Ice climbing – Prezzi Pazzi Sector, Val Pettorina

This is as far as we know a completely new sector for ice climbing with a large number of worthwhile routes. Access is quick and easy and the routes are of a more traditional nature compared to other routes in the Serrai di Sottoguda – they are mainly in gullies.


Park at a car park in Palue, which is obvious and on the left hand side as you go up the valley towards Sottoguda. Currently access from near Col di Rocca is not possible as the bridge was washed away during the storm of 29th October 2018. This situation may change in the near future.

Cross the river and follow the track east towards 2 large holiday condominiums. When you reach the condominiums start to climb the hillside through the woods towards a deep and obvious canyon marked on Tabacco maps as Ru dei Minieri. After 5 minutes walking through the woods you will approach a stream bed, walk and scramble up this to the mouth of the entrance to the left of the summer climbing crag, L’Ander.


Prezzi Pazzo WI 2+/3+

Climb the stream bed. From the mouth of the canyon you will enter a large bowl and encounter a short 20m ice fall WI2. Continue up various smaller steps easily for 150m to reach a longer pitch to the right of an obvious loose yellow cave. This we believe used to be a pirite mine. Climb a 45m pitch WI2+. Now you will reach another large bowl in the valley where you will see other icefalls, manily descending from climbers left. Climb another short pitch and start to climb right towards a stream coming fown from the right. Climb this indirectly at WI 2/2+ fo 50m, or cut the corner up a short vertical wall at 3+. Now cut through the woods diagonally right to find a very faint track to descend.

Low Price WI 4- 40m

This climbs the first large ice fall on the left in the upper valley. It is very obvious and follows a groove from left to right and then back left. There is a second pitch above at a lower grade and which is less worthwhile.

Crazy Price WI3+/4- 40m (150m)

The second ice fall on the left flank of the gully again climbs a right trending groove to a final steep step. Potentially you could climb more steeply in a direct line. Above the stream bed is less steep but can be climbed for it’s full length giving around 150m in total of climbing. At the top you can continue with difficulty through trees to walk down to Ca’Sciota, a small barn and from there return to the valley via a steep short path down through the woods. Or abseil from trees after the first pitch and continue up Prezzi Pazzo.

The Right Price WI2+ 200m

This route climbs a gully to the right of the main Prezzi Pazzo canyon. It’s visible from the road by De Grandi sport in Boscoverde. Start by entering the canyon and when you reach the first bowl, climb up a ramp to the right following a very faint path. When the ramp runs out you will reach a clearing – go steeply up diagonally right until you find the path going through trees. It narrows to pass along a rock terrace and at the end of this you will find yourself in a second gully. Follow the stream with several steep steps up to 75-80 degrees. A really enjoyable climb at the grade. After 4 pitches the gradient becomes shallow and you can climb into the woods to the left. Countour around the mountain to find the path back down the mountain (very faint) to return to the start of the route and then the canyon.

Cascata Boscoverde WI4 60m

When you drive through Boscoverde you will see an ambulance station on the right side of the road. Pull in here and you will be able to see the falls. To reach the falls go over the bridge just down the road near Col di Rocca (at time of writing this is missing – there is a smaller bridge 100m further down the road in Col di Rocca – follow the path back up to meet the road on the far side of the Pettorina) Follo the road to the first shallow stream that crosses the road and a path on the left. Follow the streambed steeply up the hill to the start of the cascade. Climb in 3 pitches, 3+ 20m, 4 20m, 3+ 20m.

Marmolada Freeride

Marmolada, called the Queen of the Dolomites by the locals, has very little pisted skiing considering her size. The tallest mountains in the range due to her formation from harder Calcarious Limestone and sporting the largest and only notable glacier, it’s the perfect place for Freerie skiing. Easy access due to the three stage lift means that you can have three big offpiste runs in one day, and when the conditions are good, there really is no better place to learn about skiing in a wilder environment. There are a great number of  runs you can take, varying in their difficulty, length, ease of return and seriousness. of course there are basically an infinite number of variations, but here I’ve collated the basics together. Please note, the top section of ALL these runs are on a glacier. Therefore you must pay attention to where you are going. It is not the most crevassed of glaciers, but it is still possible to fall in. Generally the further west you are skiing, the more serious the route is, with the furthest east basically being sidecountry riding.


Please note – this is an offpiste area in which you should carry all the appropriate equipment – avalanche beacon and probe and a shovel at the minimum preferably an Avalung or Airbag system aswell. It is ILLEGAL to ride offpiste without a beacon and you can be stopped and fined if you do not have one. If you are unsure, take an IFMGA guide like Manfred Stuffer or Enrico Geremia – as us and we will put you in contact.

Route 1: from second station – used to be groomed as a black run, now left to it’s own devices. Ski beneath Punta Serrauta until you are above Sass de Mul where either you can cut leftwards down a shallow valley back to the piste, or ski right on Route 2 all the way down to near Capanna Bill by the road. The second option can suffer from slabby snow as it catches northerly winds and also at the base there is a section down through small Pine trees (Pino Mugo – look for the Grappa made from it!).

Route 3: Take the lift to Punta Rocca and after having gone up to the viewing platform for a minute or two, ski down the piste a few metres until you can ski off the left side and down towards Sass Undici, aiming to it’s righthand side, bewteen the piste and the rock. As you reach Sass Undici there is a steeper slope which drops down the snout of the glacier back to the piste. Here if you have wide skis aor the conditions permit you can continue directly beneath Sass Undici, or take the piste for a little while until you can ski back left to rejoin the direct route, Route 4. This drops you down through a gully towards the reservoir. Make sure you are close to the foot of Sass Unidici as the terrain steepens to the right into small cliffs.

Route 5: A Fantastic route which takes the slopes just to the left of Sass Undici in the valley between the former and Sass Dodici. You can ski into the valley in a variety of ways, from the piste like route 3 at a shallower angle or ski down a hanging spur above the glacier and then drop to skier right down a steeper slope where often you can find untracked snow. Once you enter the valley stay right as there is a large flat area in the middle which will require a walk if you go into the middle of it. Once you reach the foot of Sass Undici, the ride gets more interesting again with some great little valleys and re-entrants to play in before scooting hard right, dropping beneath the rock band and rejoining the piste with a short 5 minute walk to Rifugio Fedaia.

Route 6: Very similar to route 5 but with a longer walk back unless you have the right conditions. Often less tracked. This time ski towards Sass Dodici and drop into the bowl between the two rocks more steeply. Exit to the left to the Fedaia Dam and walk back to Rifugio Fedaia at the Eastern end of the reservoir or if you are lucky you might be able to ski back towards route 5.

Route 7: From the exit of the Gondola station, take route 6 but this time ski left of Sass Dodici, passing directly beneath the rock to rejoin the piste low down the mountain. Walk back to Rigugio Fedaia.

Route 8: Ski directly down towards the Fedaia dam from the station, quite steeply to begin with, 35-40 degrees. This area is potentially crevassed so be careful. Descend towards Rifugio Fiaconi keeping it to your left and then head down the side of Sass Dodici to join route 7 and then the Piste. Walk back to Rifugio Fedaia.

Route 9: The last is a fantastic route which takes in the famous Marmolada Canyon. Follow Route 8 but as you reach the lower glacier keep bearing left beneath a rock buttress (which leads above to Punta Penia, the summit of Marmolada). Keep skiing down and left until you ski off the snout of the glacier and into a faint gully. This quickly turns into a very tight, twisting canyon around 4 metres wide and 150m long. Once you’ve passed through the canyon keep descending towards a rock face on your right which often sports a 50m high ice fall. The terrain will funnel you into a steepening and narrowing slope directly below the rock face. You will reach a terrace which crosses the face to your right. In icy conditions you must be exceedingly careful here as one foot wrong could lead to your demise as the slope ends in large cliffs. Traverse back towards the dam – gradually the slope eases off in angle and seriousness. When you reach the dam, walk back to Rifugio Fedaia.



