Val Gar­dena

Ski fans will recog­nise this mag­i­cal val­ley in Italy's South Ty­rol from the Alpine Ski World Cup down­hill race, but it's great for begin­ners too, says Rachel Roberts

Selling Travel - - Introducing -

En­cir­cled by the mag­nif­i­cent mas­sifs of the Dolomites – a UNESCO World Her­itage Site – Val Gar­dena is part of the Dolomiti Su­per­ski area, which of­fers 12 ski­ing zones and 1,200km of slopes. It's even home to the Gar­denis­sima, the world’s long­est gi­ant Slalom race.

Val Gar­dena it­self com­prises three moun­tain vil­lages, Or­ti­sei, Santa Cristina and Selva, which is per­haps the best-known des­ti­na­tion for snow-sports seek­ers headed to this corner of north­ern Italy.

Val Gar­dena of­fers a de­cent se­lec­tion of runs for skiers of all abil­i­ties, with a choice of 57 blue slopes, 79 red slopes and 11 black slopes. Al­ter­na­tively, head off to Alpe Di Siusi and Dolomiti Ski for even more va­ri­ety.

Se­ri­ous ski­ing

The vil­lage of Selva is the gate­way to the Sel­laronda, a cir­cuit on ev­ery in­ter­me­di­ate/ ad­vanced skier’s bucket list. Known as one of the Dolomites’ most spec­tac­u­lar ‘cir­cum-skis’, it’s a se­ries of mostly red runs that tra­verse the mighty Sella mas­sif. The Sel­laronda of­fers 42km of down­hill trails in a sin­gle day, all ac­ces­si­ble by modern lifts.

The renowned ski cir­cuit started to take shape in the 1950s, when the Mar­zola fam­ily turned from farm­ing to ski­ing. Today, the lat­est gen­er­a­tion are com­mit­ted to im­prov­ing the re­sort and most re­cently opened a Piz Se­teur gon­dola this sea­son. With 77 cab­ins and heated seats, it whisks 3,450 peo­ple up to an al­ti­tude of 2,102m ev­ery hour. Ski slots in the floor of the cab­ins also re­moves the mad scram­ble in peak times: a clever touch by de­sign­ers Pin­in­fa­rina, who also work with Fer­rari and Maserati.

Begin­ners wel­come

La Piz Sella is a cute snow/fun­park for chil­dren and adults find­ing their wob­bly ski legs for the first time and the beauty of Selva is that you can quickly be up on the blue runs, in­stead of lan­guish­ing on the nurs­ery slopes for­ever. Feel­ing like you’re in the thick of the ac­tion is a great psy­cho­log­i­cal boost and def­i­nitely helped my progress.

Apres ski

Be­ing Italy, moun­tain meals are top notch. Emilio Comici is a fab­u­lous moun­tain ‘hut’ serv­ing fresh seafood caught daily down south along the Ital­ian coast­line. And with in­di­vid­ual hooks for hel­mets, hats and gloves within easy reach in­side ev­ery cu­bi­cle, it’s ob­vi­ous a skier mas­ter­minded the build. Out­side it has ‘turntable’ seat­ing which ro­tates to fol­low the sun, as well as a fire pit for when night falls and the bom­bardi­nos come out (a cockle-warm­ing egg nog-based drink).

Val Gar­dena at­tracts a fairly so­phis­ti­cated crowd (pre­dom­i­nantly Ital­ian), so jager­bomb mon­sters need not ap­ply. Sip on a Hugo, the lo­cal aper­i­tif, in­stead. Made from pros­ecco, el­der­flower cor­dial and fresh mint, it’s very mor­eish. Or­ti­sei has the liveli­est off-piste scene and some fab­u­lous restau­rants and bars, where lo­cals speak Ladin, a Rhato-Ro­mance lan­guage that has been spo­ken here for cen­turies.

Slop­ing off

For those fan­cy­ing a day off from ski­ing, the Puez-Odle Na­ture Park has plenty of trails to explore, or go see the fine hand­i­work of the val­ley’s wood­carvers at the Art Stu­dio Demetz in Or­tisel – it's a cen­turies-old lo­cal tra­di­tion.

AN­CIENT CHURCH IN PASSO GAR­DENA

LAST YEAR'S ALPINE SKI WORLD CUP IN AC­TION

TAK­ING IN THE DOLOMITES

THE RE­SORT OF OR­TI­SEI AND ITS FROZEN FOUN­TAIN

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