Wayne's Italian Excursion

Posted: Monday, 4 March 2013 by Waynemarlow in Labels: ,

Waynes Part 3: Italy and the Ski Dolomiti

I have skied in some big interconnecting areas this year and I thought Ski Amade was big, but the Ski Dolomiti, the 4 Ladin valleys Alta Badia, Val Gardena, Val di Fassa,  Livinallongo is just unbelievably feckin huge. You can ski all day and not really touch a mere fraction of the available slopes. Looked it up and yup, only 450 lifts and 1200km of piste to choose from, all on the one ski pass. I have to say on one clear day from the highest point at Arabba, you could look in every direction and as far as the eye could see, you could see ski lifts. Awesome or what, or if you are of that eco way inclined, sheer purgatory.

As far as the eye can see, lifts and yet more lifts
Sadly without the ski bike, on a family holiday at half term is always not a bright idea, but my daughter is a school teacher and needs must. So to Ortisei we went and what a charming Sud Tirol town, built in a semi strange architecture which I cannot place ( do enlighten me ) but a real charmer of an old fashioned Italian town with all the mod cons of a pretty decent ski area interconnecting to the Sella Ronda lift system via Santa Cristina, with its new underground train shuttle linking the two sides of the valley.

Val Gardena is a real mix of old and new with some of the oldest chairlifts on the Alpe Di Suisi I have seen and yet there are 100 person cable cars and plenty of new 6 seaters in the Santa Cristina area. Lots of different ability slopes and some pretty impressive long runs of about 12km available if you want. Nothing really hard and difficult but big wide open slopes that are well looked after and a good snow record, what more can you want.

Old hotels on the road passes double as ski resturants in the winter

The Sella Ronda loop is a loop that runs either clockwise or counter clockwise around the massif of the Sella mountain range, keep that great big rock face on your left or as we did the following day, on the right. About 8000 metres of vertical and about 50 km of downhill run, it’s a pretty hectic 6 hours or so to get from Ortisie, to Santa Cristina and then onto the Sella Ronda proper and back home to, yes we found it, a really cool little bar just before bottom station which served the thickest hot chocolates for the girls and good beer for the boys. Along the way you’ll experience every type of lift known to man and ski some pretty tasty runs. One of the ski things that I have heard about ( about 20 years ago there was a section that horses pulled you across a flat area on your skis ) and needed to be ticked off as being done in my ski career.

So there has to be a downside doesn’t there. Well yes and no, pretty impressive resort but at peak times we had some long queues, nearly an hour to get from village level to the top at Ortisei one morning. If you can avoid that 10 o’clock morning rush by leaving a bit earlier then the waiting time seemed to get down to the 30 minutes or so. Once everyone had spread out though, queues seemed to be few and far between. My guess out of peak season there would be no problems. The other thing that sort of niggled me was Italy just isn’t cheap at all. In neighbouring Austria we could get a good soup and bread roll for lunch at 5 Euro or so, Italy it was closer to 9, beers a Euro dearer and the lift pass a good 30 Euros dearer for the week. The Wiener Schnitzel test,  about 2 – 3 Euros more expensive. Over a week it does add up and even though we stayed in some great but reasonable accommodation ( Garni Floreal ) at 32 Euro a night inclusive of breakfast, it was an expensive ski holiday. But don’t let me put you off, it is very very nice and worth a visit.

Umm, is it ski bike friendly, I asked at the lift pass office and they couldn’t say as no one had asked the question before, I didn’t see any ski bikes, a couple of SnowScoots on the Sieisa, on a lift servicing a  toboggan run ( they do like these runs in the Tyrol area ) but that was it. But here is the big but and I think this is starting to happen on other lift systems as well. A lot of the chairs had children anti “fall off the lift” restrictors fitted. Difficult to describe, but basically a strip of thick plastic, which when the safety bar is down, fits down between your legs and literally locks you in place. It would certainly be a problem for the way I transport the bikes up the lift and it really niggled my snowboarding daughter who has to sit sort of cross ways to accommodate the board, the said plastic restrictor kept on pinching her legs. With the death of the young English girl a few weeks ago just down the road from Ortisei, when she fell from the chair lift, then I can only see more of these being fitted.

Do give the Dolomiti Superski a go, the region and the Dolomite mountains are very different in so many ways and yet charming in their own way.