Skitour – Monte Mondeval from Malga Giau

This is a great skitour for beginners. The height gain is moderate, the terrain is not steep and the views are some of the best in the Dolomites. On the way you will see Monte Pelmo, Lastoni di Formin, Civetta, Becco di Mezzodi, Monte Cernera and Piz del Corvo. Here’s how to do it.


From Casa Alfredino in Col di Rocca, drive to Passo Giau via Colle Santa Lucia (for a scenic but slightly longer route) or Selva di Cadore. After crossing the pass, descend untill you see a sign for Malga Giau. After the next hairpin there is a parking spot. The tour starts directly opposite the parking place.

Grade: MSA (Media Sci Alpinista) – Easy

Height Gain: 600mH

Distance: 9km

Total time required: 3-3.5 hours

Stage 1: Skin to Forcella Giau

Leave the carpark and skin following the right side of the forest and then beneath steep slopes descending from Col Piombin on the right. After 1km you reach an open bowl from where you can clearly see the line of ascent to Forcella Giau, beneath Lastoni di Formin. Cross the bowl and start to ascend, zigzaging up a 35 degree slope until you are almost level with the pass. Now contour across, gradually gaining height until you reach the pass, after 2.5km and approxmiately 0.45-1hrs.

Stage 2: Skin to Monte Mondeval

This section is a real pleasure with amazing views. There is a short shallow descent from the pass for which you can leave your skins on. Ski down and right to the edge of a deep and steep corrie. Keeping the edge to your right, follow the bowl around until you start to gain height – continue, occasionaly zigzaging until you reach the summit of Mondeval. 1.8 km 0.45-1hrs

Stage 3: Descend towards a cabin to the north

From the summit you remove your skins and ski North East towards a clearly visible hut The slope reaches 25-30 degrees. When you reach a flatter area, stop probably slightly short of the hut. Now put your skins back on. 0.8km 5-10mins

Stage 4 Skin to Forcella Giau

Make a gently ascending climb back to Forcella giau, possibly following a slight ridgeline into some boulders by the pass. 1.5km, 30 minutes

Stage 5 Ski Back to the car park

The descent from Forcella Giau is wonderful. Take off your skins and descend the steeper slopes back into the bowl and then very easily back towards the car park in the bottom of the valley. Cut through the woods when it gets too shallow to ski down and rejoin your ascent track.


Never skied in the Dolomites? You should.

These famous mountains are home to the Dolomiti Superski ski area, one of the largest linked ski areas any where in the world, allowing skiers of all to explore the finest mountain scenery imaginable. And yet it is less known to Brits than other European resorts; a few large commercial companies operate in Selva di Gardena and Corvara making them the most famous resorts for UK holiday makers. But there is more to the area and that is what I want to explore with you.

Why should I go to the Dolomites?

Consisting of sixteen ski resorts, Dolomiti Superski covers a vast terrain which stretching from the Adige valley to Dobbiaco, the altiplane of the Pala di San Martino  to the awe inspiring Tre Cime di Lavaredo. With an estimated 1200km of piste skiing and 1177km of cross country  you will find fantastic runs second to none.

Sassolungo by early morning light.

All of these areas are included in one extremely good value for money ski pass – take a look below for a comparison (prices valid 2017/18):

  • Dolomiti Superski 6 days high season: 1200km of piste, 294 Euro
  • Les Trois Vallees 6 days high season: 600km of piste, 300 Euro
  • Chamonix Valley 6 days high season: 163km of piste, 306 Euro
  • Cervinia-Zermatt 6 days high season: 150km of piste, 316 Euro

Pistes descending to Val di Zoldo beneath Civetta, some great slopes away from the madding crowds.

It is simply one of the most interconnected areas in the world, as you can ski anywhere in the area at this price for the duration of your pass. And that is what the Dolomites are really about – experiencing the mountains through a journey. Whilst your chums will be repeating their favourite runs almost daily in other areas, you can be covering virgin terrain every day, seeing new sights and experience the culture of each of the valleys you pass through.

Stop to eat and water yourself and you will invariably find fantastic quality food at great prices. For example yo can expect a good bowl of pasta to cost 8-9 Euro, a meat main course could be between 12 and 15 Euro and a litre of wine could be as little as 8-10 Euro.

A spot of lunch at the excellent Rifugio Castiglioni situated beneath the ramparts of Sassolungo.

So what’s the catch?

I could say there isn’t one but that wouldn’t quite be true.

Firstly transfers are a little trickier than in other places, especially if you are used to the simplicity of rolling up in Geneva and jumping aboard a transfer bus. We always recommend to our customers to rent a vehicle which can be had for as little as £100 for a small car – the transfer bus to Cortina for example costs 40 euro each and only leaves at certain times, so by the time you pay a  few extra pounds, what you gain is the versatility to travel to other ski areas quickly and easily.

Secondly the area is less snow sure; the particular weather patterns needed for really good snow don’t form some years. As a consequence the area has invested heavily in preparation equipment to top up natural snow levels and when you combine this with grooming far superior to anywhere else I have ever skied you are assured an excellent experience.

Thirdly hotels and apartments are generally not directly on the slopes and you will have to at the very least walk to the lift station. And if you really want to make the most of the area, then a drive of usually around 30 minutes will see you to a totally fresh area, like Falcade which you can’t access by lift from another resort. So you need to be prepared to put in a little more effort by slinging the ski’s in the car.

I’ve heard people say that generally in Italy the lift systems are not as slick as elsewhere – I’ve never found this to be true in the Dolomites, certainly not in the last 12-15 years with the continuous programme of updating and modernisation of the lift system. Once you are away from the honey pot Sellaronda circuit (more of that later) it is rare to queue.

Who’s it best for?

Virtually anybody will enjoy the Dolomites – the scenery is such that even if you are struggling with the skiing, or finding it too easy, there is always something stunning to look at. With the variety of resorts, there is something which will fit the bill; take out local resorts, no more than 10 minutes drive away. Civetta is great for beginners and families, whilst Marmolada/Arabba is perfect for the more advanced skier with many steep reds and blacks and huge amounts of off piste and ski touring.

Crashing down through fresh powder!

But in particular, the more adventurous skier will benefit from the areas diversity. If you ski red runs competently you will have a great time and will be able to access the circular tours which are available – the Sellaronda, the Panorama Tour, the Giro della Guerra and the Hexentour.

If you can off piste ski, even better – there are runs like Val Lasties and Val Mezdi, plus the huge area of glacier skiing on Marmolada. With the help of a guide you can access dream skiing in wild terrain – gullies where you’d have thought only a pro could venture.


The tours

The Sellaronda is possibly the most famous on-piste tour in the world; 40km of skiing around the Sella group passing through 4 valleys with utterly breathtaking views which you can ski in either direction. You can join it from anywhere on the round, including from Casa Alfredino. It’s a great days worth of skiing for anyone who can ski red runs happily.

Returning to the Sella Pass shortly before the last lift.

The Giro della Guerra is less known but equally excellent. It follows a route which approximates the WW1 front line and takes in the highest peak in the Dolomites, Marmolada, the Serrai di Sottoguda (a UNESCO world heritage site), skiing beneath the huge Civetta North West face, a 1300m high precipice, the stunningly beautiful 360 view from beneath Monte Averau and the Hidden Valley from the summit of Lagozuoi. It is slightly more tricky to negotiate with two bus journeys and possibly a tow from a horse drawn sledge!

The Panorama tour encompasses a route around Val di Fassa. From Casa Alfredino you can access it by following a short part of the Sellaronda, or by driving over to Alba di Penia which is a 20 minute drive, as long as the pass is open. You ski directly opposite the Cantenaccio and the Marmolada south face and finish up skiing the back of the Sella and Canazei areas. It’s a really nice tour, maybe not of the quality of the other too but still very worthwhile.

