Skiing in the Dolomites has been on Rich Evans’ skiing bucket list. Bring on the mighty peaks. and the wine. And the world-class photography…
08:00 Good morning Kronpltaz! We’ve have woken to wall to wall sunshine. Today should be a good day. Amber, my wife, and I arrived late last night after a ridiculously beautiful drive along Lake Garda.
10:24 We’re boarding the shuttle bus, later than expected – the buffet breakfast at the Hotel Winkler was a monster. We take the main bubble to Kronplatz summit (2275m) where we are greeted by 360-degree views and a huge metal bell – the Concordia Peace Bell.
10:46 We set off on red 11 which feeds into red 29 – a top-to-bottom warm up that does just that. No need for a piste map here – all the lifts on Kronplatz mountain (nicknamed ‘panettone’ due to its circular shape) bring you back to the summit. There is no fresh snow but the pistes are in tip top condition.
12:20 Having skied through San Vigilio (along with San Martin, it forms the Ladin part of Kronplatz region) we’re at the top of Pix du Planes. Amber asks an instructor his thoughts on the black run to Piculin. He tells her it’s ‘a black black’ so she opts for a coffee instead. The instructor was right: it’s steep, icy in places and if I didn’t keep stopping to take photos it would be a real leg burner.
14:07 We are lapping the Marchner and Belvedere bubbles, due to their wide and fast network of blues and reds, rather than the fact the lifts have heated seats and Wi-Fi, honest…
16:30 Our legs are beat. It’s sauna-time back at the Winkler where swimwear is banned. Leaving our modesty at the door, we sweat it out for three whole minutes before making a dash for the outdoor pool with swimwear back on.
10:15 The high pressure weather system is firmly locked in. No new snow is on the forecast, but we’re not complaining.
11:01 We’re cruising down Ried, a stunning 10km run through the trees. At the end you can hop on a train to the neighbouring resort of 3 Zinnen, where we’re moving onto later today.
11:50 We rush back to the Plateau chair – the Concordia bell rings at noon every day (as well as when a country abolishes the death penalty) – will we make it in time?!
12:00 “Dong! Dong!” Darn it, we can hear it but not see it. I pole frantically, ski around the corner and there it is, the impressive bell still swinging.
13:03 After several laps of the long and wide reds off the Olang bubble, we stop for homemade minestrone soup at the cosy Graziani Lodge, located at Plan de Corones.
14:50 It’s time to put my cultural head on and visit the newly-opened Lumen museum of photography, located at the summit. The dramatic glass building cantilevers out over the mountain and has four floors showcasing work from some of the most famous international mountain photographers (and, brilliantly, you can keep your ski boots on…).
16:50 We’re back at base, packing our bags, ready to head to 3 Zinnen, 35 minutes’ drive away. When we arrive at the Post Hotel in San Candido it’s a distinctly chilly -5 degrees and dark clouds hover overhead. Could snow finally be on the horizon?
08:05 The answer is: no. We wake to more blinding sunshine. The imposing rock formations from the bedroom window are stunning; Kronplatz had great views, but this was the Dolomites I was expecting.
10:05 Our mission for today is the Giro Delle Cime, a well-marked tour of the resort. There are both short and long versions – we’re opting for the shorter version today. The Helm Barn Monte Elmo bubble delivers us to start and we’re off.
10:31 We’ve arrived at the top of a new heated chair and the views are jaw-dropping. Wow, just wow – a sea of towering jagged peaks. Though, still no sign of the 3 Zinnen – the peaks that are all over the promotional material and after which the area is named. Must ask a local…
12:35 We follow the Giro Delle Cime on meandering blue and red runs through the trees, stopping briefly for a delicious arrabbiata pasta at the Helm Berg restaurant (how do Italians make even the basics taste so good?).
13:55 We’re at the top of the new No.16 chair. There are more snow cannons than people; it’s like our own private ski resort.
15:41 We’re back at base and somehow manage to work out where to get a bus back to San Candido.
16:04 We head out to explore the town. It’s like a mini Innsbruck – beautiful with lots of coffee shops and bars, mountain views from every corner. Mounds of snow are piled up along the roads – the raw material for the Snow Carving World Championships that will take place in the coming days.
18:05 We have a drink at the Post Hotel bar and get talking to some locals. Apparently, those 3 Zinnen we’ve spent the day looking for are not visible from anywhere here. Rookie error…
10:29 After a short and beautiful drive we’re parked up at Signaue, ready to tackle the Grand Giro Delle Cime: three valleys, five mountains and 5600 metres elevation gain. We’re game.
10:55 Talk about jumping in head, or rather feet, first: I’ve set off down Black 3b, the steepest groomed piste in Italy at 71%. Gulp. The legs are burning, the adrenaline flowing, when was the last time I edged these skis…
11:16 I’ve survived! And having reunited with Amber at the top of the brilliantly-named Bad Moos bubble we are admiring a humungous snowman family. Think modest two-storey house and you’ll be about right.
11:35 We follow the Blue 1 Skiweg. It’s both stunning and surreal – there are a couple of travelators to take you over the flat sections, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Solitude and scenery you’d usually hike for an hour to find.
