Initially hoping to connect with our friends Charlotte and Adrian who were also planning on skiing in the area, Dad and I based our trip starting in an area near the city of Bolzano, Italy. As we drove up from Milan, we were really worried about the lack of snow (which had also driven Charlotte and Adrian north into Austria to chase good snow conditions). Having already booked accommodations in the tiny village of San Genesio near Bolzano, we decided to at least try skiing there for a day.
To start our Italian leg of the journey off, we were fortunate to get directed to a great little restaurant in the middle of nowhere (literally not a town around) and though only their chef spoke English, we ended up with two of the best meals of the trip there! The first dinner also put us on “Radlers” (beer + lemonade) – we were well carb loaded for the skiing to come!
Our first day at Alpe di Siusi was just a glimpse of what we had in store for the week. To get to Alpe di Siusi, the best bet is to take a gondola from the small town of Seis. This takes you up to high elevation terrain and boy does it pay off. The snow conditions were spectacular and nothing but blue skies, not a hint of wind and temperatures between 0 and 4 degrees. A neat difference between Canada and Europe that we discovered is that there are just as many skate ski trails as there are set for classic. What a treat. The first day we struggled a bit with the altitude and lack of ski fitness 😉 but none the less we found some of the most beautiful sets of trails that we had all week. Also, here we were first introduced to the culture of Nordic skiing in Europe. There are great little cafes all along the routes where you can sit out in the sun enjoying great food (including baskets of fresh bread) and a great latte or tea. We enjoyed this aspect every single day of our skiing trip. With no rush to complete our ski for the day, these cafes allowed us to people watch, relax and rest our muscles for more afternoon skiing ☺.
One of the neatest things we discovered about skiing in Europe is how accessible the trails are. At Alpe di Siusi (and other resort style areas that are further developed), there are separate trails in the area for hiking, snowshoeing, horse drawn sleighs, tobogganing and fat tire biking! These trails all intersect occasionally but it’s truly well planned meaning you never have to worry about someone walking on the ski trails and it’s great to be skiing along and see a horse drawn sleigh beside you!
Our plan for the next day was to head back up to Alpe di Siusi knowing that there were still trails to be skied! Sadly, the weatherman had different plans for us. As we climbed up into Seis, it was snowing quite hard. At the tourist information they informed us that it wouldn’t be possible to ski until they had time to let the snow settle and groom it (the next morning)…so day two got to be a rest day ;). This break gave my dad the opportunity to continue to coach me in scrabble.
On Tuesday we woke up bright and early to find settled snow and blue skies. We headed back to Alpe di Siusi. We saw similar conditions to day one (perfection) and explored some additional “black” trails (the most challenging). We dropped into valleys and climbed all the way back out. I wish on this day that we actually were tracking our elevation change as it would have been pretty epic…or at least my legs and lungs thought so!
Staying one more night in San Genesio, we headed out bright and early towards our next destination: Toblach (still in the South Tyrol but right beside the Austrian border). With a fantastic map of the ski areas in the Dolomites (along with a great website Dad found called www.Bergflex.com), we opted to take a slight detour for a day of skiing in the small town of Rein in Taufers. This secluded town has 15kms of groomed trails right in the heart of town. We got there just as the sun was rising and skied one loop classic, stopped for a snack and to people watch – there were lawn chairs out and it seemed like the entire town was out on the trails (great to see so many people of different ages using the trail systems in Europe). After our daily latte and strudel break (I was beginning to consider a part time job in strudel tasting), we headed back out for a second lap on our skate skis. We were so glad we did this day trip as it was pretty cool to ski literally in the heart of town.
Staying in Toblach (in a B&B – which as a side note, we could not believe how many of these huge houses exist in the area), we headed out the next morning to attempt a ski along the Tour de Ski route from Toblach up to the next town (San Candido). Little did we realize that this was the same route Charlotte and Adrian had been recommending to us earlier in the week! We lucked out in yet another day of blue skies and fantastic conditions. We weren’t able to do the entire route to San Candido as the trails were pretty needle covered about 7kms from Candido so we opted to stop for lunch and turn back there. It was still a huge day (about 40 kms) and we were glad we got to ski this route when we did as the warm weather was starting to impact the trails and by the following week I’m sure it wouldn’t have been skiable.
Staying that night again in Toblach, we took recommendations to ski a high altitude set of trails (Plätzwiese/Prato Piazza) which were apparently the best skiing around (known as mini Alpe di Siusi). Because this is in a national park, driving is only possible until 10:30am. We headed up early and although we were much closer to the top than we anticipated (lots of switchbacks) our little rental car couldn’t make it and we had to drive back down to take the shuttle up. It turns out we were only about 200m from the top and could have walked but we had no idea ☺. On the way up we had seen some great skiing in the valley and decided if we had the energy we would tackle some of them in the afternoon. Prato Piazza was beautiful although it was quite windy that day, we still had blue skies. The area only has about 7 kms of trails and it was busier than we expected with a lot of beginners (good for them I say – there were some tough trails). We skied a couple laps and then took the shuttle back down to ski some of the valley trails. These trails ended up being in spectacular shape and we climbed quite high before turning around to descend back to our car. It was fast and fun skiing.
Later that day, we drove from Toblach into Austria to the small town of Werfenweng. Staying at another B&B we headed out the next day bright and early right out our front door to the trails. Having noticed them on the way into town we hoped that we would have enough skiing there for our last day. However, our early morning ski was a good idea as we discovered they were not in the stellar shape that we had gotten spoiled with all week so we opted to head on to nearby Radstadt.
We were sure glad that we opted to head to Radstadt. They have over 90kms of track set trails through the valley (connecting nearby towns). We skied up a beautiful side valley along a river and had some of the prettiest scenery of the entire trip. We also had yet another day of blue skies and warm weather. We were soon skiing without our jackets on. We followed the river up to the end of the trail system – stopping at the trail head café for snacks (my last strudel of the trip) and a seat in the sun!
We continued to ski well into the afternoon that last day. The conditions were just too good and the skiing fast. After skiing for hours we finally decided as the sun started to drop that we probably needed to call it a day. All in that day we skied about 50kms! It felt great but boy were we tired by the time we had dinner ☺. We ate at a great little restaurant in Werfenweng called Seealm Stuberl where we both ordered fish. A couple minutes later the chef came in with a bucket and showed us our fish (trout) swimming around in the bucket! They had a pond out back where they kept their fish in. We were both pretty shocked by how fresh the food was ☺. It was a great last night of what I can say has been hands down one of the best vacations I’ve ever had. Great company, amazing scenery, tons of fresh air and blue skies every day but one. Who could ask for more? Dad continued his skiing for a couple more days – heading back to Radstadt and then on to Alpe di Siusi and saw more sun and great trails. It might be tough for us to ski in Canada after this ski culture shock in Europe! ☺
Life is good. Thanks for a great week Dad!