Right at the heart of South Tyrol’s Unesco World Heritage Dolomites with dreamy pastures, impressive mountain peaks and guaranteed snow in winter, the Alta Badia valley is a shoo-in holiday destination for adventure sports enthusiasts looking for their next ski thrill and pristine slopes.
And, thanks to its position in Italy’s northernmost province which borders Austria and Switzerland, it also has an average of 300 days of sunshine each year and a special Alpine-Mediterranean vibe that combines Italian flair with Ladin friendliness (the Ladins are the inhabitants of this once remote region, who have successfully preserved their traditional farming and craft culture) and world-class food.
A stay in one of Alta Badia’s six villages puts you slap bang in the middle of the Sellaronda, part of the world’s largest ski network covered by a single lift pass, the Dolomiti Superski – an area with 1,200km of slopes, situated between 1,300 and 2,778 metres above sea level.
The Sellaronda, the classic day trip for competent skiers include going all the way around the Sella-Massif – one of the most impressive circuits in South Tyrol – on 40km of ski runs that cross four Dolomite passes (the Campolongo Pass, the Pordoi Pass, the Sella Pass and the Gardena Pass) and skirt around five resorts.
More expert skiers will want to make one of several possible detours for a black run adrenaline rush, including the Gran Risa giant slalom piste, the Vallon-Boè in Corvara and the Saslong downhill piste (which is used for the annual FIS Ski World Cup), accessed from Val Gardena’s S. Cristina village.
Alternatively, history buffs may prefer the 80km First World War ski tour, which is centred round Mount Col di Lana. Here, you’ll find all kinds of wartime era traces, from artefacts and trenches that run right through the rocks to parapet walks and forts.
One of the most spectacular runs of the day is the Armentarola ski slope that descends from the top of Lagazuoi with jaw-dropping panoramic mountain views. The longest slope in the Dolomites, it weaves through a charming valley with craggy mountain faces and steep ice falls down towards Sass Dlacia where a horse and cart waits to take skiers to the Armentarola lift, the entrance to the ski area of Alta Badia. This slope also forms part of another circuit around the Lagazuoi Mountain which takes in the Falzarego Pass.
As much as Alta Badia caters for experienced, advanced level skiers, there are also plenty of slopes for novices and families too: around half of the pistes come under the “less challenging” category, plus there are lifts suitable for children and ski kindergartens.
Whichever circuit you choose, along the way you’ll find welcoming mountain huts where you can warm cold hands with a mug of steaming hot chocolate and fuel up with a hearty lunch.
And, at the end of the day when you’re feeling ski weary, there is nothing more rejuvenating than the sight of the Dolomite Mountains – especially the Santa Croce, which is renowned for its blaze of colour – illuminated in glorious sundown shades of pink, orange and carmine. Ladins call the phenomenon “enrosadira”.