My week skiing in northern Italy last month was a hard thing to leave.
After all, we enjoyed seven days of sunshine and snow on the 1200 kilometers of trails that took us all over Italy’s Dolomite Mountains, exploring new valleys and slopes each day.
The Dolomiti, the Dolomites, are a mountain range of the Italian Alps located in northern Italy, in the region of Trentino-Alto Adige.
The Alto Adige segment is the northern part of the region and is also known by its German name of Süd Tirol. This section of Italy has gone back and forth between Italy and the former Hapsburg Empire.
Today, it is an autonomous region of Italy and officially bilingual – Italian and German.
Some valleys in the region – including the valley where we were staying, Val Gardena – add a third language to the mix, Ladino, an ancient Romance language spoken in some areas of northern Italy. Ladino is also one of the four official languages of Switzerland.
Throw into this exotic mix absolutely stunning mountains and to-die-for slopes and you have the makings for a perfect ski vacation.
After all, in 2009 the Dolomites were recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage site. This section of the northern Italian Alps includes 18 peaks, which rise to over 3,000 metres and were recognized for their “highly distinctive mountain landscapes that are of exceptional natural beauty. Their dramatic vertical and pale coloured peaks in a variety of distinctive sculptural forms is extraordinary in a global context.”
Needless to say, a visitor can’t be helped but be struck with the shear beauty of these peaks, and the way they transform dramatically throughout the day, from the bright golden light of the morning to the late afternoon pink glow they assume as the day winds down to an end.
The whole area is wonderfully organized and the valleys throughout the region are mostly connected by ski slopes and lifts. The Dolomiti Super Ski pass is expensive, but it provides you with access to all the trails of the region – all 1,200 km of them! You can ski around the wonderfully arranged 42-kilometer sella ronda – in clockwise and counterclockwise directions (I’ll write more about this in a future post), which gets you to many of the valley ski areas. This means every day of your ski holiday you can explore different trails and different valleys.
And there are plenty of picturesque baita/hütte where you can stop and recharge with great food, beer, wine … or my beloved Glühwein – mulled wine. I also took advantage of this Italian-Austrian combination to enjoy cappuccino and fresh Apfelstrudel. The best of both worlds. : )
We skied until we dropped on this holiday, and I could barely feel my legs at the end of our week. But the sun and slopes were perfect, and I enjoyed all that fresh mountain air and gorgeous views onto the dramatic Dolomites.
Since – as my kids always complain – I’ve become a slower skier with age (although, in my defense, they seem to take every run as if they are competing in an Olympic Grand Slalom competition), I also enjoyed stopping to contemplate the wonder of the nature all around as I rested my tired muscles.
For a few days on this holiday, we dropped the kids off at ski clubs, where they met lots of nice kids and raced down the mountains as a group to their hearts’ content while we explored the mountains at a much more reasonable pace.
You’ll find all the ski schools well organized and multi-lingual. Italian, German and English are all widely spoken. We also heard lots of instructors speaking Russian with their students.
It was definitely sad to pack up our bags and head home to hectic city life… and the responsibilities of ‘real life’. But our week in winter wonderland in the Dolomites was truly spectacular – and I can’t wait to get back.
Alla prossima. Bis bald, Dolomites.