This last winter season I guided the Dolomites ski traverse from San Martino di Castrozza to the Tre Cime di Lavaredo following different routes, skiing all kind of snow, from spring snow and some crust to powder later in the season. Now I finally have THE ultimate trip program for those who want to do it without struggling too much uphill, so using the ski lifts as much one can and some other “external help”. The climbs using the skins don’t go over 500m vertical gain, so they can also be done with a heavier freeride equipment. It’s a ski touring trip suitable for the uphill beginners , as the climbs are never technical, so you don’t have be worried if you have never done a ski tour before, there’s plenty of time to learn the basics during the trip. The comfortable huts where you spend the night they make the experience even more unique and delicious. But let’s get into the details of the route.
Day 1 – Pale di San Martino ski traverse
“Well begun is half done” goes an old saying, so there’s nothing better than starting the ski traverse at the Hotel Regina in San Martino di Castrozza, being pampered by Carla Scalet and her staff. The next morning, skis on the shoulder right from the hotel you walk to the Col Verde lifts, they are just around the corner and in few minutes you’ll be standing on top of Rosetta, 2600m high. You enjoy a stunning view towards all the Dolomites from up there, all the way north to the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, where we’ll ski the last day of our ski traverse. Pretty amazing!
The Pale di San Martino traverse is not a big deal with the skins, you only have to climb up 200 meters of vertical gain, but the descent to the hamlet of Gares via the Sasso Negro is among the most exciting in the Dolomites. This is the wild side of the Pale di San Martino range, the downhill faces north, featuring some powder snow often. Once you hit the summer path lower down and you follow it carefully, you finally reach the Capanna Comelle right in time for lunch, where some tourists coming here just to relax would be amazed to see skiers where there are no lifts around. Be ready to answer to some funny questions, you might be their ski hero.
After lunch, we take a taxi to the ski resort in Molino, Falcade, and we reach the San Pellegrino Pass skiing a bunch of slopes, and finally the Fuciade hut, skiing a nice off-piste (great corn snow in the afternoon!) or picked up by Loris on his “Panzer”, the snow mobile. Fuciade is the best accomodation you can find in the Dolomites (and not only), defining Manuela’s home as a refuge is a lie. The newly renovated rooms are super luxurious, with Jacuzzi or private sauna inside each one. A “Michelin star” kinda like directed by Martino, son of Manuela, for the advice on the wines to match the dinner ask directly to Andrea, the sommelier. What else can I say … I always hope to be able booking a room in this piece of art, but you have to hurry because they only have less than 10 rooms and they sell like hot cakes.
Day 2 – From Fuciade to Pian dei Fiacconi, Marmolada
After the tasty breakfast at Fuciade, it’s time to get back on track and start burning some calories. The ski traverse of the Forca Rossa del San Pellegrino is a classic itinerary that gives access to a descent of over 1000 meters vertical, north facing, with a pleasant and easy skin climb of about 400 vertical meters. The switchbacks with skins, on the very last slope to the top of the col, can hardly be counted on one hand finger tips, the descent towards Malga Ciapela often delivers some good skiing. This winter I did it in all conditions, the summer mule track at the bottom makes you skiing all the way down even on a dry winter season we just had.
Usually you reach the Marmolada cable car station down to Malga Ciapela at lunchtime, and here we allow ourselves a good and tasty lunch break (Baita Dovich is always a guarantee and one of my favorite spots ), and normally there is also plenty of time to visit the beautiful museum of the Great War at the Serauta cable car station. Once you reach Punta Rocca with the last gondola, it is time to buckle the boots up for the last time and enjoy a beautiful descent along the Marmolada glacier before gliding down to Pian dei Fiacconi, our hut for the night. Here we are talking about a real alpine hut, there’s no comparison with Fuciade, but I love this “uncomfort” after the pampering of luxury of the previous evening (I always translate an funny italian saying to my foreign clients, “from the stars to the farms”), just to come back down to earth. And then Guido, Sirio, Stefano and Claudio are very nice buddies, I feel at home when I’m there at 2626 meters. The food is simple but excellent, it’s all homemade. The dormitories are clean, the smell of kerosene coming out of the mobile heating stoves might bother you at first but the warmth under the the liners does not suck to anyone. There’s almost no running water here in the winter, but for one night you experience a “Nepal” style experience, certainly unforgettable. And often there are no other guests in the house. I like that!
Day 3 – ski the Val Mesdì. Overnight at Rifugio Lagazuoi.
There are many ways to start the third day, it all depends on the snow conditions. You can ski the Canyon, further down the narrow and exposed military road to Villetta Maria, or follow the ski slopes to Passo Padon or take a taxi from Fedaia to the gondola in Alba, Canazei. This last winter I tested them all, depending on the needs (and skills) of my group (and logistics). In any case, you need to reach the Pordoi Pass, the highlight of the day is the descent of Val Mesdì, the most famous off-piste run in the Dolomites. You take the lifts to cover most of the vertical gain, normally you carry your skis on the backpack for no more than an hour from the Sas Pordoi cable car top station to reach the drop-in, not far from the Boé summer hut. Down the Val Mesdì, after skiing the first narrow and steep section with care, you spend more time looking up to admire the surrounding rocky panorama, you can also find powder snow if you’re lucky enough to be one of the firsts down the Val Mesdì after a snowfall.
