Italy 23:35 – 23 February 2024

The 2024 Skiers Guide to the Dolomites

INDEX

Written by Tim Hudson, founder, Director & Principal Ski Leader at Inspired ITALY Ltd.

Should You Ski the Dolomites?

So you're thinking about skiing the Italian Dolomites, and maybe this is your first ski trip to Europe.

 

Hi,

My name is Tim and I’m a founder and the principal Ski Leader at Inspired ITALY Ltd.

We’re a small, niche tour operator carrying around 140 guests per season on specialised hut-to-hut ski journeys throughout the Italian Dolomites. And each ski season I ski around 50/60 days and cover around 1,750km so I know the Dolomites really well.

So I decided to write this guide to help you understand more about where’s the best place to stay, how to get here, what it’s really like and just how much it’s going to cost. 

Oh and will there be enough snow?

I’ll cover all these subjects and a lot more besides.

And if you’re a skier a little bit like me – middle-aged [63?], reasonably fit, loves to ski, likes carving, and is a little bit adventurous, then I really do hope that you’ll get more from this than most!

And thanks for signing up. I hope to see you on the mountain.

Tim

Tim@Inspireditaly.com

PS Just before we get into all that, I thought I’d share a couple of pointers from some famous skiers: 

Konrad Bartelski, "it is only when ski touring here - Dolomites - that the soul of the dramatic cliffs and valleys can be explored and revealed.”

What Do Great Skiers Think About the Dolomites?

Where is Mikaela Shiffrin's favourite place to ski?

“Probably Cortina … love the Dolomites,” said Mikaela in response to a fan’s question on her social media feed.

And Lindsey Vonn said, “I feel so comfortable here in Cortina.” 

Older British skiers will remember the name Konrad Bartelski. He came in second in the Val Gardena World Downhill Cup in 1981. Konrad, has this to say about the Dolomites, “it is only when ski touring here that the soul of the dramatic cliffs and valleys can be explored and revealed.”

 

And Here’s Why YOU Should Ski The Dolomites:

 

WELCOME TO THE DOLOMITES

"Get your head around these astounding facts…"

1,200 Kilometres, that’s 750 Miles of Perfectly Groomed Trails

🎿 There’s 1,200 km of Groomed Skiing

that’s 750 miles !!!

❄️ There are 890 different ski trails

❄️ 6,000 snow canons covering 97% of the ski area 

🚠 And there are 450 ski lifts and most are really modern, in fact, the infrastructure is just amazing!

☃️ And 350 Snow Groomers!

📍 And get this, the Dolomiti Superski area is something like 29 miles wide from East to West, that’s Cortina Faloria to Alpe di Siusi and about 28 miles North to South, Kronplatz to Falcade.

You can easily imagine that the Dolomites has the longest ski run in the world and I’ll tell you later how I was the first person to ski it.

So, let’s try to put these numbers into something more meaningful:

Imagine something about twice the size of New York City, or a similar size to Greater London, or is slightly larger than Los Angeles, and that’s the scale of the Dolomites.

The Dolomites Ski Area is Huge!

I LOVE THIS FACT: If you know London think of the Dolomites like this …

Start your ski day at the Dartford Crossing and finish at Heathrow Airport.

Cortina d’Ampezzo to Alpe Di Siusi, this is now officially the Longest Ski Run in the World!

Then there’s the Sella Ronda and the Great War ski circuits. We’ll cover them in more detail too.

And before I forget, here’s an important statistic:

⚫️ 14% of slopes are black or considered as advanced.

🔵 40% are blue or beginner slopes.

🔴 46% are red or intermediate slopes.

Having thrown those facts and numbers at you, you know what is the main fact about the Dolomites?

The Dolomites Is All About Emotions – YOURS.

If you know London think of the Dolomites like this

Who Should NOT Ski the Dolomites?

Let’s get this out of the way first:

If you’re a powder hound, or a dedicated backcountry, off-piste skier, you’ll be lucky to hit conditions that get you buzzing.

You see, with an average of something like 11 snow days per season, the Dolomites simply doesn’t get enough fresh snow to make off-piste/backcountry skiing reliable. Of course, you could be lucky, but….

And think about it like this, why would they invest in 6,000 snow canons if the natural stuff was reliable enough?

And Snowboarders?

Well, it’s an absolute guess on my part but I’d say that the Skiers vs. snowboarder ratio is probably 20:1 in favour of the skiers. 

In fact, if someone told me it was 50:1 it wouldn’t surprise me. 

I just Googled “snowboarding in the Dolomites” and found a piece by Mark Barber on the website ‘Snow.Guide’ –   Mark says …

“…Sella Ronda. This is a serious day’s skiing and even more testing for a snowboarder, with plenty of flats that need speed and pre-planned navigating to get round.  It is a bit of a challenge for a snowboarder…”

Well, that’s what I would have written but I’m glad he wrote it and not me! 

Now we have that out of the way and you’re still reading….

 

“In all sincerity, this was a life-changing trip and I owe it all to you, Matteo and Lou.”

Tom Heflin, Seattle 🇺🇸

“I assumed a guide meant a high price but I calculated that was cheaper with Inspired Italy than self-booking.”

🇬🇧 Dr. Nick Johnson

“We had the most marvellous Dolomites Ski Safari, it was beyond anything I had ever expected. Such an adventure in such an awe inspiring landscape, all so well planned and executed. Our guide wasn't half bad either, in fact he was terrific.”

Belinda Callaway on a Dolomites Ski Safari 🇳🇿
The Dolomites Ski Slopes Are An Absolute Carving Paradise!

So, WHO SHOULD SKI THE DOLOMITES?

The Dolomites is for Skiers Who Love Long Groomed Slopes, Carving and Adventure.

 

You see, that combination of the natural snowfall and the ‘programmed snow’ go to make something rather special,

the Dolomites ski slopes are an absolute carving paradise!

I know, you’re asking yourself, how the heck can that be?

