When you are booking a ski holiday there are a few options. You can book through a tour operator (TO) and have all the options booked in one, you can book all the elements individually – more DIY style – or you can do a bit of both and travel independently while using a TO for accommodation. All have their advantages and last weekend on our outbound travel weekend this was massively under the spotlight.
Had we opted to travel with a TO to France, which was an original option for our New Year ski holiday, we could have been caught in one of the biggest travel jams and chaos in the Alps ever! Heavy snow delayed inbound and outbound flights at Geneva, Chambery and Lyon airports and created hellish transfers in both directions to many of the big name French ski resorts. Some skiing friends just made it to their resort before the chaos by taking the Eurostar train, a great option as they arrived early to the Tarentaise region before the masses.
Our route, flying to Treviso and on to the Dolomites where a local TO had helped to find an apartment for us in Arabba, was not without its issues. Snow in the UK meant our evening flight was delayed. Snow on the roads up to the resort, meant we had to don the snow chains – luckily similar to ones we had used before but this, on top of the flight delay, meant we arrived 2hrs after we were due – at 2am. Thank goodness the Hotel Evaldo owner, who also owned our apartment stayed up for us (NB make sure you have a plan for apartment key collection in case of late arrival).
Choosing to travel independently meant we had to deal with this on our own – renting a car, paying extra for snow chain rental, fitting the chains, route finding in the dark on snow covered roads, notifying the hotel of our delays etc. We prefer to travel this way, but you have to be prepared for the conditions and we had plenty of snacks, gloves, shovel, warm clothes etc. at the ready.
Skiing in the Dolomites for the first time made the journey worthwhile. There are stunning panoramas in every direction. The Dolomiti Superski region is vast – 1200km+ of slopes – we barely touched the surface of it in a week, but two skiing highlights stood out.
Everyone able to ski parallel turns was welcome to join in the New Year’s Eve torch lit parade in Arabba. I took my eldest two children up the mountain for this. In true laid back Italian style the 5pm start time was kicked back as the instructors enjoyed an ‘apero’ at the Burz mountain top restaurant. When the sun had set and the torches were lit – one for every skier, off we went – a very special evening to be part of, twinkling lights against the white snow on a super cold evening. Arabba greeted the long shining snake of burning torches with party music and fireworks. An evening we won’t forget!
Later in the week with our youngest happy to do his first full day in ski school with ‘Werner’ we (the two older kids and I) decided to take the more ‘sportive’ clockwise orange route around the ‘Sella Ronda’. This is a circular route starting with the fastest cable car I have ever been on from Arabba up to Portovescovo, around the Massif Sella, a huge rocky outcrop taking in the ski valleys of Arabba/Marmolada, Val di Fassa, Val Gardena and Alta Badia. With one small detour down a black run to Selva (still not sure if it is part of the route!) we made it around in 3.5 hours in time to see our youngest take 2nd place in his ski school race.
Italians are renowned for their love of children and at the end of week ski school races every child was given a ‘gold’ trophy – not just a medal on a ribbon – and the Fox, the mascot of the local Reba Ski School, on the microphone was full of ‘bravissima’ and ‘brava’ for the quickest and slowest of the racers!
And finally a table full of cheese, ham, panettone and Prosecco for all was the perfect celebration of the end of our first family ski holiday in the Italian Dolomites. There followed a painless return journey home, whilst hearing of more delays for returning new year French skiers via Chambery airport (which had ran out of aviation fuel – seriously!).
For more information on the ski area of the Italian Dolomites visit www.dolomitemountains.com
Find out more about Val Gardena.