Italy
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MangyMarmot
January 5, 2004
Member since 12/25/2002
183 posts
Anybody ever hit the Dolomites?

I'm heading over in mid-February. We'll likely stay in Ortisei in Val Gardena.

Any advice? (on food, lodging, points of interest, etc)

Also, after skiing on limp noodles for most of a trip to Andorra last year, I am now taking MY own skis.

Has anyone ever checked ski gear at a train station? Or anybody have other ideas where to stash the bulky stuff while we're traveling southern Italy for a week after skiing??

Ciao,

MM

johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
January 5, 2004
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
I've never skied Italy but have done a lot of research on it. I've skied a lot in nearby Austria.

In the Dolomiti Superski Region, which includes Ortisei, the most beautiful village is Cortina. It's also the most expensive. Selva is the most convenient base for people like myself who are coming from Austria--it's only 2.5 hours from Innsbruck on an autobahn (Brenner Pass).

In researching thia area, the pluses were as follows:

1. Beautiful views of the Dolomites--some of the most unique and beautiful mountains in the Alps.

2. Food and culture.

3. One of the most famous ski safaris in Europe--the Sella Ronda: a 360 degree rotation around the Gruppo Sella massif.

4. Great views of the Dolomites.

The negatives are:

1. A poor snow record in recent years.

2. Lots of south facing slopes.

3. Lots of slopes with 500-800 foot verticals.

4. A lot of lower intermediate slopes with little challenge.

http://www.dolomitisuperski.com/

[This message has been edited by johnfmh (edited 01-05-2004).]

kennedy
January 6, 2004
Member since 12/8/2001
792 posts
It's been a while since I've been to Andorra, basically not since I started snowboarding, and I've been thinking of going back for a week to check it out. Apart from everything else Andorra is soooo cheap, at least it was. The Euro may have screwed that up too. I think the exchange rate is set to jump to $1.35/Euro soon.

Anyway apart from limp noodles, whatever that is, how were the conditions? I understand there is some new terrain added, did you find it challenging or just average?

johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
January 6, 2004
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
>Has anyone ever checked ski gear at a train station? Or anybody have other ideas where to stash the bulky stuff while we're traveling southern Italy for a week after skiing??

I usually check bulky items at my departure airport and then pick them up just before boarding my return flight. The cost is about 4-7 euros a day--not cheap but convenient. I suspect luggage checks at train stations are cheaper. That may be a better bet.

Also, SportsTubes are impractical for train travel. I learned that one the hard way. A Dakine soft bag is a much better deal--they fit on the overhead bins. A lot of Europeans travel on the train with skis but no one uses the SportsTube--it's too big and bulky.

I forgot to mention in my first post that other Italian resorts like Sestriere, Bormio, Cervinia, and Courmayeur have better snow and longer runs than the Dolomiti places. However, they apparently are not as charming for whatever reason.

[This message has been edited by johnfmh (edited 01-06-2004).]

DCSki Sponsor: Seven Springs Mountain Resort
KevR
January 6, 2004
Member since 01/27/2004
786 posts
OK THIS MAY NOT be useful at all. I used these folks while in the UK, and they have a toll free 800 # US, so you might call and check if they have any affiliates in Italy or anywhere else Europe...

http://www.baggage-express.com/

In other words, NO I don't actually know myself! :-)

MangyMarmot
January 6, 2004
Member since 12/25/2002
183 posts
Re: ANDORRA

It was REALLY cheap. Lift $25-30 a day.
Girlfriend a beginner boarder so fairly tame most of trip.
Did Soldeu-El Tarter and Pal Arinsal. I preferred Soldeu -- lots of terrain. not much trees - but lots of snow last January - looked like decent snomaking capability.

I really wanted to ski over to Grau Roig - it's connected to Soldeu.
Lodging -- don't stay in Andorra la Vella. If u miss bus (and they never leave at right time) you'll miss whole day on slope... though it may be easy to get to Grau Roig gondola and get to more terrain that way.

