Skiing the Dolomites

For the past month or so, the weather in Florence has been very mild.  We’re talking temps in the mid-to-high fifties.  Conditioned by our surroundings, we were skeptical of the snow conditions for our upcoming trip to the Dolomites.  Thankfully, we hit the jackpot.  We had clear skies and near freezing temperatures (great skiing weather!) the first two days, while the next few days we got some fresh snow.  Bobby and I spent the week skiing, snowshoeing, and eating some superb food from our base in Santa Cristina in the Val Gardena ski region of the Dolomites.  Once again, we found ourselves thanking the Olmsted Foundation for this absolutely amazing three years in Italy.

It always takes me a day or so to “riscaldarmi,” or warm up.  I often feel a little timid on the slopes and find myself taking it extra slow, sticking to the medium-difficulty runs.  Luckily, European ski resorts, or at least the slopes we’ve visited in Austria and Italy, seem to be slightly less difficult than those that I “learned” to ski on in Utah.  The most tasking black runs in Italy would be classified as blue mediums in Utah.  The only tricky part is that that less people tend to go “off-piste” or “backcountry” ski so the groomed runs get really icy by the end of the day.  Luckily with the fresh snow towards the end of our stay, we had less problems with the icy conditions and enjoyed some really fun skiing.

First morning; view from our hotel in Santa Cristina

First morning; view from our hotel in Santa Cristina

View of the Dolomites from the valley of Santa Cristina

View of the Dolomites from the valley of Santa Cristina

The top of Col Raiser, the first lift of the day

The top of Col Raiser, the first lift of the day

One of the first runs of the day

One of the first runs of the day (See? The slopes are still nicely groomed!)

Nice and white

Nice and white

Taking a break to enjoy the view

Taking a break to enjoy the view

Beautiful Dolomites

Beautiful, rugged Dolomites

The "house offering" at lunch...it was a little like strawberry cough syrup. :)

The “house offering” at lunch…it was a little like strawberry cough syrup. :)

Sun's going down...one of the last runs of the day

Sun’s going down, the ice is coming out…one of the last runs of the day

Back in town, we had this amazing view

Back in town, we had this amazing view

We had 360 degree views of snow-capped mountains on almost every run in the Val Gardena ski area.  One of the largest groups of mountains is called the Sella Ronda and there is a planned ski route where you can circumnavigate the entire thing in about 4-6 hours.  On our second day of skiing, we took the orange route, or clockwise Sella Ronda path, and completed the trip in about 4 1/2 hours.  We traveled to four different ski areas while completing the trip, going from the German-speaking Alto-Adige zone to the Italian-speaking Trento area and back again!  One of the greatest things about skiing in the Dolomites is that almost every ski area is a part of the larger Dolomiti Super Ski, meaning that you can buy one pass (45 Euro/pp/per day) and ski wherever you’d like.  The Val Gardena area happens to be attached to Alta Badia, Arabba, and Val di Fassa ski areas, so we spent our week skiing between those four.  However, you can also head to Cortina, famous for hosting the 1956 Winter Olympics and multiple World Cups (including this year), as well as the Alpe di Siusi, Obereggen, and Marmolada areas, just to name a few.  There are actually a total of 19 areas/resorts that you can ski with just one pass.

sellaronda

Sella Ronda map

At each lift, the Sella Ronda is marked in orange (clockwise) and/or green(counterclockwise to let you know you're on the right path

The Sella Ronda is marked in orange (clockwise) and/or green (counterclockwise) at assigned lifts

We made it all the way to Val di Fassa!

We made it all the way to Val di Fassa (the Italian speaking zone)

Crazing clouds rolling in

Crazing clouds rolling in

Light beam from space!  We're about halfway around here.

Light beam from space! We’re about halfway around here.

My favorite view of the entire Sella Ronda

My favorite view of the entire Sella Ronda

Oops, the camera accidentally got put on b&w mode, but cool clouds nonetheless!

Oops, the camera accidentally got put on b&w mode, but cool clouds nonetheless!

Reflecting

Reflecting

Between our ski days, we took a break (my legs can only take so much!) to go snowshoeing.  Our hotel had a special with the local city hall where we only had to pay the rental cost of the snowshoes (10 Euro) and we got a guided tour of the mountains near Santa Cristina.  We met at the Col Raiser ski lift, where we had skied the first day, and once again we couldn’t have asked for better weather.  Our group consisted of our guide, Cristoff, who serves as a mountain guide in both winter and summer, about ten Italians, two Germans, and us.

Top of Col Raiser

Top of Col Raiser

Temperature is reading 31 degrees. Not bad!

These are the thermometers you’ll find all around the region. This one is reading 31 degrees.  Not bad!

Long morning winter shadows

Long morning winter shadows

Scarponi (literally meaning "really big shoes") on, ready to roll.

Scarponi (literally meaning “really big shoes”) on and ready to roll.

Going off-roading

Going off-roading

Snow selfie (I think this is like my second selfie either, but we don't ever get photos together!)

Snow selfie (I think this is like my second selfie ever, but we don’t ever get photos together!)

Thankfully, our German companions saw our struggles with the selfie and came to the rescue!

Thankfully, our German companions saw our struggles with the selfie and came to the rescue!

Lovely.

The Dolomites are like nothing else

This guy was at the baita (ski hut) to greet us on our way back.  He was larger than life and absolutely adorable!

This guy was at the baita (ski hut) to greet us on our way back. He was larger than life and absolutely adorable!