Feature

This week’s travel dream: Descending upon the Dolomites

Dolomite Superski in northeastern Italy encompasses 12 resort areas, 450 lifts, 45 villages, and 750 miles of marked trails. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

There’s nothing quite like skiing a UNESCO World Heritage Site, said Risa Wyatt in The Philadelphia Inquirer. The Dolomites, a section of the Alps that falls between Italy and Austria, joined UNESCO’s prestigious list in 2009—and for good reason. Unlike North American resorts that cover one or two mountains, Dolomite Superski alone encompasses several ranges. The “world’s largest ski area,” this “snowy playground” encompasses 12 resort areas, 450 lifts, 45 villages, and 750 miles of marked trails that sprawl across three regions of northeastern Italy. You could spend a week here and “never ski or snowboard the same run twice.” Nor could you get your fill of the Italian, Austrian, and local Ladin cultures, which “all come together in the region’s culinary traditions” and cobblestoned communities.

The Dolomites’ most famous destinations are Cortina d’Ampezzo and Val Gardena. “Encircled by massive peaks” that loom like “castles and towers” in the wintry sky, Cortina boasts 70 miles of runs. “Endless snowfields unfurl around us, bowls of white billowing against 10,000-foot summits.” We weave past pillars of stone that “rise like frozen titans” and swoop down couloirs that lead to vertical drops exceeding 6,000 feet. At dusk, Cortina’s mountains “glow the faintest rosy pink.” I took in the vista from a rifugio, one of the alpine huts that dot the Dolomites. Built to harbor mountain climbers, they now house gourmet restaurants that serve up handmade pasta like casunziei—“half-moon-shaped pasta stuffed with beets.”

The next day we were off to Val Gardena, which offers 110 miles of slopes and about a dozen villages, “some more than 800 years old.” Just 35 miles from Austria, Val Gardena is considered the “heart of Ladin culture.” The Ladin people speak a “2,000-year-old language” that “mixes Latin with the dialect of the native Rhaetians.” You can ski from one Ladin village to the next, swooping past the 17th-century Castel Gardena, or descend the longest run, La Longia, which winds through “meadows, forests, and canyons draped with icicles.” Today, Val Gardena is where “Italian gusto meets German gemütlichkeit, or coziness.” Restaurants offer gnocchi and spaetzle, and the people start sentences with “Ciao” and end them with “Danke schön.

Contact: Dolomitisuperski.com

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