The Hexentour is probably technically the easiest route and takes you on a journey from the Sella Pass beneath the ramparts of the Sassolungo to meet the snow bus with it’shuge chained wheels which transports you through a forest to the back of Alpe di Siusi. You then take very moderate slopes across to a cable car down to Ortisei, followed by a short walk, then up the Northern slopes of Val Gardena to reach Santa Christina before returning to Sella Pass. It’s still quite a long day but the scenery is fantastic and it’s fun, laid back skiing.

What else is there to do?

Have you always dreamed of heading away from the pistes and skiing the big mountains? With some training, off piste and ski touring can be the most rewarding days you’ll ever spend on ski’s. It requires good experience on-piste and fitness but it will take you to some of the most beautiful places. For example with an IFMGA guide you can access Punta Penia, the highest summit of Marmolada. If you don’t like the sound of all that exertion, there are many easily accessed off-piste areas, which again, with the help of a guide will see you crashing through powder and trees!

Sometimes it’s easier to don crampons and walk a bit. Ski touring is nearly a different sport, but oh so rewarding.


Don’t fancy the high adrenaline of downhill skiing? You could go cross-country skiing; as mentioned above there is nearly as many km of crosscountry pistes as there is downhill, making it one of the best places in Europe. Or if you don’t like ski’s, you could try snowshoeing. The beauty of snow shoes is that as long as you can walk, you can use them. Indeed within reason you can get to the same places as you can with touring ski’s so you can get deep into the mountains with relatively few skills.

Approaching Crazy Price, a new WI3+ in Val Pettorina

Do you climb aswell as ski? Well there’s also fantastic ice climbing in the region – indeed our local ice climbing spot is famous for it’s frozen waterfalls. If you want to give it a bash, again an IFMGA guide will be able to help you!

Getting there

And then you have to consider getting there – Casa Alfredino’s closest major airport is Venice Marco Polo; most major airlines fly there but because it is considered out of season for the region, the prices are much much cheaper than over the border in Austria. Below I’ve made a comparison (only valid on the date of publishing!) flying with Easyjet to Venice and Innsbruck, our next closest major airport:

  • Gatwick to Venice 13 Jan – 20 Jan 2018: £52 for standard flights without baggage included
  • Gatwick to Innsbruck 13 Jan -20 Jan : £132 for standard flights without baggage included

Other options include fly/drive to Milan, Verona, Munich and Memmingen. To drive from the UK takes most people two days – it is possible to do it in one, but it’s a tough day indeed. Better to break it up each way with a stop – we often take a look around Strasbourg as by the time you include the crossing, that makes a good stopping point.

Want to do this all but can’t be bothered to arrange it or simply don’t have the time? Get in touch with us – we have access to everything you could possibly need from a ski host, through to a Partnered IFMGA guide, transportation options and package deals!

Want to book?

Want to read more about the various ski areas?

Road cycling – the Sellaronda

As road cycling day tours go, the Sellaronda is pretty famous; and for good reason as it passes through some of the finest mountain scenery in the world, climbing some of the most coveted passes. And it’s achievable by cyclists with a modest amount of fitness; 1845m of climbing along just over 50km of high mountain roads reaching just shy of 2300m ASL. Encircling the Sella massif, it visits Arabba, Passo Pordoi, Passo Sella, Val Gardena and Passo Gardena, Alta Badia and Passo Campolongo. I’ll split the clockwise route into 4 segments and make some suggestions on how best to approach the ride.

The route

Distance: 50.2km

Total elevation gain: 1845m

sellaronda road map

You can complete the circuit in either direction of course. Here I’ve described starting at Arabba and cycling in a clockwise direction. From Casa Alfredino this is probably the most logical place to start without adding extra miles in the car or on the bike as it is directly on the route. As you can see from the height profile, there are four distinct climbs to each of the passes, and starting at Arabba gets the largest two out of the way at the start of the day when temperatures are a little cooler and the roads less busy. If you would like to use this information, feel free to use my Strava route:

Arabba to Passo Pordoi

Distance elapsed: 9.2km catagory 1 climb

Total elevation gain: 657m

Average Gradient: 7%   Max Gradient: 9%

There is plenty of parking in and around Arabba. It’s an ideal spot to start as this small town best known for it’s skiing hosts a large number of restaurants, cafes, and shops – including a bike shop where you can pick up gas canisters and inner tubes should you need them. There is also a waterfountain near the church where you can top up bideons. The climb towards Passo Pordoi is quite long, 9.2km with an average gradient of 7% with few flat sections and 33 hairpin bends. This said, nowhere is it particularly steep, this being reflected by the max gradient of 9%. Although reasonably enclosed, the views are splendid with at first Piz Boe and then Piz Pordoi coming into view. You pass a WW1 Monument high on your right as you approach the pass where you will find some hotels and the base station of the Piz Pordoi cable car lift. The trip to the summit of the Pordoi is well worth the 14 euro ticket if you have time spare or come back another day.

One of our guests reaches Passo Pordoi.

One of our guests reaches Passo Pordoi.

Passo Pordoi to Passo Sella

Distance elapsed: 6.3km descent + 5.5km catagory 2 climb

Total elevation gain: 417m

Average Gradient: 8%  Max Gradient: 12%

Long hairpin bends take you down the Val di Fassa side of the pass towards a junction known as Bivio Sella. This route can be quite busy with tour bus’ which sometimes due to their length get a bit stuck around bends – so make sure you hover over your brakes so that you can anchor on in a hurry if you need to! You never know what is lurking around the next corner. You reach the junction and turn right and after a couple of short bends you reach the flat of Pian Schiavenais from where you get wild views of the 800 metre high NW face of Piz Pordoi and equally impressive Piz Civazes. They will be your companions for this climb, which is shorter and sharper than Passo Pordoi, with more respite during the bends, but steeper sections mixed in up to 12%. There however are never long and the views help take your mind off them, especially once you approach the pass and it opens up to Val Gardena when you get one ofthe most awe inspiring 360 panorama’s I’ve seen in any mountains. Now Piz Pordoi is accompanied by Marmolada, Sassolungo, Torre Innerkofler, Sass dei Meisules, the Odle range, the Cantenaccio and many others. It also is a good place to look for food – descending a km down the other side you will find some excellent restaurants and huts, my favourite of which is Malga Sella, a small farm sted hut serving excellent local dishes with a sun terrace to the front. It is down a small dirt track to the left after the larger huts.

Sophie, reaching Passo Sella on a fine afternoon with Marmolada in the background.

Sophie, reaching Passo Sella on a fine afternoon with Marmolada in the background.

Passo Sella to Passo Gardena

Distance elapsed: 5.2km descent + 5.8km catagory 3 climb

Total elevation gain: 237m

Average Gradient: 4%  Max Gradient: 7%

Open views, long straights and few hairpins characterise the fast descent to the next junction. The sweeping views are as ever, breathtaking. In only a few minutes it’s over and you start the third climb to Passo Gardena. It’s less steep and intense but by now you’ll be feeling it a bit. Half way through there is a long flat traverse beneath the ramparts of the Sella massif which allows you to catch your breath before a final push up to the pass. It’s all change as as you leave behind Sassolungo and Alta Badia with it’s striking walls either side of the valley come into view.

Passo Gardena to Passo Campolongo and a return to Arabba

Distance elapsed: 9.2km descent + 5.4km catagory 3 climb + 4.6km descent

Total elevation gain: 330m

Average Gradient: 6%  Max Gradient: 11%

You’re now faced with the longest descent of the day. Hairpins stretchout before you for as far as the eye can see and it’s a great descent with long straights between corners. Indeed you hardly need to pedal until you get to Corvara when a short flat brings you into this Ski town. You take a right onto the main road through the town and it immediately starts to climb again. This pass is characterised by a steep section to start with, the gradient gradually picking up as you leave the hotels and bars behind, with numerous short corners. At least it eases again, with long straights until you reach your final summit of the day. The descent to Arabba is quick, letting you enjoy a celebratory beer!

The Giro d'Italia flies through Corvara on the way to Passo Gardena, May 26th 2017.

The Giro d’Italia flies through Corvara on the way to Passo Gardena, May 26th 2017.


