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Val Gardena: The elegant resort with a family feel

24th February 2018 | Monica Adorno

Resorts in this article: Val Gardena - Gröden

Val Gardena: The elegant resort with a family feel- ©valgardena.it

Val Gardena, Dolomites

Copyright: valgardena.it

Monica Adorno heads to the craggy peaks of the Dolomites for snowboarding, dramatic scenery and glorious food and wine.

I’d heard good things about the Dolomites, mostly from an ex-colleague who happened to be Italian. He would often escape for long weekends to the craggy peaks of the Dolomiti and would preach that it was the best skiing in the world. I took what he said with a pinch of salt (he was far too dogmatic) but other skier friends had also raved about the area so when I was asked whether I wanted to go for a long weekend I jumped up and down with glee!

I’d need a new jacket (Camo, obvs. It’s what all the real skiers are wearing this season, I’d fit right in) and new snowboard pants  (I invested in a pair from Picture, a very cool brand who are all about creating sustainable design – snowboarders like them a lot).  And for my head, I bought a chunky beanie with an oversized bobble (note: bobbles are not practical attire for helmet wearing).  With my new gear, looking like a bonafide rider of snow, I was convinced that this was the year I got real good at snowboarding.

Snowboard instructor and hiking guide Antonio Tommasini   - ©  Antonio Tommasini

Snowboard instructor and hiking guide Antonio Tommasini

Copyright: Antonio Tommasini

The rest of my skiing and snowboarding pals were a lot better than me (always good to have a variety of “skill” to get a rounded view of a resort). There were a couple of beginner skiers (me), some strong intermediate skiers and a handful of experts. Our ski guide, Christina Demetz, a seasoned pro who could ski before she could walk, took the experts with her while the newbies were packed off to meet our instructors, Werna and Antonio, at the ski school.  Werna, who works as a plumber during the summer months and who’s installed some ultra-modern loos around the mountain (they’re really rather nice) made off with the skiers and Antonio, my glass half-full, endearingly positive, moustachioed snowboard instructor who would frequently say in a thick Italian accent, “Smile Monica, you arre ‘aaviin fun! People will wonder what I am doing to you!  You snowboard betterr when you smile!” took me.

Ortisei centre, Dolomites  - © valgardena.it

Ortisei centre, Dolomites

Copyright: valgardena.it

We headed to the virtually empty practice slopes where we went through some snowboard basics. All was going swimmingly, Antonio thought I was a proper beginner – I’m not – and was impressed that I was picking it up so quickly. Given my rapid progress, we made our way to the steeper and faster draglift (fyi, these are much easier for skiers to manoeuvre; if you want to have a chuckle at novice snowboarders attempting it, just YouTube “snowboarders + t-bars”). Fortunately the draglifts aren’t that bad at Val Gardena and, if you ask nicely, the friendly man controlling the lifts might slow them down for you, which I did and he did and I didn’t fall, hooray! I fell off at the top but that doesn’t count. 

Groeden Val Gardena, Dolomites  - © valgardena.it

Groeden Val Gardena, Dolomites

Copyright: valgardena.it

The Biancaneve draglift will take you up to Slope Biancaneve, which is a well-groomed run – great for building confidence and linking turns.  As I was doing so, Antonio started filming me on his phone which I’ve learnt is a top tip for improving your form since most of us don’t realise, until we actually watch ourselves, that our technique is not so hot. Antonio would say to me, “Monica, you are the same like my grand-moder, be a super-model, make straight your back!”  Later when I showed the video to the group, my snowboarder friends empathised and reassured me that it’s really difficult to turn on flat snow – and there I was thinking I’d been bombing it down.

Monica and Antonio heading up the mountain in Val Gardena  - © Monica Adorno

Monica and Antonio heading up the mountain in Val Gardena

Copyright: Monica Adorno

While we were learning on Slope Biancaneve, Christina had taken the experts to sample the Sella Ronda - a ski route that loops around the Sella peaks. The route takes between three to four hours and passes through the well-known ski areas of Val Gardena/Alpe di Siusi, Val di Fassa/Carezza and Arabba/Marmolada. Christina recommends taking the clockwise route of the Sellaronda, marked on the map in orange, which begins in the centre of Selva di Val Gardena. This route covers around 37 kilometres. A strong intermediate skier will be able to ski it, however, to ski it quickly, in around three hours, requires serious skill. Our group managed it in that time but all of them came back and said that they had been skiing or riding at the top of their ability.