DUDE!!! you have to hit the hot spring spa thingie in Andorra la Vella. It's this insane water park with all kinds of jacuzzis, saunas, etc. Best steam room ever -- eucalyptus scented steam. Makes the fried muscles feel like jello.

It was my first Europe ski experience. I was amazed by beautiful ranges (and women -- though girlfriend my kill me), balmy weather, decent food slopeside and multi-culti feel. I sat on a lift and spoke Russian to folks on my right and Spanish to guy on my left.

Whatever you do, don't order Pies de Cerdo (PEE'-ehss day SEHR'-doh). I wasn't paying attention to waiter and judt heard the cerdo part and thought it was some pork dish. Turned out to be pig's feet. Forced them down and was really sick the next day.

Enjoy if you go.

mm

MangyMarmot
January 6, 2004
Member since 12/25/2002
183 posts
ANDORRA PART 2:

Ooops, didn't answer all questions.

Limp noodles - flaccid skis. I like 'em really rigid for hi-speed carving runs. Took several days to find pair of decent rental Volkls. The demo situation not like out West!

As far as challenging terrain -- there were a couple pretty freaky ridges and huge bowls -- the ridges were center of Soldeu and big bowls to far left (looking up slope).Apparently there is some off-piste (but I've had 2 back surgeries so don't really mess with REAL scary stuff).

I think there's a terrain park at El Tarter too, though I don't do that. Didn't notice any bump runs (also avoid due to back).

If you have any specific questions you can e-mail me at fritzfaerber@yahoo.com.

mm

johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
January 6, 2004
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
MM:

I checked bags at Vienna Airport in September and February of 2003. They x-ray your bag before they will agree to check it but that's it. It's no big deal. For some reason, they charge extra for skis because that's considered an over-size item, but the convenience is so wonderful that I didn't care.

Regarding Sella Ronda, I've never done it but I've talked to several people who have. Basically, most of it is lower intermediate with smallish verticals (500-800 feet of vert.). From what people tell me, it's kind of like skiing from one end of 7 Springs to the other and back. No trail is much more difficult than the North Face Slope.

The only challenge for your friend might be POMA lifts. If she's not comfortable with them, she shouldn't do it. Also, snow conditions will make a big difference, and could potentially limit your piste offerings. I hear it takes about 6 hours to do, depending on stops.

Your friend could always bail part way through the circut and take a bus back to home base. Public transportation, I suspect, is as good as any place in Europe.

Big DISCLAIMER: This is all based on hear say and reading the Reuter's Guide.

JimK - DCSki Columnist
January 7, 2004
Member since 01/14/2004
2,645 posts
mm: I've been real curious for a while about the quality of:
3. One of the most famous ski safaris in Europe--the Sella Ronda: a 360 degree rotation around the Gruppo Sella massif.

I've seen some gorgeous photos of this terrain, but read various accounts of the day long safari that range from glorious, incredibly photogenic intermediate adventure to lame, crowded, logistically awkward waste of time.

If you make your trip to the Dolomites I hope you have a great time and share your impressions with us.

MangyMarmot
January 7, 2004
Member since 12/25/2002
183 posts
John (or anyone else)...

Have you done the Sella Ronda??

I figured girlfriend could sit out a day (shopping girl type stuff) while i do it -- that is, unless a beginner/intermediate could handle it.

Part of the reason we're going to the Dolomiti region is so she won't be too freaked out by slopes - which apparently are mellow there. She's starting to get the bug and I don't want to spoil it.

Also, as far as checking skis at airport -- has anyone done that since all this attacks/security/travel restrictions stuff?

Thanks for all the replies so far!!!

mm

warren
January 7, 2004
Member since 07/31/2003
485 posts
mm:
I skied Utah and Montana last year. I did have to explain the powder resdue on my skis and ski-bag. I had skied some bowls after they had done avalanche control. Other than that, no problems..

