Dolomites

(winter edition)

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Transportation and Accommodations

Getting There

The Dolomites are the common name for the Italian Alps, located in the NE of Italy. When traveling to the Dolomites for a ski holiday, you'll have some different options on where to travel into. Venice tends to be the closest major airport to the Dolomites, located about 1.5 - 2.5 hours from the mountains. The distance largely depends on where you choose to stay. Milan is another option with many direct flights and a similar distance. If you are lucky, flights to Verona are ideal as you are closer to the mountains already and therefore a shorter distance to transfer.


The luxury town of Cortina d'Ampezzo is about a 2 hour drive, and a common base for ski travelers. Another picturesque location often appealing to visitors is the quaint town of Corvara, which is about 3 hours from Venice. In order to reach any of the towns found in the mountains, having a car or using private transfers will be critical.

 

If renting a car, pick-up the car rental from the respective airport and head on your way. For those who've opted for a private transfer, coordinate these in advance for your travels.


Getting Around

If you choose to rent a car in the winter, this will allow you to travel to different ski resorts more easily, driving and parking at the base or between towns. However, before deciding this is the way to go, it's important to understand what driving in the Dolomites is like. The roads are smooth, and typically two lanes on the larger roads. As you are in the mountains, you should expect the roads to be windy as you make your way up or down throughout the mountains. Fortunately, most places have guardrails along the side of the road.

 

As the roads can be challenging, avoid driving at night, especially in the winter. The winter brings an extra factor, and increased challenge, with snow. The roads may not always be clear or if they are cleared, they may still have snow and ice on the roads. This can be especially concerning if you do not have a car which can handle the terrain. Be sure to rent a car with 4WD and higher above the ground. Additionally, check that your car has snow chains or snow socks, as you may need these if the roads are not fully cleared, or even better make sure to rent a car with snow tires.

 

If you choose to travel to Corvara from Venice, plan to complete this drive during the day. It is a breathtaking and gorgeous drive, but it is also a nerve-racking drive. Thus, trying to drive in the dark or in potentially snowy conditions would not be safe or recommended. Our car was stuck for about 15 minutes in a spot on the road where the snow was not cleared well and this was during the late morning so we were very glad this did not happen in the evening. Once our car managed to get out of the spot it was stuck in, we immediately pulled over at the next possible pull-out point and dressed the front tires with the snow socks. These were very easy to put on the tires!

 

For those who decided not to rent a car, but still want to explore different destinations, consider using private transfers to travel between locations. Then, at your various home base points, leverage the local ski bus service and / or taxis in the area. If traveling by private transfer, you're in the capable hands of local drivers who are familiar with the roads and driving vehicles which can handle the terrain in various conditions.

 

Ski buses will differ by town:

Corvara - a ski bus pass must be purchased at the tourist office in Corvara and options are available for 1 day, 3 days or 7 days. This is helpful if you do not have a car, but are not staying right next to the ski lifts as the buses will travel by many of the main hotel areas and stop at each of the Corvara ski lift / gondola bases.

 

Additionally, there are buses which travel between towns as well like from Corvara to La Villa.

 

Cortina - the ski bus here is free with your ski pass 


When visiting Dolomites in the winer next time, I will likely opt for private transfers between any towns in the mountains OR ensure the car is equipped with snow tires before starting the journey.


Accommodations

 As the dolomites is such a large region, the accommodation options are endless and can be overwhelming with lots of different towns to chose from. Generally, the towns are equipped with lots of small Bed & Breakfast options. There may also be the opportunity to stay at a rifugio, either on the mountain or with some accessible by car. When choosing where to stay, it depends on a few factors including how much time you have, if you will have a car, if you plan to go out for meals, how many resorts you'd like to be able to ski, and what type of skiing you are looking for.

 

Cortina

One of the larger towns within the Dolomites, Cortina is a great base when visiting the Dolomites. With some fancier stores and accommodations, the town has a lot to offer and many restaurants to choose from when staying in town.

 

Hotel Aquila 

With 24/7 check-in, This can be important for those who may be arriving late into the evening, as some smaller hotels will not offer 24/7 reception services. The location is excellent, right in the city center, walkable to many restaurants, bars, shops, cafes, and ski stores. The hotel is about a 10 minute walk to Faloria cable car, a 10 minute walk to Colfiere / Col Druscie gondola, or a 10 minute drive to Socrepes. The ski bus is helpful to avoid these walks in your uncomfortable ski boots. 

 

The hotel is quaint and cozy, with lovely mountain vibes. The hotel has parking available at a price of 15 euros / night and also offers free breakfast to guests until 9:30 am. The staff is very kind and helpful, making this an easy recommendation for others to stay at when visiting Cortina. 


Corvara

Located in the Alta Badia region, this is a great option for those looking for a cute town with apres ski opportunities and a variety of restaurants available. The skiing around here is good for all levels. For those traveling to Venice, keep in mind Corvara is in Alta Badia and can take about 3 hours with the last hour being through the mountains properly.  

