Veneto has 28 villages where you can ski, but the vast majority have just a handful of lifts and can’t be considered resorts. That is something that could never be said of Veneto’s two major resorts – Arabba and Cortina D’Ampezzo. These are geographically close to one another but offer very different challenges.
Arabba, Cortina d’Ampezzo and some of the Veneto’s smaller resorts are all part of the Dolomiti Superski. This in total gives access to nearly 1200km of pistes, across several Italian regions.It’s not a unified ski area, but a single ski pass that covers lots of different resorts, some of which are linked (mostly via the Sella Ronda circuit, which includes Arabba).
The history of Veneto is fascinating. It was part of both Austria and France before being returned to Italy in 1866. It also was the setting for some of the deadliest fighting in the First World War and this is commemorated by specialist historic ski tours and in a museum at the lift station on the Marmolada glacier, which you can ski to from Arabba. But it’s not just history lovers and skiers who will get something special from this region. The Dolomites claim with some justification to be the prettiest mountains in the Alps. And if that is not enough, Venice is only a few hours away by car.
Not widely known outside Italy, which is part of its appeal, Arabba offers skiers an attractive combination of quick access onto the Sella Ronda’s almost limitless supply of blue runs with excellent artificial snow-making, plus its own small area of tougher skiing (Porta Vescovo), and a link to a 3200m snow-sure glacier – the Marmolada. It therefore satisfies a wide variety of skiers, while also being cheaper, quieter and more authentic than many better known ski resorts. Porto Vescovo and Marmolada have over 60 km of slopes, almost entirely composed of red and black pistes, including the single long red run that descends from the highest lift on the glacier all the way to the valley floor. The whole area is perfect territory for most intermediates. Experts staying a full week will almost certainly want to hire a guide to explore the various off-piste routes on the glacier and probably the famous Val di Mesdi run as well, which can be accessed at nearby Saas Pordoi via the Sella Ronda. In contrast beginners and timid intermediates will want to head in the opposite direction, going round the Sella Ronda anticlockwise to reach the blue runs of Alta Badia in Sud Tirol.
Cortina D’Ampezzo is one of the world’s glitziest ski resorts, competing with St Moritz, Courchevel and Gstaad for the custom of the rich and famous. And in this fight, Cortina has a weapon the others can’t beat: the stunningly beautiful pink-tinged Dolomites. In between this spectacular backdrop and the luxury shops, glamorous supercars, designer clothes and chic restaurants, is a quite big if rather fragmented skiing area, mostly composed of immaculately groomed gentle slopes. There are about 120km of pistes and 35 ski lifts in total, with the highest lift reaching over 2900m. If you need more than this, a Dolomiti Superski pass gives access to another 1000 km of piste, 400km of which can be accessed through the Sella Ronda circuit, which is less than an hour away by car. You can actually ski onto it from Cortina’s Lagazuoi’s lift, but you have to return by taxi or bus.
Getting to Veneto ski resorts
Almost all Veneto’s resorts are within 2-3 hours’ drive of Venice Marco Polo Airport. Closer still is Treviso Airport, sometimes called ‘Venice Treviso’ airport and popular with some low cost airlines. This makes both Arabba and Cortina very feasible as weekend and short break ski destinations. Alternatively, they can be combined with a stay in Venice itself for an ideal two-centre ski holiday.