Unofficial Guide: Dolomiti Superski, Italy

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Review submitted by SkiTalk member @Cheizz

Introduction
Dolomiti Superski is a joint venture of 12 ski areas in the Italian Dolomites. Together, they offer one ski pass for 1,200 km of perfectly groomed runs smack in the middle of a UNESCO World Heritage Natural site. Magnificent views, the best food in the world, easy-going people, charming villages, and of course supreme skiing.

Areas
These 12 ski areas are not necessarily close together. Most of them are not connected with one another through runs and lifts, so a car is needed to visit more than one ski area on a trip. Or take one of the many buses that connect areas within the same valley. But still, it would be quite a challenge to visit all 12 ski areas, so choices have to be made.

These choices could be based on crowds. Some places are more crowded than others, and that doesn’t really have to do with accessibility. Rather, there are places with certain reputations that draw the crowds. Cortina d’Ampezzo is one such place. With the spectacular Olympia delle Tofane run (women’s World Cup downhill and Super-G) and the old (and future!) Olympic vibe, cross-country trails, and of course the Porche-packed little streets, the town draws certain types of skiers. Not all are skiers, though. Some are just there to be seen in their fur coats.

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The steep part of the Tofana run in Cortina

The Sella Ronda - a ring of four interconnected areas around the Sella Massif - also draws crowds. For most recreational skiers - families mostly - this is the place to be. Although the Ronda itself can be quite crowded during school holidays, it does offer a nice little tour for all but beginners (3 hours of skiing at speed, 5 hours when cruising and enjoying ‘la dolce vita’ a bit). Also, the Ronda will get you to the neighboring ski areas quickly. This means that staying on the Sella Ronda will get you access to about 490 km of groomed runs without having to use any other transport except skis or a snowboard. Not very surprising then that so many people come here to ski for a week.

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Belvedere area on the Sella Ronda

If you want a bit more peace and quiet, though, and still want to have access to the Sella Ronda and all of its possibilities, visit Val di Fassa. It stretches from Canazei and Alba in the northeast (with access to the Sella Ronda) to Calavese and Alpe Cermis in the southwest. If we include the Belvedere-part of the Sella Ronda (Canazei), there are eight little areas very much worthy of a visit. Each of them is quite capable of offering a thrilling combination of easy and very challenging runs, perfectly groomed and staying so throughout the day. Belvedere, Pozza/Buffaure, Vigo, Carezza, Latemar, Alpe Lusia, Passo San Pellegrino, and Alpe Cermis, all have their own specialty, but they all share what makes Dolomite skiing great. A tight network of buses links the areas.

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Ski areas around Val di Fassa

Skiing
The Dolomites are famous for their awesome rock formations that literally tower over the forests and alpine meadows. Below the treeline, the terrain is quite gentle and, more importantly, densely populated by trees. There are some alpine meadows - Alpe di Suisi in Val Gardena is the largest alpine meadow in the Alps - but these are quite mellow and not very interesting to ski terrain-wise. Above treeline, winds have eroded the soft sandstone into steep and rugged peaks, more or less unskiable.

All in all, there are just a handful of open bowls that offer off-piste skiing. The mellow slopes of Alta Badia are great for first-timers and a bit of playing between the groomed runs. Passo San Pellegrino has some nice terrain and it also has a patrolled and controlled, steeper north-facing freeride park. On the Sella Massif - from the Pordoi cable car above Canazei - some freeride routes can be accessed. Some are quite challenging and best left to guided tours in spring, while some are quite doable if you know what you are doing in terms of navigation and managing avalanche risk. That is something you are responsible for as a skier. Ski areas will not and do not need to take any responsibility once you leave the marked runs.

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If you're lucky, you'll get some pow skiing. This is Alpe Lusia

Dolomiti Superski is a place you go for groomer skiing mostly. However, it is my opinion that it is the very best groomer skiing in the Alps. Iconic runs such as the Longia in Val Gardena (12.5 km long), the aforementioned Olypia delle Tofane in Cortina (with the super steep Tofana Schuss at the top), the Sassolungo World Cup run in Val Gardena, the Gran Risa in Alta Badia…
For me, though, it’s the less iconic runs such as the Ciampinoi run (Val Gardena), or the supremely cruisy blue Sas Betit (Val Gardena), the challenging Ciampac or Vulcan (Pozza di Fassa), the scenic Thoni (Vigo di Fassa), almost every run in Latemar (Predazzo-Pampeago-Obereggen), or the black Fiamme Oro (Alpe Lusia).