Sella Ronda circuit, Dolomites  - © valgardena.it

Sella Ronda circuit, Dolomites

Copyright: valgardena.it

On the second day, Antonio and I explored the ski area of Plan de Gralba. The runs from the Sotsaslonch and Sassolungo chairlifts are great for intermediate skiers and snowboarders; they offer a variety of wide and narrow runs which are well maintained and were mostly empty when we visited in late January.  When you disembark from the Sassolungo chairlift, you’ll see the soaring walls of the Sasslong mountain ahead of you and from here the views are incredible.

The Dolomites, famed the world over for their glorious craggy peaks, have been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2009 and on a bluebird day, in real life, they do not disappoint. As the day drew to an end, the sun lit up the huge rock faces changing the hue of the mountains from orange to red and pink in a stunning display.

A sublime sunset at Sasso Lungo, Dolomites  - © Christina Demetz

A sublime sunset at Sasso Lungo, Dolomites

Copyright: Christina Demetz

People come to Val Gardena for a proper workout (many of the resort’s visitors are Italians and are extremely competent skiers) and to enjoy gourmet food and wine. On the slopes, we ate at the Comici restaurant where I ordered a tuna steak with fries. The tuna was tender and delicious and the fries were on point. I’m not usually a fan of an aperol spritz but these were so good that I ordered a second.  The Comici is hugely popular and there was a long queue to get in so booking in advance is essential. Food was equally glorious at our extremely hospitable Hotel Piccolo, where, at dinner I insisted on eating every single course.  I tucked into speck, salad, many cheeses, dumpling soup, dumpling noodles, fillet of something, saddle of deer and apple strudel – all divine.   

Apres ski is elegant in Selva Val Gardena   - © valgardena.it

Apres ski is elegant in Selva Val Gardena

Copyright: valgardena.it

Like most Italian things there’s a real sense of quality to the resort.  I really couldn’t say if it’s the best skiing in the world (as I’m not a good enough skier) but as far as resorts go, it’s top-notch.  On the other hand, Antonio is a pro and he said, “I tell to everyone that I’m going to spend the rest of my whole life here, hiking, climbing and riding with my snowboard all over these amazing and breathtaking mountains.”  Were I to sum up the resort I would say that the general vibe is rustic, elegant, and very family friendly.  

Fact Box

The Dolomiti Superskipass offers an incredible 1,220km of slopes and 450 ski lifts across 12 ski areas and is the world’s largest ski carousel, including the famous ski circuit of Sella Ronda - for 2017/18 an adult six day Superskipass is from €235.  Locally, Val Gardena and its neighbour Alpe di Siusi offer 175km of ski runs and 79 lifts - for 2017/18 a six day skipass is from €219.

The Sella Ronda  goes around the Sella peaks – follow orange to go clockwise or green to travel counter clockwise on this scenic 42km tour which takes three to four hours and pass through the internationally known ski areas of Val Gardena/Alpe di Siusi, Val di Fassa/Carezza and Arabba/Marmolada.

Selva’s four-star Hotel Continental is a traditional Alpine hotel in an enviable ski-in / ski-out position at the foot of the Dantercepies gondola. A wellness centre including sauna, steam room, Kneipp bath, whirlpool, sensory showers and relaxation zone invites guests to relax after a day on the slopes. Buffet breakfasts and good quality four-course evening meals are served and guests can enjoy high levels of service in a warm and welcoming environment.

Inghams is offering a seven-night ski holiday on a half board basis at the four-star Hotel Continental in Selva, Italy, from £1018 per person based on three sharing in March 2018. Price includes return flights to Innsbruck and resort transfers. Lift passes, equipment hire and tuition can be pre-booked through Inghams. To book, visit www.inghams.co.uk/ski-holidays or call 01483 791 114.    

As a fun fact, if you’re taking a child and his or her birthday falls during one of Val Gardena’s holidays, the Tourist Office will give them a logoed rucksack as a special present – call ahead to advise the office of the date!

The nearest airports are Innsbruck (EasyJet, BA) one and a half hours’ road transfer; Verona (EasyJet; BA) two hours’ road transfer.  For more information on Val Gardena go to www.valgardena.it/en email info@valgardena.it or call 0039 0471 777 777.




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