-Warren-

kennedy
January 7, 2004
Member since 12/8/2001
792 posts
mmmmmm Europe. I miss the cheese and bacon subs you could get from the little hut at the mid station lodge in El-Tarter. That and the instructors who took us on gnarly powder runs through trees. There is one area with a natural quaterpipe/tabletop from there you run into a creek bed like a mini pipe, traverse hard across the slope up a bit of a hill to a tree run then back to base. People are so mellow over there, at least they were when I was there.
skier123
January 8, 2004
Member since 01/20/2003
14 posts
You can check baggage at most large city train stations in Italy. Look for signs that say "Deposito Bagagli" which means baggage deposit. When I go in the summer, I stash suitcases there as I'm travelling around to lighten the load.

Intermediate skiiers can definately do the Sella Ronda. On a clear day, the views are amazing.

Tips for apres - ask the bartender to make a "Bombardino" It's an amazing hot toddy!!!

Where in Southern Italy are you travelling to?

MangyMarmot
January 8, 2004
Member since 12/25/2002
183 posts
We're going to spend a day or two in Verona (yeah, I know, not southern Italy, but I have a friend from there).

Then, we'll train down to Rome. Plans a bit vague. I've never been to Rome and don't want to rush. I'm thinking Naples as well.

I hear mixed bag about Pompeii. It sounds great in theory, but several folks say it's grimy and a major letdown for history buffs.

Just learned the Iceman Uetzi (sp??) is in Bolzano -- so we'll say hi on our way to skiing. I'm hoping I don't follow his footsteps and become a frozen ice man to be found in 10,000 years. If so, I'll make sure to have some oddities in pockets to confuse archaeologists.

I'm really psyched for Sella Ronda. Is there a way to dump out if the girlfriend freaks out or gets tired?

mm

JimK - DCSki Columnist
March 19, 2004
Member since 01/14/2004
2,645 posts
Hey MM, how was Italy? Did you get to do Sella Ronda? Did you get inside St. Peters? Did you break off a souvenir finger from the ICE MAN? How did Val Gardena compare to other places you've skied?
MangyMarmot
March 19, 2004
Member since 12/25/2002
183 posts
Italy was great!

The Dolomites are stunning. They look like something out of Lord of the Rings. Scary immense sheer cliffs going up hundreds (if not thousands) of feet.

The downside is the resort layout. Girlfriend is a tentative intermediate boarder. To reach green/blue areas, had to hike or negotiate narrow crowded steep jammed with everyone exiting gondola. (silly to force newbies onto toughest trails to get to the greens) Also, many greens have rope tow -- which she says is a pain in the rump for boarders.

We ended up only getting one good full day and a couple partial days of skiing trying to find the right spot. VERY frustating.

Alpe di Siusi was the best for her. It's a huge valley with wide mostly mellow trails. Not real challenging -- but beautiful, sunny and lots of terrain. It has an immense network of nordic trails as well.

They have slalom courses set up on a few trails with timers and everything. My first try was slower than molasses in January:-) Also, there's an insane speed trial setup with radar guns. I skipped it due to questions about my health insurance in Italy.

I skied a bit on Val Gardena from Ciampinoi -- the gondola dumps u at ridge with an immense really sweet steep bowl on one side and a steep, narrow, crowded chute on the other. I tried both but couldn't bring myself to abandon girlfriend at the top (or endanger her life by coaxing her into trying either) -- so we bailed and went back to mellower stuff.

Didn't make the Sella Ronda. With girlfriend bummed about difficulties I didn't want to totally turn her off to snow sports by putting her on marathon. Maybe some day she'll be good enough we can try again.

We stayed at a place called Hotel Hell (seriously) it was VERY nice. It averaged out to about $200 a night w/ half board. The food was INCREDIBLE. It was about 200 yards to gondola.

The village was awesome. Most folks speak German because it's so close to the Austrian border. Only met a few Americans.

