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Dolomiti?(Italy)

post #1 of 40
Thread Starter 
Any past experiences with snow conditions in December? (I am considering December 2002, Alta Badia, Arabba, Marmolada, Corvina d'Ampezzo, Canazei?). What is the most convenient way to get there from the US? Milan? Munich? Innsbruck? Venice? Is a car a must? Is the local bus network an alternative? Any advice will be appreciated.
post #2 of 40
I went to the Dolomites the season before last. We flew from LA to Venice, rented a car, and drove to Cavalese. The first day we skied the local Cavalese hill. The snow was horrid; boilerplate up high, and mashed patatoes on the one lower run that was open. We found a few spots where the sun softened things a little, and lapped them. The next day we skied the Marmolada Glacier, and Arabba. The only run open on the Marmolada was the main one, and it was rock hard, inspite of the snow guns. The best skiing was down into the valley below it on thin ribbons of softened manmade. Then it was back up three muddy T bars, and a chair to Arabba. Unfortunatly, the skiing there was worse. Although, we did find one North facing stash that had blown in with crusty pow. We had talked about doing the Sella Ronda the next day, but in light of the snow conditions, we drove to Austria, and hit the Stubai Valley. The snow was great, with a solid base, and freshies all over the place.

Obviously, we picked the wrong year to go to the Dolomites. I would love to ski there on a good season. Although, I belive this year was horrid, and it seems that the area is often dependant on snow making. Maybe I am spoiled living in Mammoth, but I cannot think of a March where we had less than a 6 foot base. That year we had about 12 feet. Oh well, we had a great time anyway.
post #3 of 40
Bert
I've skied the Dolomites on four occasions, usually early winter. When it's good it's absolutely beautiful.
The snow in the Dolomites is generally unreliable, especially in December, so don't make any concrete financial commitment. Keep Austria in reserve (the Arlberg is the most reliable snow) in case things don't work out.
If you fly to Munich (which would be quite a long transfer) or Innsbruck, Austria is on your doorstep as an alternative. Of the Italian airports Venice would, I think, be best.
There are a lot of cheap flights to northern Italy from London, if that's any help.
Selva is an attractive village to stay. Arabba is smaller, with the best skiing in the region.
A car isn't essential. Public transport in Italy, including buses, is pretty good.
post #4 of 40
Thread Starter 
You input is very helpful. I thank you very much.
post #5 of 40
Bert, last time I was there was 1997, so, please take it all with a grain of salt...
Also, I will probably use the present tense while writing, please remember that my "present tense" refers to 6 yrs ago.
Swon usually comes in late, but the locals make up with man made snow, which is more than enough.
Usually snow conditions are ok but, if you're used to the rockies like Spinheli, don't expect to ski in powder every day.
As it is, it may well not happen to you.
Two reasons, snowfall aren't that big, and the groomers maniacally groom the runs every evening, presenting a "well" worked surface for the next morning.
Another important thing is that mid-december (usually the last W/E before Christmas, the White Circus will be in
La Villa, Alta Badia, for the GS race)
If you plan some off-piste run (I think you can relate that to BC) ,like the Val Mezdì, I advice you to ask
a guide to accompany you, it wil cost a bit, but safety first.
I used to go there in the last week of anuary. It is the last low-season week, prices are a bit lower
and days are starting to grow longer, so lifts close a bit later (Dec-Jan they close around 16.00 to 16.30
from the last january week lift close between 16.30 and 17.00.
This is important if you want to ski the Sella Ronda, the round itself is not really interesting, what is of interest
are the "great" runs each villages you touch have to offer, let's tke for example the counterclockwise round:
Canazei, the whole area
Arabba, the Porta Vescovo runs
Corvara, The Boè
Colfosco, the Forcelles run (it is a little bit askew of the Sella Ronda path)
Selva di ValGardena, the Dantercepies
And then you're closing the round going back to Canazei.
When I said "the round is not interesting" I refer to the fact that the Sella Ronda itself, is mainly composed
of linkage-runs (I lack a better word to identify runs which carry you from one village to the next,
usually blue or green, but not all) and if you stick to the path, can be easily covered in half a day
(I think the record is 3 hrs), what add interest is the possibility for a skier to move from one Village
and go skiing the nice runs of the next.
So, if you go, say, from Canazei to La Villa, to ski the Gran Risa there, and like it, or if you go to
Selva di Valgardena (Wolkenstein) and ski the DH run of Santa Cristina, it may well be that you get then
stuck in a bottleneck (nearly all removed by now, I hope) or like that particular place so much that you
spend the day there, you then need to hire a taxi to bring you back to yor room.
In fact it happened a couple of times to me...
As for how to arrive there, Venice of Verona are the closest Italian airports, and I'd hire a car if I were you.
The car will come in handy to go to the resort but, once there (and if there is enough snow) You will not need
it anymore, to move from a village to the next you'll need your skis only, and can use the public transportation
(busses) if the destination is too far.
A car, of course, will add flexibility to your options. Like Spinheli, if you decide to go to Austria...
My personal experience has always been, I've used the car to get there, and then forgotten about it for the
whole week. I used to travel there with my family (uncles, mom, cousins, half of the village) and friends, hiring a bus,
so not to have to think about a car (also, more ecologically friendly, if you want),
but, for those evening that you wish to go to next village...