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Brilliant groomers

It is a groomer fest out there. Get yourself a nice pair of narrow carving skis (narrow means < 80 mm in Europe) and just rip it. Because they simply have superior snow-making facilities, the Dolomites are one of the most secure places to ski, even if natural snow doesn’t fall. From early December till mid-March, great groomed runs are more or less guaranteed. Much more so than in most other Alpine regions in Europe. It is my go-to Christmas destination for this reason.

Other selling points
The food and drink - coffee, apperitivo, wine - well you know, it’s Italy.

The Dolomites saw some heavy fighting during the First World War (1914-1918) between the Italian and Austrian forces, hiding in the mountains, fighting in the mountains. Some great history and battle scars of that era can still be found. Especially around Lagazuoi (the bit between Cortina and Alta Badia) and around the Marmolada (the highest peak and only skiable glacier in the Dolomites), there are multiple monuments and museums on this part of history. Note: there is advertising for the so-called ‘Great War Tour’. In 2018, some mudslides destroyed a few paths and tracks in that tour, so it is not in operation right now.

Practical stuff
Getting to the Dolomites is not straightforward. The nearest sizable international airports with intercontinental flights are Munich, Venice, and Milan. From each of those airports, it’s at least a 3-hour drive to the Dolomites. If you take an (often quite expensive) transfer, it will take a bit longer.

Traveling by train is not much easier. Only the ski area of Kronplatz has a train station for regional lines (on the northern side of the Dolomites, for access - by several busses - to Cortina or Alta Badia). But to get to this regional line, you have several transfers to make from bigger stations. Even the intercity train station at the base of Val Gardena (Klausen/Chiusa) still leaves an hour bus ride to Selva di Val Gardena, the heart of that ski area.

Even though higher-end hotels offer transfers, the easiest and most practical option is to fly to Italy and rent a car. Car rental in Italy is much cheaper than in Austria, Switzerland, or Germany. Just make sure you get winter tyres and snow chains as well (compulsory in the region). Obviously, driving in Italy and in the mountains must be something you should feel comfortable doing. The added benefit of renting a car is flexibility. Stay in the beautiful town of Moena, right in the middle of Val di Fassa, for example. Every day a maximum of 20 minutes in the car to one of the eight described ski areas, hardly any tourists, great runs, and the pure beauty and quiet of the Dolomites.

Information

Dolomiti SuperSummer


www.dolomitisuperski.com
www.dolomitisuperski.com

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One for the road - Passo San Pellegrino

Original source

  • Cheizz
About author
Cheizz
Age: 40
Hight: 6' (1.82 m)
Weight: 195 lbs (88 kg)
Skied: 12 seasons
Days a season: ~40
Based in The Netherlands, skis in the Alps (Austria, France, Italy, mostly)

I test skis. In the Netherlands, that's quite rare. And since we have no mountains, I drive to the Alps to try the bunch. And I write reviews about them as well. On my own website gigski.com

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No substitute for local knowledge and clear writing!

Replies

Thanks @Cheizz . Your summary is right-on. The Dolomiti Superski pass unlocks an essentially unlimited frontside, resort-groomer collection of terrain second to none, and the food and friendly atmosphere is stunning in my experience. You can travel to a huge variety of ski resorts with different weather, mountain profiles and snow conditions throughout the season, and with some homework, you can sew together a great set of long-distance all-day ski adventures across a bunch of resorts...all on one pass. I second the suggestion about a rental car just to allow you to get from place to place, or chase snowfall storms. Be aware, you should be prepared to use AWD cars or get chains/cables since you will be traveling over mountain passes often clogged with snow and prone to avalanche closures if you want the "up-and-over" routes instead of "around the valley floors" routes.

Scenery is sublime, and climate is usually super-friendly. Back country touring is available, but definitely hire a guide since the Dolomites can be unforgiving and have some hairy terrain unkind to those who do not plan wisely or have experience... Don't just head out thinking a map will keep out out of trouble. Grooming is usually impeccable and every area seems to be super family-friendly. Bring your carving skis for most days, but perhaps a pair of 105s+- if it snows overnight. I highly recommend taking at least 2 hours for lunch at some of the on-slope lunch chalets... try different ones...you will find some of the best lunches you've ever had at a ski resort.

