A local’s guide to Cortina

Jaw-dropping scenery. Snow-filled couloirs. Deserted pistes. You don’t have to be covered in fur and supping Martinis to enjoy Cortina d’Ampezzo

Every skier needs to visit the Dolomites at least once. Those weathered limestone stacks that rise to over 3000m make for the most beautiful backdrop you could ask for.

Of all the ski resorts that make up the gigantic Dolomiti Superski area (1200km on one lift pass – jeepers!) Cortina d’Ampezzo is the best-known – if not necessarily for the skiing. It’s Italy’s answer to St Moritz, as notorious for its well-heeled, fur-clad visitors as it is the beautiful mountains that surround it. And at certain times of year at least, the stereotype rings true. Head there during the Italian holidays and you’ll find more people posing with cocktails than actually exploring the mountains.

Cinque Torri is the place to go - it tends to stay clear of the crowds " | Bandion

Cinque Torri is the place to go – it tends to stay clear of the crowds ” | Bandion

Not that it bothers us one bit: it just means that while Tignes et al are busting with holiday crowds, Cortina’s slopes are surprisingly empty. And what lovely slopes they are too. Cortina itself has 140km of pistes – not a huge amount, but spread between tree-lined valleys, sun-soaked plateaus and lofty ridge tops it feels a lot bigger. And if you’re hungry for mileage there’s the rest of the Dolomiti Superski area to explore; Alta Badia is easily reached by bus, giving access to the gargantuan Sella Ronda circuit.

Being south of the main alpine ridge, the snow in the Dolomites can be quite different from the big French and Austrian resorts. Take 2014, when Arabba (down the road from Cortina) was cut off for days after receiving two metres of snow in 48 hours, while Austrian resorts where struggling to stay open for lack of the stuff. It’s in these vintage years that Cortina comes into its own. Those chalky mountains are riddled with couloirs and chutes that catch and hold the snow, turning it into one giant playground.

Meet the local

Originally from Norway, Marianne has lived in Cortina for eight years, where she works in marketing.

First run of the day

Early in the morning nothing compares to the Tofana area. For something cruisey try the Tofanina, an easy green. If you want to dive right in, head for the famous black run, the Forcella Rossa.

Sheer beauty, everywhere you look |Bandion

Sheer beauty, everywhere you look |Bandion

For freshies days after a storm

Cinque Torri is the place to go – a stunning formation of five rock towers, it tends to stay clear of the crowds compared to the area surrounding Cortina. There are plenty of secret stashes to explore. If you’re prepared to hike or skin for your lines the options are endless, but get a guide. Dolomiti Ski Rock (dolomitiskirock.com) or Guide Alpine Cortina (guidecortina.com) are the people to call.

The best thing about living in Cortina is…

The sheer beauty of the surroundings, regardless of the weather.

Don’t leave Cortina without…

Spending a night in one of our mountain huts (rifugios). Not only will you get to witness a famous Dolomite sunset, you’ll also be one of the first people to hit the slopes the next morning. Plus they are very reasonably priced and the food is outstanding.

The biggest misconception about Cortina is…

That it’s full of fur coats and people who don’t ski. This is only the case during the Italian high season (Christmas week and
mid-February). During the rest of the winter Cortina is buzzing with ski-mad and outdoorsy people.

More than just a pretty face | Paolo Tassi

More than just a pretty face | Paolo Tassi

For a mountain bite

You can pick any of the rifugios and know you’ll have an amazing meal. My favourite dish is goulash soup – it’s packed with flavour but not too heavy. You should also try Kaiserschmarrn, a sweet pancake dish.

For dinner in town

There are so many amazing restaurants, but my favourite is Aurelio (da-aurelio.it). It’s actually a little bit of a drive from Cortina, at Passo di Giau, but it’s worth the journey for the stinco di maiale (pork shank) or baccala (dried cod dish). For something cheaper, just head to one of the many pizzerias in town where you’ll get authentic pizza and beer for €15 per head.

Aperitif, anyone? |Stefano Zardini

Aperitif, anyone? |Stefano Zardini

For an après-ski tipple

Stop by Col Druscie on your ski back down to Cortina for a drink on the terrace. In town, Jambo is the place to go, whether you’re looking for a relaxed aperitif or late-night partying.    

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