 

Hotel Miramonti 

This hotel is a 5 minute walk from the town center and a 15 minute walk to the various Corvara lifts (Boe, Col Alto, Borest, and Abruse). Alternatively, there are two ski bus stops just outside the hotel which will take guests right to the base of the lifts for quick and easy transport.

 

The hotel offers free parking in their small lot, if spaces are available, or 15 euros / night in the neighbouring parking lot. The hotel is a bit dated, but overall a fine place to stay when visiting Corvara (providing a cheaper option than many others in town). The staff is kind, and the rooms are quite spacious which is helpful when traveling with lots of layers for getting out and skiing or snowboarding on the mountain.


Things to do and see

Skiing and Snowboarding

The Dolomites has 1200 km of pistes spread across 12 different ski resorts: Alta Badia, Cortina d'Ampezzo, Val Gardena Seiser Alm, Val di Femme, 3 Zinnen, Plan Kronplatz, Gitschberg Jochtal Brixen, Arabba Marmolada, Val di Fassa Carezza, Civetta, Alpe Luisa San Pellegrino, and San Martino di Castrozza Passo Rolle.

Ski Passes 

Ski passes can be purchased for a singular area or a combined pass can be purchased which provides access to all 12 resorts for only a marginally higher price. As the ski resorts are connected, if you're keen to get out and explore different areas, definitely consider purchasing the 12 resort inclusive pass. The only time I'd recommend skipping the combined pass is if someone is a very beginner skiier and will surely only be staying in one resort. Otherwise, it is very easy to ski different runs while out on skis.


Purchasing tickets in advance online will provide a small (5%) discount. Passes can then be picked up at kiosks in many of the resort towns with the QR code on the email. These kiosks are easy to use, and many are located at the base of the gondolas providing quite a nice convenience. 

 

Estimated prices:

  • 1 day: approx 72 - 80 euros / day
  • 3 days: approx 200 euros


Alternatively, for those with an Ikon ski pass, the pass allows you to ski up to 7 days in Ski Dolomiti

 

Ski Resorts

Alta Badia

 The ski resort has a mix of terrain, but provides incredible views and is often baking in the sun based on its location in South Tyrol. Badia, La Villa, San Cassiano, Corvara, and Colfosco are the towns which make up the area. It also has access to the Sella Ronda as Corvara is on the route.


Cortina d'Ampezzo

Cortina d'Ampezzo is known for having a good amount of beginner terrain for new skiiers. The main ski areas include Faloria, Cristallo, Tofana, and Cinque Torri.

 

Val Gardena / Seiser Alm

The ski resort consists of three villages Ortisei, Selva and Santa Cristina. Like Alta Badia, it has a town along the Sella Ronda making it an easy spot to try the ski circuit.

 

Ski Routes

Sella Ronda 

This ski circuit is a highlight of visiting the Dolomites. The circuit is approximately 40 km and allows you to cover four Dolomites passes and five villages (Corvara, Selva, Canazei, Colfosco, and Arabba). Fortunately, when doing this tour, you will not have to take your skis off if you do it continuously. That being said, you may want to plan time for a break along the way as it can take about 6 hours to complete.

 

Ski Rentals 

Finding ski rentals near your accommodations is recommended for ease of pick-up and drop-off, or changing out any rentals that aren't working. Skiset has numerous locations across the dolomites with places to rent equipment from including skis, snowboards, boots, helmets, etc. 

 

Note - renting online at least 2 days in advance may provide a small discount (depending on your selected location), and give certainty the location will have rentals available for you to use.

 

In both Cortina and Corvara, we opted to rent our skis from SkiSet. The locations we rented from can be found below with estimated prices. Prices will vary based on duration, equipment package, and equipment required:

 

Cortina - Noleggio Rental Snow Service

Corvara - Sport Kostner


Food and Drinks

Drinks

Bar Sport

Cortina

Fun spot for drinks immediately after skiing into the evening, great for a post dinner drink during the week when the town is a bit quieter as this seems to be the main spot people trickle into as the evening rolls into the early hours of the morning. 