I love the Alta-Badia area for supplying terrain fun for the whole family, and runs in Cortina are inspiring after watching the WorldCup on TV and then skiing the same runs yourself...realizing you REALLY are not in the physical and technical-skills shape necessary to achieve the kinds of sustained turn intensity and speed the pros are achieving on the race trails. Did I mention the food (again?). Be prepared to share the slopes in holiday periods with plenty of people, but it seems the Italians are more laid-back than the French or Austrians when things get popular and crowded on the slopes and lift lines.

Two thumbs up for @Cheizz.
 
@Cheizz, other than Christmas and Easter, what are the times it's most important to avoid, in terms of crowding due to holidays of which Americans not be aware?
 
In February, most countries have school holidays. The Germans and Italians flock to the Dolomites. Roughly the second half of February needs to be avoided in that respect.
 
“Because they simply have superior snow-making facilities, the Dolomites are one of the most secure places to ski, even if natural snow doesn’t fall. From early December till mid-March, great groomed runs are more or less guaranteed. Much more so than in most other Alpine regions in Europe. It is my go-to Christmas destination for this reason.”

Good to know! Thanks for the terrific report @Cheizz. I have visited the region in the summer but not in the winter yet. Your report has inspired me to get out there at some point during the colder months.

I am wondering if one can hire a cab from the train station at Bolzano and then rely on public transit to navigate the resorts once we are situated at our chosen base area. That’s what we did during our summer hiking trip. We went with the UK-based company Inntravel and had a glorious time. If we did the same thing on a winter trip, what base area would you choose for overnight lodging?

BTW, we spent most nights at Seiser Alm on that trip and you are right—the meadow slopes are pretty low angle.
 
@Johnfmh
In the Puster Valley (running from Bressanone in the West to Silian, Austria, in the East) there's a regional train line with stations at some of the ski areas (Kronplatz, 3 Zinnen). From the stations, other ski areas can be reached by bus.

But if you rely on public transport altogether, I would suggest Selva die Val Gardena as a base for Sella Ronda and connecting areas (1 hour by bus from Chiusa train station, but limited in terms of getting out of that Gardena valley). Or San Cassiano or La Villa in Alta Badia. Kronplatz, Cortina and Cinque Torri are just a bus ride away, and Alta Badia itself is part of the Sella Ronda and connects to Val Gardena, Val di Fassa, and Arrabba/Marmolada. That would be my choice, I think. I suppose most hotels offer transfers from major stations (Bressanone is closest I think).
Another option is Val di Fassa, like I suggested in the article.
 
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@Johnfmh
In the Puster Valley (running from Bressanone in the West to Silian, Austria, in the East) there's a regional train line with stations at some of the ski areas (Kronplatz, 3 Zinnen). From the stations, other ski areas can be reached by bus.

But if you rely on public transport altogether, I would suggest Selva die Val Gardena as a base for Sella Ronda and connecting areas (1 hour by bus from Chiusa train station, but limited in terms of getting out of that Gardena valley). Or San Cassiano or La Villa in Alta Badia. Kronplatz, Cortina and Cinque Torri are just a bus ride away, and Alta Badia itself is part of the Sella Ronda and connects to Val Gardena, Val di Fassa, and Arrabba/Marmolada. That would be my choice, I think. I suppose most hotels offer transfers from major stations (Bressanone is closest I think).
Another option is Val di Fassa, like I suggested in the article.

Is that also true if I plan to take a cab? I’d probably fly to Milan or Venice and try to get as close as possible by train/bus and then cab it for the last miles. Car hires are a pain for Americans in Italy (many credit cards don’ provide insurance in Italy, which means paying extra).
 
My experience is that it's better to have a cab based near where you are staying come and get you at a train/bus station. I usually contact the hotel where I'm staying and have them either set up the ride with a local taxi or give me the taxi's contact info and let me arrange it. The hotel doesn't want an unhappy guest, so your odds of a reliable, on time pick up go way up. Use the same taxi for the return trip.
 
For car rental, try sunnycars.nl. Dutch company, but I believe insurance is included in the car rental (and not something additional through your own credit card company).

As far as public transport vs taxi goes... There's price as a major factor, but then there also is convenience. To get from either Milan or Venice airport to the nearest train station in the Dolomites, it takes at least 1 bus service and 2 or more trains to get there. Depending on how much luggage (and skis?) you will be carrying, that's a bit of a PITA. Also account for transfers, some waiting, the beauty of Italy's unionized railways (and strikes sometimes).... Does a public transport trip outweigh the probably pricier taxi? Search for 'airport transfer' on the Dolomiti Superski or ski area websites, that will give the best information on availability, travel times and prices.
 

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