Of all the picturesque venues on the World Cup tour, to single out just one as the hands down, most striking, it would have to be Cortina d’Ampezzo. Tucked into the jagged, intimidating peaks of the Italian Dolomites, cobblestone streets are strewn with a combination of small, ancient churches, remnants of buildings that date back to the Holy Roman Empire, pizzerias and resort shops selling the chicest and finest in outerwear. The town is also equipped with a bustling shopping hall—La Cooperativa—where you can find everything from the finest olive oil to a miniature cuckoo clock to a handmade ski sweater.
The women's downhill race begins on what is easily the steepest, most harrowing start hill on the women’s tour, then takes them down a fall-away chute between enormous rock faces on the Tofano slope. Watch the race from a sunny deck in a mid-mountain restaurant that produces some of the tastiest homemade gnocchi in the entire country… in other words, you have the makings of what is bound to be one of your most memorable ski vacations.
The women's Cortina downhill race begins on what is easily the steepest, most harrowing start hill on the women’s World Cup tour.
Copyright: Shauna Farnell
WHERE TO STAY
While star ratings can be famously fishy in Italy, several lodges in Cortina more than deserve their four stars, including the Hotel Villa Blu. Somewhat off the beaten path and very simple in terms of amenities (free access to ice skating rink, cozy restaurant, ski valet, luggage, car service and superior south-facing rooms with balconies and sweeping views of the peaks), the Villa Blu is run by family and will make you feel a part of it.
On the higher end of the four-star rating is Hotel Bellevue. Just a few steps from the town center, the Bellevue boasts one of the best restaurants in town, replete with whole fish served in salted casings and a dessert tray that will have you drooling from across the room. There is also a spa with Finnish sauna, steam and massage rooms and cozy suites equipped with oak wardrobes, thick drapes, tapestries and linens.
Copyright: Shauna Farnell
WHERE TO EAT
With sweeping views of the craggy peaks, Baita Pie Tofana is decorated with handcrafted antique wooden chairs and tables, a small fire and kitchen witches dangling from the ceiling. There’s a sunny deck serving the best lunch mid-ski day you’re able to find anywhere in Europe. The Baita is also a highly coveted (reserve early!) dinner spot, serving the freshest truffles and mushrooms of the season, perfectly cooked pasta, foie gras and a variety of strong red wine.
For authentic regional cuisine, including the area’s token buttery beet raviolis that have a way of disintegrating in your mouth, Ristorante Al Camin, run by creative culinary couple Fabio and Lorena Pompanin, is one of Cortina’s best kept secrets, just a short drive up the road to Passo Tre Croci.
WHERE TO WATCH THE WORLD CUP
Having hosted the Winter Olympics in 1956, Cortina d’Ampezzo welcomed its first World Cup downhill race—a men’s event—on its notorious Olympia delle Tofane course in 1969. It has been an annual stop on the women’s speed tour since 1993.The race finishes mid-mountain and can be reached by shuttle or, better yet, by skis via the Tofano Express lift. Daily finish area or fan tribune tickets and VIP package tickets are available.
If not packed into the happy revelry of the finish area, drinking complimentary Milka hot chocolate or catching cough drops from the Ricola mascot, the best place to view the races is from the Rifugio Duca D’Aosta. Refuge indeed, the entire morning on race and training days you’re likely to bump into each one of the women stars here downing a hot chocolate or cappuccino, and the Rifugio’s sunny deck gives you front row viewing of the steepest pitch at the top of the downhill course. The homemade gnocchi is some of the best you’ll find in Italy.