 

Gondola Hut 

Boe Gondola

Little apres ski bar at the base of the Boe and Borset gondolas, offering a great spot to grab a post ski drink

 

Glam's Alta Badia

Corvara

Wine bar on the main street in Corvara 

 

Hotel de la Poste

Cortina

Nice hotel, great for a night cap drink 

 

Enoteca Baita Fraina

Cortina

Cute wine bar in town serving small bites and a wide selection of wines to enjoy a drink before going out to dinner

 

Panino Top Bar

Cortina

More of a local bar, good for a more casual drink spot 

 

L'Murin

Corvara

Proper apres ski club in Corvara not far from the Col Alto gondola. The apres ski spot is multiple floors and has a DJ playing music until close at 9pm. The bar has a queuing system, where you get a number from the little shack outside that doubles as a bar. You can by drinks here to sip outside while you wait for your number to be up to let you in. This spot is a blast, well worth a visit if staying in Corvara and up for some apres

 

Club Moritzino

Alta Badia: La Villa (top of Piz la Villa gondola, and Bamby chairlift)

An apres ski party on the mountain, with a dj playing music to get the party going. The views from this spot are beautiful, and as the sun begins to set, it's an absolutely incredible place to end your ski day before venturing down the mountain. Club Moritzino is located at the top of Piz la Villa gondola, meaning you can skip the ski down and take the gondola to the base, just be sure you do not miss the last gondola down. Otherwise, you will have to ski down to the base of the mountain.

Restaurants

Adler Keller

Corvara

Delicious and cozy restaurant in Corvara. Be sure to book in advance to ensure you can dine here one evening. They have a variety of delicious options including an excellent steak.

 

Pizzeria Fornella 

Corvara 

Casual pizzeria in town with a large menu, from an extended pizza selection, to a variety of pastas, to Sud Tirol specialties, starters, larger mains, salads, and more.

 

Pizzeria Al Passetto

Cortina

Pizzeria in Cortina's downtown area. The atmosphere inside is comfortable and great for a winter Italian meal and glass of wine. There are a few pasta options as well as salads and other local dishes for those who do not fancy pizza or are looking to indulge in a nice bowl of pasta.

 

Rifugio La Brancia

Alta Badia: End of La Brancia chairlift 

This rifugio is located in the Alta Badia area and right at the end of the La Brancia chairlift. It bakes in the sun during the day and is a spot fully surrounded by mountains. With great porch seating and a cozy, warm indoor restaurant, this place is a great option to stop for lunch or a snack. There are also deck chairs out on the snow, inviting you to rest the legs and enjoy a warm beverage or indulge in a beer or aperol spritz.

 

Jimmi Hut

Alta Badia: top of the Frara gondola

Beautiful valley views from this hut, great for a snack or drink stop.

 

Panificio Seppi & CSAS

Corvara

Little bakery in town with lots of sweet pastries, bread, and paninis available

 

Bar Arnika

Cortina

Small bar in town where you can grab a quick take-away coffee, or sit down for a drink



Other Notes

Roads

Do not underestimate the challenges these roads can provide. For comfortable drivers, they may not be an issue, but plan accordingly. The roads are windy as you traverse your way through the mountains, and can be treacherous in snowier conditions. Even in a lighter snowfall time, we saw a lot of cars which had to be towed due to being stuck in the snow. For ease, on my next winter trip to the Dolomites, I will look to leverage private transfers and base myself across areas which allow traversing across different resorts on skiis easily.


Amount of time

No time would be enough to properly explore the Dolomites. The area is massive, providing lots of land to cover and explore. For a ski trip, a week would be an ideal amount of time to allow you time to explore different resorts and enjoy all the Dolomites have to offer, but even this will not be nearly enough time as it is such a vast area. With this in mind, just know if you are anything like me, you'll be looking forward to booking a return trip in the future.


if you cannot do a full week, that does not mean you should not visit the Dolomites. On my first ski trip to the Dolomites, we only were able to visit for 4 nights, allowing for 3 days of skiing. Although this did not feel like nearly enough, we had the opportunity to try out two different resorts and enjoy a long weekend in the Italian Alps with unbelievable scenery.


Apres Ski

Compared to places like Austria or some of the resorts in the French Alps, the Dolomites are not known for having a lively apres ski scene. Thus, generally its better for those looking for a more low key destination with good food and more casual drink options. That being said, the Alta Badia region does have some proper apres ski opportunities if you want to visit the Dolomites and get a taste of a fun apres vibe. The Alta Badia region has Club Moritzino on the mountain, and then L'Muren is where the party can continue at the base of Corvara. There may be some other spots throughout the towns, and the bigger towns will come to life more on the weekends, but do not expect a big apres ski atmosphere here.


Time of Year

January and February are the best months to plan a visit to the Dolomites to enjoy winter activities. If you prefer the area to be quieter, plan a trip in January as February often is busier when families are on half term holidays. December and March may prove to be perfectly fine, but it just depends on the snowfall that year.


Skiing at Sunset

It is no secret the Dolomites are known for their beauty, but they are also very well known for their epic sunsets. For those of you who are skilled on the mountain, consider taking one of the last lifts up to one of the higher points on the mountain and taking in the sunset views. The reason I note it may be important to be a more skilled skiier is the fact that watching a sunset at the top of the mountain means you will still need to ski down and hope to ski down while the sun is still providing light. For those who are skilled, you will be able to get down the mountain with enough pace after enjoying the incredible views from the top.

Navigation

Transportation and Accommodations

Things to do and see

Food and Drinks