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Val Gardena and Dolomiti Superski

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
Day 1

After making plans to attend "Epic meet up" in St. Anton and seeing that intended "meet up" might not happen after all, I made slight modifications and ended up in Val Gardena. I chose Val Gardena after carefully researching snow reports, weather trends, costs and quality of ski areas. It was close call between Cervinia and Dolomites and I am glad I chose Val Gardena. And being here, it still leaves me three hours away from St.Anton, just in case I get "bored" with this massive ski area with 6' snow base.

Let's start with getting there part:

Not a horrible flight from the US to Munich which is one of the closest airports served by non-stop flights from the US. Other option is Milano. For people interested breaking their journey, smaller and closer airports of Verona, Innsbruck and Venice would do the trick. Problem with this option is that flights from the The US ofA usually arrive too late for connecting flights to these airports since flights are not as frequent.
Munich also offers much cheaper rental car option than Milan and there are also several EuroCity trains that would deposit you about 25 miles from Val Gardena. Once there, with careful research of bus schedules you can reach Val Gardena in about 4 hours from Munich airport.
Beware of German (strict) policy on car insurance. It is buried somewhere in the contract that there has to be "special" proof of insurance. I talked to my insurance company before leaving, just to be sure that my comprehensive policy would cover rental vehicle as well. I was told "yes" just present my insurance card at the counter. Hertz rep was not to be impressed with my insurance card, instead demanding a letter stating that car would be covered. Otherwise it is 45Euros per day. 25Euros daily was cost of renting the car alone. I ended up taking the train. There is also a bus service for the cost of E50, five times a day. Train cost me a bit more, but timing worked for me better. It is mostly highway all the way to about last 20 miles or so.

Once in Selva (one of the villages in Val Gardena, other two being St. Cristina and Ortisei), cross the street to the tourist office and ask for available accommodation. ***S hotels are very nice, and cost includes breakfast and dinner (HB). Single room is about E60-E100, depending on location, amenities are similar in all of them.There are few much nicer hotels, but most of accommodation seem to fall into this category of small family run hotels.
Bus system is free and efficient although not as frequent, most hotels offer free shuttle to ski lifts. But you are only 1/2 mile away from the nearest lift, and those are very "remote" places. Ski pass is issued in matter of minutes and it covers DolomitiSuperski area - over 700 miles of prepared slopes.
Cost for 8 days -E288. Or if that seems like too much skiing, one can opt for " local" area pass ("local" is served by 80 lifts) and that would save some cash. Superski includes area such as Arraba, Marmolada, Canezei, Belvedere and about thousands of others. Most of them you can reach by skis or by short bus ride.
It has been one of the better snow years for Dolomites so far. The same weather pattern that kept most of Austria dry so far have deposited loads of snow on the Italian Alps. They call it " Genova low" where storms are coming from south west, bringing moisture from the bay of Genova.
Atlantic storms favor Austria or so it seems. I arrived in the middle of hefty snowfall - about 6-8 inches in the valley and up to a foot on the mountains.
Base in Val Gardena ski area is 70cm in the valley and 180cm top (6'). Great conditions, but locals are quick to point out that in the event of low snow year entire area is covered with snow making capabilities - impressive ! Snow guaranteed !

Sella Ronda, the world's largest ski carousel as advertised by hosts. It is quite an impressive scenery in every direction, but skiing is mediocre. It was sufficient for me on my day 1 and I am glad to put that under "been there, done that" belt. I would call this exploratory tour and I did find some interesting areas to come back later. Just to say that Marmolada and parts of Arraba seem to have some more challenging terrain if that's what suits you. Besides the views, the most impressive thing on this tour are numerous mountain huts, releasing aromas of best food there is on the mountains everywhere ! Another thing beneficial from this is that I discovered where not to go since there are some bad bottlenecks created by masses. I think I would try to stay away from any of the lifts and runs on the Sella Ronda circuit, unless I have to take those to get to more remote areas.
post #2 of 18

Goranmilos - Keep the reports coming - Canazei is 6 weeks away for us. I was thinking about the superski pass as well -please let us know what remote areas to hit and he ones to avoid !

post #3 of 18

Even to just enjoy the Sella Ronda (a 'ring' of ski areas around the Sella mountain range, consisting of Val di Fassa, Val Gardena, Alta Badia and Arabba-Marmolada) you need the Dolomiti Superski-pass. From Canazei you can take a bus to Civetta ski area (Alleghe, 45 minutes), to Tre Valli ski area (San Pellegrino, 40 minutes) or Val di Fiemme (Predazzo, 35 minutes). Check this website http://www.dolomitisuperski.com/en/val-di-fassa for all relevant info, 3D maps and other info.


