South Tyrol: escape the crowds and ski the Dolomites

Enjoy the best of both Italy and Austria in this magical Alpine region

(Image credit: Helmuth

South Tyrol offers discerning skiers a perfect alternative to the frenetic, commercialised atmosphere of many of Italy’s other mountain resorts.

This northern province is framed by the jagged beauty of the Dolomites - a designated Unesco World Heritage site - and is home to the very best of the cultures of both Italy and neighbouring Austria. Indeed, many residents speak German as their first language, and the culture, history and cuisine of both countries are celebrated and enjoyed side by side.

As well as this fascinating mix of nationalities, South Tyrol is a great destination for winter sports ranging from skiing and sledging to snowshoe hiking and even outdoor swimming in steaming heated pools.

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For full access to a variety of outdoor activities, not to mention some serious spa therapies, check out the Cyprianerhof Spa Resort.

Set at the base of the Rosengarten mountains, which have been described as the jewel in the Dolomite crown, this family-owned eco-hotel is a striking wood and glass structure that has a category A energy efficiency rating and guarantees guests a CO2 neutral, environmentally-friendly holiday. The spacious Alpine lodge-themed rooms feature a range of local materials including spruce and larch wood and loden fabrics, and offer stunning views.

Few cars mar these idyllic scenes, with motor transport kept to a minimum in the enclave. Getting around isn’t a problem, however, with the Cyprianerhof Spa Resort giving guests a free local bus pass to reach the slopes.

South Tyrol offers excellent skiing for people of all levels, with wide, uncrowded pistes that retain more of their natural charm than most Alpine resorts. And when you end a red run, you can grab a ride on one of the snow-chained buses for an enchanting, if slightly surreal, ride through fairy-tale-perfect forests to a different set of pistes.

Slick new bubble lifts and cable cars equipped with heated seats make the ascent to the peaks, which stretch up more than 2,000 metres, an unusually relaxing experience.

Dining is an equally pleasurable experience in the South Tyrol, with the hybrid Italian and Austrian influence adding an interesting twist to the local cuisine. Enjoy aperitifs beside open wood fires at one of the many stylish mountainside restaurants before tucking in to the wide range of dishes on offer: one restaurant, Rifugio Emilio Comici, specialises in fresh fish delivered daily by helicopter.

For a must-try dinner destination, head to the Zallinger lodge, a stunning restaurant and hotel set deep in the hills that is accessible only by snow-taxi. Blazing fires, atmospheric lighting and a huge bar made from a single tree impress guests as they step in from the cold, as does the menu of traditional delights including dumplings, polenta and venison ragu.

The food is only half the fun though. Once dinner is over, the restaurant staff hand each guest a flaming torch and a wooden toboggan for a thrilling ten-minute descent through the forest beneath a canopy of stars. Few journeys home from a night out can be so exhilarating, and hilarious.

For a modest fee, the Cyprianerhof Spa Resort will lend guests hi-tech snow shoes in which to venture out to discover more of the region on foot, and join in organised hikes through the snowy woodland nearby.

Returning from an energetic trek, the Similde Spa at the Cyprianerhof (named after a folktale princess) is the perfect place to unwind, with an extensive range of therapies and treatments to sooth your aching limbs. Sauna cabins with plunge pools, and a steaming outdoor pool filled with mountain water, complete the experience.

It’s a perfect way to end the day in the perfect location that is the South Tyrol.

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