It’s like this – those 6,000 snow canons, the plentiful water reservoirs, the natural snowfall plus reliable low temperatures, and, most of all, that every single centimeter of every single slope is groomed every single night all go to create some of the best carving slopes anywhere in the world.

That is worth repeating…

 

❄️ Every Single Centimetre of Every Single Slope is Groomed Every Single Night!

☃️ The Snow Management is Truly World Class and In Fact, It’s Beyond!

Rifugio lagazuoi ski
Rifugio Lagazuoi is the highest in the Cortina d'Ampezzo ski area 2,752m, just over 9,000ft

You see, if you consider that Cortina has averaged something like 180cm snowfall per season over the last 10 years, then the management of the snow is supercritical and by grooming all the ski trails each and every night the snow depth is carefully controlled and the quality of the slopes remains amazing across the whole 4 month season.

This is interesting: at the beginning of each season, they always make snow no matter what because ‘programmed snow,’ as they call it, is more durable than the natural stuff, apparently.

More to the Point, We Don’t Like Bumps! 

No really, what we love are super long, cruisy trails that are ideal for carving and when I say long I mean up to 12 kilometers, that’s over 5 miles, and oh, by the way, we believe that the average trail is around a mile and half long, that’s average.

If you go skiing with the local boys, man they fly.

I mean on their edges flying down the piste at high speed. That’s why they produce many top ski stars like Peter Fill from Castelrotto who won the Men’s Downhill in 2016 and 2017 and the combined in 2018. 

Then There’s Something Else That I Need to Get Off My Chest!

Inspired_italy_dolomites_ski_safari

The Dolomites is NOT A SKI RESORT

You just cannot refer to the Dolomites as a ‘ski resort.’ 

 

That’s like calling the Caribbean Islands, the seaside, or the Bahamas a holiday resort!

The village of Ortisei, Val Gardena.

The Dolomites is a True Mountain Paradise

where the skiing is just another part of the mountains,

the valleys, and the villages, its history and day-to-day life in general.

And because of the topography, the skiing is different here. 

Take it from me: don’t come here with your 3 Valleys, Courchevel, Chamonix, Whistler/Blackcomb attitude because you will miss out on so much!  These are great ski resorts but they are nothing like the Dolomites, I mean in terms of what they offer. 

The Dolomites are different from any other ski area that you have skied.

You don’t just get to ski a mountain, you ski over the mountain and into the next valley and then continue to the next valley. All of a sudden you’re on a ski journey, it’s like going for a long Sunday hike, a road trip, or indeed a safari.

Skiing here is not just raking up and down one mountainside all day long!

So if you really want to get the most from your ski time in the Dolomites, do yourself a big favour before you come – carefully study the ski map and be ready to explore, to go further than you’ve ever been before on your ‘ski resort’ holiday.

inspired_italy_special_dolomites_ski_safari_averau
Carbonara €17.50 & a Bottle of Wine is €24 to €45

How Much Does it Cost to Ski the Dolomites?

Here are Some Costs for your Ski pass, Coffee, Pasta, Beer, Wine!

It’s a long time since I’ve skied anywhere else, to be honest [I just don’t feel the need to go anywhere else] but I still think of the Dolomites as inexpensive.

No, I wouldn’t say it’s cheap, I mean, skiing isn’t cheap, is it?

But in my experience, if you know where to go the on-mountain, prices are just a little more than you’d expect to pay in the local Italian village.

So for example, I’d expect my lunch to cost between €15 and €25 and that is for a pasta course, like Carbonara or Pomodoro or maybe a soup with bread, a large sci-wasser – it’s a fizzy water drink with lemon and raspberry cordial – and an espresso.

I got in touch with some of the huttes/rifugi who we work with and these are the current 2023/24 prices on the hill for these dishes:

Rifugio Col Rodella 2.222m

  ☕️  Espresso € 1.80
  🥛 Cappuccino € 2.80
  🍝 Carbonara € 17.50
  🍻 Beer .5ltr  € 6.00
  🍷 Wine [bottle]  €24 to €45
  🥩 Tagliata [steak]  € 26
  🥮 Tiramisu € 6.80

“As a Colorado resident and skier, I'm often asked why I travel to Europe to ski. Inspired Italy's Dolomites Ski Safari is the perfect answer.”

George ‘Jay’ Peabody 🇺🇸 Colorado

“I have been with Inspired Italy four times and I still get the same thrill. ”

Andrew le Poidevin 🇬🇧

“We had a private group from the US, and it could not have gone better. Everything from our pick-up in Innsbruck to accommodations, food & great skiing were perfect and exactly as described. Do yourself a favor and travel with these folks. Hoping to travel with them again, Cheers.”

Chris Clarke 🇺🇸

The Actual Cost of Skiing

For the 2023/24 season,

🚠 6-Day High Season, Full Area Dolomiti SuperSki Pass – € 384

🚡 One-Day High Season, Full Area Dolomiti SuperSki Pass from € 72 to € 80.

Which apparently works out at €0.31 per kilometer of slope available, the cheapest in Europe.

CLICK HERE for Dolomiti SuperSki Prices.

You can buy either a full area pass which gives access to the whole area or you can buy a local pass. So for example there is a Val Gardena pass or Alta Badia pass and you’ll pay noticeably less for this. 

🎿 Ski Rental

An intermediate all-mountain ski costs around €137 for six days with skis and boots at € 179,00.

Accommodation – Chalet? Apartment? Hotel?

Ski chalets aren’t really ‘a thing’ in Italy. 

I am pretty sure that this is mainly to do with the way the hospitality laws work, but whatever, you’ll struggle to find French chalet-style accommodation in the Dolomites.

Having said that, there are a handful of really high-end chalet-style properties if that’s what you’re looking for.

Look at this … Cesa del Louf

So, most Italians who come to ski the Dolomites either rent an apartment or book a hotel and there are a vast number of options from small basic family run right up to the very highest standards and of course, prices to match.

But the first question that you need to answer is ….

WHERE SHOULD YOU STAY?

If you find the Dolomites confusing, you won’t be the first nor will you be the last.