Skiing the Dolomites has more to do with 'a skiing holiday' than 'wintersports'. Unless you ski a couloir like Val Mezdi (see picture below), relax, eat good food and just enjoy you free time in one of the most impressive natural sceneries in the world, IMO.



post #4 of 18

I liked the Dolomites when I needed easier skiing due to injury and age.


The Sella Ronde is easier in one direction and a little more challenging in the other. Neither way is difficult. Just enjoy cruising the blues. Due to Alzheimer's I can no longer remember for certainty which is harder. Try to time it to have lunch in the Lupo Bianco  http://www.hotellupobianco.it/


If you want something more challenging then the Marmolada is the way to go. It also has the longest run all the way down to Malaga Ciapala..


I like to stay In Arraba at the Hotel Malita. However not much night life.

post #5 of 18
Thread Starter 
Received about 3 feet of heavy wet snow overnight and it kept snowing all day. It is still going strong. Wet and heavy snow caused some equipment problems, like boot soles being stuck with chunks of ice.
My poor choice of word by describing skiing here as "mediocre". Sella Ronda "orange" run, is more challenging than the green "run". Both require a lot of lift riding and intermediate and beginner slopes, with some parts on the "green" run being full of snowboarders and weaker skiers trying to traverse the flat areas. That said, the scenery is truly spectacular, food is out of this world and once stepping out the Sella Ronda circus, skiing is amazing, heaps of fresh snow.
Today, with poor visibility I stayed mostly in tree sheltered area of Ciampinoi,Saslong (one of five classic downhills) and Col Raiser. Did hit some treeless area to cross over to Ortisei and have lunch along spectacular 11km run. Few days ago went to Canazei as a part of "green" route and it is very, very charming village. Run out to village is full of amazing scenery.

Funky and charming village house in Canazei.

Sella Ronda is worth taking both direction for food and scenery and truly unique experience that would stay in memory for a long time.
post #6 of 18

Someone just posted this photo: somewhere in the Dolomites:

post #7 of 18
Thread Starter 
I am on the third floor, few more days of this snowfall ...

Finish line at Saslong with the leaderboard from the last FIS race weekend in Val Gardena

Village of Ortisei/St. Urlich snowed in.

Sharing a beer with a friendly local.

Yesterday I took a private lesson with former Italian World Cup Team member ( 12 years on a circuit) and what a lesson in humility ! I will continue classifying myself as "advancing beginner". I will not even mention the cost - hard to believe !!!

Col Raiser area during the snowfall.
post #8 of 18

Try and find time to visit Marmolada and take in the Alpine war museum in the mid cable car station. [ FREE }

post #9 of 18
Nice pics! The dolomites is my bucket list place... Love the architecture in the villages.
post #10 of 18
Thanks for the pics and the report smile.gif. Dolomiti is high on my list of places to visit!
post #11 of 18

I saw another snow report today, that Arrabba (Sp?) had another meter of snow! Good grief, they are really getting hammered in Northern Italy this winter. 

post #12 of 18
Thread Starter 
Back to somewhat reliable wifi, changed the hotel and their wifi is out. Yes, Araba, Corvara and Cortina are buried, Sella Ronda was closed on occasions, even Selva had about 6" this morning.
I know some might say there is no such thing as too much snow, but this is crazy, it took a lot out of enjoying the scenery. Thankfully all mountain huts were open for well deserved shelter, food and drinks
Much more to come soon ...
post #13 of 18
Thread Starter 

Back in the US, and what a fantastic trip it had been. My luck had me skiing in some of the better snow years in the Dolomites in recent memory, but have to say that abundant snowfalls did not translate to great ski conditions as well. Lot's of closures due to increased avalanche danger  and very poor visibility on the mountain, especially on upper slopes. Thankfully, Val Gardena has a substantial amount of its terrain bellow the tree line and therefore some great fresh snow skiing. Lower (tree sheltered) elevation skiing also meant that snow was wet and heavy and sticking to everything (goggles, bottom of boots) and on one day it even rained in Selva while rain quickly turned to snow in just about 100 meters (330ft.) vertical. The higher one went, the snow was getting better, but the visibility would suffer.


Col Raiser area in heavy snowfall.


Sella Ronda was closed for few days and heavy snowfall cut off Arabba, Corvara as well as Cortina further east. Unable to use full benefits of Dolomiti Superski pass which would give me the access to those and many other areas, I settled on finding the best that Val Gardena has to offer.