Spinheli, you should have gone last season, my friends told me that boarding down the Marmolada in
waist deep pow was a blast! (it may well have been the best season for years), also, which time of the seeason did you go?
(meseems you already said that somewhere, I am just too lazy to go and look for it [img]smile.gif[/img])

Also, mountains there are full of history, Marmolada, Col di Lana, Passo Falzarego (just above Cortina) are places where
the Italian Alpini and the Austrian Kaisejaeger/German Gebirgjaeger bitterly fought during WWI...
All in all I've had great years and so-so years, years where I could ski pow, albeit not the kind/quantity you
may be used to, and years I skied on ice...
I missed the two worst years ever, the 1988 and this one too, where only the runs
were white with man made snow (until end of January) and the rest of the mountains was green/brown, nevertheless people could ski.

I do hope that next winter wil be better and,I hope you'll come and not be disappointed!
post #6 of 40
Bert
One other thought.
If you do fly to Munich, there are good rail connections into Italy, via Innsbruck as I recall. I think Bolzano is the nearest main rail town to the Dolomites.
But if, as I said, the snow's not too good, you can disembark or change at Innsbruck for some of Austria's best skiing (St Anton, Ischgl, Solden, and many others are not far from Innsbruck).
post #7 of 40
M@tteo - Mammoth is part of the Sierra Nevada in California. We get all kinds of snow; light pow, sierra cement, windbuff pow (my fav). The two seasons prior to this one we even skiied on man made from Nov-Mid Jan.
post #8 of 40
Thread Starter 
Thanks, everybody, for very informative comments.
Bert
post #9 of 40
Bert, webcams don't lie, so I'd suggest you to check this topic http://www.epicski.com/cgi-bin/ultim...c&f=3&t=000874
and to monitor the webcams, so at least you'll have a rough idea of the snow conditions
All the Alta Badia/Cortina/Canazei/Valgardena web cams are very close, as the crow flies,
so if there's snow in one, the whole area has roughly the same amount...
Usually the (lift) season in Italy begins with the "Immacolata Concezione+St. Ambroeus"
weekend (this year it should be December 7-8) and ends around Easter,
althought since Easter is a "floating" holyday,I've been skiing till Liberation Day
(April 25th) and in a very remote past, I remember skiing May 1st at St. Moritz.
.
Another post just reminded me of two more things:
Highways aren't toll free in Italy, you'll take the pass at the entry point and pay on exit,
like in France.
Neither in Austria, nor Switzerland.
The difference is that in Switzerland you buy a pass which lasts all year, in Austria there a
are three kind of passes: ten days validity, two months, and year round.
The relative prices are: spending the same money (around 27 Euro) for a Swiss
year-round-all-the-milage-you-want "pass" you canjust go as far as 500km in Italy,
the 10 days Austrian pass it's around 5-6 euro (if they haven't taken the currency change as an opportunity to
adjust the prices), French highway prices are more or less the
same as the Italians (after all we're cousins...).