Rifugio lagazuoi ski
If you find the Dolomites confusing, you won’t be the first nor will you be the last.

To have a full appreciation of the area has taken me years!

So, I like to think of it like this:

These ski areas are ‘joined’…

 ➡️ Alpe di Siusi is linked to ➡️ Val Gardena which is linked to ➡️ Val di Fassa in the south and ➡️ Alta Badia in the east. Alta Badia is linked to ➡️ Cortina d’Ampezzo to the east and ➡️ Arabba to the south which is linked to the ➡️ Marmolada.

So, basically, you can ski from area to area without a bus or taxi transfer. Well, OK there’s the horse tow at the bottom of the Hidden Valley!

Then you can add in these areas with an easy taxi or bus transfer …

Kronplatz/Plan de Corones – 20 min  

Civetta – 25 min from Malga Ciapella & 5 Torri  

Carezza – 20min from Pozza  

Obereggen – 25 min from Val di Fassa

And if you transfer by the ski train…

 Sesto – 40 min from Kronplatz/Plan de Corones  

Gitschberg Jochtal – 40 min from Kronplatz/Plan de Corones

Those with knowledge will point out that I have missed Plose, Luisa, and San Martino di Castrozza, which is true. Luisa is a very, very small area (which I love) and frankly, I have never skied San Martino di Castrozza 😲.

single center dolomites ski safari
The Cavallino d'Oro in Castelrotto, our base hotel.

Top Tips on Where to Stay

So, if you can arrange a two-base stay with a few days

 in Selva or Canazie or surrounding area and then maybe San Cassiano.

This way, you’ll cover more ground and see more of what the Dolomites have to offer. 

If you can’t do this then Corvara and Colfosco are the most central villages. 

If you want to stay in places that are out of the way, quiet, and a little cheaper there’s a whole bunch to consider. Try these villages Zoldo for Civetta; Sesto for the 3 Zinnen; Castelrotto, Siusi or Fie for the Val Gardena and Alpe Di Siusi; Moena for Passo San Pellegrino, Carezza, and Obereggen [car needed]; Falcade for Passo San Pellegrino; Malga Capella for the Marmolada and Arabba.

So when you think about visiting the Dolomites consider which side of the mountains you’re going to, east, west, north, or south!

Where Are the Dolomites?

Think of Italy’s boot shape and find the top right-hand corner, right up against the Austrian border, and here you’ll find the Dolomites and the Dolomiti Superski area.

In fact, around 100 years ago, this was part of Austria which explains why a significant number of the population still speak German as their first language.

But remember the size, when you think about the Dolomites.

It takes a minimum of 2 hours just to drive across this ski area [around 78km]. From the autostrada [motorway/freeway] in the west to autostrada in the east it’s around 4 hours driving. 

So when you think about visiting the Dolomites consider which side of the mountains you’re going to, east, west, north, or south. Because flying to Venice and heading for the Val Gardena could be a 3-hour or 4-hour transfer when you could do it in 2 hours!

The Clark group enjoying a pleasent afternoon in Verona before joining their private Dolomites Ski Safari

How Do I Get To The Dolomites?

Well, it all depends where you’re starting from, and going to!

But let’s start like this:

KEY POINT: Travelling to the Dolomites is a little like travelling to London or New York where you have multiple airports serving the area.

Some are more regional or international like Stansted, Gatwick or LaGuardia and others handle intercontinental flights like Heathrow, Gatwick & JFK or Newark.

So in those terms, look upon the Dolomites like this:

For intercontinental visitors traveling directly from countries like the USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

The intercontinental airports are:

  1. Venice Marco Polo Airport 
  2. Munich International Airport, Germany
  3. Milan Malpensa Airport, Italy

These airports have intercontinental flights and give fairly easy access to the Dolomites.

Venice is the closest and gives easy access to the eastern side of the Dolomites like Cortina and Civetta which are around 2h to 2h 30min away by car but getting to the Val Gardena involves a much longer journey either by car/taxi or train and car/taxi.

FLY TO MUNICH: It might seem odd to fly into Germany to end up in Italy but it’s actually a simple enough journey of about 4 hours to the Val Gardena.

And that’s the point, if you’re heading to the Val Gardena or the northern part of the Dolomites you should look at flights to Munich. You see the train connection is fairly straightforward and it’s not expensive at something like €30 to €60 depending upon the train and your choice of seat. 

There is a rail station in Munich airport and depending upon the trains, with one change you can get to Ponte Gardena or Bolzano from where you can 20/25 or 40 min transfer by private taxi to Ortisei and the Val Gardena and there is a public bus if you prefer. 

The trains from Munich run through Austria and will stop at Innsbruck and possibly in the border town of Brenner [Brennero] where some trains stop so then you have to jump on an Italian train to Ponte Gardena. It may be that some trains don’t stop at the local stations and go through to the principal stations like Bolzano. 

Anyway, as I say a few trains go all the way through, so do check!

It takes maybe 4 maybe 5 hours to get to your Dolomites destination but is pretty painless.

And try the Austrian train company OBB  for more information.

While the rest of the Clark group came through Munich and Innsbruck

Then There Are European Travellers and the International Airports.

 These are listed in order of closest first:

  1. Bolzano – GOOD FOR Val Gardena, & Val di Fassa
  2. Innsbruck – GOOD FOR Val Gardena, Kronplatz & Alta Badia
  3. Verona – GOOD FOR Val Gardena, & Val di Fassa
  4. Venice Trevisio – GOOD FOR Cortina d’Ampezzo, Civetta & Arabba
  5. Bergarmo – GOOD FOR Val Gardena, & Val di Fassa
  6. Airport Guglielmo Marconi di Bologna – GOOD FOR Val Gardena, & Val di Fassa

Flying from the UK or Ireland or if you are ‘hubbing’ out of another intercontinental airport such as Frankfurt or Paris these airports give you options.

If you’re extending your stay and maybe traveling to Rome, Venice or Florence before or after your trip, that’s very easy from the Dolomites!

