/Hut Skiing in the Dolomites: Storybook Scenery and Grappa Included

Hut Skiing in the Dolomites: Storybook Scenery and Grappa Included

Every mountain is exclusive, certain. But, the rhythm of most ski resorts is predictable. So, after I heard a few “ski safari” in the Italian Alps, that concerned crisscrossing the scenic cities and valleys of locations like Cortina, Civetta, Val Gardena and Arabba, then sleeping at a unique alpine inn every night time (sadly, no tiger monitoring), I used to be intrigued.

On high of interesting to my daredevil nature, there was one other promoting level: I’m a strong intermediate skier. In the United States, hut-to-hut snowboarding is a backcountry endeavor designed for consultants. Not so in the Dolomites, a UNESCO World Heritage website in northeastern Italy. This territory of jagged limestone peaks, dipping plateaus and terrifyingly steep World Cup descents, I found, really, boasted manageable terrain; 86 % of the runs are purple (intermediate) and blue (the best), excellent for nonelite athletes like me whose slope preferences are huge and straightforward groomers to couloirs, the slim, hard-core gullies for superior skiers.

Even higher, the conventional Italian mountain huts known as rifugios bore no resemblance to the naked bones huts of North America. They have been cozy, family-run institutions celebrated for splendid views and delicacies that integrates the heartiness of South Tyrol with the refined flavors of northern Italy.

The trip began in the tony village of Cortina d’Ampezzo, where my plan for a post-flight nap was foiled by the heady scent of leather wafting from Corso Italia, the pedestrian shopping street that lured me with “saldi” (sale) signs.

Later, when the group assembled for dinner — three Americans, two Britons and a Brazilian — I quickly realized that I was the granny of the lot (though a chic one in my just-purchased, Shearling-lined boots). I smiled and gulped down some wine, trying not to panic over the obvious: I was going to have to keep up with nimble millennials.

Things got smoother once I met up with a guide later that morning. The sun burned through the fog and Cortina’s renowned landscape — the craggy, snow-capped spires of Col Rosà, Cristallo, Faloria, Sorapiss, Rocchette, Becco di Mezzodì — revealed itself. The carousel of pretty blue runs winding around the tracks of the 1956 Winter Olympics site in Tofana was a manageable pitch, much like the terrain of Vail, Colo., or Park City, Utah. Luckily, the ski safari has multiple guides so the speedier skiers could split off as I meandered at a slower pace.

Taking breaks was almost as much fun as skiing. On-mountain cafes brimmed with neon-clad skiers refueling with wine and hunks of Kaminwurz, a smoked South Tyrolean sausage. Grappa is part of the warming-up ritual. The rifigios blend their own elixirs, large anatomy class-like canisters with floating bits of fruit essence and herbs (juniper, pine, fir) knocked back as a shot. That afternoon in Civetta, I was informed that a shot of grappa could improve my speed. I think it worked.

A note on Italian ski culture: it’s strictly a D.I.Y. venture. The notion of a ski valet, as in the helper to hustle you into your prewarmed boots, bring your skis from storage to the snow and offer you a cup of hot chocolate as you step in from the cold (I’m talking to you, Aspen!) does not exist. The horror. After renting gear in town, you’ll be responsible for schlepping it everywhere — up to the gondola (there are many gondolas), onto the taxi roof for transfers, into the rifugio ski rooms.

There are also no roaming mountain “ambassadors,” a mainstay in American resorts, who assist with directions or help you get vertical after a face plant. But this is forgotten on the slopes. Enveloped in the storybook scenery, as lithe ski racers whiz by like birds in exotic Lycra plumage, you’re in the thrill of the moment.

Source link Nytimes.com

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