Spinheli, sorry, I "overgeneralized"...
I tend to identify the "rockies" with everything out west...(I know I should do better 'n that)
Thank you for correcting me. [img]smile.gif[/img]
post #10 of 40
Iv'e been there twice but both times in February/March. The last time (2000)we noted a huge increase in investment in new high speed lifts and gondolas and in snow making. om both occasions we had quite good snow although if you come from Mammoth or somewhere like that you could be critical. (although it definitely sounds like spinheli struck a really bad year)

Terrain is interesting without being very challenging and as matteo says the best options are to check out the better runs in each of the resorts. The "Sella Ronda' is an experience without being difficult and average skiers will do it in a few hours if it is not too crowded. It is quite possible to do it twicw in a day if the crowds are reasonable.

The scenery is spectacular, the weather generally sunny and clear, the villages pretty, the people wonderful and the history fascinating. You won't regret the trip. Go to Rifugio Largazoi, accessed by the cable car from Passo falzarego and ski down the front side and then the long (15k?) run down to another resort ( forgotten the name but it has horsedrawn sleds with ropes that pull you along a riverbed to the next lift!)

Although I have accessed the Dolomites form Venice both times, another travel option is to fly to Milan and catch the train to Bolzano and then bus to your destinantion. It really depends on where you stay.
post #11 of 40
Thread Starter 
I am looking at Alta Badia (Corvara, La Villa for the World Cup) or Arabba (to be closer to Marmolada). I drove once from Innsbruck to Verona and further east in February and it was a nightmare on the Austrian side because of the weather, even though it is a nice major road . Do not know about December.
It never occured to me to go by train from Milan to Bolzano. Sounds attractive as an alternative to a 4-hr drive. Should I rent a car in Bolzano?
post #12 of 40
Bert
I'm pretty certain (because I vaguely remember using the service) that there are good scheduled bus services from Bolzano up to the resorts.
How you find out the timetable is another matter!
Maybe Bolzano has a tourist office with the information? Or you could try the tourist offices of the resorts concerned.
post #13 of 40
gerathlete Hi, long time no "see" !
The village's name is Armentarola, I estimate the run to be around 6-7 Km, but you may be closer to the truth.

Bert, yes, travel by rail from Milan is an option, althought all international flight are now landing at Malpensa airport, an airport placed roughly 30-50 minutes (by car) east of Milan.
Then you have to either take the Bus (Malpensa Express) which if I remember will
bring you to Stazione Centrale in Milan (departing trains headed to Verona and Bolzano leave from that Station only) or take
the Train, travel to Stazione Cadorna, take the tube and go to Stazione Centrale...
Another option would be to try and find a flight which lands at the old city airport (Linate), then catch a taxi to Stazione Centrale.
Then You'll have to (if the train is not one directly headed to Bolzano/Austria) switch
train in Verona.
More or less it should take 2/4 hrs to be in Bolzano (best/worst estimate).
By car it takes roughly the same time...
Once there, as David says, the bus services going up the valley are pretty good.
If you're heading to Alta Badia, then look for a bus which goes to Selva di Valgardena, and then from there Colfosco, Corvara, La Villa...
If you look into the net, search for either
"Bolzano" or "Bozen", the region has two official languages, German and Italian...
BTW Arabba is just after the hill from Corvara, it is not far, you can rach skis on foot the Marmolada (snow allowing).
The pass is one, for the whole region, and it's called "Superski Dolomiti"
post #14 of 40
Thread Starter 
Oh, my... It sounds like many transfers... I do not want to drag all the stuff (gear, not to mention my family) through this..
Can you help me explore one more (known to me) possibility: plane to Milan, plane to Venice (from the same airport?), than what?
You guys are very kind trying to help me here. I hope I am not abusing your patience.
post #15 of 40
Bert. I can see your point!
If you decide to rent a car, these people have done me proud on several occasions, and their prices are very cheap.
You pay in advance for a voucher and reservation, which you exchange at the airport at the designated car rental company (usually National or Sixt or similar) http://www.autosabroad.com
post #16 of 40
Bert and all, my apologies.
Malpensa airport is not east of Milan, but WEST yesterday I had my bearing wrong!).
Bert, all international direct flights to Milan will land at Malpensa...
If you're so lucky to stop somewhere (London, Schipol, Frankfurt just to name some) and switch plane, then try to find a flight heading to Milano Linate, Milano Orio (which is, in fact, Bergamo airport), Verona (don't remember the airport name) and Venice Marco Polo airport.
The closest is Verona.
David has given you a good starting point as far as car rental. Other option are the classic: Avis, Sixt, Europcar...
Make sure to ask for snow chains (compulsory to have on board during winter).
Personally I'd take a plane to Venice or Verona, rent a car, take the highway headed to the Brennero (Austrian border), drive north until you reach (and pass) Bolzano.
Then you have two option to reach Altabadia:
a) leave the highway at Ponte Gardena (have to double check the name), and reach Selva di Valgardena, cross the Passo Gardena (this is the sore point, if there is too much snow, the pass will be closed), after the pass you find yourself in Colfosco, then Corvara, then La Villa.
Or, b) drive a little bit longer along the highway, until you reach the town of Bressanone/Brixen, exit the highway and take the road heading to Val Pusteria/Pustetal, just before reaching the town of Brunico/Brunek, the road forks, take the right path which head to the Alta Badia.
A map can be found here: http://www.dolomitisuperski.com/content.asp?L=3&M=5116
The homepage is here: http://www.dolomitisuperski.com/Default.asp?L=3
In the same page you'll find info about renting cars, airtravels, coach train, hotels (the page is in eglish).
post #17 of 40
Thread Starter 
M@tteo,
You are a bottomless well of information.
I gave up on the train business already.
Your hints about driving from Verona to Alta Badia are better than those of my local AAA guy, to say nothing about the travel agent who was full of it. If I end up in Venice, not in Verona, and want to drive to Alta Badia, can I go geradeaus north through Cortina d'Ampezzo and then west to Alta Badia rather than first west to Verona and from Verona north for Bolzano? I figure Cortina should be accesible from Venice in December.
Am I wrong? The routenplanner you mentioned calls the route via Cortina both kurzeste und schnellste. It looks some 120km shorter (2hours?), and I can bypass some passos at over 6000ft if I drive to/through La Villa, not Arabba, to finish in Corvara or La Villa. Would you agree?
Best regards,
Bert
post #18 of 40
Bert, Both times I've been to the Dolomites i've gone by plane to Venice. The first time I got the bus to Campitello (Val di Fassa)and was glad I wasn't driving over the narrow roads and high mountain passes.

