I’d heard great things about skiing in Italy’s Val Gardena and having just spent a couple of days there, I’m happy to say all the good stuff is true. It’s a beautiful area that enjoys around 300 days of sun a year, has around 175km of varied slopes (with access to much more as part of the Dolomiti Superski area) and has two famous ski tours to choose from.
We were based in the village of Selva di Gardena, at 1600m, staying at the Acadia Hotel. This is one of the three villages – Ortisei and Santa Cristina being the other two – and 10,000 residents that make up Val Gardena. There are no chain hotels here, it’s almost all local families and businesses running the show, something the community is very proud of.
Bonus fact: the main spoken language here is Ladin, which dates back to the Roman Empire, and is spoken by around 45,000 people in total. Italian and German are spoken and written as well and most of the road and accommodation signs are given in all three languages. You can be thanked in all three languages in one conversation. It’s a little confusing.
The season runs from the start of December to the middle of April and, even though there had been no fresh snow for a few weeks when we arrived, the pistes were all in superb condition. 98% of the area is covered by snow machines and I honestly had some of the best skiing of what could loosely be classed as my career.
In Val Gardena, the make up of the pistes is 57 blues, 79 reds and 11 blacks. A couple of highlights are the Saslong World Cup slope (yep, tick, did it) and La Longia, a 10.5km beauty running down into the village of Ortisei (also tick and highly recommended).
Day 1 – Sellaronda
On our first day we completed the famous Sellaronda tour which takes you all the way around the Sella massif dropping into four of the area’s valleys. You can go round either way and should set aside the best part of a day to get it done (assuming you want to have a couple of coffee stops and lunch, and why wouldn’t you?). If you’re pushed for time, it can be done in around three hours with no breaks. Make sure you check the last times of any connections you need to get back to your base before you set out.
It’s around 26km of skiing, with chairlifts, gondolas, funiculars and tunnels connecting it all together, and a total distance of around 42km. The scenery is spectacular, the skiing is great and there are *a lot* of options for lunch – Val Gardena has many huts dotted around the mountains, serving superb local dishes. The Curona serves incredible fresh homemade pasta.
We took our time and made a few diversions along the way and my SkiTracks app told me we were out for around five hours, covered 52km in all with 32km of skiing. A good effort.
Day 2 – Ski Caching
On our second day we took part in the Val Gardena Ski Caching event organised by the local tourist office. It’s a full day event where entrants have 50 locations dotted around the area to find, photograph and earn points. Harder caches (ones that might be hidden at the top of a walk up) are worth more points than easy ones. I’ll be honest, we stuck to the easy ones.
16 teams of two took part in the 2020 event which started in the main square of Ortisei. You register, get your map and bib and then you’re off. Now while we didn’t do that well in the overall competition (and by ‘that well’ I mean we came third from last with less than a quarter of the points of the winners), we concentrated more on the photography task of presenting the “most original selfies”. I think we did OK on that one – we came second.
It was a fun day and a great way to see more of the area. While the event is open to visitors, and they are encouraged to take part, it’s obvious anyone with a knowledge of the area will have a massive advantage over first timers. We were lucky enough to have a local guide helping us out, without Christina our final score would have been (even) lower. I wonder if there would be a way to encourage non-locals to enter by offering an option of a smaller area to cover, or a guide to point visiting entrants in the right direction? Not that it’s all about winning, of course…
I’m a total convert to skiing in Italy and two days in Val Gardena just isn’t enough… I’m going to have to go back.
Flights were from EasyJet on the London Gatwick to Innsbruck route, with a 90 minute road transfer to Val Gardena. Accommodation was in the 4* Hotel Acadia in Selva di Gardena where 7 nights’ with breakfast is from €2400 for two people. For more information on Val Gardena go to www.valgardena.it/en , email email@example.com or call 0039 0471 777 777.