For those who have already skied the Val Mesdì, it’s possible to go for other descents, such as the Val Setus, or the Val Ciadin and Culea, in these cases the climb is longer, so you need to be well organized with the timing. The last cable car to Lagazuoi, our hut for the night, is normally at 4.40 pm and from Colfosco there are still some slopes and chairlifts to ride, in addition to the taxi between Armentarola and Passo Falzarego.
At the Rifugio Lagazuoi you enjoy the typical Dolomite hospitality, the sauna sitting on the rocky prow outside the refuge, world-famous thanks to lots of pictures taken by guests, it disappeared last October. The crazy strong wind pulled it down the mountain, but it was replaced at the end of the winter season, and it’s placed on the west corner of the terrace. After the aperitif you see above, Mikael and Jonas were the first to get in.
Day 4 – from Lagazuoi to Sennes hut via Forcella del Lago.
Day 4 of our ski traverse takes you into the pure ski touring part of the trip. The climb accross Forcella del Lago, set between the Torre del Lago and Cima Scotoni, is one of the most beautiful and photographed parts of the Alta Via 1 during the summer, and that’s the goal of the morning. It’s often necessary to carry the skis in the backpack, with crampons on your feet. The climb of Forcella del Lago (a little less than 400 meters gain) is the perfect challenge for those who have never put boot crampons on, which basically need to climb safely the steep snow slope, normally it’s very hard snow ( or icy) in the morning.
The down the Gran Fanes plateau is not very long, it’s however interesting for the panorama, pretty different from the previous days. Once you reach the characteristic wooden bridge at the bottom of the valley, you put the skins on and head to the Malga Fanes Grande on very gentle (almost flat) terrain, then slightly uphill to Limo pass. Once you get up there, it’s the “skins off!” call and you can get ready for a 2 minute downhill skiing, the Fanes hut is a couple turns far, and we stop there for a well-deserved lunch.
After lunch you only have to follow the snow mobile track down to Pederù, where Arthur will give us a ride with the cat to the Rifugio Sennes for the night. Hot shower, private rooms or dormitory, excellent cuisine (the mountaineer omelette is a must!) for this night as well.
For the more trained and experienced skiers, it’s possible to climb to the top of Piz Lavarella and cross into Val Parom, only with an earlier breakfast at the Lagazuoi at dawn. In this way you add almost 900 meters of ascent (and 3 hours at a good pace), the route gets exposed in the final part, where you have to follow a short but narrow snow ridge to the summit cross. Last March, on a beautiful and warm spring day, I climbed along with Mikael to the top of Lavarella, summiting at 2.30 pm, with nobody else around, and we skied down some good powder to the Lavarella hut. There was no reason to hurry, so we sat down enjoying a great beer, the Gabeer (they brew their own beer up there!), our home for the night was juts few minutes far, at the Fanes Hut.
Sometimes I spend the night at the rifugio Fanes to climb up the day after to the Croda Ciamin, it’s a 900 vertical meters suitable for experienced ski tourers. Depending on the conditions, lots of switchbacks may be necessary, even on steep terrain, but often you carry the skis on the backpack for the last pitch to reach the summit. I guided this nice traverse two times last season, and it was worth the effort as we got paid off with excellent powder snow and no other tracks down the north side. I prefer to keep it as an option for trained groups, because the effort required is much harder than the other climbs of this ski traverse.
Day 5 – From Sennes to Lake Braies.
Day 5 is one of my favorites, with just 500 meters of vertical gain with skins you access to some quality skiing, often with powder snow even after several days from the last snowfall. At the end, skating accross the frozen lake of Braies is something special, before the well-deserved lunch at the Hotel Lago di Braies, which I call the “Overlook Hotel”. In the early afternoon, by taxi or public transport, you move to the Chalet Lago Antorno for the last night of the trip, at the bottom of the Tre Cime di Lavaredo.
Day 6 – Tre Cime di Lavaredo ski traverse.
So here we are, the Gran Finale of the Dolomites ski traverse. The Tre Cime di Lavaredo, one of the icons of the Dolomites, world famous. Even today the vertical climb is quite small, thanks to the skidoos that I normally take right outside the Chalet to get all the way up to the Rifugio Auronzo. Depending on the conditions and skills of the group, you can easily traverse towards Forcella Lavaredo or climb up the steep couloir in between Cima Ovest and Cima Grande (this is only one of the many possibilities). The skiing down the north side, regardless of the snow conditions, it’s a thrill for those who are not rock climbers as well. The famous north faces of the Tre Cime are just a few steps away, you can almost touch them and they are so dramatic.
To reach the Locatelli Hut you have to put the skins back for less than an hour, once you get there it’s all downhill, following the Val Sassovecchio, which reminds me a bit of the Val Mesdì scenery. Here you ski under the Crode Fiscaline and the imposing north face of Cima Una, the Fondovalle Refuge is an mandatory stop for the last lunch together and a cold beer. The finish line at the Hotel Dolomiti in Val Fiscalina is ten minutes of skating along the cross-country track.
More than a hundred photos down below can show you the beauty of this trip accross the Dolomites with the skis, which will never stop to amaze myself as well. Contact me to organize your own Dolomites ski traverse together.