The second time I cought the train/bus combination to Cortina. While the autostrada from Venice north to near Cortina is fine, once you get off that the roads are narrow, winding and high.Unless you are comfortable driving in Europe and on narrow mountain roads you will find it stressful, particularly if there is fresh snow to contend with. You won't need a car once you reach your destination.

I recommend letting someone else face the hassle of the roads and the traffic!
post #19 of 40
Hi Matteo! Long time of the DB as I'm just back from two months skiing in Whistler and Silver Star. Writing about the Dolomites brings back fond memories though! I did manage to hook up very briefly with dchan in Whistler which was great.Am already suffering from SDS (Snow Deprivation Syndrome)and eagerly awaiting the start of the souther hemisphere ski season in June/July.
post #20 of 40
Thread Starter 
gerathlete 1,
Having worked my behind off studying various time-tables of the Italian, Austrian and German railways, the so-called Venetto area integrated transport system and numerous coach/bus companies allegedly operating in the Dolomites I hereby declare that the art of travel has not been perfected yet in this region. (A car appeared to me the only reasonable option acceptable for a civilized human being). I think I should reconsider and forget Dolomiti.
Your advice is appreciated.
post #21 of 40
Bert.
Don't give up now! After all our efforts!
We're talking about Italy!
Things can be a little disorganised in Italy, but that makes the place fun!
Everybody gets there in the end!
I have a policy never to use exclamation marks, so I do apologise for this transgression!
David
post #22 of 40
Gerathlete, you lucky guy! Two months skiing!
And a new season waiting for you!
I'll spend June by the sea, taking care of my kids...

Bert, what David said, do not give up.
As far as your question, I have Milan centered view of Northern Italy resosrts and routes, sorry.
But I suspect that even if shorter, the route you plan will be open to the same few "ifs"
IF there has been no heavy snowfall the previous night, or
IF it is not snowing at the moment.
Which still apply to the road from Ponte Gardena to Alta Badia too (this last is marked on my roadmap as yellow, meaning it's a regional throughroute, whereas the road from Venice airport to Belluno is marked as highway and from Belluno to Cortina is marked red aka principal trunk, thus being a "bigger" road than the other).
Then, once in Cortina, you will still have to cross Passo Falzarego (2100 mt) or to drive down to Val Pusteria till you reach Dobbiaco/Toblach and then turn west, pass the town of Brunico/Bruneck, and then in Sankt Lorenzen/San Lorenzo take the road I have already described...
All in all, the option you have from Venice may be better.