Bike hire: If you are only visiting for a few days, you will most likely want to hire a bike rather than transporting your own. There are a number of shops who rent road bikes.

Breakout Sport in La Villa and Corvara

Sport Kostner Rent in Corvara

Ski Service Reba in Arabba have a few road bikes. Unfortunately I can’t find a website.

Of course if you plan on bringing your own bike, most airlines will carry bikes at cost.


A road bike, as light as you can afford is the name of the game. The roads here abouts are in good condition, many stretches having been recently resurfaced and with quite modest maximum gradients, a double chainset is perfectly adequate. Most people carry two bideons and refill at intervals along the route. You should of course carry a multitool, a spare inner tube and some gas cartridges which you can get at the bike shops mentioned above. Helmets are essential as the roads here are busy, although drivers are usually courteous and give cyclists space. If you have clipless shoes, it’s worth bringing pedals with you just incase they don’t have your cleat style.


The best seasons for cyclining in the Dolomites are late May to mid July, and September until mid October, when temperatures are cooler and there are fewer thunderstorms. Temperatures at the passes at the start and end of these seasons can be decidedly chilly at the top of the passes so carrying a windshirt is recommended and possibly knee length bib shorts. But mostly it is warm and dry during these times. One thing to mention is that there are several organised Sellarona Bike Day events every year when th roads are closed for the day to motorised traffic. This sees mass starts with thousands of cyclist completing the route.

Where to stay

At we offer apartments. We are situated close to the start of the tour at Arabba as well as some of the other famous routes – particularly Passo Giau and Passo Fedaia, two of the most coveted climbs in the region. Why not drop us a line at

The Dolomites – 10 things to do to make your holiday special!

You probably already have some ideas about what to do on your trip to the Dolomites, but the area has so much to offer which you might not know about, so let me give you some ideas!

 1) Ride a bike

The Dolomites has some of the best road cycling and mountain biking in the world. There are many hard climbs over beautiful passes, many of which are included in the Giro d’Italia, the second most famous bike race in he world after the Tour de France. The area around Casa Alfredino is used every year; Passo Giau, Passo Sella, Passo Gardena, Passo Fedaia – they are climbs synonymous with the event. The famous Sellaronda for example can be completed as a road bike trip or on a mountain bike. With 1800m of height gain it’s a serious undertaking and you need good fitness to complete it. You can rent bikes in La Villa, Corvara, Arabba, or Alleghe. For more detail take a read of our article specifically about the route!

Sophie, reaching Passo Sella on a fine afternoon with Marmolada in the background.

Sophie, reaching Passo Sella on a fine afternoon with Marmolada in the background.



The Giro d'Italia flies through Corvara on the way to Passo Gardena, May 26th 2017.

The Giro d’Italia flies through Corvara on the way to Passo Gardena, May 26th 2017.

If you are more into mountain biking, the tour is no less excellent, with the route well waymarked. You can either cycle up, or during the high season, use the lift system to transport your bike up leaving you to enjoy the long downhills. There are Enduro sections if you choose and an All Mountain set-up is recommended.

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2) Go for a walk away from the crowds

Casa Alfredino is located on the southern fringe of the most well known area of the Dolomites, which can be especially packed during August when literally the whole of Italy is on holiday. If you want to get away from the madding crowds then head to the south of the range. It’s much less developed and quieter and even in high season you can find quiet forests and high mountain walks on which you will find greater tranquility. Here are three of my favourites.

Cascata del Inferno: great for an off day, head to Valle San Lucano where you will drive beneath the enormous 1600m North Face of Monte Agner, worth the drive in itself. If you drive all the way to the end of the road, you can park, head up a mettled road and after 200 yards take the small track to the right waymarked to the cascades. The deepening gorge is home to some beautiful waterfalls, each one more impressive than the last.

Cavallaza from Passo Rolle: few people know of the Lagorai and its igneous mountains. Starting from Passo Rolle, head over the summit of Tognazza, then onwards to Cavalazza, before dropping to Lahgi di Colabricon. This stunning area is reminiscent of the Scottish or Welsh mountains, with hidden tarns, lush green vegetation and stunning views of the entirely different Pale di San Martino over the valley. There are the remains of some of the Austrian trenches in the mountains too, and the return to Passo Rolle is through dense coniferous forest. Again the drive over Passo Valles to get there is utterly stunning.

Looking across a high mountain tarn opposite the Pale di San Martino

Looking across a high mountain tarn opposite the Pale di San Martino near Passo Valles

Passo Staulanza to Passo giau: Park up at the Rifugio Citta dei Fiumi carpark, not far from Passo Staulanza. The walk up to the hut is a short 40 minute trek up a wide easy track affording views of Marmolada, Pelmo and Civetta. Continue up behind the hut and this leads you to a ridgeline from which you can see Antelao and Sorapiss aswell. The track leads easily over several minor passes through high alpine meadows and some of the most spectacular scenery in the whole of the Dolomites. By doing it in the direction suggested and starting early, you complete the route as a 500m climb and thus go in the opposite direction to most people, so for most of the day you will have the mountains to yourself. When you get to Passo Giau, hitch a lift back to the car park

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Rifugio Citta dei Fiumi with Marmolada in the background.


Alpine cows showing us some love

3) Visit Bolzano

Bolzano, the regional capital of Alto Adige/Sud Tirol has a beautiful old town well worth spending a day on – ideal for a rest day or if the rain comes in. It’s a 1hr 40 min drive from the house over Passo Fedaia and Passo Carezza where you will pass the UNESCO world Heritage site, Lago di Carreza beneath the Latemar towers. It has a splendid cathedral with a multi-coloured tiled roof, arched colonnades with lots of boutique shops, a street market, excellent restaurants (I can heartily recommend the Hopfen & Co Brewery), a museum dedicated to Otzi a prehistoric man who was found buried in a glacier not far away, Mountain Spirit and Sportler, two excellent climbing shops, and Salewa Head Quarters with a fantastic indoor climbing wall.

4) Wine tours

The Adige, Friuli and Prosecco regions are world famous for their wines. Indeed the Adige promotes a wine road and they have many excellent varieties, including Blauburgender/Pinot Nero, Grauvernatsch, Lagrein, Pinot Grigio of course and Eisacktaller. To the south and east of the house, you’ll find the Friuli wines like Riballo Giallo, and Proseccos in Valldobiadene and Conegliano amongst many many others, but also Grappa’s of all types.

5) Medieval castles and history

If you like historical sites you will be interested to know that during the middle ages the entire region as far as Milan was part of Bavaria. As a result it has a great number of beautiful castles, like Castello Andraz. Over the years it changed hands, ceeding to the Holy Roman Empire (indeed Merano, just 30 minutes from Bolzano was the regional capital for a very long time indeed and a papal seat – Castle Tyrol is worth a look if you are in the area) and then the Hapsburg Empire and Veneto, before finally becoming wholly Italian after the brutal battles fought here during the First World War. There are war forts and open air museums at Passo Valparola and high on the flanks of Marmolada which you can visit using the cable car.

Castello Andraz - a small medieval castle in a stunning mountain setting

Castello Andraz – a small medieval castle in a stunning mountain setting

6) Ice skating, swimming and fishing in Alleghe

If it’s so miserable you can’t get out into the mountains, then maybe indoor skating might pass some time; or on a sunny rest day you might want to unwind at the mountain beach set beneath the towering Civetta. You can rent pedallo’s, go fishing, walk by the lake and generally unwind.

Pedallo fun on Lago di Alleghe with the mighty Civetta NW wall above.

Pedallo fun on Lago di Alleghe with the mighty Civetta NW wall above.

7) The Civetta Zipline and the Civetta adventure park

For those of you who have no issues with throwing yourself of a perfectly good mountainside, the Civetta Zipline is a huge 1600m 2 stage line in San Tomaso Agordino, just south of Alleghe. Reaching speeds of up to 80kmh, it crosses a huge ravine twice up to 160m above the ground and descends 260m!

