Passo Tonale is located on a high pass, which separates Trentino from nearby Lombardy. It has developed as a ski resort due to its elevated and snow-sure location. It is also found in the Val di Sole, which lives up to its name with many sunny days.
The resort’s local high slopes include a glacier and are entirely above the tree line. They are mostly gentle and are best suited to beginners and intermediates. The village lies along the main road without a real centre, apart from some bases of the ski lifts.
Stay up-to-date with essential resort facts below, and scroll down for our insider guide to a day on the slopes, expert ratings, and advice. For more Passo Tonale inspiration, check out our guides to the resort’s best accommodations, restaurants and après ski.
Inside the resort
The town of Passo Tonale extends for about 1 km along the state road and the summit of Passo del Tonale. While most of the resort’s hotels are located on this road, which is built in a chalet style, there are also a few mostly low-rise apartment buildings on a parallel road, with some high-rise buildings.
The ski area is called Ponte di Legno-Tonale, as the own slopes of Passo Tonale are connected to those of Ponte di Legno, a locality which is about 12 km away via the nearest road via downhill slope or return by cable car. Ponte di Legno is a traditional mountain village with a very different atmosphere from Passo Tonale.
Most lifts ascend from the north side of the road, leading to gentle south-facing slopes that are ideal for beginners and gentle cruising. At the western end of the town, on the opposite side of the valley, the ski lifts go up to an altitude of 3000 and on the snow-sure slopes of the Presana glacier. The other choice from the western end is to take a gentle blue run towards the Ponte di Legno side of the ski area, followed by a red. A long gondola lift with an intermediate station goes up from Ponte di Legno to Passo Tonale.
Ponte di Legno itself is a small town with just under 2,000 year-round inhabitants and a church dating back to the 17th century. The main road goes around the pedestrian center and the wooden bridge from which the town takes its name.
The local ski area of Ponte di Legno is in stark contrast to that of Passo Tonale. It’s much lower and the runs are steeper and mostly lined with trees – it’s a good place to be if it snows and for intermediates.
Passo Tonale has a natural ice rink and there are snowmobiles, dog sledding and snowshoeing for you to try. There is a public swimming pool and a separate children’s pool in Ponte di Legno.
On the slopes
The south-facing slopes of Passo Tonale, accessible by several chair lifts and a few roadside ski lifts, are where most people who stay here spend the majority of their time. The runs are almost all easy, even those rated red, and are best suited to beginners and early intermediates.
For beginners there is a tapis roulant on the school slopes and two beautiful long blue slopes that are easy to pass on – Valbiolo, served by a fast chairlift, on the far right of the ski area when looking at the slopes and Tonalina down to the middle station of the gondola lift returning from the locality connected to Passo Tonale di Ponte di Legno.
First and shy intermediates will love the easy cruising red runs, but most of them are pretty short. The longer reds are on the left looking at the mountain, served by the Bleis chair and are a little steeper than the other reds.
Confident intermediates will want to explore further afield – the easy south-facing slopes are of very limited extent. At the western edge of town, on the opposite side of the valley, a 15-seater gondola lift followed by an eight-seater two-stage gondola ascends to 3000m and the Presana Glacier. The red run from the top of the glacier is an easy cruise, there is a blue option midway down and the final section is an easy black one. You can expect good snow all along the route due to the northern exposure.
It is also possible to deviate from the black track to a red one that reaches the Ponte di Legno sector, making a very long route of about 10 km and a vertical drop of 1,700 m. The other possibility to get to Ponte di Legno is to take a gentle blue slope at the western end of the town, which leads to the intermediate station of the almost 5 km cable car which from Ponte di Legno goes up to Passo Tonale, to then rejoin the red slope which goes down to the Ponte di Legno ski area. The other option is to go down the gondola after the blue runway.
The slopes of Ponte di Legno are lower and more wooded than those of Passo Tonale, entirely red and black, easy and very enjoyable. This is especially true during a snowfall, when open slopes elsewhere might have poor visibility or white conditions.
But between them, all sectors of the ski area have only 100 km of slopes. Piste enthusiasts may wish to take the free bus for the 45-minute journey to the resort of Marilleva during the week, to access its larger (150km) and varied pistes, which connect to Madonna di Campiglio. A day here is included if you go with the slightly more expensive Passo Tonale Combi 1 skipass, rather than the local one.
For the experts, there isn’t much of a challenge on the track. But there is a lot of off-piste and ski touring in the area. Three popular off-piste trails are shown on the trail map, but they are not marked on the mountain, not avalanche controlled, and not covered by the ski resort patrol.
Most of the key lifts in the Passo Tonale sectors are fast chairlifts or gondolas, but there are still a few slow chairlifts. And the Ponte di Legno sector has several slow seats. Snow is generally good at Passo Tonale, due to its altitude, and the slopes at Ponte di Legno are mostly shaded, so conserve their snow well – both sectors are covered in snow extensively and the grooming is good.
Passo Tonale ski schools have a good reputation and have plenty of experience teaching British beginners and intermediates.
The Passo Tonale terrain park runs along the fast Valena chairlift (700m) in the south-facing sector and has features for experienced and novice freestylers, plus a snowcross track.
Who should go?
Snow hunters will be happy to know that Passo Tonale is one of the few Italian resorts with guaranteed snow from late October to mid-June, thanks to the Presena glacier at 3,016m, which is why the Italian national ski teams train. That said, the slopes are more suited to beginners. The gentle open slopes that form a near-perfect nursery area for learning your first turns and building confidence are a treat, without the threat of more experienced trail users zipping around scarily.
Know before you go
British Embassy/Consulate: Via 20 Settembre, 80a, 00187 Rome; 0039 06 4220 0001; gov.uk
Police: dial 113
Fire: dial 118
Mobile emergency response: dial 112
Touristic office: On courmayeurmontblanc.it, the website of the Courmayeur Mont Blanc Tourist Board, for piste maps, weather forecasts, state of the facilities, webcams, traffic details and lists of local events. Collect maps, brochures and other information from the office on the main roundabout in the center of Courmayeur.
Area code: from abroad dial 00 39, then omit the zero at the beginning of the 10-digit number.
Time difference: +1 hour
Local laws and etiquette
A simple ‘good morning’ in the morning or ‘good evening’ in the afternoon or evening goes a long way. ‘Ciao’ is for friends, family or young people. If someone thanks you by saying “thank you,” it’s polite to say “you’re welcome” (you’re welcome).
Italians tip very little; 5% is large and often just enough to round the bill to the nearest 5 or 10 euros