Dolomites winter | FreeWheeling Dolomites
FreeWheeling Dolomites

Dolomites winter

WITH FREEWHEELING ON WINTER

 

 

 The Dolomites are a great adventure terrain for whoever feels up to winter challenges such as skiing, snow-shoeing, ice-climbing,  Whatever your chosen activity, these landscapes are themselves a good enough reason to come here from any part of the world. Complement this with good food, friendly folk and great services for families and you already have the perfect destination for your next holiday.

The so-called “Guida Alpina” (mountain guide) is professionally certified to take people up in the mountains. This section lists several of the activities we can enjoy together in the Dolomites. The suggestions attached to them are just a small sample of what the Dolomites can offer.

Here the possibilities to make our dreams come true are endless. Every activity comes with this certainty: our magnificent landscape, really unique in this world.

We can come up with a customised plan fitting everyone’s wishes and skills.

The Dolomites – An overview:

 

 

A UNESCO world heritage site since 2009, the Dolomites are found in Italy’s North-eastern Alps, split between the provinces of Trento, Belluno, Bolzano, Pordenone and Udine.

If we imagine flying above them and looking through the plane window, we would see some isolated mountain groups very close to each other. The colours range from the white mountain tops, the grey rocks and great green basins. Let’s imagine for a moment that the green represents the sea and the grey some ancient ocean atolls. This  more or less explains the geological history of this unique, incredible place.

The history of the Dolomites and its secluded valleys begins a lot earlier than what we might think: the burial sites discovered under Mondeval’s cliffs, at an altitude over 2400 metres high, go back to neolithic times. The Dolomites have always been a border zone. Several Italian kingdoms from the Po Valley and the Austro-Hungarian empire ruled these lands at different times. The end of the First World War, which was fought among these very peaks, brought the entire area under Italy’s control. Luckily, despite this, local customs and the German language have been preserved very proudly and are very much alive to this day. Essentially, many of the valleys are bilingual between Italian and German. This linguistic landscape is enriched by Ladin, a third language both written and spoken in 5 of these valleys: Val Gardena, Val Badia, Ampezzo, Livinallongo and Val di Fassa. Ladin is a very old language, dating back to the 5th century. It managed to live through to this day thanks to the location of these valleys, pretty isolated until not that many years ago.

This original mix-up between mediterranean and germanic culture can be seen everywhere: from the architecture and the wooden houses to the arts, traditional food, language and local customs. Talking about customs, the hotel’s receptionist wearing traditional ladin clothes isn’t just a tourist attraction. Wearing the typical “loden” is a custom very much alive here. It is fairly customary to put it on for special occasions, such as weddings and celebrations, and even just for a Sunday lunch.

WHERE TO GO IN THE DOLOMITES

 

 

The Dolomites span an area around 16,000 square kilometres wide. Every one of the valleys has something to show and deserves a few days. So, how can we choose the best place to satisfy your needs?

We point out a few choices below:

If you’d rather combine art, culture and mountains, go for the Brenta Dolomites or the Catinaccio group. Being close to the cities of Bolzano and Trento is definitely a bonus.  

Would you rather on and off piste sking? The Sella group valleys are the most impressive. Val di Fassa, Val Badia, Arabba, Marmolada, Val Gardena they share the largest number of connected lifts in the Dolomites. 

Do you prefer to stay away from the lifts instead? Choose somewhere between Val Pettorina, Val Fiorentina, Val Zoldana and you won’t be disappointed, especially if you are fancy for ski-touring!

Do you want to join wilderness with slope ski and shopping? Of course Cortina d’Ampezzo is the answer!

 

Summit not to be missed:

 

 

A single Dolomitic icon has never been established, due to the endless amount of peaks, spires and incredibly vertical cliffs. Below is just a very limited selection of the most photographed and symbolic mountains, which you should visit in the winter.

  • TRE CIME (Three Peaks of Lavaredo): they sit on the Dolomites’ northern side, within the Sesto Dolomites natural park. They look like 3 huge pinnacles rising up over 500 metres from the scree slopes. They are made of dolomia rock, slowly and constantly modelled by the glaciers sitting on top of them during the various Ice Ages. The northern faces were eroded to such an extent that are now one of the greatest overhanging cliffs in the world (West Peak’s north face). During the winter the crowd which usually hike at the base of them is gone and the car park near-by Auronzo hut is reachable just by walk or, alternatively by a fun ride on a ski-doo. Besides the three peaks, the entire group consists of a few other peaks. Once covered by their white dress they became a ski-touring and snowshoeing paradise.
  • MARMOLADA: the Queen of the Dolomites and its 3,348 metres are the highest peak in the area. Its most characteristic feature is the only remaining Dolomites’ true glacier on the northern side and the most perfect limestone cliff on its southern side. This huge mountain count a number of different peaks: Punta Rocca (3309 meters) is reached by a gondola, from this point there are almost 2000 vertical meters of powder which are skiable totally away from the slopes! Punta Penia (3343 meters) is the highest Marmolada peak, it’s reachable only with a long ski-touring trip. It’s better to tackle this journey in the Spring, when the snow is more stable and safe.