The main rail link at Bolzano and the Frecciarossa service takes around 5 hours to Rome and costs around €100 per person one-way.

Use the Trenitalia website for booing train and considering options.

Looking down onto Cortine d'Ampezzo from Faloria Cable Car.

When is the Best Time To Ski the Dolomites?

The Answer Is Very Simple

[If I had a Euro for every time that I’ve answered this.]

But the answer is very simple:

💯 My first and tip-top choice is the 2nd or 3rd weeks of January, maybe the last week too, depending upon the calendar.

🥈 Second choice is 2nd and 3rd week of March and I choose these for pretty much the same reason, there are the quietest weeks.

You see in Italy the end-of-year holidays are a little different.

Everyone of course gets time off at Christmas and New Year but there’s an important national holiday on 6th January as well. It is Epiphany or Befana as it is also known. 

So basically 25th December, 1st, and 6th January are national holidays so pretty much anyone who is tempted to ski at that time will do so in this period which means they all head home on the 6th, maybe the 7th if it is a Sunday [like 2024] and the following few weeks are just so quiet. But of course, everything is open, and working and has been stress tested by the high season Christmas holiday period.

If you can make this work with your diary, then do try it!

We run most of our Dolomites ski safaris in these periods because it is just so much more fun.

Every Centimetre of Every Single Slope is Groomed Every Single Night!

Then You Want To Know About the Snow

You need to read all of this to understand how things work here.

Remember that the Dolomites is roughly 30 miles across and north to south so what’s true in the east might not be true in the west and the same applies to north and south.

But with that said, let’s start with this as an example:

How Much Snow Does Cortina d’Ampezzo Get a Year?

Cortina d’Ampezzo’s current 10-year snowfall record is around 180cm per season, let’s call that around 6 feet for the sake of talking.

And the average snow depth is 80cm with on average 11 annual snowfall days.

That ‘aint a whole hell of a lot I hear you say and I can hear our American readers reel back in horror but as I said at the top of this page, the Dolomites is pretty much the last place I’d consider for a backcountry off-piste vacation!

So, here is what happens: the Dolomites does have a great low-temperature record and snow-making is the norm here.

Pretty much from mid/late November through maybe into early January, they make snow irrespective of the natural stuff.

You see, man-made snow is more robust, and harder wearing than the natural stuff because the flake has less air in it. So by mixing natural with man-made snow, you get a really reliable base so long as you carefully manage it, thus the nightly grooming routine.

DOLOMITES QUICK SNOW STATS:

❄️ The average annual snowfall for the Dolomites is 240cm.

⛷ The snowiest week in Val Gardena is week 1 of February.

☃️ There are typically 4.5 snowy days during this week with 36 cm of snowfall.

 

“The lift technology and cable cars are completely new experiences compared to our Canadian resorts.”

Roger Tarant 🇨🇦 from Whistler Blackcomb

“Skiing was sensational and the views were even better! Loved the food as well. Thank you Inspired Italy for a great week. We’re already planning our next Safari!”

Elin Yardley 🇨🇦

“Thank you for the most fabaroonie Ski Safari ever! I’ve enjoyed them all, but this one was the best in my opinion.”

DOLCE TEMPO Ski Safari by Manda Bennett 🇬🇧
tailor made dolomites ski safari
Looking North along the Badia Valley towards Kronplatz

What's the Skiing Like in the Dolomites?

I think its perfect! But then, I would!

OK, so to be serious, for me, the most outstanding and unique characteristics of the Dolomiti Superski area are the long slopes and the ability to go on a ski journey.

My favourite day begins with a drive to a start point and then to ski off on a preplanned journey.

My longest trip started at Alpe di Siusi in the west and travelling to Sesto which I did alone and in one day. 

It’s a journey of around 120 kilometres total distance with a ski distance of 43.4 Km, 28 different ski lifts, 2 ski buses 1 ski train and a total vertical of 7,455m.

Just fantastic!

Would it help you get a feel for the Dolomites if I shared my stats from my last ski season 2022/2023?

Looking at my Slopes app – can’t recommend it enough – and my MyDolomiti app shows that I skied around 324,000 metres [1,062,990ft] vertical in 58 days, covering over 1,726 Km using 947 ski lifts (200 different lifts) with an average run/slope/trail distance of 2.3km which is about a mile and half for round figures. 

I suspect that my longest recorded run of 17.1 km [10 miles] and around 2,200m [7,217ft] vertical is a little overstated, but not by a lot.

We specialize in putting long runs together, we hunt out tracks so that we can knit together some cracking long runs.

As I have already mentioned, all ski slopes/trails are groomed each and every night, so using a good all-mountain ski – this season we’ve gone with a Head SHAPE e-V8 – you’ll cruise along at a good pace using your edges and taking in the incredible scenery. 

Louise & Derek on the Seceda following the route of the Worlds Longest GS Race

Are the Dolomites Hard to Ski?

I have a saying, “One mans Park-Run is another mans Marathon.”

So it really depends on how you use the slopes and trails, how fit you are, and what you want to do!

When all is said and done there are only 14% of the slopes classified as black or considered advanced. 

What that means is that of the 1,200 kilometres of slopes 168 are advanced or looking at it another way, of the 890 ski slopes 125 are black. Actually, I cannot find a statistic to say which is correct! 

Of these advanced slopes, there are probably a handful that I consider to be really serious advanced slopes, like Piculin at Kronplatz or the Forcella in Cortina but I have put together a list of the Dolomites black slopes further down this page.

With 40% of trails categorized as blue or beginners slopes and 46% red or intermediate slopes, the going is steady and for an intermediate or better skier, the terrain suits a faster, carving style.

For a fit intermediate or better skier, the Dolomites is about pacing and stamina mainly because of the distances that you can cover.

So pace your day, be careful and don’t push yourself too hard. Take regular breaks which isn’t difficult given the spectacular beauty surrounding you!

