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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
Each provides a days skiing in their own right, before you even start linking one into the other.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
Civetta is our most easily accessed large resort and its really really good. Before we bought the house I’d never had the opportunity to ski the range so it was with some trepidation that I set off to explore – what would it be like? It looked good but would it match my expectations?
Just for starters you are skiing in the shadow of one of the mightiest faces in the whole of the Alps, the NW face of Civetta – it’s an utterly mind bending wall, bigger than the far more famous El Capitan in the US, with climbing routes of 1400m+ on it. You can’t help staring at it and wondering what it would be like to be stood half way up it surrounded by an ocean of rock, as you gently swing in your cabin on the way up from Alleghe. Luckily though this severity is not transposed to the slopes as the Civetta (or owl) range is a really varied collection of runs with something for everyody. And once you’ve reached the summit you realise that the area above Alleghe is only the start as you can cross over into two completely separate valleys to Selva di Cadore to the north and Zoldo to the east. I’ll describe what you will find on the Alleghe side first as it’s a logical place to start.
Piani di Pezze is where the first lift kicks out and is the central hub for this side of the mountain. All runs end here apart from the return to the valley, so it’s useful as a rendezvous point should anybody get lost or you decide to split up. It’s a pleasant spot to have lunch being in a cosy bowl which catches the sun all day and plays host to there huts to eat at. In addition there are all sorts of family amenities here – you’ll notice as you ski down from the first lift that there is an air bag for practising jumps, a freeride park for boarders and skiers with rails, table tops and all the usual accoutrements and a ski school area for toddlers and youngsters.
From here another long Gondola (down to skiers right) continues to the summit of the hill, Col dei Baldi. The top is special, with views to the south wall of Marmolada, the other world famous precipice in the area, Monte Pelmo and the Sella massif in the distance. There is another restaurant here, a little basic but the tuck is good. Facing the lake in Alleghe there are a number of returns to Piani di Pezze which get harder from left to right. The blue which contours the mountain numbered 15 takes you gently down and away from Alleghe. Indeed this is the key to accessin Val di Zoldo but we will come to that in a minute. After 1km or so it turns right onto no 8 and from here its a pretty steady affair with one steep pitch which can be avoided by a chicken run to the left. It’s a little narrow, but certainly preferable if your kids are new to skiing.
The next blue round, no 14. is at the top of the grade and is continuously steeper than 8. Its a fun run and pretty direct – it rejoins 8 most of the way down it. I’d not advise it for total beginners who will find its continuous nature tough. Then there is a really nice red which starts just over the brow of the hill to the right of the lift station before you reach some blues again which run down to a col called Pra della Costa. From here there are a number of reds and a black back to Piani di Pezze – really good, steep technical runs which require good short turning skills – either that or a strong constitution. But you can also reach Col Fioret which gives a long blue back, mostly easy but which can get some bumps forming by the end of the day. It also gives access down to Selva di Cadore – this area I’ve haven’t yet managed to ski – it will be my first priority this winter!
To Pecol and Zoldo
Back at Col dei Baldi, and you can make your way along the very leisurely run 15 and take this route all the way to Pecol. It’s a good long run and for the most part is extremely easy. However, it must be said there are two sections which are steep, one which makes it tricky for beginners and is the last section of a steep red run. Here your ward will need to do some long zigzags to arrive at the base of the steep pitch. The final steeper section as you roll into Pecol is easier and wider but can get bumpy through the day. It’s a really nice run to do with your kids once they’ve gotten the hang of linking turns. There is a large hut at Pecol which can serve as a pit stop – it does get very busy at lunch though so you might want to get there early or avoid it around that time! There is a button lift to take you back up to repeat the last section or a chair to take you onto the return journey back to Alleghe. This chair also leads to two excellent red runs back to Pecol. Both are at the upper end of the grade which steep skiing and are really rewarding runs which are often empty. Then of course you can ski down to Zoldo – as you descend to Pecol there is a piste off to skiers right. This is a little steep and narrow in places but not hard considering this. In around 1km you reach the village where there is lots more skiing to be had. I’ll cover this in another blog once I get a chance!
Back to Alleghe
Lastly, you have to return to Alleghe – you do this by skiing from the top of the Pecol lift or Col dei Baldi back towards Piani di Pezze. However, before turning off onto the last schuss to this area there is a small piste which leads left. If you miss this, then you can get back to it by taking a short button lift next to the Board park. It must be said that this run back is not for the faint of heart. For a red it is consistently steep and technical. I would certainly not recommend it for small children at the end of the day who are more than likely going to be tired and a little strung out until they are really happy on all reds. It can be icy AND bumpy at the same time – so even as an adult it can be testing. If this is the case, make your way back to the lift from Alleghe at Piani di Pezze and catch the lift back down.
