Dolomiti Superski - Cortina, Arabba, Val di Fassa, Val Gardena, Alta Badia: March 31 - April 3, 2024

However, they do not get nearly the press.
They sure don't. We were in the Dolomites for 4 days in January 2018 and I was unaware of the Pass Pordoi tram's existence, much less the off piste possibilities from it. I have less FOMO now that I see that Cortina's 2017-18 season snowfall was 282 cm. I took this pic from Colfosco, which in retrospect is Val Mezdi.
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Perhaps ChrisC can opine whether Val Mezdi was skiable then.

Forcella Pordoi and Couloir Joel are south facing, but it seems ChrisC suffered no sun effect in them on April 2? Val Lasties and Val Mezdi would not be so dependent upon fresh snow. I don't have many years left for that kind of skiing.

This was the TR we were awaiting with bated breath the last two days we were at Mammoth.
 
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Amazing photos. Those perfect days in Europe just hit different.

All of the action/skier shots are the guide's photos; he's an excellent photographer and was most often downhill of us for shots.

Besides some observations and organization, I contributed little, mainly guide photos and Fatmap descriptions. I generally try to Italicize a quote and/or copy of someone else. However, the Dolomites deserved a decent write-up. It gets shoved into the snowmaking/intermediate category when it's not.
 
They sure don't. We were in the Dolomites for 4 days in January 2018 and I was unaware of the Pass Pordoi tram's existence, much less the off piste possibilities from it.

After reading a few inklings, I ordered the Freeriding Dolomites guidebook during COVID-19 to keep myself occupied.

Perhaps ChrisC can opine whether Val Mezdi was skiable then.

I think most years, the couloirs are ready by mid-February - according to wePowder.

Forcella Pordoi and Couloir Joel are south facing, but it seems ChrisC suffered no sun effect in them on April 2? Val Lasties and Val Mezdi would not be so dependent upon fresh snow. I don't have many years left for that kind of skiing.

It had been snowing most of the weekend - and cloudy enough to bring us winter conditions for the morning hours. Most often, Joel and Forcella Pordoi would be sun affected and need some time to soften.

Val Lasties and Val Mezdi are not overly difficult - mostly wide open and decently traveled - minimizing avalanche risk.

A few other freeride itineraries in Cortina, Marmolada, and Sella Massif might be worth pursuing.

An FYI - Swiss guides were approaching nearly 650-700 francs; meanwhile, Italy is 350 Euros. If the snow is right, Italy is one of the best values in the Alps. And it's tough trying to spend more than 5 Euros for a beer, Aperol Spritz or decent wine. That's a Vail Resorts $15-20 in the US.
 
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I have less FOMO now that I see that Cortina's 2017-18 season snowfall was 282 cm. I took this pic from Colfosco, which in retrospect is Val Mezdi.

Here are the OnTheSnow stats for Arabba (1600m) and Alta Badia (1600m for Corvara and Colfosco) vs. Cortina (1200m). I am not sure that Arabba is twice as snowy at the resort level as Cortina. This is likely useful for relative comparisons.

I can say the Easter weekend storm was 100% snow at Arabba due to altitude and the difficulty for warm air to penetrate from the south / make it over Passo Falzarego at 5 Torri/Lagazuoi.


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Here is some info about snowfall/weather for Italian ski resorts from the wePowder Guide: The Alps.

Snowfall/weather information seems more anecdotal than data-driven, but it looks believable.

Dolomites:

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Info about couloirs
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Zermatt/Cervinia Weather

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Monterosa
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@ChrisC Which hotel did you stay in at Arabba? I stayed at Hotel Portavescovo and it was top notch and included half board. Good value too.

I'd be happy to go just for the cruising and scenery again but I don't think I'll book in advance again. I would want to be able to do a guided day or two. Lining up being in Europe and snow in the Dolomites won't be easy.
 
Which hotel did you stay in at Arabba?
We stayed at Hotel Evaldo in January 2018 and definitely recommend it. We did half board two of the three nights.
Lining up being in Europe and snow in the Dolomites won't be easy.
Yes ChrisC takes my advice on flexibility much better than I do. Nonetheless our strategy to just book airfare and car for most of a three week trip means we can go to the Dolomites on short notice within those parameters.
I think most years, the couloirs are ready by mid-February - according to wePowder.
That means odds aren't great during our usual late January time frame. In 2018 groomed surfaces were excellent on 90% of slopes and the appearance of the mountains was wintry. That doesn't mean those off piste routes had adequate coverage to ski though.

For the piste skiing I still believe the late January time frame is ideal. But for a return visit I'd be more likely to go post Iron Blosam in late March for higher off piste probability. I knew about Sass Pordoi when we flew into Venice in March 2022, but I called one of the guide services and there was nothing doing in that bad snow year.
 
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late March
I'm pretty sure I'll going to make my Europe dates March 9 to April 4 next year. Maybe I'll be able to get planets to align and get some off piste in the Dolomites. Kylie will no doubt want to spend at least some time in France so Milan place to fly into is probably best for us? Allows easy access to France and Italy and Austria.
 
