What does the Dolomites ski traverse need to become famous? If I have to be honest and compared it to the Queen of the Haute Route, the Chamonix – Zermatt, and many others, I can see only pros. The italian Dolomites are so unique and beautiful! And should we talk about food and accomodations? A holiday must also be pleasant and “yummy”. Calling them “huts” isn’t quite correct, only the ones which are closer to mountain inns are open during the winter season, they generally have private rooms, hot showers (and even saunas!) and overall they serve amazing food from the traditional local cuisine.
Now I’m going a bit off the topic, so let’s go back to the tough part of the trip. Where do we start the Dolomites ski traverse? If we want to follow a historical guideline, San Martino di Castrozza is the meeting point. Alfredo Paluselli, ski instructor and mountain guide as well as a pioneer of tourism at the Rolle pass, he left from here in 1936 to reach Cortina d’Ampezzo; a “first” unfortunately marked by a tragedy in the Padon area, in Livinnallongo del Col di Lana.
Depending on your possibilities and your vacation days, you can also choose other starting points, like Val Gardena for example or just Cortina d’Ampezzo, the infrastructures of the Dolomites will help you out and make the trip planning very easy. The Dolomitisuperski system and its lifts almost connect all the different villages and valley, and where there are no lifts or ski slopes you can always use public transport or taxis. Every day, depending on the weather and the group will, the program is adaptable without any problems, as you will have plenty of plan B to reach the next overnight staying.
This last winter I guided 4 Dolomites ski traverses, always starting from San Martino di Castrozza except one trip at the end of January with Nick Frankie and Emily, when we met in Selva di Val Gardena.
Normally the first day you ski accross the Pale di San Martino range, through the high plateau of the Pale for those who like a soft start (lifts followed by an easy and short skinning), or crossing the Passo del Mulaz for the die hard and purist ski tourers.
In March I encountered one of the most beautiful and perfect day of the season, crossing the Pale along with Jonas, Mikael, Asa and Lina, with a wonderful ski descent from Sasso Negro to Gares. The arrival at the Rifugio Fuciade (a “must” for the first night out, if you are lucky enough to get a room) was just exceptional, with some perfect corn snow slopes and cold powder in the shade. The gourmet dinner prepared by Martino and his staff is worth the Michelin star, and a special chocolate cake to celebrate Jonas’s birthday was the cherry on top of a perfect celebration day.
On the second day from the San Pellegrino you normally skin accross the Forca Rossa to ski down to Malga Ciapela and then get to the top of Marmolada linking the three trams. I always like spending the second night at the Rifugio Pian dei Fiacconi, a true alpine hut might shock you out after the luxury night at Fuciade, but in the end it will be the most authentic experience for all the participants. When the lifts shut down, you will find only those few aficionados that love to spend the night here with Guido, the owner of Pian dei Fiacconi, and his young crew.
On the third day the traverse of the Sella massif is on the menu, normally you ski the Val Mesdì, probably the most famous off-piste of the Dolomites. I lost count of how many times I skied it, but I kinda re-discover it on the staring eyes of my clients, and it’s always a pleasure.
On this stage people tend to take different routes, most of the skiers decide to spend the night at the Rifugio Lagazuoi to go towards Fanes area the next day; I generally prefer to stay around Colfosco out if I can find a place for just one night. From here you have many possibilities for the fourth day, generally I like to skin accross the Puez plateau and ski down to Longiarù, thus entering the purely ski mountaineering part of the Dolomites ski traverse. Last winter we were able to stick with the plan only one time, and we went further west, in Val Gardena, to skin accross the Forcella Dla Roa, a very scenic tour with a short climb and a ski down the north side with generally good and soft snow.
Our place for the night is the Sennes hut (a taxi transfer and Arthur’s snow cat they give a big help, hands down!), I like it because it’s usually quieter than Fanes and Lavarella, and the ski options for the following day down to lake Braies are all very beautiful and generally require a little effort. If you’re lucky enough and you’re a good skier, the most beautiful tour is the unfamous “Red Avalanche”, a 800m long impressive chute that you can gain with just 500 meters skinning from the Sennes hut.
In early March we had the opportunity to send it with first tracks and exceptional snow, that was again one of the most beautiful of the season. The arrival down to Braies above the frozen lake is unique in the whole area, and you have plenty of time for a good lunch and few beers before taking the bus or taxi and moving to the last leg of the tour.
Lots of time I finish the ski traverse here in Braies, when people can’t take more than 5 ski days on their trip. But it still remain a beautiful end to the ski traverse with no doubt.
The Grand Finale is as good as a great dessert. The scenery is overwhelmed by the stunning beauty of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, you can cheat on the uphill by taking the snowmobiles directly from the Chalet Lago Antorno, the accomodation where you spend the last night. No matter if you climb up to ski down one the couloirs between the Tre Cime di Lavaredo or you take the easy and classic route to the forcella Lavaredo, you will enjoy a great day. The skiing down to the Val Sassovecchio is the best conclusion of a 5 stars ski trip. The journey is over, I always get a bit of sadness, but everybody is happy and smiling with a glass of wine at the Rifugio Fondovalle, you know you have done a great job and everyone’s satisfaction is great.
With the belly full you’re only few minutes far from the Hotel Dolomiti, you skate on the cross country ski track straight to the taxi waiting for you to drive back to Cortina d’Ampezzo, and so you also close the historical side of the trip.
Here you have a selection of images of these latest Dolomites ski traverses from last winter. huge thanks to all my fellow travelers and my colleagues with whom I have had some nice days out on the snow. Looking forward to skiing together next year!