The last couple of attempts to fit some skiing in had been a bit of a washout. So when the opportunity arose to make a return trip to the gorgeous Italian Dolomites in the Süd Tirol, I grasped it with both hands and then some.
The obvious problem with spring skiing is the inconsistency of snow cover, but in Val Gardena it is pretty much guaranteed there will be a reasonable amount of the white stuff. The added bonus is there would also be plenty of sunshine and all set in the spectacular Dolomites.
It was not too distressing to arrive in the valley and find there was not a great deal of snow. The guesthouse which was my sanctuary for the next couple of weeks, Garni Dolimitenblick, literally means “Dolomites View.” Very suitable, a little out of the town but a gorgeous view from the balcony over the village of Ortisei and the surrounding country.
Discovering the area
Places to eat in the area are relatively easy to find, and are available for any budget, after a little exploring a few favourites were soon found.
An ‘après ski’ bar called ‘Siglu’ which had a barbecue going outside initially looked inviting, although the sight of the chef tearing the meat with his hands was a little off-putting., The toilet was only a few yards away and had me wondering, the aroma of the cooking meat however was heavenly.
Eventually I discovered a small pizza shop, and in fact this was effectively it’s name. It was basically a takeaway, and was tucked away down a side street. It was a real treasure of a find, ordering a panzarotto with proscuitto and mozzarella which I wolfed down, being quite ravenous by now. At only €3 absolutely great, and this was also to become one of my favourite places to eat. The owner was originally from The Punjab, and has lived in Ortisei for four years, able to converse in English, Italian and German as well as his native tongue, and he runs a pizza shop.
The skiing was of course excellent, with plenty of snow at the higher elevations, and several areas to spend plenty of time on or off piste. Conditions further improved with a heavy dump of snow in the first few days, which left even the valley covered for a little while.
Alpe di Suisi, Seiser Alm regions or St Christina and even further over to Selva Wolkenstein never failed to deliver, always plenty of snow, and pistes that were never crowded. Getting out early in the morning is a great idea; the conditions deteriorate once the sun comes out properly. Novices can struggle in the slushy snow it’s like skiing in sugar so it’s fortunate that après-ski is just as good as the weather!
One of the highlights of skiing in the Italian Dolomites is a tour of the Sella Ronda, this is circular route which is easily completed in a day by skiers of all standards. Follow the green or orange signs which link up the ski lifts, skiing in a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction. The skiing is pretty good, the views simply stunning and often there is little need for queuing. it cannot be recommended enough.
Talking of queuing late season skiing is pretty cool for this, in fact most of the time there isn’t any! Did I also mention the après-ski or the weather, if you have not tried some last-minute skiing, it might be time to get a look at the bargains on offer
Picture postcard pretty
The pretty villages are strung along the valley floor like pearls on a necklace, Ortisei, St. Christina but the largest pearl is Selva Wolkenstein. One of the founding members of the self-importantly named ‘Leading Mountain Resorts of the World’ group but it certainly deserves some recognition, surrounded by stunning views and with some excellent skiing too.
It is also home to the coffee-house with one of the most dramatic backdrops anywhere; the Cafe des Alpes provides both a fantastic view and a great latte. They also make a pretty mean Aperol Spritze which is a local speciality made from orange Aperol, Prosecco and soda, quite refreshing and a good start to the a hard evening of partying after all that skiing.
There is a small sculpture just outside; it portrays Noah and his ark, with all the animals trooping on two by two. Noah is seen disposing of modern-day appliances such as a television and washing machine to make way for the creatures of the Earth. We need more Noahs today but is pretty cool little, almost iconic in a way, receiving many visitors in its own right and much praise.
All the villages are pristine even taking a close look it is difficult to find any litter, they are very proud of their valley. It is really quite impressive to see all the shop keepers out on a Monday morning cleaning their storefronts even the banks! The street cleaners are even out with fire hoses washing down the precinct area, there is little wonder that there is not a ‘for sale’ sign in sight.
Good wining and dining in the valley is pretty easy to find although my favourite Tirolean dish gröstle was a little difficult to come by. A pizzeria called ‘Erica’ was one of my favourite stopping of places, great value, good food, including pizza of course and very friendly. They were even happy to get a lesson in making Irish coffee on one visit.
This was often followed by a trip to a great little wine shop called ‘Vinotheque’ which has a very impressive choice of wines. A place to die for or a place to die in, it is definitely my idea of heaven.
There is a great deal to recommend about Val Gardena, and the Italian Dolomites at anytime, but it seems perfect for some late season skiing.