Allows easy access to France and Italy and Austria.
And Switzerland via the Gotthard tunnel. Milan is also the closest gateway airport to St. Moritz, which like the Dolomites I'm sure Kylie would appreciate.

I suspect our Euro trip will be March/April next year too, though it can't start before about March 20 due to Iron Blosam. We need a good southern season to get an encore at Zermatt too.
 
Wednesday, April 3: On the final day, I had two goals: ski the Marmolada Glacier and complete the shortest possible Sella Ronda circuit to avoid a cab home.

Arabba proper has a lot of great skiing, its local north-facing slopes, and the Marmolada Glacier. I did not get to lap/try many pistes, but liked what I skied.

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Sella Ronda Circuit Link
  • Orange - clockwise
  • Green - counter-clockwise

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Some other maps of major resorts that I only touched on in a very cursory manner on the Sella Ronda circuit. Definitely would have liked to skied more in Val Gardena.

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Here are some photos from the day. I immediately headed to the Marmolada Glacier since it is served by cable cars, which are always prone to lift lines.

There is still WW1 artillery left on the mountain. The Austria-Hungary vs. Italy front was between Cortina and Arabba. This cannon/artillery gun points towards the Marmolada Glacier (above it).

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The Marmolada Glacier. Still lots of untouched north-facing powder.

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Marmolada Glacier from Cable Car Stage 2.

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Summit of Marmolada Cable Cars.

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There is lots of great skiing up here. The Marmolada Glacier is the other big off-piste zone. However, I did not venture too far from the piste.

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Sella Massif. Couloirs for days.

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Lots of atmospheric places to stop off for a quick lunch, dessert or beer.

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Back to Arabba village, it was time to do a Sella Ronda circuit quickly.

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These are just some scenery shots while going around the Sella Ronda. The terrain is mostly intermediate cruisers served by high-speed lifts, but the aesthetics are very high.

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Returning to Arabba late in the afternoon. Arabba runs shown in the background.

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Skiing-wise, I just scratched the surface of the Sella Ronda areas but saw the major highlights. One would definitely want to spend more time on the Arabba and Val Gardena slopes. The Alta Badia area is more open, low-intermediate meadows.

Looking at the incredibly large automated snow-making plants/installations, lifts of every kind, and Refugios of the Dolomites really drills home the point that the United States is almost a slight technological backwater skiing-wise. Yes, we have great snow! And some iconic lifts! But we are almost a generation behind infrastructure-wise; we lack truly super-advanced snow-making, lift infrastructure, sustainable delicious eateries, etc. It's a bit shocking! And it's not one country ahead of us; it's Italy, Austria, France, and even Switzerland.

It's just too bad the Dolomites do not have more reliable snow - or more reliable storm tacks. I'd like to return one day.

This is not really a new issue or due to global warming. I watched a quick video about the locations for the James Bond film "For Your Eyes Only"; they had to truck snow into certain areas back in 1981 due to a drought.

 

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Which hotel did you stay in at Arabba?

I stayed at the Sporthotel Arabba (half-board) and would recommend it. Given the Easter holiday and the last-minute nature of my visit, I did not have that many choices in Arabba.

Lining up being in Europe and snow in the Dolomites won't be easy.

No. Unless they get some big fall storms, it's a decision 1 or 2 weeks out.

My guide in Val d'Isere said he had never skied the Monterosa areas with good snow - living in the French Alps for 25-30 years and visiting 8x (after growing up in Sweden).

Italy is often more miss than hit. However, Courmayeur, La Thuile and Cervinia are much better than average snow-wise
 
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Perhaps ChrisC can opine whether Val Mezdi was skiable then.

I'll write the guide and ask when the couloirs and Val Mezdi typically are available. And Marmolada off-piste.

However, your January 2018 Dolomite conditions look quite good, and the OntheSnow stats for Arabba claim 400cm at resort level in Arabba. I would guess it might have been available.

Val Mesdi faces almost due north, and I would assume it collects lots of blow-in snow.

I was not aware of any of this until reading the newer WhereToSki Italy book during Covid, which has a full page about the Sella Group's off-piste.
 
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It's just too bad the Dolomites did not have more reliable snow and more reliable storm tacks. I'd like to return one day. This is not really a new issue due to global warming. I watched a quick video about the locations for the James Bond film "For Your Eyes Only"; they had to truck snow into certain areas back in 1981 due to a drought.
Thanks for digging up that Bond clip. Love the behind-the-scenes commentary and footage.
 
we lack truly super-advanced snow-making
Not the technology: I believe in western North America the usual constraint is water supply. The Alps get more precipitation in summer than winter, so there has to be a lot of water. I agree 100% with ChrisC about the lift infrastructure and the food. Government support probably plays a role in the scale of the snowmaking in Austria and Italy, as with the lift systems.
 
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