Winter Fun in the Dolomites – So Much More than Just World-Class Skiing
It’s certainly no secret that a beautiful mountain region like the Dolomites would be a spectacular winter destination for ski enthusiasts, but did you know that there are many more activities besides traditional downhill skiing to keep you busy here! In fact, there is so much to do in the Dolomites in winter, you may need to come back again and again just to fit them all in. Whether it’s a different style of skiing, or something completely different altogether, you certainly won’t be bored! That said, let’s take a look at a few of the must-try cold weather activities to add to your list.
Carving is a different type of skiing, which uses specially designed skis (called carving or parabolic skis) that are wider at the ends and narrow in the middle. They are used like traditional skis; however, their unique shape provides much more control and stability, making it much easier for the wearer to turn with precision. Carving skis have made perfecting the turn without losing speed or skidding something that even a novice skier can accomplish – a feat that once was reserved for experts and champions.
Carving is also a much easier technique to learn than traditional skiing, making it an excellent activity for vacationers, since the learning curve is much shorter. For those skiers who have already perfected traditional skiing, curving allows them to further improve their performance. A relatively new form of carving, called “fun carving” is also available in the Dolomites. This activity uses shorter, more defined skis and does not require the use of any ski poles. Despite its name, fun carving is actually reserved for more expert skiers who have already perfected their technique.
Telemark is a specific ski technique that originates from the Norway region (also its namesake). Simply speaking, it’s a type of “heel-free” skiing, where only the toe of the boot is connected to the ski. Because of the difference in binding, skiers who telemark must adopt a unique method of turning and braking. Turning requires the skier to push forward and bend the leg, almost to the point of kneeling. It may sound a bit different from what most skiers are used to nowadays, but telemark skiing was actually how the downhill sport was originally performed, and the technique used in ski races dating back to the mid 1800’s.
Freestyling – Twin Tip
Twin tip skis are named for their unique design. Unlike traditional skis, which feature a curved tip and a flat back, twin tips have a curve on both sides. This enables the skier to do a wide variety of tricks on the slopes, from jumps and backward landings to actually skiing backwards. The Dolomites offer plenty of opportunities to become familiar with this innovative ski technique, from pro lessons to freestyle drop in days at various area snow parks. If you’re up for adventure, twin tip free styling is a must-try!
Freeride skiing is basically another term for off piste skiing, which means you’ll be heading off the beaten path and hitting pure, unadulterated snow. This type of skiing is embraced in the Dolomites, particularly in Alta Badia, where visitors are encouraged to get back to the roots of real, mountain skiing. The possibilities are many, but the most popular areas to experience freeride are the descent from Val Mezdì in the Sella group and the descent from Valparola pass towards Armentarola. As fun as this type of activity is, however, it’s not advised that anyone attempt it without the help of an expert alpine guide.
Cross Country Skiing
Many people don’t realize that beyond the spectacular downhill skiing options, the Dolomites are absolutely teeming with cross country ski trails. In fact, the Dolomiti Superski area covers a territory of more than 1.177 km. That means you could potentially ski cross country a distance that equals the entire length of Italy itself! The trails in the Dolomites are expertly groomed daily, and the high altitude and stunning surrounding scenery makes this area one of the best places on earth to cross country ski. There are excellent cross country ski areas in Alta Badia and Corvara, offering perfect trails and lots of other amenities as well.
If skis aren’t necessarily your forte, you need not worry! You can still capture the essence of this beautiful winter wonderland by strapping on some snow shoes, grabbing some poles and heading out to explore what nature has to offer. In fact, snow shoeing is one of the best ways to experience the Dolomites, as it is reminiscent of the way the original settlers made their way around the area so long ago. There are 12 Dolomiti ski areas to discover, each offering a wide variety of grades and difficulties. You’re sure to find the perfect snow shoe adventure for everyone in your group!
Similar to snow shoeing, there are also plenty of opportunities to partake in other winter walking activities in the Dolomites, including trekking and Nordic Walking. Alta Badia, in particular, offers carefully prepared walking areas that stretch for some 80 km, just waiting to be explored. You’ll trek through the woods and beyond local pastures until you reach pure, unadulterated nature at its most pristine. Leave the noise and stress of the world behind you as you enter a tranquil winter wonderland, surrounded by magnificent mountain views unlike anything you’ll ever experience anywhere else.
For those who are a bit more adventurous and quite athletically inclined, ski mountaineering offers a unique combination of trekking and downhill skiing. Participants ascend the mountain on specially equipped skis, and then enjoy a downhill descent down untouched slopes. This type of skiing allows you to experience areas that are not accessible via lift, presenting the unique opportunity to discover unspoiled landscapes and experience nature in its purest form. Combine a ski mountaineering adventure with an overnight stay in one of the area mountain huts, and you’ll really get the true alpine experience. It should be noted that for safety reasons, ski mountaineering should never be attempted without the assistance of an expert guide.
For the adrenaline junky, the ultimate mountain adventure in the Dolomites would have to be snowkiting. This activity combines downhill skiing/snowboarding with the concept of hang-gliding. Participants don a heavy duty helmet (a must), along with skis or a snow board and a specially designed “kite”, which essentially serves as a sail. Kites can be made out of a variety of materials, such as foil, or may even be inflatable. The size of each kite determines the speed and traction of the wearer. Beginners are advised to stick with smaller kites, and progress to larger ones as they become more comfortable with the technique. If this sounds like something you’d love to try, you’re in luck! The area boasts a number of schools where visitors can learn the art of snowkiting, and every March, there’s even a snowkiting contest in Cortina.
If snowboarding is your preference, Alta Badia is an excellent destination for you! In fact, it’s been the place to be for snowboarding enthusiasts since the early 80’s. With a number of specially designed snow parks, as well as schools that offer snowboarding lessons for beginners through expert level, there’s no better place to strap on your board and perfect your technique! There are even a number of former Olympic champions around to provide advice and tips. You won’t find that kind of opportunity anywhere else!
With so many things to do in the Dolomites, you’re sure to find the perfect winter activity to suit any preference and skill level. The only remaining question is: why aren’t you here yet? Unforgettable winter adventure awaits!