Meanwhile for kids there is a treetop adventure park; take the first stage of the Alleghe cable car up to Pian di Pezze where you will find quite a few different activities for children and this excellent high rise obstacle course!

8) Go sport climbing

If you are a climber you’ll most likely know lots about the famous alpine and trad climbing in the area. But most will not know that we have some superb sport climbing in our area: the best are Sass di Roccia at Laste, Val di Gares, Castello Andraz, Sass di Dlacia and Cinque Torri. All you need is a single rope, some quickdraws, a harness and some climbing shoes. Val di Gares and Andraz in particular are in ideal family friendly settings, in the woods with shade and a beautiful setting. If you would like a taster, we can arrange for a qualified guide to lead you for a day!

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One of our local sport climbing crags at Malga Ciapela. A lovely spot although a bit tough, with rough, steep, pocketed limestone and routes from 6a+

9) Stay at a hut for a night

There is absolutely nothing like hiking up to a hut and settling down with a glass of wine to watch the sun set over the mountains, and then the excitement of waking up to an equally glorious sunrise; I find it hard to sleep! We are surrounded by great places to stay – just ring up before you set off to book a spot. You can expect to pay around 45-50 euro per person including dinner and a basic breakfast. Here are some of the best:

Rifugio Falier 1hr45 walk from the trailhead, or 2hr15 from Malga Ciapela campsite when the road above this is closed during August.

Rifugio Citta di Fiume 1hr walk from the car park

Rifugio Viel dal Pan 1hr10 walk from Passo Fedaia – quite steep but with excellent views

Rifugio Cappana Piz Fassa 1hr30 walk from Piz Pordoi, which you can access using a cable car. This is a tiny hut, at the very top of the Sella Massif with only 20 sleeping spaces, so bookings are non refundable.

Rifugio des Alpes Accessible by cable car from Campitello di Fassa, or by a 1 hour walk from Passo Sella

Tierser Alpl Hutte a 2hr 30 walk from Campitello di Fassa, or 2hr 30 from Passo Sella – either version is delightful, although the latter has more spectacular views. Or walkin from Sella pass, then walk down to Campitello the next day and catch a lift back up to return to Passo Sella

Rifugio Fronza alla Coronelle A 15 minute lift ride from Via Nigra below the Cantenaccio

10) Eat, drink and be merry

Italian food is renowned the world over and the Dolomites is no exception. With a superb mix of traditional local Tyrolian, Fodom and Ladin dishes and of course pastas and pizzas, you can dine in style. Add in the great wines mentioned above and you have a winning mix. Even food at huts is usually of excellent quality and very reasonably priced, so don’t worry about your lunch time sarnies and get stuck in. Speck, canederli, roe deer and venison stews, goulash, casunsiei and porcini mushrooms are delicacies not to be missed and feature on most menus in our area.

A spot of lunch at the excellent Rifugio Castiglioni situated beneath the ramparts of Sassolungo. A fantastic hour long walk to a lunchspot with a kids play area and superb food.

A spot of lunch at the excellent Rifugio Castiglioni situated beneath the ramparts of Sassolungo. A fantastic hour long walk to a lunchspot with a kids play area and superb food.

The Sellaronda Ski Tour – Orange.

The Sellaronda is world famous – in the summer as a fabulous road and mountain biking tour, or in winter as an on piste, whole day excursion. You can do it in either direction, without using any other mode of transport than the ski lifts and the planks on your feet. It’s a wonderful thing to do and can be accomplished by any intermediate skier – if you can ski any red, it’s on. Indeed you shouldn’t be put off when looking at the map as this trip is more about the volume of skiing than the difficulty – bar a couple of slopes in the Arabba area, both directions generally follow the line of least resistance! Personally I prefer the Orange route but theres really not much in it. Of course if you are a strong skier, you can add detours for added excitement and I will detail some of these below.

The lay of the land

The Sellaronda encircles the Sella massif; a square chunk of Dolomite which was uplifted by the underlying igneous layer of rock in one piece. It’s a magnificent, apparently flat topped range, with only the occasional breech in its vertical walls through which a valley pours. Surrounded by the Ladin speaking valleys of Val di Fassa (Val de Fascia), Val Gardena (Val Gherdëina), Val Badia and Val Cordevole. Each valley has its main village from which the tour can start, or if you are in one of the outlying villages you can join it with a variation. From Casa Alfredino you have to do just this, starting in Malga Ciapela where you take a lift to Monte Padon which allows you to descend in a couple of runs to Arabba. You could also either drive to Arabba or Canazei in about half an hour. But for now I will describe the tour from Malga Ciapela. If you are not coming from there then ignore the next section.


This route takes most people a whole day, especially if you add in some detours for lunch etc. You must be able to sustain a good fluid pace for the day to complete it. If you are a speed freak and straight line off the top of every lift and don’t stop it can be completed by the shortest route in about 3 hours 30 minutes – this should give you some understanding for the amount of skiing involved.

There are frequent huts all around the route – it’s not really worth carrying a packed lunch with you as inevitably you will want to stop for a drink, and wolfing down some chips won’t cost much at all. Skiing unencumbered with either no pack or only a small one, is much nicer.

You will need a Dolomiti Superski pass which covers all the areas of the Dolomites. If you have a choice, avoid the end of the week and Sunday’s as these are the busiest days. Saturday (changeover day) can work well and also early in the week when people are still warming up a little.

Accessing Arabba

From Casa Alfredino drive or take the ski bus up to Malga Ciapela. If you have a car, there is a small carpark at the lift to Monte Padon which is further up the hill than the main Marmolada lift – if you reach the s-bends on the way up to Passo Fedaia you’ve gone to far.

Jump on the lift which takes about 15 minutes. The red run down from here is quite intimidating, although it’s not as bad as it looks as it’s usually uncrowded and first thing in the morning will be perfectly groomed. It widens and becomes easier as you descend. when you get to the bottom, there is a small 2 seat chair which takes you to the middle of the Arabba range, again a 10 minute ride. This takes you in total maybe 40 minutes if you take it steady, and it’s a good warm up for the day.


Orange, clockwise route

From here on I’ll describe the route in the Orange direction. I say Orange because the route is signposted with Orange arrows for clockwise and Green for anti-clockwise. Both are roughly the same difficulty – some people enjoy one direction so much they do it in the other the next day!

So having skied down a blue run from the Malga Ciapela link, you will come to the mid-station of the bubble car lift to Portovescovo. Get on this and then ski down the short access run which links the to Portovescovo lift houses to one another. Coming around the corner you will find probably the hardest run of the day – handy whilst you’re fresh. It’s a steep and often very bumpy run which gets carved up by intimidated skiers. If you are lucky, keeping to skiers left and skiing the powder swept to the outside edge of the piste can give you a good run – keep left and you will inevitably get mixed up in the mayhem. However it is steeper on this side.

Once down this slope, runs lead off leftwards – keep take the left most alternative which traverses the mountainside towards Passo Pordoi. Initially they are wide slopes with some steep pitches which can be crowded, so be careful – rolling into them at speed is asking for trouble – again the outside of the piste is your friend if you are. Then it transitions into a track which curls around the until you reach the long chair up to Passo Pordoi.

Passo Pordoi to Sella Pass

To get to the Val di Fassa slopes, ski down under the lift and then take the chair on your left – it goes quite steeply up to a summit in a col. This marks the end of one of the less interesting sections. The next run which is long and goes all the way to Lupo Bianco is excellent at the start. For side country skiers, duck under the ropes I front of you and there is an excellent area down between some rocks. On piste, the run which leads right is my preferred way, although either is good – down left there is a small boarder cross run which can be fun! The whole area funnels down towards a bowl just above the trees – lots of skiers congregate here as its a natural meeting spot. This then takes you down into a long valley run which is narrow with quite a few hairpins. It’s fun although often busy.

