Not only does Val Gardena offer direct access to the legendary Sellaronda skiing carousel that surrounds the Sella massif, but its kingpin position in South Tyrol means that it is also part of the Dolomiti Superski, a world-famous network of 12 skiing areas and 1,200kms of slopes that can be accessed with a single pass.
So it’s no wonder that Val Gardena was named Italy’s Best Ski Resort in 2017 by the World Ski Awards. Over the years it has scooped a bunch of other accolades too, including five stars as “best skiing area” by German website skiresort.de, one of the most important in the world when it comes to assessing skiing regions.
Pro-athletes wanting to challenge themselves have been hurtling down the valley’s slopes and competing here for decades. The 1969 World Cup race was followed swiftly a year later by the Ski World Championships, and since then the annual FIS World Cup has been held on the Saslong slope in the shadow of the towering Saslong mountain peak every year before Christmas (Italian heroes of the sport and former Alpine skiing champions Werner Perathoner and Peter Runggaldier were both born locally, in Selva/Wolkenstein village).
Of course, it’s not just the experts who appreciate fresh powder and the breathtaking Alpine landscapes: skiers of all abilities have long been flocking here for winter holidays. The Alpe di Siusi, accessible from Val Gardena, is ideal for beginners and families with children who want to grow their confidence on easy green and blue runs, plus the region has a good selection of ski and mountaineering schools that offer classes for enthusiasts of all ages.
Amateur skiers can tackle the one-day 40km Sellaronda circuit knowing that 24km of the route can be completed by cable car if muscles start to ache (if you ski clockwise from Selva Val Gardena follow the orange signs; for anti-clockwise stick to the green signs).
Alongside plenty of blue slopes, Val Gardena also offers slopes for other fun-filled winter sports from snowshoe hiking to indoor ice skating and sledding. You can even have dinner in a mountain hut and then toboggan down to your valley village. All the slopes are perfectly groomed, prepared each evening for the next day’s activities by around 300 snowcats.
Taking any of the valley’s three charming villages as a starting point – Ortisei/St. Ulrich, S. Cristina and Selva/Wolkenstein – there are also several day ski excursions worth considering, from the intense Val Gardena Ronda carousel which leads to the Marmolada, the mountain range known as the “Queen of the Dolomites”. It is reached by skiing over the Sella Pass and then taking the Porta Vescovo cable car.
Admire spherical sundials, snow cannons and ice waterfalls alongside sights such as Fischberg Castle, a Renaissance-style summer residence and hunting lodge on culturally-inspired ski routes. Spend a few hours visiting Col Raiser, a mountain station turned private museum which houses landscape paintings of the Dolomites. Or, if you’re at an advanced level, you could attempt the slopes of the 1970 World Championship Skiing Tour which first put this unique valley on the map as a must-visit winter destination.
Italy’s best-kept secret
Combine alpine splendour with Mediterranean soul in South Tyrol, the northernmost region of Italy.
It’s the perfect getaway for skiing and winter enthusiasts, with stupendous views, and those who enjoy delicious Italian cuisine. Imagine your holiday. Live it in South Tyrol.