The Longest Ski Run in The World

Straight Line Distance of 28 miles; 27 Ski Lifts; 45 Km of Skiing & 6,000m Vertical

Cortina d’Ampezzo to Alpe di Siusi

On 28th December 2021, Robin and I Set Out to Ski the Entirety of this Incredible New Ski Route. 

My anticipation was at its height – surely this is the Longest Ski Run in The World? 

From the heart of Cortina d’Ampezzo to the western edge of Alpe di Siusi a straight line distance of around 28 miles, 27 different ski lifts, some 45 kilometers of skiing, and around 6,000m of vertical and 4 different Dolomites Ski Safari areas – Cortina, Alta Badia, Val Gardena, and Alpe di Siusi.

The new lift opened on 24th December and we were here 4 days later. 

No one was shouting about this incredible new ski lift and the impact it has in connecting Cortina to the central areas of the Dolomiti Superski area and given that this new lift has been talked about for years, maybe 10 or 12, the opening of the Cortina Skyline as the new lift is called, was a mere marketing whimper rather than the fanfare it deserves. 

Anyway, all the better for us!

Rifugio Lagazuoi, the highest rifugio in the Cortina area and one of my favourites, was our base the night before our record attempt.

At the first opportunity we skied out, fresh tracks down the Lagazuoi piste – stunning, and a favourite of Graham Bell, one of Britain’s top skiers – en route to the start point in Cortina.

We hit the start point at 9:58 when we jumped onto the Cabinovia Freccia nel Cielo Col Drusciè lift in Cortina itself and another 26 lifts ahead of us. 

Knowing how to thread yourself through the tracks and trails to ensure the most direct route can only come with time and experience of the area and so we cut through lift lines and dodged through little used cat tracks to make sure that we optimized our time. 

This is an unknown route and a long, long way to the end!

On our second-only lift Socrepes, we ran into a huge queue. I seriously thought that our plan had been foiled more or less as soon as we had started, but not to be beaten, we carried on and just picked uptake pace.

Long story short, we grabbed drinks en route without sitting down, snatched a sandwich at the top of the Saslong, and made it to the last lift with minutes to spare. We clicked through the last barrier of the day 16:23 with 7 minutes to spare before the lifts closed.

Then low and behold a few weeks later a friend messaged me. 

I was lying on my bed in Rifugio Averau. 

The message read, “Tim, have you seen this?” There was a link to an article in the Financial Times written by Tom Robbins titled “Skiing’s Longest Run” – you can read it here [it’s much better than my writing]!

 

🎿 READ ‘Skiing’s Longest Run’ written by Tom Robbins, Financial Times

 

So, I wasn’t going mad! I was right. 

But someone else had also seen the potential in this run and they had the foresight to invite an FT journalist along for the ride – Bu**er!

Anyway, come and try it. 

I haven’t managed to work it into a Ski Safari yet because frankly, it’s too much for a group in one day. But if you pay me enough 😉 and you can convince me that you’re fit enough, I’ll take you so long as I’m free.

😃

 

Read More

How to Ski the Sella Ronda

So for the intermediate or better skier, it's a bit of an anticlimax.

Yeah, it’s a great thing, the Sella Ronda but like most well-marketed, popular things, it has its good and bad points.

So for the intermediate or better skier, it’s a bit of an anticlimax. I mean, of course, you should do it in both directions, just because it is there and it is a kind of fun thing to do. 

There’s plenty of stuff out there on the web so I have just copied this for a quick reference, then I will share some secrets and top tips with you….

This is a stunning ski route that goes over four Dolomite passes around the Sella group, uplifts, and down slopes.

The route covers the four Ladin valleys of Val Gardena, Alta Badia, Arabba, and Val di Fassa. You can easily cover it in a single day, heading in either direction around the route. If you’re following the route clockwise look out for orange signage, while green signage guides you around the route anti-clockwise. The Sellaronda is 40 kilometers long, of which 27 km are ski slopes.

In 2020 it was awarded the Best Ski Route award by skiresort.de.

The route is of medium difficulty and requires a bit of stamina!

The Sella Massif as seen from Seceda. The Sella Ronda takes you right around this mountain.

Tim’s Sella Ronda Top Tips

1. Avoid The Sella Ronda on Thursday & Friday.

Why?

Well, think about it. Most package holiday folks are there weekend to weekend and many are beginner or intermediate skiers so the Sella Ronda is a big thing that they save until the last few days of their ski week, thus the last few days of the week are usually much busier than other days.

2. Take the LONG WAY ROUND

What I mean is check the route carefully and in Alta Badia take the long way round [both directions] – it’s signed posted; when going counter-clockwise, take the black slope on Dantercipes; Also on Belvedere at the top of the six-man Sass Becè chair take a hard left before the building and then ski along the ridge with the fence on your left and the top of the Lezuo chair on your right then drop in towards Arabba, its a much better slope than the signed one; Clockwise: when you get to the top of the Boè lift don’t follow the crowd, drop into the left, keep right on the piste and then hard right just passed the large rock and you’ll merge back onto the Sella Ronda slope but you’ll have enjoyed a 1km of better, quieter skiing! 

There are a bunch more routing tips but these are my favs.

3. GO EARLY

I mean, it’s pretty obvious this, but seriously if you are going to do it, set out as early as you can. I have done the whole of the circuit in 3h on a quiet day with an early start. 

The Longest Ski Runs in the Dolomites

These are the Longest Ski Trails, Slopes, and Pistes in the Dolomites.

The Marmolada: the run is 12km long and drops 1,800m!

Now, some of them I’ve made up meaning that officially I’ve joined various slopes together like the one in Civetta whereas La Longia, for example, is actually one long piste.

To make life easier I have created a Google Map and pinned the top of each slope.

 

🔵 Innamorati, Passo San Pellegrino

12 km long and starting at Col Margarita at 2,514m ASL, it descends to the town of Falcade at 1,100m. Classified as a red/blue.

I really do love this slope!

It isn’t always open but if you hit it on the right day, it is so memorable. It rolls [you will definitely end up skating at a couple of points], twists and turns and you really feel like you’re at the ‘back of beyond’ as my Mum would have said.