Either way, I'd try to look at this part of the trip as a nice sightseeing, trying to relax and enjoy the views.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ March 28, 2002 12:54 PM: Message edited 2 times, by M@tteo ]</font>
post #23 of 40
Thread Starter 
M@tteo,
Do you think that I can get reliable information on arrival about the road conditions at the passos from the car rental agent at Marco Polo? If so, the route selection issue is not an issue.
post #24 of 40
Thread Starter 
Ooops, one more question, about the Dolomiti Superski Pass. I know it covers a huge area as far as the ski lifts go. Rumors are the public transportation (I mean the ski buses) are included as well. Is it true? For example, if I want to catch a bus from Selva, Val Gardena, to, say, Arabba, or Canazei, or even Cortina, will the superpass cover those?
I've requested info brochures from the Alta Badia tourist office but have not received anything yet.
Best regards.
post #25 of 40
Bert, they'd better do, or they would appear lousy to me!
Anyway, another thing you can do is, once you've got your reservation, go to the homepage of the hotel or garni where you're staying at, take the phone number down, and once in Venice, ask the guys at the car rental to phone up and get first hand informations.
As far as the Pass, it once used to be that way. I am afraid that it has changed, and you now need to purchase a fare ticket, which usually isn't expensive.
Again it could well be possible that in some places, if there is no other way to shuttle from your room to the lifts (like for example if you're staying at Alba di Canazei and want to go to Canazei to ski)
the bus is free.
As for your examples, you will be better off using skis, since for those routes you mentions there are runs going from one place to the other, anyway in that case (from Selva to Arabba or Canazei), you'll have to pay extra.
I'll get back to you on this.
post #26 of 40
Matteo, this may be slightly off the subject but rather than start another thread, I'll ask it here.

We are arriving at Marco Polo airport in Venice on May 29 in the morning and have a car rented ($21/day with air conditioning) for three days before we take a cruise of the Greek Islands from Venice.

We are considering driving up to Cortina and staying there the first night, without reservations if possible, and then either driving to Innsbruck or making the rounds of the lakes again .

Six years ago we spent our 40th wedding anniversary at a hotel high in the mountains looking over Lake Garda and just loved it.

At fist we considered Florence and Sienna but decided against it because we will be overloaded with art and history on our cruise.

Despite having traveled quite a bit in Italy, maily on the west coast and Tuscany (we once traveled by car from Barcelona to Rome along the small roads of the coastline which took three weeks) we never have seen the Dolomites.

What can we expect weatherwise end of May/beginning of June and are places like Cortina year around resorts which are booked up even then or can we get a room just by driving in?

Sorry if this is off-topic too much, please PM me.

Thanks ....Ott
post #27 of 40
Thread Starter 
Ott,
May I ask what car rental company are you dealing with? I have done some shopping around and the best rate at Marco Polo was approx. Euro50/day plus tax and insurance.
For some reason rates at Milan airport look lower. Is yours is a package deal?
Bert.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ March 29, 2002 10:16 PM: Message edited 1 time, by Bert ]</font>
post #28 of 40
Bert, I did all my own arrangements through Expedia.com. Just click on 'cars', (I asked for three days, so I got the daily rates) and it came up with a bunch of cars from Thrifty.

The cheapest was a standard shift without airconditioning at $14.48 per day but I wanted Air, just in case, and that one was $21.06 per day. I don't buy insurance since my VISA card is my primary insurance carrier overseas.

Try it at Expedia.com, I checked and the prices are still there at VCE (Marco Polo airport).

Please let me know if you find it or not...

....Ott
post #29 of 40
Bert,
Expedia is good, you could also try HolidayAutos.com
I've used them before, and they do good deals.
Over here stick shift is more common than auto, so you'll get a better price for manual rather than automatic gearbox.
If you are unsure about car models or sizes, just post it here, or PM any of us Europeans, and we'll try to help.


S
post #30 of 40
WTFH, I checked HolidayAutos.com and they charge EU70.00 a day for the same car that Expedia lists for Eu16.61=$14.48, how come?

...Ott
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