Rifugio des alpes

The view at the top of Col Rodella across to Piz Civazes


After a few minutes there is a run to the right which you must take – not to do so will lead you down to Canazei which will mean walking back to the lift house, catching a ride back up to the bowl you’ve just come from and starting again – it is an easy mistake to make and if you do so towards the end of the day could be costly too if you end up in the wrong valley! Instead, you will go through a tunnel under a road and then arrive at bubble cars to Sella Pass. Here either schuss down to a short chairlift on skiers right, or for a small excursion, go left to a 2 man chair to the top of Col Rodella which affords a fantastic view. You have to return to the same lift, but it’s a worthwhile run, especially for the side country on skiers right. Finally you are set up for a run down to Selva Gardena.


Sella Pass to Selva Gardena

This section allows for the most deviation from the standard run. For the easiest run (although bad for boarders due to a number of flat sections), you can follow initially the red to Hotel Passo Sella, and then the blue all the way to Pian di Gralba. Alternatively, pull up at a 3 man chair on your left about half way down to Piz Seteur. If you ski towards where came from you will find a great red run, called Falk which takes you Plan do Grabla. Or you can take on of the runs over the other side of Piz Seteur which are directly infront of you when you demount the lift. This allows you to reach Rifugio Comici, a nice sport for a break in stunning surroundings. You need to take a couple of ski tows to do this. You can also reach this point from Pian di Gralba by taking the large cable car to Piz Sella. From Rifugio Comici either ski the eastern slopes down to Plan di Grabla, or better take runs westward beneath Sassolungo down to lift 21 – it’s a secret back run which is quiet and beautiful. Lift 21 then allows you to access Ciampinoi by way of another lift, 22 from where you can ski either the excellent black or red down into Selva di Gardena.

Should you descend from Plan di Gralba, the run is a long easy red with a couple of short obvious lifts to gain you a little altitude in flat spots. All the described runs lead to a car park in the centre of Selva where you have to take your skis, go over an overpass and onto the next section.


Looking out from Dantercepies towards Sassolungo and Val Gardena


Selva up to Passo Gardena and on to Corvara

At the end of the overpass catch a lift, and then ski down to the Dantercepies bubble cars. This takes you to the pass in one fell swoop. Although this marks geographically the halfway point, in reality completing the route is now not far off and you can take you foot off the gas a bit. With one long red, you will descend to Colfusco beneath mighty north facing cliffs. Perpetually in shade, the runs are cold. On the right you will see ice falls through the trees, and it’s worth stopping to stare up at this massive cathedral of rock. If you fancy a detour, when you get to Colfosco, go up lift 46 (Cofosco) and then 50 (Forcelles). There’s a well positioned hut here which affords expansive views across the Sella – it’s worthwhile if you have time as you get a much better idea of this side of the Sella from here.

To get down to Corvara you have to take a lift – there are no runs. This is a pretty flat lift and it delivers you right to the lift house which accesses the next leg.


Corvara to Arabba

The last leg is really nice again. Back in the sun, with some excellent runs and some opportunities for deviation. Lift 19 takes you up to the Boe ski area. Here you can either continue or take a lift to catch a steep black run, Vallon nestled in a bowl to your right. In years gone by the area just outside the lift station was a bind as it was flat to mildly uphill so pushing or walking was required but they now install a small conveyor lift to help – infinitely better! The run down to Passo Campolongo is good, although can get badly bumped at the end of the day as it’s in direct sunshine so the snow piles up progressively until it’s sometimes a real challenge. This happens on a slope about halfway down to the pass. Luckily the worst is not very long and you can usually ride them out by taking long diagonal runs across the slope. Or draw your knees together, ready your poles and imagine you’re on an Olympic Mogul run. Just don’t come crying to me when it goes wrong.

After the moguls bear right at the next junction to catch the last lift you need to get to Arabba, Bec de Roces. If you have time, you can cross the road on lift 31 for a run down from Cherz – there a really nice sweeping red run which comes down through the trees – lots of fun for a quick blast.

From Bec de Roces Arabba is one run away. The reds are all a blast here although late season they will be pretty slushy by the time you get there as they are plumb south facing and exposed. But, all things equal in a few minutes you will be at the new Arabba Fly lift which will transport you back to near the base Portovescovo lift. Here we recommend taking the DMC Europa 1 lift. The Cable car to Portovescovo is always jam packed whilst the DMC bubble cars seem to be missed by many who just pile onto the cable car as it’s the first option available. At any rate, in a few minutes you are back to where you started on the Sellaronda, all you must do is retrace your steps to Monte Padon and collapse in a heap!

M.Speciale, Piccolo Lagozuoi, VI-

M.Speciale is a fantastic 300m route which climbs to the top of Piccolo Lagazuoi on a very direct line. Its difficulty is a little discontinuous, but the crux pitches especially are really quite special, certainly some of the most fun climbing I’ve done of that grade in the Dolomites. It is airy, with highly pocketed and water worn grey Dolomite on the hard sections and is broken by a terrace at mid height from where you can escape to the right should you need to.


Topo showing approach and descent, and approximate line of route



Approach is fast and easy from Passo Valparola, where you park in a lay by opposite the old fort. Follow the Kaiserjaeger Path towards the base of the Lagozuoi and after climbing for some 15 minutes, strike out directly to the base of the wall up loose scree. The route starts at an obvious chimney near the lowest point of the buttress and to the right of an overhang.

What to take:

There are a great number of threads on this route, many of them equipped with tat of varying quality. Stiff Kevlar cords and dyneema slings to thread these are useful. The rock is a touch tricky to place gear in, so a limited rack of a set of nuts and a few cams (0.4-1 Camalot) are useful. Double ropes are advised should you need to retreat during a storm as the pitches are quite long.


Close up of the route. The best pitch is up the black water worn rock near the start.

The Climb:

After a short easy chimney the route strikes out leftwards in a determined fashion across a rather blank wall; it has just enough good holds to make it relatively easy. There are a number of pegs to protect, but a few nuts also help. Shortly a  belay in a shattered niche is reached where there is a peg belay. The next pitch is fantastic; steep and featured, it looks intimidating from the start. However you soon realise that you can follow a line of jugs which breech the wall and a couple of small overlaps. In a 35m pitch you reach a belay, again equipped with pegs although there are plenty of alternative placements should they be needed. It’s a small belay and not ideal for more than 2 people.


Federico climbing the steep, exposed and utterly excellent first pitch.


From here you climb more easily to a terrace which is crossed. This the point at which escape to the right is possible, just be careful not to knock off rocks as there are a number of busy routes which climb the wall beneath it. All being well though, belay at the back of the terrace beneath a steep wall. Here you climb a fairly obvious weakness in the wall to a hanging groove. You reach another loose terrace with few good belays. Retrospectively I would search for something close to the edge of this terrace as the rock at the back is loose and shattered and provides little real security.


Federico larking around on the terrace. What a spot.

Federico larking around on the terrace. What a spot.

Climbing leftwards across this terrace you will approach a steep wall beneath a large black bulge. Climb until you find a rampline which leads back right wards into an open corner beneath the wall and belay to a thread and nut. Now strike out boldly leftwards, climbing through a first overlap and then a smaller second one with some difficulty. You will reach a ledge leading leftwards – do not be lured along this but instead climb quite directly to a hidden peg and from there to a large ledge. Here arrange a runner for your second and traverse the ledge leftwards to a peg belay beneath a crack in the overhanging wall above.

Looking into the abyss from the last belay, just before the short hard crack.

Looking into the abyss from the last belay, just before the short hard crack.

Climb this crack with some “urgency” to yet another loose terrace and belay. The exit of the climb is on the left, across scree covered ledges, at first quite steep and exposed but quickly giving way to an easy path.

The Descent:

The descent is certainly not easy. You must be sure footed and comfortable with quite tricky scrambling. According to the guidebook we had, after traversing ledges rightward, you find some pegs for an abseil. We never found this, and instead followed first a large terrace and then increasingly narrow ledges eastwards across the mountain until we reached a large slope above the East face of Piccolo Lagozuoi. There we picked up the top of the Kaiserjaeger path which is equipped with a bridge and cables to protect exposed sections. We followed this directly back to the carpark in around 25 minutes, the whole descent taking about an hour.

