There's a lot that's not clear about freeriding in Italy. Is it allowed? Or is it forbidden? Are there any differences between the regions. I found out that it's really hard to find an answer to that. I spent four days in Livigno last week where I spoke (and had three days of cold smoke pow) with Fabiano Monti, the initiator of the Freeride Project in Livigno.
Inform instead of forbid
It was forbidden by local law in Livigno to ski or ride out of bounds with an avalanche danger higher than three. Local governments changed this policy however. They don't think that it's the way to forbid freeriding, but that it's better to inform skiers and snowboarders about the risks, but also about the possibilities Livigno has to offer as a freeride area (and they have great terrain indeed).
It's pretty clear in Livigno. You can ski down everywhere (unless a part of the mountain is explicitly closed by a fence or rope) and you're responsible for your own safety. Like always. There are so-called 'freeride checkpoints' in the ski area where you can check if you're beacon is working and some simple runs are already marked on the map. And (which makes Livigno truly unique) they write their own avalanche bulletin in Livigno.
Own avalanche bulletin
This avalanche bulletin is issued every morning by Fabiano. As a former researcher at the SLF he knows everything about the layers in the snowpack and the transformation they're going through. This local avalanche bulletin makes sure you always have the right detailed information. They apply the system that's also applied by the Canadian Avalanche Centre:
-Simple terrain (below the treeline)
-Challenging terrain (treeline)
-Complex terrain (alpine)
And more important: the avalanche bulletin is written in English! They're doing a great job in Livigno, and in my opinion this definitely is a great example for other resorts. But how's freeriding treated in the other regions in Italy?
Forbidden or not?
Italy has six 'alpine' provinces. From east to west that are Friuli Venezia Giulia, Veneto, Trentino // Alto Adige, Lombardia, Aosta and the Piemonte. There aren't big differences between these provinces. Freeriding is allowed (or at least not forbidden). In the Piemonte you have to carry an avalanche beacon, shovel and probe. The Aosta region is pretty easy as well and they even regulated heliskiing (in a good way from a freeriders perspective), just like they did in Livigno.
So, it's not forbidden to ski or board out of bounds in the other provinces. Where do the stories come from about getting busted by the police? The big 'problem' (or confusion at least) is that every local government can make their own laws about freeriding in their municipality. This is happening in some resorts in the Dolomites. For example: it's forbidden by local law in Arabba (Veneto) to ski out of bounds, but it's allowed in neighboring village Canazei (Trentino // Alto Adige). And that's quite hard, because the border is right in the mountains.
There are a lot of things to improve on this legal matter. Especially for tourists who visit a resort for a week or even days, the different local laws can be very confusing. If you know more about the local laws in your Italian resort, please inform us, so we can make a list of lots of Italian resorts.