We did see the frozen iceman in Bolzano. He wasn't looking so well. Kinda looks like an alien -- but cool museum covering everything from ancient villagers to the Romans.

Traveling with the gear was a bit of a pain, but the trains rock. We checked gear at station in Milan (exit city) for a week while traveled in the south.

Typical luck that it rained most of the time we were in the south.... meaning a couple feet of freshies on the mountains we'd just left.

I will return to Italy -- but I'd likely try a different area for some variety.

If you have any specific questions, shoot.

Sorry about the long-winded reply...

mm
MangyMarmot
March 19, 2004
Member since 12/25/2002
183 posts
One piece of advice. If you go, try not to arrive on a Saturday -- it's the best day to be skiing.

That's when everyone shows up and checks into hotels, gets lift tickets and the like. IT's VERY crowded in the village -- but the slopes are almost empty.

So, try and plan your trip to be skiing on Saturday.

mm
JimK - DCSki Columnist
March 19, 2004
Member since 01/14/2004
2,645 posts
Sounds like you accomplished the most important thing...came back with your relationship with girlfriend intact! Here's an excerpt from some rumines I wrote for this website a while back:

"While she is a capable intermediate skier, my lovely wife does not quite share my same level of enthusiasm for the sport. Many skiers can relate to this dilemma of spouses or significant others of different skill and interest levels. It's caused the break-up of many immature relationships. My wife and I have developed a very grown-up solution. I bug the heck out of her until once every year or two she gets fed up with it and sends me out to ski my butt off for a week with some buddies."

It can still be a real challenge sometimes for me to throttle myself back when on ski vacations. Wife, 4 kids and age have helped me gain patience. You're off to a good start in the art of compromise. In the end it ain't no fun to ski alone (or at least not as much fun).
MangyMarmot
March 19, 2004
Member since 12/25/2002
183 posts
I have to agree on the art of compromise. It's tough to put myself in her boots and understand a mountain can be scary rather than exhilirating.

Though I didn't get "the most" out of the Italy ski trip I had an awesome time.

And, I'm headed to Utah solo in ten days to get my fix of challenging terrain from open to close.

mm
johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
March 20, 2004
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
MangyMarmot (love that userid btw) [Cool]

What you've told me is interesting. My wife has been lobbying to go to Cortina or Selva in the Dolmitti Super Region for the past two years.

My hesitation has always revolved around snow and lack of steep terrain.

STEEPS. Both of us consider ourselves to be advanced skiers but not experts. As such, we prefer black and red trails in Europe to easier blues--the steeper the better as long as there's a groomed element to bail out on if we get tired. We also like the small moguls that build up on some of the more advanced terrain in Europe by the end of the day--fun stuff but not as challenging as a classic US bump run like Outer Limits at Killington.

One of the things I love about places like about the major Austrian resorts is that you can find really steep, but groomed terrain. I rarely experience 38-degree groomed slopes here in the US. Skiiing that terrain has made me a much better "steeps" skier and has gotten me to approach trails like Off The Wall at Timberline in much more aggressive manner. What concerns me about the Dolomites is that all those classic rock spires translate into fewer steep trails. In other words, the tops of the Dolomites are too steep for ski trails, which means that most steep terrain there is towards the bottom of the mountain where the snow is not as good.

From what you have told us, however, I think we should be able to find enough steep skiing at altitude in Italy to keep us smiling. [Big Grin]

Snow, however, is still a concern. How was it when you went? Can you comment on the snowmaking there?

Also, what's the best base for skiers like us? Cortina or Selva or somewhere else?