🔴 La Longia, Val Gardena - The Fairytale Run

10.5km long, red/intermediate.

Rather than have me rattle on, watch our video of La Longia or, as we know it, the ‘FairyTale Run.’

🔴 The Marmoloda

12km, 1,810 m.

This is a truly world-class ski slope and no doubt!

I mean, you have to take three boxes to get to the top and an elevator down to the slope! And then you drop in from 3,265m ASL [10,711ft] onto the glacier and there it is before you, a wide, groomed, solid intermediate ski slope.

The first drop-in is the steepest bit of the whole slope but after the first 150m or so there is nothing too challenging except for the length of this thigh burner! There are three faces to the mountain part of this mammoth slope after which you roll down the gentler valley piste, through the trees, and back to the base station.

I like to do it twice each time I am there, occasionally three times, so thats 5,400m vertical and 36 km skied by 11:00 am.

[PISTE MAP] The Longest Ski Runs in the Dolomites

Most the Percha Ried slope is tree lined.

🔵🔴⚫️ Percha Ried,Plan de Corones/Kronplatz

Blue, Red & BlacK in One Slope that is 8km long and drops around 1,200m

Here’s another one of these ‘put together runs’ and it’s a little odd, this one!

You see, it starts really gently and finishes with a bang. It’s around 8km long and drops around 1,200m from the Kronplatz peak at 2,275m.

If there's one rule for this slope its, 'Keep Left'

🔴 Femazza Rientro, Civetta

Around 7.5km and about 1,000m+ vertical

So I like to think that I invented this run!

I can’t tell you the exact length but I’d guess at around 7.5km and starts from about 2,060m and drops to around 1,000m. You’re always in the trees so it has a lovely feel and is totally dominated by the Civetta mountain which has a sheer face right above the second part of the run.

The trails takes you to within 150m of the lake at Alleghe.

🔴⚫️🔵 Tofana Forcella & James Bond, Cortina d'Ampezzo

This is definitely the longest run in Cortina and without a doubt the most spectacular.

Starting at just less than 2,900m on the Forcella Bus and finishing in the town of Cortina itself at around 1,200m.

Theres a little navigation at the very top but easy enough to work out, and then you get to the highlight, the three faces of the Forcella Rossa.

Look, you don’t need to read this, just watch the video.

🔴🔵 Buffaure 1, Pozza di Fassa, Val di Fassa

I usually start this run from Rifugio Baita Cuz but you can start it from even higher and add another 1km to the 6.5km.

I nicknamed this run 'Curves and Corners’ and for a section of around 3km which is right in the middle, you can just really hoon it!

I mean, full tuck, on your edges, follow the fall line and race the corners.

For me, its right on the ragged edge [but as Mario Andretti once famously said, “If you’re in control, you’re not going fast enough.”]

Anyway, as I always say to the guests, I am not advocating that you ski it like that! Buffaure 1 finishes tamely in the village of Pozza di Fassa.

Well worth the trip over!

Graham Bell Dolomites
Start at the Very Top for the 1,000m vertical!

⚫️ Ciampac, Canazei, Val di Fassa

This is definitely one of my top 5 slopes! ❤️

This is the only run to appear twice in this article and here’s why it deserves that accolade: It’s long and it’s black, well probably 70% black/advanced and it drops 1,000m top to bottom and it’s probably about 4km long.

So by my estimate about 2.8km is classified as black.

Ski it top to bottom non-stop! Oh, and its north facing so it’s always in good condition and reliable and rarely gets packed or icy. 

🔵🔴 SkiWeg UNESCO, Sesto/Monte Elmo.

This is simply extraordinary!

The SkiWeg UNESCO seems to go on and on and on!

I have only measured it using Google Maps but I reckon it’s around 11 maybe 12km long.

There is a Poma [button lift] at what is pretty much the halfway point and even a couple of magic carpets in the woods! But this track takes you through woodlands and into the back of beyond, I mean real boonies!

Eventually, you get to the end where you wait for the bus which takes you to Padola Val Comelico which pretty much has one ski lift and some incredible slopes. And if that isn’t enough the adventure continues.

Take the bus back to Sesto BUT it drops you halfway and you have to skate back – it’s knackering!

Not to be missed should you find yourself anywhere near here. A proper little adventure.

The Best Black Slopes to Ski in The Dolomites

14% of Slopes in the Dolomites are Black or ‘Advanced.’

And There Are A Few That Definitely Test You...

I’ll let you into a little secret: most of them are designed to make the Italian skiers look good.

But, there are a few that definitely test you, your legs, and your edges.

And they all have one thing in common: they are all groomed every night!

No Bumps!

So here’s my list which I’ve collated into areas....

GRAN RISA - OMG, Avoid this if at all possible!

ALTA BADIA

⚫️ GRAN RISA – OMG Avoid this if at all possible! I am kind of joking but look, if you do decide to ski it [frankly I have a lot more fun on the adjacent red slope] take it steady, choose the right time of day [early], and take your best thigh muscles with you, oh and sharp edges!

You see, this is where ski men become real men. The slope is prepared specifically for the slalom and GS circuit and as such it is often icy, hard, and packed.

It is considered among the most beautiful and technical slopes of the Alpine Skiing World Cup and represents a challenge even for the greatest champions. You’re following the tracks of the very best skiers in the world: Ingemar Stenmark, Mark Girardelli, Ted Ligety, Bode Miller, Marcel Hirscher, and of course the most successful Italian skier, Alberto Tomba; they all mastered the Gran Risa at one time or another!

Here are the stats:

Difference in altitude: 448 m
Length: 1,255 m
Maximum gradient: 69%
Average gradient: 36%
Departure: 1,868 m
Finish line: 1,420 m

⚫️ VALLON – honestly I can take or leave this slope for one reason: it’s right on the Sella Ronda and therefore it can get super busy. That aside, if it’s quiet or you go early – do it.

It’s around 1.4 km long and drops something like 300m with rollers and an average width of piste so you have to work it. The outstanding feature here is the view.