Sass di Stria, Spigolo Sud, IV+

The Spigolo Sud or South Arete of the Sass di Stria is a magnificent and highly attainable goal for the aspirant rock alpinist. Over looking the famous Passo Falzarego it affords not only excellent climbing, but stunning views and an extensive insight into the history of the area during the descent. With a minimal approach it is great as an introductory climb if you’ve not experienced Dolomite rock yet.

Looking out over Passo Falzarego towards Tofana di Rozes, Cinque Torri, and Averau.

Looking out over Passo Falzarego towards Tofana di Rozes, Cinque Torri, and Averau.


Only 25 minutes drive from Casa Alfredino, park either at the Lagozuoi cable car station or at the Fort museum at Passo Val Parola. From the cable car station follow the road towards the pass and vice versa from the pass. About midway between the two there is a small rock gym area just south of the road on the very foot of Sass di Stria. Walk over to this from where you will see an obvious path leading around the eastern flank of the mountain. This ascends quite steeply through scree and scrub until the South Arete is reached in around 15 minutes. If you go a little further you will reach old trenches which are interesting to look around.


What to take:

As with most trade routes in this area there is extensive fixed gear on the route. So 10 extenders (slingdraws are useful), a few 120cm slings, a set of nuts and sizes 0.5-1 Camalots will suffice. Of course it’s assumed you will carry a small pack with a rain proof and something warm in case of a summer storm!

Shortly before reaching the Arête, at one of the numerous beefy ring bolts enroute.

Shortly before reaching the Arête, at one of the numerous beefy ring bolts enroute.


The Climb:

Six pitches at a fairly sustained grad of UIAA IV or around Hard Severe / 5.6. The initial pitches start easily climbing out of a gully onto a rib. Belays are denoted by large steel ring bolts which are usually painted with a red blob and are frequent – you can easily run some of them together.

On the arête looking out over the mountains.

On the arête looking out over the mountains.

The route follows this rib for a couple of pitches and it slowly becomes more and more acute to form a sharp arete. At one point an improbable and exposed section leads up the left side of the arete just when you think it should go right; the difficulties are short lived but exciting. This leads to a chimney and large ledge where upon if you look right you will see an enormous leaning flake with a passageway behind it.

The hidden passageway. Continuing direct at this point is apparently about UIAA VII!

The hidden passageway. Continuing direct at this point is apparently about UIAA VII!

Climb up to this and through the hole to the other side. Here you find either an easy exit at grade III or a more testing direct line up a groove at V- which is well worth the effort if you have the ability. This deposits you directly at the summit cross where you can sign the summit log.

The summit - it's a great place with room for a nice lunch and tremendous 360 views.

The summit – it’s a great place with room for a nice lunch and tremendous 360 views.


Trenches from the war extend virtually to the road from the summit. From the cross go down westwards where you will find the first one. If you have time, take a head torch with you so that you can explore the war tunnels. If pressed for time it takes maybe 45 minutes to reach the car park from the summit. The route is reasonably obvious bar little side trenches, but if you get lost, climb up out of the trench to help you reorient.

Some of the trenches with their wooden ladders. Although classed a Via Ferrata, there is very little one could call climbing, bar a few ladders.

Some of the trenches with their wooden ladders. Although classed a Via Ferrata, there is very little one could call climbing, bar a few ladders.


Ski Val Gardena – one of the best and most varied resorts in the Dolomites

Val Gardena is one of the busiest skiing valleys in the Dolomites and for good reason, with a system which is well organised, extensive to say the least, not to mention some fantastic runs. It links easily into Alta Badia, Val di Fassa and Alpe di Suisi with a network of lifts, buses and train links. What’s more, the villages are beautiful, have a great many excellent restaurants and a huge offering in terms of hotels. If there can be any criticism, it would be that it has lost its originality and a little of its charm as the tourism industry has done its stuff.

Back to the skiing. The valley can be roughly divided into four areas:

  • Passo Sella and Plan di Gralba
  • Selva di Gardena and Monte Pana
  • Seceda
  • Passo Gardena

Each provides a days skiing in their own right, before you even start linking one into the other.

Green - Sella Pass and Plan di Gralba Blue - Monte Pana Red - Ciampinoi and Selva di Gardena Purple - Seceda Yellow - Dantercepies and Passo Gardena

Green – Sella Pass and Plan di Gralba
Blue – Monte Pana
Red – Ciampinoi and Selva di Gardena
Purple – Seceda
Yellow – Dantercepies and Passo Gardena

Passo Sella and Plan di Gralba (Green)

This is one of my favourite areas in the Dolomites; there is a mix of mainly easy and intermediate runs in utterly breathtaking scenery, well served by huts and lifts and I have been to some resorts which offer in their entirety as much as this one sector alone, especially when you consider that in reality the Selva Gardena and Monte Pana areas are in reality one with this.

The reason I’ve split them is purely as its too much to write about in one chapter!

From Casa Alfredino, the easiest way to access the area is to drive for about 25 minutes over Passo Fedaia when it’s open and to park at Campitello di Fassa. Alternatively you can drive (if you have a Dolomiti Superski pass) to either Lupo Bianco or directly to Sella Pass. From Campitello a cable car whisks you directly to Col Rodella, the top of the range. In this part of the world Col means hill, so you are deposited more or less at the summit of a mountain which affords immense views of Sassolungo, Sass Pordoi, Marmolada and south to the Fassani mountains.

From the treeless runs at the pass one can take an enormous and very easy uninterrupted run all the way to Selva di Gardena. It’s great for beginner skiers, but I wouldn’t recommend this for snow boarders as there are quite a number of flats spots and instead there are a number of easy deviations you can make, to either make this longer or more difficult.

From Casa Alfredino, the easiest way to access the area is to driver or about 25 minutes over Passo Fedaia when it’s open and to park at Campitello di Fassa. From here a cable car whisks you directly to Col Rodella, the top of the range. In this part of the world Col means hill, so you are deposited more or less at the summit of a mountain which affords immense views of Sassolungo, Sass Pordoi, Marmolada and south to the Fassani mountains. The opening run from here is truly great – it could just be longer! It drops quite steeply, although if you pick an outside line can be skied by less able skiers quite comfortably – it’s bark is certainly worse than its bite. For those keen on side country, head just to the left of the return chairlift and tackle the excellent and steep run down beneath the lift. The first time I discovered this, there was deep powder and I spent a quarter of a day just going up and down that section on its own taking different lines.

Sassolungo by early morning light.

Sassolungo by early morning light.

At the bottom of this slope be careful. If you have only bought a single area ticket, don’t ski down into Val di Fassa as you won’t be able to get back up from Lupo Bianco. Instead, there is a short lift which delivers you back to some slopes just above the Sella Pass. From here swoop down past the grandiose new 4 star hotel at the pass (excellent food if you’re there about at lunch) and past a small hut on a long and flattish blue run. Make sure you keep up your speed on this section as it can be a long walk if you don’t and take care of your snowboarding buddies. It leads down into the woods and to a short lift up leftwards. Here you can either continue on the blue down to Plan di Gralba, or take the lift which opens a variety of possibilities. Indeed if you pile out and ski back down the line of the lift, shortly bearing left, you will find my favourite red of the entire resort, Falk. Given heavy snowfall and low visibility, the contrast provided by the trees makes this into a deserted quasi off piste paradise! Even in more normal conditions, this rolling run, with its steep sections broken by nice breaks is just good fun.