Finally, regarding your snowboarder girlfriend and her morale problems, how long has been riding? Does she practice regularly on local slopes and take lessons? Europe should be a good place for an intermediate boarder b/c they groom the marked pistes like crazy. However, if she is more of a beginner, that could be a problem because true beginner terrain is often lacking at many European resorts. The Alps are big steep mountains, so you often do not have top-to-bottom easy terrain. Instead, you generally find some bunny trails at the mid-mountain. The typical Alp has steep lower and upper terrain and a plataeu at mid-mountain with restaurants, demo centers, and easier terrain. Lower level skiers congregate at these flatter plateaus while more advanced skiers go for summits and lower steeps (depending on the position of the sun and weather conditions). Unfortunately, many Alps resorts do not have good transition terrain between the bunny slopes and the regular slopes. Of the places I have visited, Lech and St. Moritz definitely have the best big mountain easy terrain. The Corvatsch area of St. Moritz is perfect for timid skiers--lots of sunny, gentle slopes. Experts at St. Moritz should head to Corviglia or Diavolezza. However, bring a big wallet b/c St. Moritz is not cheap. [Wink]

Another proverbial problem for all Americans in Europe is the preponderance of pull lifts (T-bars, platter lifts, rope tows). You still encounter these lifts at most areas. They mainly serve small vertical traverses, where it is impractical to build a chair. Unfortunately, North American resorts have just about eliminated these lifts, so most Americans have no idea how to ride them. For boarders, the lifts are even more difficult to ride.
MangyMarmot
March 20, 2004
Member since 12/25/2002
183 posts
John --

First off, we were there the second week of February. The snow coverage was great -- only a few bare spots OFF trail and trails had deep groomed granular. I saw very few snow guns -- though they may store them when coverage not an issue. Val Gardena claims to have extensive snowmaking.

The weather was awesome (though I prefer skiing in supercold weather so snow never softens). It was clear, sunny and peaked just a little above freezing.

They definitely love grooming over there. I saw very few bumps. The steeps are mostly smooth -- great for insane fast carving. Even Alpe di Siusi (the mellower area) has some good long fairly steep runs.

I can't speak for Cortina, never been. Though, I hear it's a little more chic and expensive. Val Gardena is easily reached. We flew into Milan, caught a train to Verona and connected to Bolzano same day. We got over jet lag there, saw the iceman and caught a short bus to Ortisei.

Ortisei is the biggest town in area. Tons of lodging, shopping, great food and apres ski stuff. It has gondolas to Alpe di Siusi and Seceda. I don't think you can reach the main Val Gardena areas by lift from either Alpe or Seceda. A cheap frequent bus goes to St. Christina and Selva Gardena which have gondolas to the main grid (Sella Ronda). I got a fairly cheap quote from the Hotel Europa which is literally across the street from a Selva gondola. I didn't stay there so can't vouch for food/room... but location is unbeatable.

If you do go to Italy, here are a couple strategies I learned on my trip:
-- Early start -- the Europeans like sleeping late. They show up about 10-10:30 am. Then at 1pm they go to lunch (a lavish and enjoyable experience -- and fairly reasonable slopeside too). So, you can get most runs in from 8:30-10:30 and about 12:30-2:30 when everyone else lounging.

-- If you have a retractable id badge holder thingie from work -- take it. They use ski passes that u stick into reader at each gate -- I was paranoid the pass would snag and tear off my coat. Plus it fluttered around in wind.

-- you don't need a car at all. The ski bus goes to almost all the towns and gondolas and is very easy to use.

-- Take advantage of the half-board. The food can be excellent and easier than hunting down restaurants.

-- Ski on Saturday. By far the best day. Almost empty slopes -- while the village was packed with huge Germans toting immense bags checking into all the hotels. It was a mob scene in the village.

mm
MangyMarmot
March 20, 2004
Member since 12/25/2002
183 posts
Re: The girlfriend morale.

She's been boarding maybe 8 days a year for the last 3 years. I think she's better than she thinks she is. It's a matter of confidence.

Any NEW mountain is terrifying for her. She loved Whitetail but hated Snowshoe (Silver Creek area) the first day. She thought it was all too tough. Then by day three she was doing blues at Silver Creek and Snowshoe. Same thing at Wisp.

Same thing in Europe. Her first time on mountain freaked out. Everything was too tough. But by day three she was doing blues and a couple reds.

