I’d heard amazing tales of this astonishing resort that has gondola lifts as far as the eye can see, and endless runs snaking their way down the sides of a sugarloaf mountain. It was in Italy, in the majestic Dolomites, but you could be forgiven, I was told, for thinking you were in Austria – the villages bordering the ski area boasted onion-domed churches, lederhosen was much in evidence and waitresses were delightfully dirndl-clad.
And at last I’ve made it here, to Kronplatz – and all reports are entirely accurate. It is gondola central. And not just common or garden economy-style gondolas – these are gondolas with extras – business class gondolas. Some have heated seats. Some have free wi-fi. In one record-breaking season not so long ago, excitement knew no bounds hereabouts when four new gondolas were opened in one season.
Nowadays in total there are…oh well, I’ve got to 20 and lost count. Let’s call it at least 20. Not including the ones they no doubt have hidden away somewhere and have completely forgotten about.
The lift system here is astonishing. One gondola transports you right on to the platform of a railway station so you can catch a train to the neighbouring resort of Sextner Dolimiten and have a few runs there (all on the same lift pass).
Crystal Ski has packages to a number of hotels in the delightful and really rather chic village of San Vigilio – a two-stage gondola ride from the heart of the Kronplatz skiing. I’ve been staying at the very comfortable three-star family-run Hotel Majarei, a short walk from the centre of San Vigilio – the ski bus stops at the end of the drive to take you to the gondola station. There’s even a gondola to take you from that station to the gondola station across town serving another small ski area, Piz de Plaies.
Kronplatz is not just the name of the mountain, it also embraces the holiday region. It’s tucked away in the northern part of the Dolomites. On a clear day, of which there have been many, you can see the peaks of the Zillertal, in Tirol. And the mountain restaurants are as likely to have germknodels and kaiserschmarrn on the menu as tiramisu and zabaglione. Talking of food, the local name for the mountain is Pannetone because of its shape.
Many of the runs are satisfyingly long, right from the top of the Pannetone without a break down to the surrounding villages. The Sella Ronda is within striking distance – though you need to take a cab to Corvara to start the circuit and make the most of your day. But there’s enough skiing in Kronplatz without having to seek out more.
When you go to Kronplatz (unless you’ve already beaten me here), be at the top of the Pannetone at midday. Right at the peak (or rather the centre of the plateau that constitutes the peak) they have installed the biggest cowbell you’ve ever seen – it was to mark the Millennium and is called the Peace Bell. Every day at noon it rings out its message – and every gondola in the area vibrates in solidarity.