That said, if you catch this run in good condition, either soon after it’s been groomed in the morning, or its been snowing, this is an outstanding run. If you’re happy on the bumps and steeps it’s a thoroughly enjoyable leg burner which will leave you quivering and wanting to go around for more! It brings you straight back to the bottom of the lifts in Alleghe and a short walk back to the car. Alternatively of course, if you know where there is a sneaky cut through at one of the last flat sections on the right before you come into the town where you can schuss down to the apres ski bar the Granda Guerra – well worth a stop!
Crossing Passo Fedaia takes a quick 20 minute drive from Casa Alfredino. Canazei, it’s main village is well known and is a hive of activity during the season. It’s bright and busy, a world apart from Val Pettorina. Here you will hear not only Italian and German being spoken, but Russian, Polish, Slovakian and the other Slav languages as well as tourism from the ex eastern bloc has exploded. And for good reason – the skiing is truly excellent. It’s broken into 3 contiguous areas, Penia di Alba – Pozza di Fassa, the area around the Sella group from Passo Pordoi across to Sella Pass, and also an area beneath the east face of the Cantenaccio from Vigo to Fassa to Pera. They can be skied individually or as a little tour using bus services to link them which makes for a great day out. I’ll describe the areas clockwise as this makes for good skiing. It is worth noting that Passo Fedaia is not always open; when there has been heavy snow fall the road becomes particularly treacherous as the steep hairpins half way up the pass become very slippery and especially so on the way down. In this event you can either drive around and start from Arabba or the Pordoi Pass, or better still, jump on the lift to Monte Padon and ski over to Passo Pordoi – there’s certainly no time penalty doing this. If you do, just be aware that it’s quite a long trip and unless you ski fast you may not make it all the way around the loop we’ve described here. So check your watches and be sensible – I don’t even want to contemplate how much a taxi back would cost – certainly over 100 Euro!
Penia di Alba – Pozza di Fassa.
Starting from Alba you catch a lift up to a bowl with some great skiing in it. It’s often quiet and is a little out of the way for most. But this makes it a useful resource – because the run back to the car park is black it makes it better for the more advanced skier. There are a few reds in the shadow of Collac and from the looks of it, some good side country offpiste, especially if you are prepared to walk a little way along the western rim of the choire. The 132 lift leads to the edge of this area, where you can then cross over to reach the Buffare area above Pozza di Fassa. These are incredibly long, fun red runs – especially the one down to Pozza which just seems to go on for ever, dashing down through the trees, winding away and inducing a real thigh burn! Here abouts the geology changes slightly and the mountains are less vertiginous – what that means is you are afforded excellent panoramic views whilst high up, and there are a number of lifts to achieve this – from the Sella group, to the Marmolada, and Sassopiatto to the Latemar you can take it all in. And most of the time you will be skiing on your own.
Once you reach Pozza you can pick up a bus to get to Vigo from near the Skipass office.
Vigo di Fassa to Pera.
Vigo is a pretty little village nestled at the start of the road to Passo di Carreza. The lift at the top of the village whisks you up to a beautiful partially wooded ski area. Again you have fantastic views, especially to the Rosengarten/Cantenaccio where you can see the famous Vajiolet towers and the imposing 600m east face to the Cima del Cantenaccio. The runs are excellent too – with some steep, wide red runs down through the open forest and also a black to test yourself on which is particularly steep and used for slalom competitions. It’s quite a small area, but provides a great afternoons entertainment. And when you’re finished there is a long blue schuss back down to Pera and another bus ride.
Campitello di Fassa to Alba.
The final area is by far the most extensive, and as a consequence much busier. A fast gondola from Campitello di Fassa brings you to the summit of Col Rodella. The opening run is exceedingly fun – quite steep but wide. For the adventurous, if you keep left you can head down a really excellent piece of side country at about 35 degrees and often pretty much unskied. The run leads down into a large bowl by the Sella Pass where you can easily spend an hour or two exploring the runs. Sometimes there is also a boarder cross run for those who fancy a little racing fun. There are a great number of excellent places to eat and some good bars too. It’s well worth heading to the new hotel at the pass if you need something to eat. Not only is the food and drink here really excellent, but also this has to be one of the most stunning places on earth, with extensive views to the north to Sassolungo, the Odle and Puez range and the Sellaspitze. You will most likely think you’ve died and gone to heaven. Of course from here you can cross over into Val Gardena, just make sure you have a Super Dolomiti skipass if you do so otherwise you will not be able to return.
Once you’ve had your fill, head down to the “Lupo Bianco” via a most agreeable red. It’s long and mostly pretty easy with only a couple of steeper pitches. It can get very busy though so take care at crossings as people tend to congregate just over the brow of the hill! Once you reach Lupo Bianco you can either turn right and keep skiing for a further 5-6 km all the way down to Canazei (be warned there is quite a long walk back to the village especially if you have stiff downhill ski boots) or you can continue up towards Passo Pordoi and the Belvedere. This area is large and busy. The runs are good and there is some fun side country plus a boardercross run. Again this area leads into the next, and crossing over the pass at the Belvedere leads you towards Arabba so make sure you have the right pass if you go down the other side. But your pass does allow you to ski to Pordoi pass and then take the Gondola up to the top of Sass Pordoi – this is a really worthwhile detour. It’s about as high as you can get in the ski range without walking and it’s great just to look at the mountains. That said it’s also the starting point for some awesome offpiuste runs, but I’ll cover that in a different article.
And last to mention is that as of 2016 there is a link directly back to Penia di Alba with a new lift which you can take back down to your start point. If you end up in Canazei there is also a bus back to Alba too. In all this final area provides enough runs for a good couple of days so well worth visiting.
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”.
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!
Val Pettorina is a stones throw from the massive Arabba and Val Badia ski ranges. These offer vast amounts of varied skiing with Arabba mainly offering great steeper skiing and Val Badia having something for everybody especially beginners and intermediates. Accessible either from the 3 chair lift from Malga Cipela, or by a 20 minute drive from the house, Arabba is a small village nestled at the centre of the range, with runs extending up to Passo Pordoi in the west and Passo Campolongo in the north, its a great place to start. Each of these passes give access to yet more skiing, Val Badia and Corvara accessed from Passo campolongo, whilst going over Passo Pordoi brings you down to Canazei and the huge possabilites there.
Arabba – an area of two halves.
Lets deal with Arabba first. The core of this range is on the southern side of the valley and is served by two main lifts running from the same lifthouse – an older cable car lift that takes you directly to Portavescovo and the other which is a detachable cabin lift with a mid height station before the top, a few hundred metres from the older station. This cabin lift is in my opinion the more efficient of the two, as people tend to pile into the old lift as its the first in the lift house, so whilst it might be faster once you’re on board, there is usually a longer wait. From the top, a steep and usually bumpy red run leads to the main areas and you have the choice of 2 red and 2 blacks – as I said – great for those looking for steep challenging skiing!
To get to Passo Pordoi, follow piste 1 and then 36, a super long red run which leads you to a fast 3 man lift on the other side. The ride up is great – if you’re cold these lifts have a shield to protect you from the wind as it’s a long ride up. At the top, the area is really fun, lots of steady reds, especially down from the Belvedere hut, with great offpiste on either side of the run, especially on skiers left where you will find a natural halfpipe! Down right, be careful not to wander too far from the runs as you’ll end up with a walk back, but its nice moderate terrain if you’re just starting to ski the sidecountry. Of course with the Superdolomiti ski pass, you can take the runs over to Val di Fassa and Canazei and beyond on the Sella-Ronda, the circular tour that takes you all the way around the Sella Massif. But that’s a whole different blog! Returning to Arabba you have two options, either a super long blue run – boarders make sure you keep you speed up through the trees as once you grind to a halt it can be a pain to get started again, unless you happen to have a handy skier tow machine with you! Or ski down to the road and rather than crossing it to continue the run down, jump on the relatively new lift which delivers to back up the mountain to join a red run which bypasses the worst of the flat areas of the previous option.
Crossing the road to the north of Arraba takes you towards Passo Campolongo. Here the terrain is significantly easier with mainly blues and reds. Whilst these are really mainly linking runs to get you to Val Badia, they are fun in their own right, the blues being nice cruises back to the village, or onwards to Bec di Roces. Just be aware that the run back is red if you are with novice skiers, although in my opinion it’s not a despertely hard run, very much at the lower end of the grade with only a couple of steeper pitches. Lastly for complete beginners and kids, there is a nice little learners area right by the village with the ski school at the base of these runs.
Sking to and from Val Pettorina
Getting to Arabba couldn’t be easier from our valley. If you drive up the valley from the house (or catch the ski bus), you will come to the Padon lift on the left as you approach Passo Fedaia – if you reach the hairpins you’ve gone too far! The lift delivers you quickly to Passo Padon; the run down the far side is quite a steep red run, so if you are with beginners, be aware of this – it’s a little narrow to start with but soon opens out, although it’s steep for quite a way! Once at the bottom, another lift brings you right into the middle of the Arraba area, but again, as these are harder runs, make sure your group feels comfortable with this sort of skiing. If you’ve come here on the lifts from Malga Cipela, getting back is a little less obvious. From the main Arabba lifthouse, take the cabin lifts and jump out at the mid station – a chair lift on the left as you come out of the station takes you to a gentle blue run and then to a lift back to Passo Padon. The red which descends to Val Pettorina is pretty amenable – over all the ski back is easier technically if harder to find.
Alternatively for those with a stronger constitution, take the cabin lifts to Port Vescovo, duck under the barriers and ski towards Lago Fedaia. Pick your route carefully – ski straight down and you end up at the western end of the lake with a long walk back towards Val Pettorina. However ski left and over a shoulder and this takes you back towards the lift system and you should be able to make it without the walk! Just be careful as these slopes are prone to avalanche after heavy snow, being south facing and treeless.
Our nearest ski range is Marmolada. It’s not on the face of it particularly extensive, but what it does offer is unique in the Dolomites, namely huge uplift to one of the sub-summits of the highest mountain of the range which kicks out directly onto the largest glacier in the Dolomites. The area is split three ways – the big lift, the little lifts and the one in the middle – this is also indicative of their difficulty as I’ll explain…
The three stage lift which leaves from Malga Cipela is approximately 5 minutes drive from the house or a couple of stops on the ski bus which shuttles up and down the valley. Its a well organised cable car and is mainly to be recommended to those comfortable with more advanced skiing. Although the run coming down from Punta Serauta is given a red grading, it’s a narrow piste and can get quite chopped up as this is an obvious goal for the holiday maker – a feather in the cap for skiing the top of the Dolomites. Its understandable as the views afforded not only from the summit, but also the three lift stations are truely breathtaking, especially leaving the top station as you descend to the snow above the enormous 800m high South Face of the mountain.
Where this range really excels is for those who want to find great off piste skiing as once you leave the red markers behind, you will find excellent snow, kept fresh by the ice beneath and often a lack of tracks as Italians mostly stick to the runs. Once you realise this it becomes an enormous playground with fairly moderate offpiste skiing, never too steep and with a lack of difficult terrain to negotiate. Indeed you can also cross the glacier to the opposite end of Lago Fedaia to ski the single lift runs at that end of the mountain- just check they’re open before you do so!
The normal and very long run drops you back to Malga Cipela past several eateries and the lift to Passo Padon, the key to the Arraba range and the Sellaronda. The run from Passo Padon in itself is a nice run, red and well groomed although as its south facing can get melted by the sun in the afternoon and late in the season – its a throughly enjoyable return from Arraba and fairly steady, neither narrow nor desperately steep. Again, those looking for a nifty swoop down the side country will find most agreeable terrain on Skiers left… All these lead back to the base station along some blue runs which are served by button lifts. These are great for taking beginners on as they are wide and shallow without flatspots and and make a great first few runs for young guns, especially as they are quiet, served by button lifts and usually have good visibility because they are lined with trees which help with contrast!
An opportunity not to be missed is the run through the Serrai di Sottoguda. This narrow, deep gorge is strictly speaking offpiste. However it is so frequently run by skiers and boarders that it is nearly always virtually a groomed piste. Its narrow with no safety barriers and several bridges so please take care, but the views of the gorge, of climbers scaling the incredible ice cascades and the impressive rock architecture really are breathtaking. It ends when you reach the village where you must walk down to catch the bus back to the house, but the 5 minute trip can be easily split with a trip to La Tirolese, our favourite pizzeria!
Last but not least, if you fancy trying your hand a something a little different, there are some quite extensive cross-country runs – grab yourself some of those skinny sticks from the De Grandi hire shop at Malga Ciapela and you’ll find some really pleasant skiing in the woods to the south of Malga Cipela which lead up to a small “agroturismo” where you can sample the local cheeses and meats in a really beautiful and secluded spot. There are three circuits, a blue, a red and a black and they all leave from the same spot.