I think the toughest thing is when you have to do a hard run first thing on the mountain. Alpe di Siusi has that problem. When you take gondola up from Ortisei it dumps you into a VERY narrow blue run that's packed with everyone coming to mountain. Once you negotiate that or take a lift down to bottom, you're trapped on one beginner trail UNLESS you take lift to another ridge and do one of the most difficult steep icy trails on the entire mountain that leads to the rest of the trails. Alpe is packed with fun mellow runs for beginner/intermediates IF you can conquer that one steep icy run.

I'm maybe an advanced skier. I'll try just about any run -- except bumps (due to fear of impacts reinjuring back) or those insane Western runs with cliffs and nasty twisting narrows.

Only one spot at Alpe made me freak out. IT was a straight down chute with radar guns to do max speed trials. The trail next to that was fun and pretty steep and a bit challenging -- though totally groomed.

I never got to Seceda because it was other side of town and looks like just reds and maybe a couple blacks. I bet it's more challenging than Alpe.

Ciampinoi off Selva was more my speed. Due to inaccessibility for girlfriend, I bailed quick. But the one bowl run I did was SWEET. IT was steep enough that when you go to edge, it's a somewhat intimidating dropoff. Then a SUPER wide long drop down. Plenty of room to avoid other skiers and can zip up sides -- whatever.

From the gondola it looked like some decent steep tree runs going further down toward bottom.

I figure the girlfriend needs several more days under her belt at Snowshoe, Wisp, etc. Then we'll try Europe again -- maybe one of the places you recommended.

mm
MangyMarmot
March 20, 2004
Member since 12/25/2002
183 posts
Darnit. Knew I forgot something... too early in the a-m.

This is a link to a map of area. Strip off the part from "/images/gardena..." to get the general resort Web site.

http://www.val-gardena.com/images/gardena/maps/cartina-vg-sella.jpg

mm
johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
March 20, 2004
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
MM:

Thanks for all the information. I think I will give it a shot next season. I still have not made up my mind on what base area to stay at but I have a lot of time to research the problem. [Wink]

Question: how long is the transfer from Milan to Val Gardena? As you may know, Alitalia has a new direct flight from IAD to MXP, so this airport is very convenient now for DC travelers wanting to cross the pond.

With regard to your girlfriend, it sounds like she needs more instruction to bolster her confidence. Sometimes, fear rather than lack of ability prevents people from getting to the next level of snowboarding or skiing. Good private instruction can solve this problem. You might call Whitetail and set her up with a instructor good at handling cases like her's. A patient, older instructor sounds like what she needs, and not an aggressive college student. [Smile]

A couple other issues you brought up:

1. SATURDAYS. European package tours all begin and end on Saturdays, so Saturday is a travel day in Europe, not a ski day. Airports, highways, and train stations are often insane on Saturdays but the ski slopes are empty. My advice for people booking trips to Europe is to avoid traveling on Saturday and try to ski or sightsee instead on this day. This is easier said than done because many European hotels want skiers to book Sat. to Sat. trips. Except in very rare exceptions, SkiEurope also only books Sat. - Sat. trips because they get the best contracts from hotels for this type of booking. Sadly, the Europeans have not yet figured out that most Americans don't get 25 days of vacation per year. Hence, they can't understand why anyone would want to go for a ski vacation lasting less than 7 days. [Smile]

2. HALF PENSION. Given the high Euro, meals in Europe are no longer cheap, so half pension is the way to go. Expect to get three courses at a minimum. In some cases, half pension is a 5 course meal complete with complimentary wine or soft drinks. In almost all cases, half pension is more affordable than what you would pay for a comparable meal at a local restaurant. It's also very convenient. You get home skiing, soak in the pool or hot tub, take a shower, put one some clothes and roll downstairs for dinner. You can't beat that.


