Resort Guide: Val Gardena, Italy

Val Gardena is located in northern Italy and is part of the Dolomiti Superski area, which has an incredible 1,220km of pistes. Up until 1918 the South Tyrol region was part of the Austro- Hungarian Empire but the secret Treaty of London deal handed it to Italy in exchange for them leaving the German/Austrian alliance in the First World War. To this day German (or a dialect of it) is still the preferred language of the locals. Why the history lesson? Well, this heritage means that these days Val Gardena offers visitors the best of both worlds: The Austrian après ski tradition and the excellent Italian food.

On top of this, Val Gardena is without doubt one of the most beautiful regions in the world, with astounding views of the Sella mountain range. The famous Sella Ronda loop is an essential part of exploring this huge area, but out of the 1220km pistes, the numbers that really count are the 500km of connected pistes and 175km of pistes in the Val Gardena area itself.

On top of this, Val Gardena is without doubt one of the most beautiful regions in the world, with astounding views of the Sella mountain range. The famous Sella Ronda loop is an essential part of exploring this huge area, but out of the 1220km pistes, the numbers that really count are the 500km of connected pistes and 175km of pistes in the Val Gardena area itself.

Did you know?

The Dolomites are named after Déodat de Dolomieu who was a French geologist who back in the 1790’s was the first to analyse and publish information on the unique rock the area is made from.

The Parks
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The whole Dolomiti Superski area has twenty terrain parks, but if you’re staying around Val Gardena there are only a few that you’ll be able to get to – and because this is Italy, don’t forget your helmet otherwise you won’t be allowed in!

From the village of Selva-Gardena, the Piz Sella terrain park is probably your closest. It sits beside the Comici chairlift with the stunning Sassolungo mountain range providing the backdrop. The layout tends to be similar each season, with a long single kicker line and a jib line next to it. The park doesn’t have any super easy hits but it’s built with some good Italian flair and includes fun stuff like a half-buried car jib amongst the 15 or so features.

The King Laurin Snowpark on the Alpe di Siusi is the largest park in the vicinity, and it’s fantastic. Access is via the gondola in the village of Ortisei. Located on the laurin piste, this freestyle arena has been shaped by the F-tech Construction crew for almost a decade. At 1.5km long, it can have up to 50 features divided into two sections – one for the pros, one for the mere mortals. The regular line has plenty of superbly built small-to-medium kickers and rails galore. It’s nicely spread out, so you have plenty of time to set yourself up between hits, and don’t have a queue of your peers watching your every move. The park hosts several events (and that’s when the pro area gets the full treatment) but outside of competition time huge effort is put in to build things well – and make them big! Alongside the trees there is also a line which has a number of natural looking jibs made out of wood.

A bit of a trek away (but well worth it) is the Alta Badia snowpark, which is located on the Piz Sorega plateau. This has a large 10m+ kicker line, and a separate area featuring plenty of smaller features.

The Powder
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This is such a huge area that locating the best off -piste will take you seasons. Much of the good stuff will only become apparent once you’ve really explored the area, but you really need to take care so make sure you get clued up on snow conditions. Arraba is a gem of a place, with plenty of steep off-piste and tree runs. The Porta Vescovo cable-car is your main starting point. From there you can head further away from Val Gardena and onto the Marmolada glacier, where excellent snow is all but guaranteed.

The Val di Mezdì is a classic off-piste route in the Alta Badia area, but you’ll need a guide or a local who knows the route well. It starts from the Bambergerhütte refuge, after a mighty hike from Sass Pordoi cable-car. The descent takes you through a number of couloirs and all the way down to the village of Colfosco.

The Pistes
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After a week you’ll have barely touched what is on offer here… but if you’re struggling to know where to start, take a day to do the Sella Ronda loop – it’s a fine way to start locating areas you want to go back to.

For a fast blast, the world cup run down from Ciampinoi to St Christina is a joy. It starts off on a massive wide face, and narrows down to a series of huge whoops that you’ll get decent air off if you take them flat out. First thing in the morning the piste known as James Bond’s run is a fine cob-web clearer. This piste is best accessed from the funicular in St Christina and descends into the village of Ortisei, winding through the narrow valley. Best to tackle it early, because later in the day it gets too busy to hit it at mach-5.

The Parties
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There is no real hard-beating heart to Val Gardena, but instead lots of little villages – each have a few good bars worth checking out. However the nightlife here is far from crazy.

Selva di Val Gardena has the pick of bars, albeit mainly après ski bars. The Luislkeller is a great starter, and if there’s a big group of you, ask for one of their beer bongs. The Heustadl in Hotel Wolkenstein is another lively drinking spot. The village of Ortisei is very pretty, but nightlife is almost non-existent. Over in St Christina the Piz bar is the place to head to.