Jump back on the cable car lift to the top of Piz Sella and you have access to the meat of the sector. The black you’ll find at the top here if you leave the right hand side of the lift house, is steep and narrow and often icy. Not for the timid, and in my opinion just not that good. Better, take the red or black to your left which gives really wide sweeping runs back to Plan do Gralba. In the bowl at the bottom of the first section there is an excellent restaurant, Rifugio Comici with different levels of culinary excellence at different price tags. Indeed this bowl is somewhat of a playground. Usually bathed in sunshine until the early afternoon, these runs are dwarfed by the mighty walls of Sassolungo, and there is a snow park, and often timed courses, or slalom runs. It’s packed full of easy blues. Lastly, from Rifugio Comici, there is a little known run which heads over the pass down towards lift 21. This is a special run, as you ski right beneath the North Ridge of Sassolungo which is quite one of the most impressive places you can ski in these parts as it towers some 1000m above the screes. It also links to Monte Pana and can provide some fun skiing through the trees.

Sassolungo Monte Seura

The huge Sassolungo North face from Mont de Seura, in the tucked away Monte Pana ski area.


Monte Pana (Blue)

I’ll quickly talk about the small area at Monte Pana – it’s worth a trip as there are some nice runs there, and it also provides access to the back of Alpe di Suisi. From the bottom of lift 21 simply continue along the easy and in places flat blue. This brings you shortly to a bowl in the shadow of Sassolungo. If you aim to get to Alpe di Suisi, head to the car park where you will find a bus stop – usually they leave every half hour or so. It’s a great trip along a back country lane – the buses are equipped with huge snow chains and the road is absolutely not navigable normally. It’s a really nice outing and can be made into a tour. I’ll write another blog sometime detailing it.

But back to Monte Pana. There is an area of blue runs served by ski tows, probably only of interest for larking about or letting the kids loose in a small area on their own whilst taking a break yourself. However, take the lift back to the top of Mont de Seura and you will find two superb runs back down through the trees, a black and a red. They are often pretty much empty as this is a bit of a back water and a little tricky to get to, but well worth the effort. When you want to return, take the lift up to Mont de Seura and return to lift 21 which gets you back into the previous area quite quickly.

Selva Gardena (Red)

So, the last area on this side of the valley is utterly fantastic. You can either access it by skiing all the way down to Selva di Gardena on the return run, or from the top of lift 21. I will describe the later as I suspect it will be the most interesting for our guests. The ski map is a little confusing here and could really do with some arrows to help you work out what’s up and down!

So, take the run down from 21, or join it using the previously mentioned tricky black from Piz Sella. This is sometimes a little bumpy, especially as the day progresses. At the bottom there’s a nice little hut for lunch. Continuing from here will return you to Plan do Gralba. Instead take the lift just uphill of the hut, no. 22 which takes you up to Ciampinoi. Here the fun starts. This is an extremely busy area and it’s easy to lose each other, so come up with a plan before you start. In front of you you will see a steep “end of the earth” black – great for those looking for a short challenging slope with a long run out. Right, a flat link leads across to the other piste, in particular the famous Sasslong, which is used every year during the FIS season as a downhill run.

Indeed as you schuss down the first drop, think about the racers straight lining this section and reaching 100kph along the relatively flat section. The Sasslong is quite possibly the most fun black I’ve ever skied. It’s not desperately steep at any point and rolls and winds it’s way down the mountain. Try skiing it in one go and your legs will be on fire during the steep sections with just enough rollers to give you a rest. Invariably when you get to the bottom, you will be dismayed by how slow you were compared to last years winners whose time is posted above the arrival arena.

High above Val Gardena, spotting the way to the trees!

High above Val Gardena, spotting the way to the trees!

If you don’t fancy the black? Well there is an excellent red which runs parallel to the Sasslong and passes the beautiful Casetllo Wolkenstein. From this arrival arena, you can take the subterranean train towards the Seceda area, but more of that later. Taking the lift back up to Ciampinoi, there are three alternatives (once you’ve done the Sasslong AGAIN…)

Ski down the slope towards Selva di Gardena and you will find a red and a black run. Both of these are excellent. The red splits, one going towards Plan do Gralba and lift 22, the other rejoins the black further down the mountain. Both these runs are great fun, my preference being for the one to Selva which is steep and twisty. Indeed, the black is only slightly harder. It’s a very quick route down and puts you in a position to go towards Passo Gardena.

The final alternative from Ciampinoi is a red which descends beneath lift 22 – be careful with this one. It is narrow, exceedingly busy and because of its shape allows snow to build at the edges in quite large moguls. It is quite normal to see beginners and intermediates spread eagle across the slope, and descending at speed will land you in trouble. The aforementioned return to the bottom of 22 in my view is a much better way and is far less frequented. Unless it’s early in the morning I’d avoid it.

Seceda (Purple)

Let’s pick up in Santa Cristina in the Sasslong arena. As previously mentioned, here you will find a train link housed in a larch clad building which will take you up hill to a bubble lift. Seceda is great for easy, sun drenched skiing with grid views. It’s not stellar skiing, and because of its sunny position often softens up considerably in the afternoon and snow cover can be a bin thin in a dry year. That said its less busy and is worth a visit. It allows you to ski over to Ortisei where you can link by lift to Alpe di Suisi as part of the Hexentour.

Fro Col Raiser, a short linking run takes you leftwards to a further chairlift  takes you to the top of Seceda. To access Ortisei, facing downhill ski right wards where you will find a red valley run. It curls around the mountain through the trees. It’s long and pleasant with little requirement for a break as its a pretty easy red. You will pass a cable car house which allows you to return to Seceda if you wish or continue all the way down to the town. I’ll save how to link to Alpe di Suisi for another day.

If you want to return to Santa Cristina simply follow the reds back downhill beneath the chairlift. Be careful about side country around here – it may look silky smooth and thick but it’s often just a skin which will leave you with a repair job that evening!

Dantercepies and Passo Gardena (Yellow)

It’s been a long blog so far – keep with me for this last area as its a good one! Having arrived in Selva Gardena from Ciampinoi, you will ski pretty much into the centre of the village. Take your skis off, walk over the road on an overpass and you’ll find a sneaky lift hidden behind some buildings. This is only a short lift which delivers you to the Dantercepies bubble cars. This in turn takes you to the top of Passo Gardena. Check out our blog about Alta Badia to learn about the far side!

If you want to return to Selva, there are three runs; a blue, a red and a black. The blue is a long easy cruise, great for tired legs at the end of a day, or beginners who want to see the sights at the top. The red is a little harder than the blue and indeed it joins it two thirds of the way down. Not many steep sections, although the ones there are are quite fun. But the stand out for me here is the black which takes the line to the furthest right. It has some good, sustained steep pitches and is by far the most interesting run of the sector. Great as part of a Sellaronda in the green direction!

Returning to Val di Fassa

Be careful – this is a HUGE area and it is easy to get carried away and end up at the far end of the range, stuck. It’s an expensive taxi ride back! Set yourself a cut off time when you need to head back. From Ciampinoi it takes a good hour to get back, so you need to get on the lift in either Santa Christina or Selva Gardena most likely 1.5 hours before the last lift to make it back before they close the slopes. The lift down from Col Rodella is the easiest way to return to Campitello, although you can ski down the valley run to Canazei. I’ll explain in a minute.

Returning to the Sella Pass shortly before the last lift.

Returning to the Sella Pass shortly before the last lift.

So, leaving Ciampinoi, ski down towards Selva for a few yards then take the red to the right to Plan di Gralba. Take a small chair no 45 back to Piz Seteur, then a small blue linking run (skiers lift, passing diagonally beneath a chairlift) to lift no 49. This takes you to a very flat blue – it’s not at all ideal for snowboarders so make sure you get speed up out of the lift station and DONT stop or catch an edge. It’s a long trudge at a critical time of the day! This will take you back to the Sella Pass.

Here, if you need to continue, catch 55 to the top of the range, and then either ski all the way to Lupo Bianco, or Canazei. If you parked in Campitello and opt to ski to Canazei you will need to walk for about 5 minutes down to the main road through town to catch a bus from the central plaza back to Campitello. Alternatively, avoid this by catching either 151 or 152 (often 151 is not operating) back to Col Rodella. It’s a nice apres ski spot as there is a round tent bar with awesome views to Piz Pordoi – well worth resting your bones there and watching the sun go down before catching the last lift…

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