Spring Skiing in the Dolomites: Alta Badia and the Sella Ronda

18 Mar

Sharon: I knew we’d found Stuart’s ideal snow sports hotel when I had to drag him out of the free wine tasting so he wouldn’t miss his spa treatment the day before he hit the slopes again.

Stuart: Those of you who‘ve been paying attention will know we rave about skiing in Les Trois Vallees, France. In fact a week ago I claimed there is no better place in the world to ski. Well, I may have to eat my skis. We arrived in the Dolomites on Sunday night after a tortuous three-hour drive from Venice along icy mountain roads in the dark with no GPS. Happily old fashioned map reading worked.Monday was overcast so we spent the day regrouping. Meanwhile our accomodation, the Hotel Cristallo, located between La Villa and Corvaro, in the Alta Badia region,exceeded our expectationsI’d queried the hotel re their interest in providing vegan food and been told Sharon would be able to discuss her requirements with the chef each morning. We didn’t quite believe this, however we‘re happy to report that Sharon got to write her dinner menu every day. The food, both carnivorous and vegan was excellent. The young staff couldn’t have been more helpful and the tenyearold spa and pool facilities were so well constructed and maintained we thought they were brand new.

Vegan food as art.

On tuesday the day dawned with clear skies, and the snow was beckoning. The 45km Sella Ronda circuit is obligatory when you come to the Dolomite Superski area. We failed to locate the recommended restaurants (we found them later when we weren’t looking) but found some gorgeous skiing with spectacular scenery. The day was perfect apart from a few manic fellow skiers, who appeared to be on a mission to break the record for the fastest circumnavigation of the circuit.Whilst there had been no natural snow fall for some ten days we were delighted to hear that this is unimportant as snow is manufactured every night along 95 per cent of the area as long as the temperature permits. The pistes were hard packed but very skiable.The following day Stuart went on the World War One tour (trenches, tunnels, forts and paraphernalia) guided by the hotel owner, Franz. The group of seven travelled 90 Kms on skis, horsedrawn lifts and a couple of taxis. Given the distance covered, Franz skied us fast and furiously, but allowed time for a prosecco stop (on the house) prior to the mountain refuge lunch next to the Cinque Torres peaks overlooking the fashionable resort of Cortina. The only charge for this trip was Stuart’s share of the extra transport.

Ice climbing seems like one step too crazy for us. Look for the climber in the shot below. 

That day Sharon did a self-guided snow walk up to San Cassiano, took the cable car to the peak and walked to two refuges, lunching at Bioch. The return walk by the river is dotted with public art, unique sculptures by local artists.It‘s claimed that there are some 1000 kilometres of linked trails in the Dolomite Superski area. It looks like a giant wheel (the ‘saddle’ of the Sella Ronda) with spokes attached to smaller wheels extending out from the central wheel. The hundreds of lifts are individually owned and are of varying standards. This results in some bottlenecks on some sections not properly linked, and hence the occasional taxi or bus ride and the horse drawn drag lift (two cart horses pulling some 40 skiers, hanging onto ropes, up a gentle slope for one kilometreor an automated barrier where skiers have to walk across a road. It’s quirky, but fun. In case this makes the area sound antiquated it is in fact very well managed and resourced. There is so much snow bashing equipment we rarely came across a mogul field.

Gotta love spring skiing and cold beer!

Favourite sustenance spot was Jimmy’s Hut.

Favourite new piste side drink Campari and Prosecco.

So if you are still paying attention, and want the the answer to last week’s question of ‘Is the three valleys the best ski resort in the world?’, the answer is not definitive. It all depends. If your thing is off piste powder skiing or boarding then Italy’s best is not the solution; off-piste skiing is illegal. However if you like nothing more than almost endless cruising on mogul free red and blue runs with hospitable mountain restaurants every kilometer then we can thoroughly recommend the stunningly scenic Alta Badia section of the Super Dolomites, especially if you stay with Franz and Manuela at Hotel Cristallo.

Inside Jimmy’s Hut.

Alpine walker’s hound and pack – Jimmy’s Hut.

Pastry cheff Stefana with her creations on desset buffet night, Hotel Cristallo.

The latest in protective ski underwera for men!

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