Thursday, March 19, 2015

Impossible not to LOVE the Dolomites!

We drove across northern Italy and finally made it to the mythical Cortina d’Ampezzo located in the hearth of the Dolomites. It is also part of the Dolomiti Superski which consists of a massif network of 450 lifts (yes, 450 lifts!!!) linking 12 differents ski areas!

It is also probably the best place to get the latest fur coat, so hurry up, you’ll have competition!

From the Cortina downtown, you have access to two different sides that you can’t easily connect during the same ski day.

For our first day, we headed up on the Faloria side.
We were told to stay on the slope because off-piste skiing is strictly forbidden. Proper backcountry skiing is allowed but skiing next from the slopes is not permitted. Unfortunately for us, the Forcella lift that gives access to most of the good backcountry options starts on the Cristallo side which was not running. You needed a proper certified mountain guide to have access to the goodies.

We cruised the groomed runs on the resort and enjoyed the view of the surrounding peaks. I would have thought that Cortina would have been packed but there wasn’t mostly any lift line anywhere!
Next day, we headed on the other side towards Tofana.

It’s on this side that you would find most of the famous runs of Cortina and where the women World cup is held every year. Even if this is not an awesome snow year for the Dolomites, you can still get some really good condition inbound.

From the top of the lifts, after a short 10 minutes hike, you have access to the Bus de Tofana.

From the col, you can ski down a wide couloir and catch the lift back for another run. After seeing the amount of tracks, I would guess that it is probably the most commonly skied run! I was (again) really surprised to see that it was still not that hard to find some untracked snow on which to carve turns!

We skied the chopped up snow and the 15-20cm of fresh snow that was still left to ski.

For our next run, we decided to go towards the Canale della Colonna which would translate to the Couloir of the Column. You just need to take your skis off at one of the slope and hike up around 100m. Conditions on the way up were good and not too sketchy.

The snow in the couloir was fairly packed. Nothing deep here but not hard to ski.
We missed the phrase in the guidebook saying: ‘’Do not be tempted by a direct descent. A rappel is required.’’ We realized soon enough when we saw what the couloir looked like!

Since we weren’t too far from the piste, we bootpacked our way up. I used to think that with skins you could make it out of most of situations but in the Alps, I now start to think that rope, harness and climbing equipment are mandatory equipment!
Even if The Cinque Tori area is located a few kilometers out of Cortina, it is part of it.  It don’t have that many lifts but it really looked like slackcountry was much more tolerated than in the heart of Cortina.

After skiing around for half a day, I stopped by the Rifugio Lagazuoi where we were planned to sleep that night to have a chat with Guido Pompanin, the owner and caretaker of the hut. Located at the top of Mt Lagazuoi at 2752m just a 2min walk from the tram, one couldn’t dream about a better place to stay overnight! Guido was really nice to talk to and being the sun of the guy who built the rifugio, he was really knowledgeable of the area and awesomely generous of his time.

He explained me a few options that we could easily do this afternoon and that wouldn’t be too sketchy.  We skiined for about 15minutes and got at the top of the 700m long Canale della Nonna. The snow was just perfect for couloir skiing. Not too deep, firm but easy to ski!

With the temperature warming up, we decided to stay on the piste for a few laps before making our way back to the Rifugio for a celebration beer!

After the celebration beer, we went sweating a bit in the sauna. From inside the sauna, we had a terrific view of the surrounding mountains which was quite a change from the naked dudes view you usually have inside the sauna!

I was pleased with the view from our room but it was nothing compare to the sunrise the following morning!

I really think that every one should have the chance to see the sun rising above the clouds with peaks sticking out of the sea of clouds!

If you ever make it to the Cortina area, make sure to put the Rifugio Lagazuoi on your sleep-over list!

The clouds eventually rose and the weather turned bad. We drove towards Alta Badia which I’ve know for its also World Cup event. It was also snowing heavily, once we got there, but it quickly stopped.

Alta Badia is also part of the Sella Ronda tour. This tour consists of linking different resort around the Sella massif on skis. Most of the people do it during one day and it is something that apparently everyone that goes to the Dolomites does.  We found the slope on which the World Cup is held every year. It is a really steep slope on which I would really not like to have to race! But beside this slope, it is fairly flat. It is probably one of the flatest resort I’ve ever skied. There is really countless intermediate and beginner run... There were also much more people around the resort. I can easily imagine it being PACKED during the holidays.


Since you can easily see which lifts are part of the Sella Ronda, we headed out a bit out of there to hopefully have it on the quiet side. We drove by Passo Pordoi where our diesel froze a few year back and went to Marmolada.

Marmolada is the highest point you can get by lift in the Dolomites. That we realized translate into alotofpeoplewanttogothere!


The view, as one can imagine is pretty stunning, but the best point in my opinion are the slackcountry options available. Since there is one run that is control on the glacier, everyone use it leaving pretty of room for some nice turns.

With a soon to come return to Grenoble, we drove south to San Martino di Castrozza. This is the most southern point of the Dolomiti Superski and what we figured would be a bit closer to drive back to Grenoble.
We stayed on the slopes and got a short day in before having to drive back home.
The last days haven’t been super deep, but I am really stoked about what I saw and all the options that are available here. It is for sure a destination that I look forward to come back!

One thing that I am really looking forward to do is to come back only with a daypack and travel around the mountains by using the lifts and the bus system. Probably not on the Sella Ronda but a trip that would involve backcountry and slackcountry options around the mountains. The fact that you can buy card points and that depending on the lift that you are using get charge only on what you use, make this option really interesting...

Now, sitting at home in Grenoble dreaming about it...
Sun and warm weather are on the forecast for the coming days...

evans