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.