3. SKI PASSES:

There are two types of ski passes prevalent in Europe:

A. A magnetic chip card similar to the Metro's SMARTRIP card. These non-contact cards are strong enough to open a turnstyle even if they are in a ski pant or jacket pocket.

B. A bar code card. These "contact" cards actually have to be inserted into a turnstyle reader to open the gate. I would not recommend using a standard government issue ID badge holder to hang this type of card on. They break too easily. Instead, you can buy "sport" card holder from Intersport or any European resort for just a few bucks. These holders work just like your standard ID badge holder except they are much tougher. They also are a neat souvenir. [Cool] [Cool]
MangyMarmot
March 21, 2004
Member since 12/25/2002
183 posts
Those pesky Europeans have no idea how good they have it!

At least my unionized job gives me 4 weeks off next year -- but that's after 5 years at the job.

I get the idea their vacations are much more relaxing. Instead of frantically packing it all into a week or two, they have time to lounge.

Do any U-S resorts have similar lift tix to those in Europe? I really don't like that system. It seems to cause hangups while trying to insert the ticket. And then, there are no workers at the lift to force some type of order. I think that's why the swarm of people tramples on the brand new skis at the lift.

I think I snagged a brochure or two from Val Gardena that might offer a map of verious hotels so you can tell exactly where in relation to lifts, etc. the hotel would be. I'll dig through the rat's nest I call home.

mm
MangyMarmot
March 21, 2004
Member since 12/25/2002
183 posts
Duh, forgot to answer transfer question.

There's a 5 euro bus from Milan airport to train station. Supposed to take 45 minutes or so (though traffic was bad on the day we arrived).

Then train to Verona. These leave VERY often since Verona is on the way to Venice. Take one of the fast trains -- it's about a 90 minute ride.

In Verona, catch a train to Bolzano. These leave roughly every hour to 90 minutes. Once again, take a fast train... (I think the designation is IC.) I think that trip took about 90 minutes to 2 hours. Though I hadn't slept in 36 hours at that point:-)

In Bolzano exit the train station, take a hard right, and in about a block hit the bus station. Buses leave hourly for Ortisei and other stops in Val Gardena. I can't remember if they all say "Plan" or not (that's the end of the line -- past S. Christina, Ortisei, Selva, etc.

Our ride to village center in Ortisei took mebbe 45 minutes. The cost was about 4 euro.

What worked for us: we flew overnight and then did all transfers to Bolzano. Spent a night there -- it's really a gorgeous town (at least the center). Had a good meal, hit the museum, enjoyed a little vino and stayed at a VERY moderately priced hotel (if you're interested, i can check for the name - it eludes me now).

We caught a morning bus to Ortisei the next day. If I did it again, I'd catch an earlier bus to do a half day skiing when you get there.

The transfers sound worse than they are. We rarely had to wait long and the trains were clean, efficient and offered a beautiful view.

I hear it might be easier via Austria. There also are a few direct Milan to Bolzano trains -- but there aren't that many.

Also, Verona is a beautiful city if you wanted to stay there for a day or two. It has the whole Romeo + Juliet theme. Even more impressive, it has a still used Colosseum like Rome's. A friend saw Lenny Kravitz there. They also do opera in it (late summer).

mm
johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
March 21, 2004
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
MM:

Regarding the ski pass issue, most of the European resorts are transitioning away from the bar code "contact" cards to "non-contact" chip cards. I'm surprised that the Dolomiti Super Region has not made the transition yet. Some resorts use both systems: guests who buy multi-day tickets get a chip card and those who just buy a day pass get a bar code card. In the Arlberg and at Ischgl, you must pay a small deposit for the chip card. If you return it at the end of your stay, you get your deposit back. Some Chip Cards contain a digital photo of the skier on them so in theory at least, they are non-transferable. The photo feature also allows you to get a replacement card if you lose your card. Finally, many resorts only make you use your card to open gates on lower access lifts. Once at altitude and away from roads, there are no gates. One advantage of both systems is that they allow ski regions to carefully track lift usage by a guest and reimburse individual resorts. In short, it facilitates grand alliances such as the Arlberg or the Dolomiti Super Region.