Col Raiser is known as a "sunny side" of Val Gardena. This great area is directly reached by funicular from St. Cristina and then 8 person gondola. It serves mostly intermediate skiers. It also has one chair that serves advanced terrain (Cisles chair) and that run was mostly empty and with tons of fresh snow. Further up, terrain served by chair Fermeda was mostly unskiable except for brief moments of reprieve from heavy snowfalls when sun would briefly come out. Great wide open fields with some great dinning options and great views (when possible) towards the cliffs of Seceda. From the top of Fermeda it is possible to take a very scenic run down to Ortisei (St.Urlich) and must stop in Val D'Anna restaurant, very popular place for lunch, drinks and people watching. From there it is either back up to Seceda and Col Raiser via gondola and aerial tram, or by bus to gondola that would take skiers to Alpe di Suisi area. 


Alpe di Siusi could be reached by three access points, from Ortisei, as mentioned, from town of Siusi or from Selva/St.Cristina area via 15 minute bus ride. I chose this last option and that bus ride was actually one of the scariest moments of my trip. It is windy, snow covered road in the middle of snowstorm that ressembles bobsled run. Snow banks on either side of the bus were 10feet high. Bus would take me to Seiser area of Alpe di Siusi. I had tons of fun off of chair Florian, again, untouched powder runs right below the chair or just by the piste. Not very steep and challenging but felt safer and fun.

Terrain and views from Florian chair. That is the west side of Sassolungo.


The rest of the Alpe di Siusi would provide loads of intermediate terrain with wide open cruisers and efficient lift system. Great place for lunch and drinks at Tirler hotel/restaurant set in fairy tale like setting. Great food and atmosphere, reached via ski/sled run from the top of Florian chair. Spent few days in this area since it provided safe area for finding fresh snow and uncrowded pistes for working on my technique. That bus ride from Monte Pana area is something not to be missed.


Monte Pana is another area of Val Gardena that is mostly empty of "Sella Ronda" crowds. It is served by two chairs (Monte Seura and further Tramans chairs) It could be reached either from St.Cristina or skiing down from the top of Piz Sella aerial tram. First portion from the top of Piz Sella is quite steep, although there is easier access from that area that is also used on Sella Ronda circuit. Once reached flatter portion, veer to the left and easy cruise run will bring you very close to the cliffs of Sassolungo, you would ski in the shadows of this great massif. There are some steeper runs, north facing off of Monte Seura chair. Very nice and quiet area, going up the Tramans chair to your left would be some great off piste opportunities, the area could be reached by short hike from Pranseies chair. That area was heavily blasted from helicopters due to high avalanche danger, Carabinieri probably knew that powder hounds  could not resist this wide open snowfields.




Another great area that is good for low visibility days and mostly devoid of crowds is terrain off of Val chair. Great runs right under the chair. Whole "black" run could be reached from the top of new Dantercepies gondola.

Also, it was fun to find untracked snow off of Sochers chair while just few hundred yards away loads of skiers were quickly creating bumps on Sasslong runs. 


This place is massive and one needs much more time to explore.

Great lift system, affordable prices, great scenery, fabulous food, friendly locals, family friendly skiing are some of the pluses.

Not that easy to reach, massive and spread area that requires a lot of lift riding, lack of nightlife (I do not mind that, but place is quite dead after 8pm for someone looking for something more "exciting") are some of the minuses of this unique and wonderful part of the world. 

Plenty of places to rent latest equipment, affordable ski schools, plenty of other things to do when skiing conditions are less than stellar - sledding, ice skating, great cross country school, shopping, eating, spas etc.

Ortisei (St. Urlich) has pretty pedestrian area lined with shops, bars, restaurants and wine bars. Fun to spend evening walking around.

Free bus connects villages during the day and it costs 2euros for night bus that runs from Ortisei to Plan de Gralba. It is about 30 minutes bus ride.

There are NO buses that connect Val Gardena with Canezei, some poor Russian snowboarders found that out when missed last chair that would bring them back to Val di Fassa/Canezei - expensive cab ride.

Well connected with free WiFi on the mountain, great feature on DolomitiSuperSki web site which tracks as one moves around the mountain and updates statistics.  I averaged 22000ft. vertical with great long breaks for lunch. And still managed to lose 5lbs.

And lots and lots of snow, which could be both plus and minus. There were moments when I thought "please, please just stop snowing, this is enough".

post #14 of 18

Excellent - 


Loved that you call yourself an advance beginner...had a feeling you wouldn't make it over to St. Anton.  Well, it will be there next year, and likely with better snow.


