Colle del Nivolet is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 2.641m (8,665 ft) above the sea level, located in the Eastern group of the Graian Alps in Italy. The pass is traversed by the road SP50 and it was the location of several scenes of The Italian Job film, including the final bus crash. It's one of the highest mountain roads of Italy.
The pass is situated between the Aosta Valley and the Piemont region, in the heart of the Parco Nazionale Gran Paradiso. The road encompasses miles of stunning views through twisty hair pin corners, high elevations and steep grades. To reach the summit, starting from Locana, the ascent is 40.5 km long with an elevation gain of 1.907 meters. The average percentage is 4.7 %. On the road to the pass there’s a tunnel, which is one of the steepest tunnels in the Alps with gradients of around 12-14%.
The drive is definitely worth it. The SP460 starts climbing out of Pont Canavese, a town in North-West Italy. The road follows the Orco valley, briefly famous for gold panning, to Locana where the climbing proper begins. Through Noasca and there are three numbered hairpin bends which feel hard but are pleasant compared to the 3.5km long tunnel, it is lit and wide but steep. Past Ceresole Reale and its lake the road continues up the valley and becomes the SP50. It continues up to the pass with a total of 33 hairpin bends.
Do not travel this pass in severe weather conditions. Avalanches, heavy snowfalls and landslides can occur anytime, being extremely dangerous due to frequent patches of ice. It has a well-deserved reputation for being dangerous because of unpredictable snowstorms and blizzards, and driving under these conditions, can be extremely challenging. Colle del Nivolet is closed between 15th October and 15th May, and Sundays in July and August the last six kilometres of the road are closed to cars. The road is very busy during summer weekends.
The road to the summit was built between 1953 and 1963 to service the two hydroelectric dams up high. The approach road from Lago Agnel was the location of several scenes in the film The Italian Job, including the iconic final bus crash. It’s a ribbon of tarmac that winds its way up into the Alps and is also famous for the well known cliffhanger scene in the film. There are 3 lartificial lakes located immediately below the pass: Lago Serrú, Lago Agnel and Lago di Ceresole. The steepest part of the climb is some great hairpins below the two dams.
Beyond the pass, the paved road descends for a couple of kilometres, and approx. 1.6 km north of Colle del Nivolet, at an elevation of 2.532m above the sea level, the road ends. It’s asphalted and there’s a barrier. There are a couple of more lakes and a little restaurant – it’s just over the Piemonte / Aosta border. After the barrier, the road becomes a rough track only suitable for mountain bikes and dedicated off-road vehicles. This track is 4.8 km long and ends at an elevation of 2.415m above the sea level.