12:55 After a short bus journey to Padola to fill in the last part of the Giro, we stop for lunch on the terrace of the Col d’la Tenda, surrounded by views of jagged steep peaks.
14:17 Bellies full of pasta, we drag ourselves away and head down the cruisey blue 50.
14:50 The bus is bang on time and delivers us back to our car.
17:20 Having admired the transformation of the snow mounds that are now impressive sculptures – everything from polar bears to an intricate-looking Romeo and Juliet – we hit the road. Destination: Alta Badia.
18:40 90 minutes of twists and bends, we arrive at the Hotel Marmolada in Corvara. We hit the sack early – it’s been a hell of a ski day, and we have more to do tomorrow.
10:00 We meet guide Stefanie at the Col Alt bubble (on the site of the first chairlift in Italy, opened in 1946) and we’re off to do the Lagazuoi Circuit.
10:38 After a couple of runs we’re in a queue for a taxi in San Cassiano village (the first queue we’ve seen all week) to reach the Falzarego Pass.
11:23 We’re stepping out of the cable car at 2778m where the views of the fossilised volcanic stacks in the distance are so stunning even local Stefanie is taking photos. “I never get bored of the views,” she says. The awe-inspiring views are tempered with the knowledge that right here, thousands of men were killed as Austria and Italy fought in the First World War. You can still see the wartime trenches and entrances to tunnels.
12:07 We ski the beautiful 7.5km-long Armentarola piste past craggy mountains and ice falls, with not a lift or building in sight. I can see why it’s nicknamed the ‘Hidden Valley’.
12:30 Next, the most environmentally-friendly lift there is: horses! Noriker horses work in pairs to drag about 40 people on skis behind them. Yeeha!
13:08 After passing back through San Cassiano and hooning some mellow reds, we stop for lunch at the Pralongia Rifugio. A hotspot for foodies, Michelin-starred chefs often make guest appearances here. No such luck for us – though the mushroom polenta is the tastiest thing I’ve ever eaten on the mountain, ever.
14:13 We’re back on our skis and heading towards Corava, passing a mountain that was bombed in the war leaving a massive crater. We bid farewell to Stefanie.
09:27 A different tour today – Sommelier on the Slopes – what could go wrong?
10:20 We are sat at L’Tabla restaurant at the top of Lift 4, being introduced to our sommelier Cameilia, who is smartly dressed in black tie… and ski boots. We taste two different wines: a Kettmeir Brut Rosé and Pinot Grigio Vallee Isarco 2018. We learn the Ladin for cheers, “vives!”
11:20 A couple of runs later and we’re at Refugio Bioch for our second tasting. This time we’re on the red, first a Weingut Vernatsch Dona, then a Pinot Nero Riserva Mazon. The sommelier tells us the latter will be even better in another two years, it tastes pretty good to me now.
12:33 Claudia, our guide, has brought us to the top of the World Cup course, Black 17 Grand Risa. She clearly has a sense of humour. It’s steep, and fast, and I regret finishing that second glass of red…
13:32 Somehow I survived with all limbs intact. Now it’s a ski through San Cassianno and up to Rifugio Bioch Hutte for lunch. Markus the proprietor gives a tour of his wine cellar, showcasing over 500 different wines from Kazakhstan to California. Sadly, we miss seeing ‘sabrage’ (the cutting off the top of a bottle of champagne with a ski).
15:18 After an Italian feast we get our first an introduction to Latschen pine cone schnapps. We toast to a fantastic Dolomites adventure, which is sadly now over. Time to return to base and pack.
16:50 Bags loaded, I decide to check tomorrow’s weather forecast: snow. My powder curse hits again. Am I disappointed? Heck no, this is a place where powder is simply a bonus.
The Lumen, Kronplatz
A beautiful 1800-square-metre gallery at the Kronplatz summit that explores mountain photography from history to the present.
Reid run, Kronplatz
A stunning 10km-long red run that twists and turns through the trees – don’t forget the camera.
Grand Giro Delle Cime, 3 Zinnen
A well-marked tour through the UNESCO Dolomites taking in mellow skiing, travelators and a sense of solitude you’ll usually have to hike miles to find.
Sommelier on the Slopes, Alta Badia
Accompanied by a guide and expert sommelier, it’s a unique experience that offers great skiing combined with a sampling of South Tyrol’s finest wines. €30 per person.
Lagazuoi Tour (aka The Hidden Valley), Alta Badia
Dolomites panorama meets world history on this panoramic ski circuit on the Lagazuoi mountain.
Innsbruck is the closest airport, 105km from Kronplatz and 130km from 3 Zinnen and Alta Badia. There are regular bus services to the resorts as well as car hire.
The Winkler Hotel in Kronplatz (winklerhotels.com) offers doubles from €140 per person per night, half-board. The Hotel Post in San Candido (posthotel.it) offers doubles from €105 per person per night, half-board. Hotel Marmolada in Corvara (marmolada.org) offers doubles from €170 per person per night, half-board.
Day passes cost from €54 in Kronplatz (kronplatz.com/en); €53 in 3 Zinnen (dreizinnen.com/en); €54 in Alta Badia (altabadia.org/en). A Dolomiti Superski day pass (dolomitisuperski.com) costs from €58.