted a luxurious pit-stop, Capanna Presena, a new mountain restaurant at 2,724 m, offers saunas and hydromassage. There’s no need for a plunge pool afterwards – a friend I made in ski school told me the top of his soft drink froze while he was relaxing in the sunshine on the restaurant terrace.

Passo Tonale

Snow, snow snow

Passo Tonale is one of Italy’s highest ski resorts, standing at over 1800m above sea level. It’s incredibly snow-sure, but on those occasions when nature needs some help, the resort uses innovative snowmaking technology. You can ski on the glacier well into the spring. Most of Passo Tonale’s slopes are so high they’re above tree level, but Ponte di Legno’s red and black pistes are tree-lined. So skiers can experience it all in one day: breathtaking mountain views, a sauna on the glacier, down on the reds, blues and blacks, depending on your ski level – and a finale through James Bond-esque tree-lined runs. All 42 pistes are connected by a system of 28 chairlifts, drag lifts and gondolas.

Passo Tonale

 

Passo Tonale

You can see some of the ski action in this little video I put together:

Celebratory skiing

From my local ski instructor Tiziano, to the regulars who come on weekend trips from Milan, Bergamo and Trento, everyone I spoke to was bursting with pride about Pontedilegno-Tonale. It’s a hub for the kind of celebratory events that make skiing so special. Ski instructors kick off the season in style with a torchlit procession down Temù ski slope. Passo Tonale also offers late-night skiing, till 11pm. And the Adamello Ski Raid, an international ski mountaineering challenge with 300 competitors, begins at Ponte di Legno.

Passo Tonale

Stuff if you don’t want to ski downhill

Although Passo Tonale is a purpose-built ski resort, there are activities for people who don’t want to ski. The first sleddog school to open in Italy runs three-day courses in mushing. If you look down from the gondola linking Ponte di Legno to the top of blue run 18, you can see the huskies cavorting around, outside their kennels. At dusk the snowmobiles begin buzzing around the pistes. Families who want to swim can try out the pool at Ponte di Legno. It’s a pretty, historic town with a pedestrianised shopping area.

Passo Tonale

Passo Tonale has plenty of hiking and snowshoe trails

If cross-country skiing’s more your thing, you can follow Ponte di Legno’s 10km of tracks, or the 22km at Vermiglio, where lessons and equipment hire are available.

History

The Tonale Pass marks the scene of disputed territory. The area was under Austrian rule until 1918. Under the snow on the glacier you can still find a series of trenches where battles were fought. When its entrance isn’t covered by snow, visitors can explore a tunnel made by soliders during WWI. The bones of some of those soldiers are held in a monument in Passo Tonale’s centre.

Passo Tonale

Reasonable prices

Passo Tonale is widely touted as one of Europe’s most reasonable ski resorts. It’s doubly so when you compare it with neighbouring resorts in the Alps. We mainly ate at the Grand Hotel Paradiso, where we had half-board accommodation with Crystal Ski. On the occasions where we did relax over a hot chocolate in Bar Ombrello, at the foot of Passo Tonale’s slopes, we paid around €5 for two drinks. A bottle of Prosecco in the local supermarket cost €4, and a delicious – very large – Margherita pizza in the homely pizzeria Alpi came in at €5.

Passo Tonale

La Botte, one of Passo Tonale’s reasonably priced eateries

Getting there

There are six airports within three hours’ drive of Passo Tonale, including Bolzano, Brescia, Innsbruck Airport, Milan Linate, Milan Malpensa and Verona, which we flew to from London Gatwick.

 

Passo Tonale was an all-round good-value resort, which didn’t skimp on quality. You can read more about it in our blog posts here and here. The cost of our trip was covered by Crystal Ski and our lift passes were given by the Consorzio Adamello Ski Pontedilegno-Tonale, but all views are my own.

Check out my other posts on Passo Tonale:

  • Passo Tonale
    A fabulous family ski trip to Passo Tonale, Italy with Crystal Ski

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33 Comments

  1. January 18, 2018 / 9:14 am

    This sounds like a great place for a multi-generational ski holiday. For me, you just can’t beat being up a mountain on a beautiful day. And plenty to keep non-skiers entertained for a week. I can’t believe how cheap the food and drink prices are! #FarawayFiles

    • January 18, 2018 / 2:32 pm

      I know – not everything was quite so cheap, but you could definitely live on less there than your average alpine resort.

  2. January 18, 2018 / 10:27 am

    I’d so love to ski in Italy one day and Passo Tonale sounds just the place to do it. As you know it’s our favourite country to visit for the friendly hospitality and spectacles – the torchlight procession must look fantastic! Thanks for joining #FarawayFiles

    • January 18, 2018 / 2:33 pm

      And thanks for hostin, Katy x

  3. January 18, 2018 / 10:34 am

    Not being a skier, I would find me a comfy spot up in that cabin and enjoy the views and sip on some hot cocoa! Would love to do such a weekend trip! #FarawayFiles

    • January 18, 2018 / 2:38 pm

      That sounds like a good plan!