 

 

  • CINQUE TORRI (Five Towers): these are found just a a few hundred metres from Falzarego Pass, just above Cortina d’Ampezzo. The close ski-slope represents an easy access gate to this labyrinth mass of towers (the tallest of which is around 200 metres high). The best way to visit this monument is in fact  by skies or snow-shoes. The skiable forest in the 5 towers area is one of the best option for free-ride during the bad weather days.  
  • TOFANA DI ROZES:  The Tofana, with its impressive size, dominates the landscape and can be seen from far away. From Tofana ski station it’s possible to ski down Bus di Tofana. This free-ride itinerary which counts 1500 vertical meters gap, pass just below the massive south face of Tofana. In the early Spring, it’s possible also to reach the summit  of Tofana di Rosez, with the skies on your feet. This would be one of the best achievement you can think about in the winter Dolomites

When to go? Weather and general observation.

 

 

Weather:

The Dolomites’ climate is typically Alpine, even if somehow made milder given their location on the Alps’ Italian (southern) side. Indeed, the high summits shield the very cold northerly winds coming from Russia and northern Europe. The Dolomites range in height from a minimum of 1,200 metres (valley bottom) up to 3,000 metres (Marmolada is the highest elevation at 3,343 metres).

Temperatures

In the Winter the temperatures are fairly rigid, they clearly decrees with the rise of the altitude. More in details, in January and February at an altitude of 2000 meters, the temperatures show average minimum around -8°C and maximums around -2°C. February is the coldest month within average -5°C; during this period at 2000 meters it often happen to register  minimum temperatures around -20°C. March records minimum temperatures close to February (-6°C), average maximum is above 0°C due to a relatively significant amount of sun.

RAINFALL

With a rainfall average of 125 millimetres during the three winter months (or equal number of centimeters of snow), winter is definitely the most dry season. The average count of winter snowy days is 18. Within a snowfall average of 40 cm, December is the most dry month of all.

WEATHER CHANGES

Due to their very geographic location, between the Mediterranean and Northern Europe, the Dolomites are dominated by 2 opposite weather systems: in fact it’s pretty common a sunny day in the northern side of the range while a storm is hitting the Southern side and vice-versa.  Generally, snowfall in the Dolomites occurs when South Atlantic low pressure push humid streams toward the Dolomites. This is the reason why the southern peaks get a higher amount of snow rather then the norther peaks. Pale di S. Martino, Lagorai, Civetta and Marmolada are the snowiest peaks in the Dolomites.

So if Southerly storms come through, snow would fall in the southern Dolomites while on the other side of the range a relatively hot wind will blow. The “Stau” is the name of this wind which is provoked by the lost of humidity and heating of the original air-mass.  If northerly winds take over, it would snow on the north side while the hot wind will hit the south side. In this case the wind it’s named “fohen”.

When to go:

In the Dolomites the winter season usually starts around the 8th of December (Italian holiday). Even though the lifts can be open earlier if the snow is already on the ground. In the unlucky case the snow would not fall, the Dolomiti Superski area will be fully operative by Christmas time at the latest, thankful to the artificial snow. To spend Christmas time in the mountains is a dream shared by many, that why this is the most crowded and therefore expensive.  For the ones who’re fancy for snow-shoeing or ice-climbing the crowd wouldn’t be their problem at all!

January is a low-season month, so the prices as well as the people are decreasing a little bit, giving to the luckiest the opportunity to enjoy the snow at its best. More over in January the chances to find a good

snow layer are higher rather then December.

February is the coldest month, this guarantee the best quality of powder snow. Besides that, the day light  is longer and the sun makes people feel much warmer. The ice-climbing season is usually running all over February, till the beginning of march.

The snow condition in March can be very similar to February, but less crowded! In this period is not unusual to ski half of an itinerary on powder and a second half on spring snow, just fire!

April is when the lifts generally close. The day it can change depending from Eastern holidays but usually it’s around the 10th. April is the best time to reach the highest Dolomite peaks by ski touring and ride down on a spectacular spring snow!