4 more sleeps and it's my turn for Italy.

post #15 of 18

@goranmilos by the way, next time when renting a car, use a site like autoeurope, all rates include full coverage insurance - and not more expensive than booking directly with the supplier...


daily insurance is a rip off!

post #16 of 18

If coming from the US, I saw you went through Germany, I would be coming with an 11 year old as we contemplate options, your TR is stellar, so have a few questions if possible. This Sella Ronda seems like a concept but not exactly clear how one picks one place as a base and then skis the whole area? Is there a main town, or many, i.e. where is the main ski school (so my son can ski with pals his age and his expert level, Dad is an intermediate) ? I am a bit perplexed by the geography, attribute that to no familiarity with the Dolomites. What would be a good place to go and figure this out? We are looking for alternatives in April.


And the St Anton get together did not happen, wow, that is sad, Heidi in Amsterdam and clan are great motivators.


Superb TR ., loved the pics, though still cannot figure out the Sella Ronda and how one does that and not get lost!

post #17 of 18
Thread Starter 
Google dolomiti superski. Plenty of information there, but in short:

Dolomiti superski consist of 12 ski areas. Some of them are connected by lifts, some are connected by buses but Dolomiti Superski pass gives you access to all of 750miles of pistes. And of course much much much more of off piste skiing, accessible with experienced guides. Sella Ronda is one of many ski routes around the region. It is most popular and famous and it basically circles huge Sella massif. It is possible to ski this route in clockwise (more challenging, so called "orange"route) and counterclockwise (green route). It would take about 15 or so different lift rides to complete the circle and it could be done in 3-4 hours. Intermediate skiers should have no problem with either route and even strong and confident beginners could do it without being too intimidated. Scenery is spectacular and there are numerous spots for wonderful meal. The Lifts serving Sella Ronda are well marked and color coded signs make it very easy to navigate the route. Sella Ronda could be accessed from 4 resorts - Val Gardena, Alta Badia, Arraba and Val di Fassa. Each of these areas is big by North American standards with Val Gardena being the largest and actually consisting of four distinct areas/subresorts - area above Selva served by Dantercepies gondola and numerous smaller chair lifts, area around Sassolungo ( home of classic Sasslong downhill), south facing area of Col Raiser and Alpe di Suissi.
Val Gardena is a valley and there are three villages with Ortisei being the largest , followed by St. Cristina (smallest) and Selva which is further up the valley and highest of the three. All of them would have multiple ski schools options and very affordable 4-6 day courses.
Alta Badia is another resort/ski area and there are two smaller towns Corvara and Colfosco. Very quiet but with great facilities, ski schools and loads of intermediate terrain. Further is town of Arraba that gives you access to most challenging ski area - Marmolada. Val di Fassa is the last resort and is mostly served by Belvedere ski area above charming town of Canazei.. Val Gardena would offer the highest prices of the four, but it is somehow easier to access from major airports by being closest to the train/ international motorway. Ortisei being the largest town with direct access to Alpe di Siussi area has most non- skiing options and also has a very nice pedestrian area for evening walks, drinks, restaurants and people watching.
Munich, Milano, Verona and Venica and Innsbruck are the closest airports. Munich would probably give you the most non-stop flights from the US, followed by Milano. Also google "sudtirol bus" , they offer direct bus service from airports to resorts for 50euro. On my way back I used them and it is easy 4hr comfortable bus ride to MUC. Mini van or taxi would pick you up from one of the towns and drop you off in Brixen/Bressanone where coach would wait for you to take you to the airport. Easy and convenient.
You would have to buy Dolomiti Superpass to ride Sella Ronda since it covers 4 different resorts.
Snow is spectacular in Dolomites this year and there should be plenty of it deep into April, especially on upper slopes. Area is covered with the worlds largest snowmaking system, I do not know if that would make difference when temperatures are higher.
www.dolomitisuperski.com ( really cool 3D maps)

Let me know if you have any further questions, I would be more than happy to answer. And there are many people on this board that have insight of this wonderful area of the Alps.
I am also sad that I did not have a chance to share some turns with Epic skiers in St. Anton, but closer it got to the date it became clear that not many would attend, so I decided to chase the snow instead. It turned out good wink.gif
Enjoy your vacation.
post #18 of 18
Originally Posted by dustyfog View Post

And the St Anton get together did not happen, wow, that is sad, Heidi in Amsterdam and clan are great motivators.


The get-together did happen. I met up with Altanaut and her gang for 5 days of skiing.

We're just rounding up photos now to put in a trip report. I'll post that soon.
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