  4. January 18, 2018 / 12:30 pm

    I must admit, I’ve never heard of this place, but it looks like a lovely place to ski. #FarawayFiles

    • January 18, 2018 / 2:56 pm

      It was, Urska.

  5. January 18, 2018 / 1:30 pm

    Looks like a great spot for a ski holiday- and who can say no to pizza after a day on the slopes? #FarawayFiles

    • January 18, 2018 / 2:57 pm

      Indeed!

  6. January 18, 2018 / 6:46 pm

    I’ve never skied before, but my boyfriend grew up going on family trips to ski every year. I think he was skiing since he was 4-years-old. I’m kind of scared to go to a ski resort because I was sure that I’d be in a class with a bunch of five-year-olds who are way more coordinated than me. So I was happy to read that there were some 50-year-old beginners in this beginners ski class! Maybe I’m not doomed after all 😉
    #FarawayFiles

    • January 22, 2018 / 1:07 pm

      I think the trick is to pick the right resort. This one would be perfect for beginners like you.

    • KDP
      February 11, 2018 / 7:19 pm

      They have different classes for kids and adults so you will be fine. I was once in a class with an 8 year old but it was not a beginners class and it was only because all the kids were beginners and he was too advanced to be in their class. All the adult beginners had their own class.

  7. January 19, 2018 / 6:11 am

    I had no idea glacier ski was a thing. That must be cool! I am not a skier but I know these resorts offer tons of activities. I really need to step my game in term of winter / snow travel. I am for the experience!

    • January 22, 2018 / 1:08 pm

      There’s always something to do there, even if you don’t ski.

  8. January 19, 2018 / 7:27 pm

    Wow, that looks like perfect skiing weather! I skied for years as a young person, but quit when I moved to California 17 years ago… Seeing this post makes me feel like I’ve let my kids down some… not living closer to a ski area, but I don’t feel too bad as they get the ocean instead! #farawayfiles

    • January 22, 2018 / 1:09 pm

      Yes, it’s swings and roundabouts! We’re lucky to have had this experience.

  9. January 22, 2018 / 2:45 pm

    This looks like the perfect resort to get together for a multigenerational ski holiday, Nell, particularly as there are also lots of non-ski activities to do here too. I absolutely loved glacier skiing – it’s been a very long time since I was last on skis though. #FarawayFiles

    • January 23, 2018 / 8:24 pm

      The glacier skiing was my favourite part. Such a treat.

      • KDP
        February 11, 2018 / 7:20 pm

        There are skidoos and dog sledding too

  10. January 23, 2018 / 9:16 am

    I am a keen skier, and started both my girls at the age of 3. Always go back home to the Czech Republic as the cheapest way to ski, but really want to go back to the Alps. This looks perfect!

    • January 23, 2018 / 8:35 pm

      Your girls are lucky! I’d like to try the Czech Republic some time.

  11. My middle son is just back from a week skiing in Passo del Tonale with his class and loved it! They got to go to the top of the glacier to look around and the photos are just stunning! We are used to doing multi-generational ski holidays every year in Oregon, but when the mountains are 1-3 hours away, it’s quite easy to do! I miss it for sure. Thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiles

    • January 23, 2018 / 8:38 pm

      You should go here some time with your son! I’m glad he enjoyed PT in the end.

  12. January 23, 2018 / 10:01 am

    Never heard of it before, but always on the look out for new resorts to try out with the kids. Next year we’re planning to go skiing with my parents who do cross-country. Do you know if they offer that too?

    • January 23, 2018 / 8:45 pm

      Yes, at Ponte di Legno (linked to Passo Tonale by a 15-min gondola ride) there are 10km of tracks, and nearby Vermiglio offers lessons and equipment hire, as well as 22km of tracks. We didn’t try them, but they’re supposed to be beautiful.

  13. January 23, 2018 / 2:25 pm

    I’ve loved seeing the photos and videos of your trip to Passo Tonale. This looks a perfect ski resort for families. I love that long blue run on the glacier. Very reasonable prices for drinks and food too. What a great holiday!
    #MondayEscapes

    • January 23, 2018 / 8:46 pm

      I know – it was great value, and a lovely place.

  14. January 23, 2018 / 8:20 pm

    Sounds amazing. And those food prices are really reasonable, extra important with our current exchange rate. I really need to start thinking about when to take my kids on their first trip. #Mondayescapes

  15. Passo Tonale sounds incredible. Having been on a ski holiday where we didn’t experience any snow I also love the fact that they have the snow machines too as they can make or break a holiday. Loved your video Nell. That BLUE sky against the white snow;) Wow!!

    • January 31, 2018 / 8:46 pm

      I know. I’ve been living off those skies since we got back to grey old Blighty!

  16. KDP
    February 11, 2018 / 7:21 pm

    Great place to ski, have been going for the last 6 years!

    • February 11, 2018 / 9:05 pm

      I can see why you would go back so many times. It’s a great place.

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