The Sud Tirol is dominated by the mighty, and spiky, Dolomites and their jagged peaks shape the skiing experience in more ways than one. Sud Tirol offers a choice of five main ski areas ranging from from small (27km) to large (400km) and a wide range of ski accommodation to suit all budgets.
The Dolomites are spectacular, so beautiful views are commonplace, but they are not easily transformed into broad skiing areas so even linked resorts tend to be fragmented with just a single piste and a single lift connecting them.
The Dolomites are also on the South Eastern flank of the Alpes, and tend to receive less snow than the mountains to the North and West of them – which makes the area perfect for sun-drenched mountain lunches, but not so good for off-piste powder.
Fortunately, what nature can’t provide, modern technology can. Sud Tirol has some of the best artificial snowmaking in the whole of Europe. And the fragmentation problem is partially solved by the Dolomiti Superski. This claims to be the greatest ski resort in the world, which it isn’t, because it’s not a ski resort at all; instead it’s a ski pass that covers lots of different resorts, some of which are linked (mostly via the Sella Ronda circuit). The Dolomiti Superski also stretches beyond the Sud Tirol, reaching into Veneto and Trentino, covering Cortina d’Amprezzo and Val di Fassa for instance. In total it gives access to 1200 Km of slopes, which makes it about twice as large as the Portes Du Soleil or the 3 Valleys in France.
This is the German speaking part of Italy so almost every ski resort in Sud Tirol has two names at least. Up in the mountains, a third language, Ladin, is also used and to make matters even more confusing English-speakers sometimes use an Anglicised version of all three names and hence Sud Tirol or Südtirol, Alto Adige, Sud Tirolo, South Tyrol or South Tirol. Below are the main ski areas in the Sud Tirol:
Val Gardena / Selva Wolkenstein
Selva (Italian) and Wolkenstein (German) are the names of a village in in the valley of Gardena (also Groden or Groednertal), but the ski area is commonly known as Val Gardena. It’s now the biggest resort on the Sella Ronda circuit, which you can ski in either direction, provided you have a Dolomiti Superski pass: clockwise takes you through Colfosco, Corvara, Arabba, Canazei then back to Val Gardena. Each resort has its own ski area, which means in total there are around 400km of pistes. Most are blues and gentle reds, although there is more challenging skiing at Arabba. But beginners and intermediates who want to spend only a limited time on the slopes might not need to venture onto the Sella Ronda at all, because Val Gardena has its own ski area, which is linked to Alpe di Siusi to provide 175 km of local slopes, covered by a single pass. S. Cristina (St Christina) is the village next door to Selva (Wolkenstein) in the Gardena valley. Its slopes connect not only with Selva’s but also with those of Ortisei (St Ulrich) to form the joint Val Gardena-Alpe di Siusi area. If you want to spend most of your time skiing this local area, S. Cristina or Ortisei are perfectly situated and have less traffic than Selva, but they are further away from the main Sella Ronda circuit. Ultimate Ski Guide to Val Gardena >
Alta Badia / Corvara and Colfosco
Many skiers passing through Corvara and Colfosco on the Sella Ronda assume these are just pleasant lunch stops on the main circuit. But Corvara and Colfosco also have their own ski area, known as Alta Badia, which links the two villages to San Cassiano, La Villa and Badia, each of which has its own ski slopes. Most of the pistes are short, gentle blue runs. For red and black runs you have either to descend down through the trees to the actual villages, or go to the very highest point at Vallon. For experts with a guide, the Val Mezdi (also called Val di Mesdi) is a justly famous off-piste run through the centre of the Sella Ronda that ends at Colfosco. The lift at Armentarola near San Cassiano and part of the Alta Badia area is also the destination for ski routes starting from both the Valparola pass (accessible by taxi from San Cassiano) and from Lagacio, part of the Cortina d’Ampezzo ski area (covered by the Dolomiti Superski pass). But off piste skiing is not really what Alta Badia is all about. It’s a place where gentle pistes connect charming villages with excellent hotels and restaurants with beautiful views. And if you get tired of the scenery, there is a frequent ski bus connection to Kronplatz, where a whole new ski area with different vistas awaits.
Val Senales / Schnalstaler
Val Senales (Italian) or Schnalstaler Gletscher (German) is a small area (27km of slopes) with a high glacier, with lifts up to 3200m. It has an excellent reputation as a snow-sure resort that’s perfect for beginners, especially late in the season. Maso Corto (Kurzra) is the base area at 2000m where most people stay but you can also stay at the Glacier Hotel Grawand – which claims to be Europe’s highest hotel – at over 3000m. The highest runs are mostly aimed at near-beginners and skiers of all standards who want to keep on practising their technique on special red training runs. For those who just want to meander around, the runs below the glacier and on the opposite side of the valley offer a more interesting proposition. They are almost all black and red, and will keep an intermediate busy for a few days, but not for a whole week. Experts and more confident intermediates will therefore almost certainly want to venture off-piste, but should take a guide unless they want to share the same fate as the area’s most famous former resident, Oetzi, the stone age man who met his end on a nearby glacier over 5,000 years ago.
Kronplatz / Plan de Corones
Kronplatz (the Italian name of Plan de Corones is less used) has 119 km of runs accessed from 32 lifts rising to 2275m. This should be more than enough for a beginner or an intermediate who is easily tempted off the slopes and into one of the many local bars and restaurants. Keener and more confident skiers, however will want to buy a Dolomiti Superski pass and use the frequent free ski bus service that connects to Alta Badia (see above) and/or the train to Versciaco in the Drei Zinnen area (see below). In the Kronplatz area itself, most of the runs are blue, but there are 13 Reds, and 7 Blacks, two of which are over 7km long provided there is snow all the way to the valley floor at about 1000m.
Drei Zinnen / Tre Cime
In English the area is branded ‘Three peaks of the Dolomites’ which is a pity because the literal translation of Drei Zinnen (or Tre Cime) is the much more memorable ‘Three Melons’ – named after the three photogenic and vaguely melon-shaped rocky outcrops that many skiers use as backdrop for a selfie. In total there are 80km of slopes, of which over 70km are in a central connected area running from Vierschach (Versciaco) up to Helm (Monte Elmo) and back down to Sexten (Sesto) and Moos (Moso) then back up to the Kreuzbergpass (Passo M. Croce). There are also smaller separate areas at Innichen/San Candido and at Toblach (Dobbiaco). The main Helm area has a good variety of black, red and blue runs. Intermediates and above, however will want to use their Dolomiti Superski pass and the train station at Vierschach to access the larger Kronplatz area (see above).
Getting to Sud Tirol
The closest airports to the Sud Tirol with regular scheduled international flights are Innsbruck to the north and Verona to the south – and most of the resorts are within three hours’ drive of one or both of these. The regional airport of Bolzano/Bozen is even closer but has much fewer flights. Treviso Airport (sometimes called Venice Treviso) is also convenient for Alta Badia.