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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.

Logistics

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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…

Val Badia – A beginners and intermediate skiers paradise!

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Leaving the Arabba range from Bec di Roces or driving directly to Passo Campolongo (35 mins by car/ 25km) opens a huge area of mixed terrain. It’s well linked and well served with restaurants and bars, offering something for everybody. Facing north towards Corvara, the runs to the left are steeper and more technical. whilst to the right there is a massive area of easy skiing. I’ll talk about this easy skiing first.

Cherz to Armentarola and back

It’s very easy to travel some real distance in this area. All the runs are wide and gentle, often through the trees. This makes it good for poor weather days as the contrast provided by the trees makes skiing far more enjoyable. The runs are also  exceedingy well groomed which makes it fantastic for learners, young families and those who want a pleasant day cruising. Restaurant stops are frequent and serve excellent food . All the runs from Cherz are great – fast and fun. Descending to Pralongia gains access to the far side of the mountain and in one long run you can reach Armentarola and San Cassiano. From here either return towards Corvara, or you can take a bus or taxi to Passo Falzarego for a fantastic piste which runs down a hidden valley from the Lagazuoi – if you want a steady days tour on pistes this is it – wait for the sun and this run will not disappoint! Half way down there is a great hut to have lunch and soak up the sun in one of the most enchanting spots one could hope for beneath the huge rock walls of Conturines. A the bottom either schuss back to Armentarola, or jump on one of the horse drawn sledges for a small fee.

Alternatively you can explore the heart of this area from Pralongia or San Cassiano – the runs are endless, blue after blue, red after red, never hard and always fun. It’s only when you find yourself near La Villa that they start to get harder again – the culmination of which is run number 5, from Piz la Villa, a famous black run whose bottom section is used as slalom course during the FIS racing season. Steep and unremitting, this run really is worthwhile if you’re looking for something a little more pokey. But generally the theme elsewhere is steady skiing and returning to Corvara is pretty easy, if a little confusing – leave plenty of time for “detours”.

Alta badia east

Western Val Badia, Colfosco, and Passo Gardena

Leaving Passo Campolongo in the other direction the terrain is very different. Skiing at the foot of the Sella Range is steeper and more technical. Crep de Mont gives very quick access to Corvara, from where either you can reascend to the high Boe area with a black and red run in descent or you can take several lifts towards Colfusco and thence either up rightwards into a bowl beneath Ciampatch and Sasshonger or continue up to Passo Gardena. Skiing in the bowl above Colfosco is really nice,  nearly always brightly sunlit with few trees gives a spacious set of runs. Going all the way to the top of Forcelles affords one spectacular views towards the Sella Massif, Val Mezdi and Sasshonger, the site of a famous Shane McConkey base jump.

The runs from Passo Gardena are long and mostly fairly easy. Whilst graded red, they are mostly blue in difficulty with just a few harder sections. Again, the views afforded from the top are staggering and a stop at the hut just below the top lift is recommended- despite being rather busy and not cheap- it’s just an awesome setting for a quick refreshment. From here you can continue on the Sellarond down to Selva Gardena, or return on 8-9km of schussing runs past some spectacular ice falls – watch out for them from the chairlift and bubble cars on the way up!

In all, Val Badia is great for the beginner and intermediate skier. You could ski here easily for a few days, hardly ever doing the same run, but we suspect you would find a few favourites and go back over and over!

Alta badia West

 

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