“Skiing in Tuscany? Are you kidding?” For the past year that was my standard response when any of my friends would suggest we check out the local slopes for a day.
Having lived in Aspen for a decade during some of the best ski seasons on record, I had visions of bunny hills covered in icy, man-made snow with a few Poma lifts, a rickety old chair lift, and maybe even a towrope. Nonetheless, I was mildly curious about a small ski resort in the Apennine Mountains just an hour and a half north of Florence called Abetone.
In December, while my ski boots were collecting dust on a shelf in my closet and my friends back in Aspen were posting photos of epic powder days on Facebook, I decided to write an article about Abetone for The Florentine, a newspaper for English speakers in Tuscany, leaving me no choice but to check it out.
A friend of mine graciously gave me the keys to her condo so I could spend a full two days exploring the resort. Fortunately, my dear friend Chloe, who grew up in Florence and spent her winters with her family skiing in Abetone, skied the first day with me. She knew exactly where to park, rent ski equipment, which trails to ski, the best place for lunch and where to have a coffee before heading home. After a day of hard, fast skiing on soft terrain under a cloudless, periwinkle sky with my friend, simply put, I fell in love with the place.
Arriving in Abetone means literally driving right into the resort — ski shops, restaurants, bars, hotels and markets line both sides of the road. I was delighted to discover that the parking is free, and since it was a weekday, we had no problem finding a space in the lot next to the Total gas station on the right. Just a short walk down the street and up a steep little hill is the ticket office where we paid a mere €34 euro for a day pass with a €5 refund at the day’s end for returning the electronic pass. Admittedly, I was a little nervous when I sat down on the weathered, red plastic seat on the first chairlift, and even more so when the second lift was a Poma, but when we arrived at the top and took in the expansive, snowcapped mountain range all around us, I finally understood what all the fuss was about.
Abetone is a real, honest to goodness ski resort, and though the skiers and snowboarders are fashionably dressed as one would expect in Italy, there is not an ounce of pretention. With more than forty trails, twenty-two chairlifts and a gondola with bright blue cable cars, there is quite a bit of terrain to cover. Both the length and quality of the trails, comprised of mostly beginner (blue) and intermediate (red) runs that are slightly steeper than their counterparts in the Alps, far exceeded my expectations. Plus you can ski all over the mountain without worrying about ending up in another country.
Our plan of attack was to spend the morning in the Val di Luce area where the light is best (hence the name, Valley of Light) and then follow the sun back towards Abetone in the afternoon. Far above the tree line with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and little villages below, Val di Luce quickly became my favorite spot on the mountain. We carved turns down the wide open, gentle slopes all morning then stopped for lunch at the chalet where the three lifts converge at the base. The spacious terrace was the perfect place to catch rays and people watch.
As we skied our way back to Abetone, we explored other parts of the mountain where the runs are lower and lined with trees. The trails were all enjoyable and there was enough variety to keep us wanting more when the last lift closed at 4:45.
Chloe and I happened to visit Abetone on a warm, sunny weekday when the snow was delightfully soft and, at times, not another soul was in sight. The following day skiing was a completely different story. The temperature had dropped considerably overnight and the slopes were hard-packed and icy. The trail was a solid sheet of ice. We tried to find slopes that the sun had softened but each one had shady, icy patches that forced us to inch our way down. We skied four runs in four hours and we were exhausted when we finally made it back to Abetone.
To get the most out of the resort in a single day, spend the morning skiing in the Val di Luce area, where the light is best (hence the name), and follow the sun back to Abetone in the afternoon. Far above the tree line, with wide, open slopes and panoramic views, Val di Luce is my favorite spot on the mountain. In fact, the view from the summit, where you can see all the way to Elba island on a clear day, is one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen. At the top of the quad lift, drop your skis, hike up the little hill straight ahead and prepare to gasp.
Use the afternoon to explore the rest of the mountain, where the runs are lower and lined with trees. The trails are all enjoyable and there is enough variety to keep you wanting more when the last lift closes at 4:45.
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