Image of a bar code card with an Intersport holder:

 -

NB: The card is plastic and has a little hole at the top where you attach it to the ID holder. The holder then clips on to your jacket or pants.

Also, thanks for the info on the train. It sounds a little more complicated than I would have hoped. The drive from Milan airport to Cortina is only 2 hours according to www.maporama.com. If I can afford it, I'll probably rent a car. The car might also be useful for exploring the region without having to rely on the Sella Ronda or shuttle busses every day to get from point A to B. In Europe, I've found that the inter city train system does not connect very well with most ski resorts. Places like Soelden and Ischgl are a long way away from a major station. St. Anton is more convenient as is St. Moritz. I guess it all depends on where you go. If time is short, I've found a car can be a godsend. I could never have skied Corvatsch, Diavolezza, and Lagalb at St. Moritz in a single day without a car-too much time would have been wasted on shuttles. On the other hand, shuttles are delightful when time is less limited. They allow one to chat with other skiers and relax.

Another HUGE downside with cars is cost. A rental car capable of carrying ski equipment can easily run 100 euros a day. Gas is about $6.5 a gallon and parking costs can be outrageous. Hotels and ski area lots often charge you for parking. Europe, unlike America, is not the land of free parking.

Another alternative to cars and trains are shuttle busses like the Arlberg Express:

www.arlbergexpress.com

These well-appointed busses pick you up at the airport and drop you right at the ski resort. Some include helpful tour guides who can answer questions about the resort.
MangyMarmot
March 21, 2004
Member since 12/25/2002
183 posts
I agree, shuttle bus from airport sure beats the pants off train transfers, etc.

I took shuttle from Barcelona airport to Andorra last year. It was still a long ride (about 3 hours) -- but dumped me off right at hotel. Cost something like 40 euro.

No shuttles went to Val Gardena on my travel days. I think they run on weekends -- which would mean less time tween redeye plane and skis on the snow.

Our 2-week trip just alloted 4 skiing days. So, we were more leisurely and hit a bunch of spots.

I did see people leaning against the turnstiles --I guess using the magnetic cards. I figured it was just something for season pass holders. Next time, I'll get one of those!

One of my goals in every vacation is not to drive at all. Cars are such a hassle. Parking, gasing, avoiding the insane European drivers, dealing with maps... and then the cost. Clearly you get more mobility with a car... but to me the downside is too high.

mm
johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
March 22, 2004
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
MM:

My wife, a European, shares your attitude about cars. She'd gladly trade time in exchange for the hassles and expense of driving. The high-speed ICEs are also a joy to ride--quiet with decent dining cars, bathrooms, etc. Also, they are very affordable--especially 2nd class, which is heavily subsidized by the European governments.

You are also right about the Arlberg Express, and other shuttle services. They mainly run on weekends--especially SATURDAYS. I can't emphasize enough what a beast Saturday can be for traveling. Innsbruck, usually a sleepy little place, transforms itself into DCA, complete with runway traffic, long lines, car traffic. Driving on Saturdays is not much better. I once experienced a traffic jam that ran from Vienna to Innsbruck on a Saturday. Nearly every car had skis on the roof. Europeans tend to travel in flocks and on the same days. It's definitely worthwhile to figure out when school vacations are and avoid those "white weeks."
JimK - DCSki Columnist
March 25, 2004
Member since 01/14/2004
2,645 posts
Here's some fun info on OTSI the Iceman and skiing the Dolomites:

http://www.onthesnow.com/news/europe

(Look for column written on Mar 19, 2004)
I really enjoy a lot of the stuff Ted Heck writes.
JimK - DCSki Columnist
March 26, 2004
Member since 01/14/2004
2,645 posts
johnfmh - DCSki Columnist
March 27, 2004
Member since 07/18/2001
1,914 posts
Nice photo.
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