Alberto Tomba Trained Here!

Val di Fassa

⚫️  TOMBA – stating the glaringly obvious, the slope is named after the great Alberto Tomba, and not on some fancy whim, he actually did practice here! Apparently, Alberto loves this slope and it was one of his favourites for training. Tomba which is part of the Catinaccio Ciampedie ski area in Val di Fassa is just over 1 km long and drops 300m with a maximum gradient of 59%.

The drop-in is steep but you can get a good look at it from the chair on the way up. 

The piste is pretty much north-facing and tree lined so it’s well protected and always skis well.

⚫️ CIAMPAC – if you ski this from the highest point in the Ciampac/Alba ski area, the drop is 1,000m!  

And take this tip, that’s the way to do it for the best experience! 

Take the Sella Brunech chair to 2,420m, turn right off the chair – take the left-hand slope, the right is red – and drop 1,550m to the valley floor! As you drop in the first face is fairly steep but then it rolls out to something very gentle for 6/700m and then Ciampac proper starts: this slope is super long and testing [it’s my personal challenge to ski it none-stop top to bottom!] 

The average gradient is 30%, its 30 to 40 metres wide all the way down and the official piste and at 2.2 km its a real thigh burner!

There are a couple of ledges but it is pretty much a constant gradient all the way down.

⚫️ VULCANO – access the Vulcano from Bufaure 1, the start/entrance is a very obvious right fork marked by flags across the piste. There are essentially three faces to Vulcano, each slightly steeper than the last, ie it gets steeper as you get into it! With a drop of 566m and approximately 2 km long and its in the trees so visibility is good, it is nice and wide as well so its really accommodating. You need to be on your game for Vulcano with an average gradient of 30% peaking at 58%. 

Val Gardena

The Grand Master of the Dolomiti

Peer Over the Edge and Drop In!

There can’t be many ski slopes with their own Wikipedia page, can there?

You can read about it here.

But here’s my own commentary: when you ski the Saslong, it is a severely toned down slope compared to the race track that it is just before Christmas each year, and thank goodness! The start at Ciampinoi is not the slope to the right that everyone goes down. It starts on the left! Yes, you peer over the edge and drop in, and believe me, that is super steep. Anyway, look, it’s easier to watch the commentary on our Saslong video and see Louise ski it top to bottom!

Oh, I will just say this: if you’re intimidated by the idea of this slope, that’s understandable but taking the red alternative will give you an even bigger challenge at the very bottom so take the black – honestly, its a much better option overall.

⚫️ GRAN PELA, SECEDA

Simply a ‘wall’ of c160m on a slope that is less than 500m long!

It’s a great warm-up because it is short and being pretty much SE facing, in the trees and high (2,000m) it’s always in decent condition. Keep your turns tight and controlled turns and then towards the end of the slope you let your skis run, but take care, the compression has caught a few folks out!

The La VolatA piste is a relative new comer

Passo San Pellegrino

⚫️ LA VolatA is a relative newcomer to the Dolomites and a piste that starts in the Veneto region and finishes in Trentino. 

It’s 2.4 kilometers long and has a drop of 630m with max gradients approaching 50%, this is a classic race piste and that’s what it was built for!

The starting point Col Margherita provides a stunning view of the southern Dolomites from its natural terrace at 2,514 meters: on the local website its described as “adrenaline for the eyes.”

Kronplatz/Plan de Corones

⚫️ SYLVESTER  -  Love this Slope!  Watch Our Video.

⚫️ Sylvester - 1,300m Across Nearly 5km of Groomed Black Slope

A drop of nearly 1,300m across nearly 5 km of groomed black slope and a bar at the bottom! Dropping in from the very top of the Kronplatz mountain at 2,275m to the valley floor at 975m you soon get into the tree line and the faces of Sylvester reveal themselves and it just seems to go on and on! There’s nothing as steep as Piculin or Erta but it is taxing and makes you work for your line. Watch our video.

Piculin - stand back, here it is, probably the most difficult slope in the Dolomites!

⚫️ PICULIN ...

... stand back, here it is, probably the most difficult slope in the Dolomites!

It’s so steep I have failed to film it in my usual way, ie following Louise! 

Piculin is one of the steepest slopes in Italy and several times German skiers voted it “Best Black Run.”

You just have to concentrate and keep your concentration at all times. Piculin is a roller! If you followed a single line down the slope, the gradient would vary incredibly, so pick your route. You can go for the steeper sections or flatter [relative term] things out by avoiding the steeper faces. 

The slope starts at 1620m and drops to 1113m that’s 507m over 2 km and this slope is definitely ‘difficult/advanced/black.’ Maximum gradient is 72%!!!

⚫️ Piculin is for confident expert skiers only.

TOP TIP: do Piculin early in the day. From mid-morning being pretty much a south facing slope, the sun does its work and depending upon the weather it can get super soft!

Thanks to Superskibook.com for the photo

⚫️ ERTA is the other edge of this Kronplatz sword. You see if you decide not to do Piculin and turn right you end up facing this beauty! Erta is 1,325m, long with a 405-meter drop but wait for it: the max gradient is 61%! The average gradient is 32%, and minimum gradient of 14% but that’s at the end just about giving you enough time to stop before the snow runs out! Pretty much north facing so always good for an edge! Anyway, you’re following in famous tracks because Erta is known as a race track and here Marcel Hirscher won the Saloml in 2007 and many many other have competed in the European Cup on this slope.

⚫️ Erta is for confident expert skiers only.

Arabba

⚫️ SOURASS FODOM

is a great slope on the Sella Ronda circuit so again, it does attract a higher number of skiers. 

Also, take care to study the route because you can easily miss a turn. The Arabba area is renowned for having the steepest slopes in the central Dolomiti Superski area and Sourasas is a star among them. 

At nearly 3 km long and a drop of around 750m it’s definitely worth a visit. 

Howard from New Zealand, skiing Carezza

Carezza

⚫️ King Laurin - wooo hooo! 