Accomodation

The Dolomites started gathering visitors more than 100 years ago. This allowed for a long, consolidated tradition around hospitality and accommodation. Generally speaking, you won’t find many large tourist establishments but rather small hotels, apartments for rent or rural tourism well integrated in the villages they are located in. We must note that accommodation standards here are very high. You can safely book a 1-star hotel and not fear about cleanliness, hygiene and the way the will look after you. Often, accommodation is recently refurbished and modern. There are clearly differences between the valleys. The one with the most modern services are Val Badia, Val Gardena, Val Pusteria and Val di Fassa.

 

Mountain huts

 

A “refugio” (mountain hut) is an establishments which provides meals and sleeping facilities. It is usually set in spectacular locations and accessible only on foot (some are also reachable by car). Dolomites’ mountain huts are renowned for being the most welcoming in the Alps; each refugio is different from all the others, and has its own charm: they can offer dormitory facilities but many of them are like a Bed and Breakfast with privates rooms and en-suite bathroom. and hot showers  are always available Dining rooms are warm and cosy: you will be surprised how wooden interiors make amazing sunsets feel even warmer in their charm. To sleep in these you don’t need a sleeping bag, as you’ll find blankets or duvets, however a sleeping liner is mandatory. These can be bought in outdoor shops or even at the huts directly. Huts often offer hearty lunch-time and evening meals, besides some luxuries that can be surprising, like draught beer at 3,000 meters high.

What would you expect from a Dolomite “refugio”? Firstly you should know that the dolomite refugi are renewed to be the best in the Alps;  secondly  offers private rooms and en-suite bathroom,  and fabulous hot meals are served in warm dining areas. Above all yes, they have draft beer!

In the winter season several “refugios” are open. 

In the winter there are several huts on the slopes which are equipped with accommodation: they offer the opportunity to realize the Dolomite master piece called “skisafari”, which means to spend the ski holiday moving on the slopes from one hut to another, all over the Dolomites. Moreover several hut, set away from the ski-slopes, are open in the winter. The existence of a warm and nice accommodation along the ski touring itineraries, makes a Dolomite traverse an experience strongly recommended. 

How to get here:

 

The closest airports from which to reach the Dolomites are listed below in descending order of convenience:

– Venice and Venice-Treviso

– Milan Bergamo (Orio al Serio)

– Innsbruck (Austria)

– Bologna

– Trieste

– Munich

Depending on where you’d like to get to in the Dolomites you can choose from the following options:

– Car hire

– Taxi 

– Train and bus combination:

From Venice or Bologna, a direct bus can take you to Cortina or Val Badia (Cortina Express)

From Trieste, a SAF-operated bus goes to Val Pusteria.

From Bergamo, Terravision’s bus reaches Selva di Val Gardena.

From Belluno’s train station, buses operated by Dolomiti bus will take you to any of the province’s towns and villages such as Cortina, val Cordevole and val Zoldana.

Bolzano’s train station is well connected with val Gardena and val di Fassa through SAD bus company.

In the ‘Links’ section you can find links to the Italian and Austrian railway and main bus operators.

Besides skiing

 

 

Surely the most known sports in the Dolomites are the ski ones: not just down hill ski but ski touring as well as cross country ski. For example Dobbiacco-Cortina is a cross country itinerary which counts 30 km of tracks; it connects the two gorgeous alpine villages (Cortina and Dobbiacco) through passo Cimabanche. Snow-shoeing is getting more popular: for the ones who really needs to relax in the silence of a forest is indeed the best option! In our webpage you’ll find many snow-shoeing itineraries proposals. It is possible to practice ice-climbing from late November to early March almost everywhere in the Dolomites. The most famous place is called Gole di Sottoguda which is an easy access canyon where a huge number of all-grade ice falls can be climbed by climbers in one or two pitches.

 

After ski.

 

We can definitely take advantage of bad weather to relax our muscles in one of the many spas. These are often inside hotel structures, however they are open to the public. A special one is the new thermal complex QC Terme Dolomiti in Val di Fassa.

The master piece of the ski holiday in the dolomites can also be the after-ski parties! You’ll find apres-ski pubs on each Dolomite villages. Down below some suggestions.

What to carry on your rucksack.

 

 

A summary of equipment and clothing we recommend you need, during the ski-safari or Ski-touring is available at this page: What to bring.

Suggested outdoor equipment stores:

 

The Dolomites are well equipped with many outdoor shops packed with gear for the outdoors, via Ferratas, trekking and mountain biking. Here is a list of shops with a good gear selection: