VAL GARDENA: DOLOMITES CENTRAL
In the province of South-Tyrol lies the Val Gardena, or Gröden valley, as it is called in German an Ladin. It is not only a cultural melting pot. It also delivers on the exceptional mix of action and leisure. Downhill slopes for skiing perfectly mix with the more relaxed (winter) hiking trails and horse-drawn sleds. It being Italy, superb food, wine and simply ‘dolce vita’ make this valley quite popular. And rightly so.
One stop shop
Known for its World Cup slope and all-around first class skiing, Val Gardena is one of the biggest ski areas in the Dolomites. 175 kilometers of groomed runs stretch throughout the valley. Moreover, it is seamlessly connected to the other areas that form the Sella Ronda. This well-known tour gives access to some 500 kilometers of perfectly prepared runs. With this, Val Gardena might just be the most strategic place to be in the Dolomites.
Within Val Gardena itself, there is quite a bit of variety. Stay in the larger, more spread-out and relaxed town of Ortisei, and you have direct access to the Alps’ largest alpine meadow: Alpe di Suisi (Seiser Alm). With mellow terrain, easy going cruising runs that intertwine with numerous hiking trails and cross country slopes, Alpe di Suisi offers everything you need for a day of cruising and relaxation.
Go up the other side of the valley from Ortisei, and you enter the realm of the long runs. The Longia run is in fact the longest in the Dolomites. Almost eleven kilometers of medium level skiing, from way above tree line into a narrow side valley with impressive rock faces, fresh smelling pine trees and frozen waterfalls. From the top of this run, Seceda peak, an other very nice and long run leads into the second village of the Val Gardena: Santa Cristina.
Santa Cristina is a bit smaller than Ortisei. But it is famous for hosting the annual Val Gardena downhill World Cup races on the Saslong run. So it is fair to say that Santa Cristina is the gateway to the more sporty part of the valley.
Situated on the north facing side of the valley, mostly red and black runs are cut out in the trees. They offer supreme skiing on the best groomed slopes one can find. Sheltered from direct sun light, these slopes keep firm and tidy all day long. And with their ‘world cup’ image, they attract mostly skilled skiers. Not a lot of families and crowds, but experienced skiers on pristine slopes.
These great slopes from the Ciampinoi connect the villages of Santa Cristina and Selva, the highest of the three, at the end of the valley. From Selva, lifts go up in two directions, embracing the Sella Massive, as it were. To the north, the Danterceppies lift and great long runs and the villages beginner slopes. All the way up to Passo Gardena, where Val Gardena meets the Alta Badia ski area.
On the other side, next to the Ciampinoi runs, the lifts go up from Plan Gralba to Piz Seteur and a very nice bowl of blue runs, fun slopes, freestyle parks and mountain huts. A playground for the young and the old. But also the gateway to Val di Fassa and the Sella Ronda tour. Overshadowed – literally – by the mighty Sassolungo rock that dominates the views, long easy slopes run through de impressive rock field called ‘Cita dei Sassi’ (City of Rocks) all the way back to Selva. Or hop on one more chairlift to widen your reach and go over the Sella Pass into Val di Fassa, the neighboring ski area.
Val Gardena has it all. Family fun, adrenaline skiing, great tours and day trips. And three different towns to choose from. It may be the best place to stay in the Dolomites if you want to have it all and not having to use a car or bus every day. Santa Cristina and Selva are great for those who like to explore the adjacent areas too; stay in Ortisei if you want easy access to the mellow Alpe di Suise and of course Val Gardena itself.