One of the few slopes in the Dolomites where, quite often, you can stand on the top at the drop-in and put your ski tips into mid-air. 

It’s that steep! [but still groomed]. 

And the view! OMG it’s absolutely scintillating! 

The first few hundred meters of this slope are steep, really steep! And its long too at around 2km with a reputed 945m drop! Yes, that’s steep!

But you can turn this slope into something quite extraordinary by joining the run all the way down to Nova Levante turning this into a run of something approaching 8 kilometres! 

⚫️ King Laurin is for confident expert skiers only.

Obereggen

⚫️ Torre Di Pisa

Unbeknown to most, there are two Towers of Pisa in Italy: the one everyone knows and this one, the piste of Torre Di Pisa that only a few of us know about!

Steep, wide, and always quiet which is why I like it. 

The steep section is probably around 6 to 800 meters long then it rolls out into something a little cruiser. The total drop is 450 meters with a maximum gradient of 59%, and with a slope width from 20 to 60 meters over around 1.5 km it’s definitely worth a look.

It’s high as well at 2,200m.

♦︎♦︎ [PISTE MAP] The Best Black Slopes to Ski in The Dolomites

best dolomites refuge
So, What Else Do You Need to Get the Most from Your Dolomites Ski Trip?

Where to Go for Lunch?

Our Food and Restaurant Recommendations!

Look, finding good slope-side restaurants in the Dolomites is just the easiest thing!

There are absolutely tons of privately owned, individually styled restaurants all accessible from the slopes all over the Dolomites. In fact of all the sections in this guide, this is probably the most difficult to write! Why?

Because I don’t want to give away my hard-earned secrets and find you sitting at my table😲!!

But, I have started so I’ll finish.

To be honest, there are a couple of places that I am holding back!! If you come ski with me, I’ll take you to these spots, promise!

So, where to start?

OK, so first thing a Rifugio, Baita and Hutte pretty much mean the same thing. They are essentially the translations meaning high mountain hut. You will even find the Ladin word Ütia.

These are all restaurants.

Now, as many people do these days, and put a post on Facebook asking for restaurant recommendations you’ll get the standard replies; Jimmi’s, Comici, Annatal, Rifugio Scotoni etc., etc.

These are really great restaurants, serving great food and please do go and visit them. But they are a little bit like the better highway service restaurants – they’re all on the main thoroughfare and every man and his snowboard will be there!

So, go out of your way a little, use your imagination, and find something different.

Here’s my top list of high mountain rifugi for lunch:

 

PS When you visit any of these, tell them Tim from Inspired ITALY sent you! You might just get a free Grappa!

Baita Tuene, Alpe di Siusi. Such a great secret...

Baita Tuene

Alpe di Siusi, Val Gardena

There are a lot of little hidden restaurants on the plateau but for me, this one holds a special something. If you come here be sure to seek out the family photo inside. You see, only a few years ago, the family who own this hutte used to spend their summers here. 

It’s not easy to find as it is away from the main slope.

Take the Steger Dellai chair and if you see the flag at the top, slightly off to the left, the restaurant is open. Ski towards the flag and down the little track. The restaurant is very small so if you can sit outside, do so but if it’s cold go early and squeeze in. There are only 3 tables so you might have to share with others which, for me, is even more fun. 

CLICK HERE for Google Maps

Costamula Restaurant

Seceda, Val Gardena

I just love how they have finished Costamula.

On the outside, it pretty much looks like a wreck! Inside, I mean WOW! Just amazing! The menu is sophisticated, as are the staff and as is the setting. Most people ski by as it’s not so obvious. Anyway, come here for a special lunch and eat inside. Best to book!

CLICK HERE for Google Maps

Ciadinat is tucked away and I still recall my first magical visit!

Baita Ciadinat

Plan di Gralba, Val Gardena

I still remember the very first time I came here. It was pretty much white-out conditions but fortunately, our friend Al, knew the way. We climbed the wooden steps to the old front door, ducked as we went in, turned left into the room with the wood-burning stove, hung our wet things on the framework around the stove, and ducked down to get into the next room. It was so cozy. The walls are log cabin-like, with the smallest of windows and a single electric light hanging above the table.

To top it all, the food was hot, tasty, and a huge portion. I had spaghetti ragu which became my staple dish here until recently.

Denise and her son will look after you!

CLICK HERE for Google Maps

Moosbichl Alm

KRONPLATZ

This was the strangest experience! And that’s why we love this place.

It feels like walking into someone’s house, uninvited! No really, when we first went to this place, the locals were in there, they seemed like the owner’s mates. Some were skiers, others had got there by other not-so-obvious means! The food, which you could see being prepared in the fully open kitchen, bubbled away in huge pots while the owner plodded around the kitchen in his apron. Definitely an experience!

CLICK HERE for Google Maps

Ready for a Blowout lunch?

Soldanella

Buffaure, Pozza di Fassa

Ready for a blowout lunch?

Book Solanella! This local restaurant has an exceptional menu covering the Italian standard fayre and Tyrolean dishes. Whatever you choose here will surpass your expectations!

Book to avoid disappointment. Oh and when you arrive, don’t be put off by the location or place! 

CLICK HERE for Google Maps

Col Taron

CORTINA D’AMPEZZO.

Ideal on a sit-on-the-terrace type of day! The views are exhilarating, the grappa so incredibly tasty and the music plays list will get you to your feet! Ask the owner, Joanne, she’s originally from Canada to put her music on!
Standard menu, maybe a little less choice than most but great quality.

CLICK HERE for Google Maps

 

marmolada ski safari
A Line a Grappa!

Baita Ciampac Hütte

SELVA GARDENA

CLICK HERE for Google Maps

____________________

Rifugio Utia Paraciora

SPONATA, ALTA BADIA

CLICK HERE for Google Maps

____________________

Rifugio Passo Incisa

ALTA BADIA

CLICK HERE for Google Maps

La Locia, Armentarola, Alta Badia – https://maps.app.goo.gl/bUQuwHMvwra3XRXD8