Skiing in the Dolomiti Superski, Italy
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Superski is a network of twelve stunning ski areas in north-eastern Italy.
Though the ski pass came about in the seventies, the mountains date back 250
million years - a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the pale, rugged Dolomites are
undoubtedly some of the world’s most spectacular peaks.
Fifty towns and
villages fall under the Dolomiti Superski umbrella, all delightfully
traditional and not a concrete tower block in sight. They span four different
provinces: South Tyrol, Trentino, Belluno and the Veneto.
Much of the region
once belonged to Austria-Hungary, and the architecture’s very Tyrolean with gabled
rooves and wooden balconies. Factor in steepled chapels, cobbled streets and
the surrounding peaks and you have some of the prettiest ski resorts in the
d’Ampezzo is the most internationally renowned resort - it became fashionable after
hosting the 1956 Winter Olympics and continues to be Italy’s trendiest winter
destination. Despite having three of its own ski areas, most of Cortina’s visitors
come to shop and ‘be seen’ rather than ski, so if you like a resort with lots
going on and/or lovely quiet pistes, it’s perfect.
in Val Gardena and Alta Badia (Dolomiti Superski’s two biggest ski areas and regular
World Cup hosts) are also worthy of mention. Ortisei is Val Gardena’s largest
base, while Selva’s the highest and a firm favourite for British skiers. In Alta
Badia, Corvara and San Cassiano are peaceful villages popular for their gourmet
restaurants. The Val di Fassa ski area is home to Canazei, known as one of the liveliest
resorts in the region.
This is just a handful of the resorts and there are plenty of other charming villages such as San Cristina, Pozza di Fassa and Arabba if you prefer to stay somewhere smaller and quieter.
A network of
ski lifts and buses connects each of the resorts with its local ski area and
the rest of the Dolomiti Superski. In numbers: 12 ski areas, 1,200km of pistes (the
highest at 3,343m) and 450 lifts. In words, one of the biggest, most beautiful
ski regions on earth.
ski areas range in size from 60km (San Martino di Castrozza) to 175km (Val
Gardena) and together there’s terrain for all tastes and talents. Alta Badia
has lots of wide, undulating terrain which is brilliant for beginners and those
of us who like smooth, slow paced skiing. For experts, Arabba has steep,
high-altitude descents both on and off-piste.
Not every ski
area has lifts linking it to the next and sometimes you have to drive or take
the bus between them. But you can still get a long way without having to hit
the road. Anyone steady on the slopes can schuss through four ski areas (Val
Gardena, Alta Badia, Arabba and Val di Fassa) in one loop on the world-famous
Sella Ronda tour. If you set off in the morning, you can easily do it in a day (including
time for tea breaks in the delightful mountain huts you pass along the way).
seem to have become a Dolomite speciality - the World War Tour passes trenches,
forts and other WWI artefacts or you can sample delicious local produce on the
Gourmet Skisafari, Sommeliers on the slopes and Wine Skisafari tours.
If you need
an extra pointer on the planks or like to have a local in charge of the
itinerary, even the smallest resorts have a ‘scuola di sci’ with instructors
and mountain guides. For those with grandkids in tow, the Italians are well
known for the warm welcome they give ‘bambini’, plus under 8’s get free ski passes
(over 65’s get a discount too)!
You could easily visit
the Dolomites for the food and drink alone without even touching a ski pole
(great for those travelling with non-skiers). If you’re not guzzling something as
the sunset transforms the colours of the surrounding peaks, you’re doing it
wrong! Tipples to try include the Advocaat-laced ‘bombardino’ and local pinot
grigio (this happens to be one of Italy’s best wine regions).
A lot of world
class chefs come from part of Italy which is largely thanks to the fresh
ingredients they can work with: herbs, fruits, cheeses, meats and more are all sourced
in the local area. There are 14 Michelin star restaurants and hundreds of
mountain huts serving Ladin, Tyrolean, Venetian and Trentino cuisine. Look out
for barley soup and turtres (ladin fried
pastries), schlutzkrapfen (a spinach ravioli) and apfelküchle (apple pancakes).
Not only is the ski food delicious,
it’s often a great deal cheaper than you’d find in France and Switzerland.
Where to stay
Hotels are the main type of accommodation you can find in package holiday format. Most of them are 4-star establishments but you’ll also find 2 and 3-star options for a cheaper stay and 5-star properties with luxurious spas and gourmet restaurants. Usually hotel holidays come with half board (breakfasts and dinners), though sometimes you’ll find B&B’s. Many are within walking distance of the ski lifts, slopes and resort centres, while those further out often operate shuttles. There aren’t many chalets in this part of Europe but you can find rental apartments if you prefer self-catering.
Fly to Bolzano, Venice or Innsbruck (GoCompare is a good tool for finding the cheapest flights).
Hotel packages including travel, room, meals
and ATOL protection can be booked through tour operators and travel agents.
Prices range from £500pp to £3,000pp+ on (type ‘Dolomiti Superski’ into their search to browse the whole area).
Apartments can cost anything from £60 to £800+ a night (the lists a few
along with accommodation-only hotels).
Photo sources: Val
Gardena Marketing, Bandion.it / Cortina Tourism, Elisa Fernetti / Alta Badia
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