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Val Gardena and the Sella Ronda


By Suz Hedges
 
 
If, like me, you grew up watching Ski Sunday then you will definitely have heard of Val Gardena in the South Tyrol/Südtirol as it's a regular stop on the World Cup Downhill tour and the scene of some of our best British downhill performances (yes, I'm sadly old enough to remember Konrad Bartleski's 2nd place in 1981). However, you may also have heard of Val Gardena because it is situated in the spectaular Italian Dolomites and one of the major starting points for the famous Sella Ronda ski circuit.

The Sassolungo and the Saslonch World Cup Downhill Slope - Photo courtesy of the Val Gardena Tourist Office I travelled to Val Gardena just before Christmas, 2006, to first of all try out the new low cost transfers from Verona Brescia but also to visit Val Gardena for the first time. I was a little concerned that going so early in the season would mean that the piste conditions wouldn't be at their best (especially given the generally bad start to the European ski season) but I was pleasantly surprised to find that not only was the Sella Ronda open but that the snow conditions were excellent thanks to low early-season temperatures and almost 90% snowmaking. There had also been some fresh snow a few days before I arrived so while other resorts in the Alps were still green, Val Gardena and it's surrounding resorts were all white and wintry.

One day just wasn't enough to explore the area totally but with no queues and a very fast guide we managed to ski the Sella Ronda clockwise, taking in Corvara and Arabba along the way before having a late lunch back in the Ciampimoi area above Val Gardena. We then skied the famous World Cup downhill run - the Saslonch - before taking the underground funicular in Santa Cristina (new in 2004/5) to do some of the runs in the Col Raiser/Secëda area. At the end of the day we managed one more run down from the top of the Saslong but this time we took the far left red run and skied down past the magical Castle Gardena.

The scenery was stunning wherever we went and there seemed to be miles and miles of well prepared pistes plus numerous mountain huts to enjoy the great food the region has to offer.

I will definitely be going back, hopefully with all the family, to explore further the beautiful ski area as well as the charming and interesting villages.


Val Gardena
The Villages
 
Set against the backdrop of the magical and spectacular Dolomites, the Val Gardena valley is made up of three charming, south Tyrolean villages.

Ortisei, 1236 m - The best place for shopping and strolling around town.

S. Cristina 1428 m - Good for eating out and apres ski plus good access to the slopes. The World Cup downhill finishes in S. Cristina and the slopes on either side of the village are connected by an underground funicular.

Selva Gardena 1563 m - The biggest village, with easy access to the slopes especially the start of the Sella Ronda.

The area is famous for it's wood-carvings and in the run up to Christmas there were numerous nativity/crib displays, dotted around the villages which all added to the Alpine charm.
 
Selva Gardena - Photo courtesy of the Val Gardena Tourist Office
 

The Skiing and Boarding
The Sella Ronda
 
In the Val Gardena and Alpe di Siusi area there are 176 km of cruising slopes alone which are perfectly suited to intermediates. However, if you are going to visit Val Gardena, a trip around the famous Sella Ronda is a 'must'.

It's a beautiful circular ski route that takes you around the stunning Sella mountain range via the villages of Arabba and Corvara. It can be skied in both directions and covers 26 km of downhill trails in a single day all covered by the Dolomiti Superski Pass. It's well suited to intermediates but more challenging runs can be found around Arabba along the way. It's normally a full day trip especially in peak season, so it's advised to head off early in the morning so that you have no problem getting the last lift back.

The Val Gardena Ronda
 
The Val Gardena Ronda or the Gherdëina Ronda is another route that you can follow for a lovely day out. It covers the ski areas surrounding Selva, S. Cristina and Ortisei, including Alpe Seceda, Furnes, Col Raiser, the Saslonch (World Cup Downhill) trail, Piz Sella and Dantercëpies and is based in the Val Gardena valley. It takes advantage of the new underground train that connects the ski areas 'Sochers/Ciampinoi' with 'Col Raiser/Secëda' enabling skiers and snowboarders to reach Plan de Gralba and other ski resorts in Val Gardena using lifts and without having to take a bus or car.

 Gherdëina Map

Sassolungo - Photo courtesy of the Val Gardena Tourist Office

Dolomiti Superski
 
The Dolomiti Superski Pass not only gives you access to the Sella Ronda but also to 12 regions and 1,220 km of slopes.

 Val Gardena/Alpe di Siusi
 Cortina d'Ampezzo
 Kronplatz
 Alta Badia
 Val di Fassa/Carezza
 Arabba-Marmolada
 Alta Pusteria
 Val di Fiemme/Obereggen
 San Martino di Castrozza/Passo Rolle
 Valle Isarco
 Tre Valli
 Civetta

If you want to make the most of the Dolomiti Ski Pass it's probably best to have a car although buses do connect some of the resorts.

 
Track your day's skiing
 
If you have a Dolmiti Superski Pass you can track your day's skiing at www.dolomitisuperski.com.

You can check out my day's skiing by simply typing in the following numbers in the POS boxes then clicking on the Check button twice.

108 31867

Suz's day's skiing - click for a larger image


Booking your trip
Independent Travel
 
The new low coast coach transfers (from £8 one-way) from Verona Brescia (2hr 30) and Milano Bergamo (3hr) tie in well with Ryan Air flights and are your best option if you are travelling on Friday, Saturday or Sunday otherwise you will probably need to book a taxi or rent a car. Innsbruck (1hr 50) is closer but there are no bus transfers.

 www.ryanair.com
 www.lowcostcoach.com (Fri-Sun only)
 www.holidayautos.co.uk
 
Where to stay
 
I stayed in the comfortable 3 star Hotel Welponer in Selva which was family run, with a beautiful swimming pool, jacuzzi, sauna and spa. The food was excellent and it was about a 10 minute stroll to the village centre, or a few minutes by the hotel's shuttle. Only downside was my lack of German!



The resort does get busy so make sure you book accommodation well in advance. Bookings are normally for 7 nights but it is possible to get short-break accommodation. Availability can be checked at:

 www.valgardena.it