Skiing the Arabba Range

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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.

A quick guide to the Marmolada Ski Range

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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…

marmolada ski map

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.