Val di Fassa offers good skiing, good food and a wide choice of accommodation amid Italy’s spectacular Dolomites – surely a contender for the most spectacular mountain range in the world.
Situated in the Italian region of Trentino, Val di Fassa is north of Verona and close to the Italian / Austrian border at Brenner. Getting to Val di Fassa by air is easy with four airports within a reasonable 155-182km transfer distance.
There's a wide range of accommodation to suit any taste and budget and a choice of seven Val di Fassa villages; of which Canazei, Campitello and Pozza di Fassa are the most popular. While each village differs in style, location and character, the one common denominator is the spellbinding sight of the Dolomites jutting imperiously above the Fassa Valley.
Val di Fassa is much more than an alpine skiing destination. A full winter experience can be enjoyed here, with plenty of cross country skiing, snow shoeing, winter walks, excellent shopping and an abundance of homely restaurants and pizzerias.
Val di Fassa is a relatively complex arrangement with five distinct ski areas above seven Fassa valley villages, partly connected by 59 ski lifts and occasionally by bus, and further lift connections at one end to the neighbouring Tre Valli (Alpe Lusia and Passo San Pelligrino) ski area and to Dolomiti Superski (Sud Tirol) at the other.
Val di Fassa ski areas offer a vertical elevation of over 1000m rising from 1320m at the Pozza di Fassa base area, to 2485m at Col Rodella in the Campitello area, and off-piste opportunities from the top of the Sass Pordoi cable car at 2950m. Artificial snow-making covers 95% of pistes when needed.
Five Val di Fassa ski areas comprise 84km red and 27km blue, but only 11km of black runs. Val di Fassa skiing is best for intermediates and beginners and while there's not much challenging on-piste skiing for advanced skiers, there's plenty of skiing off-piste and good ski guiding available locally.
Val di Fassa ski areas and villages are surrounded by spectacular Dolomites mountains including Sella Massif (3152m), Marmolada (3342m), Rosengarten (2981m) and the beautiful Pale of San Martino (2996m) and situated along a 20km stretch of road from Moena (the 'gateway' to Val di Fassa) to Canazei and Alba.
The most convenient places to stay are Canazei (1460m), Campitello (1440m), Possa di Fassa (1320m), Vigo di Fassa (1390m) and Moena (1200m), Canazei and Campitello being the most popular. It's easy to travel the length of the valley in under 30 minutes by car or taxi, but not by bus, and your access to the ski area and the way you enjoy it depends whereabouts in the valley you are staying.
Although the local Belvedere ski area above Canazei is just 22km of mainly intermediate pistes between 1460m - 2423m, it is also connected by lift system to the Col Rodella ski area (17km) at Campitello and by a 1km shuttle bus to Alba giving access to another 32km Fassa Valley piste skiing. But the main draw is the direct link to the Sella Ronda and the vastness of the Dolomiti Superski region offering 1,200 km of piste, of which 800 km are connected.
From Canazei, a gondola takes skiers to Pecol and the wide open area beneath Belvedere (2423m) served by half a dozen more six ski lifts including the Pecol Col di Rossi cable car and a series of chairlifts leading to the Saas Pordoi cable car, the highest lift of the Val di Fassa region at 2950m. At the top of Sass Pordoi there are splendid views and an off-piste ski route called the Val Mezdi from 2950m down to Passo Pordoi 2239m, and although there are no pisted descents, if you can't ski off-piste it's worth riding the cable car up and down to appreciate the unfolding views.
From Campitello - just 3km from Canazei - a cable car whisks skiers up the mountain to Col Rodella (2485m) and another 17km of intermediate skiing between Col Rodella and Passo Sella, served by 5 chair lifts and 2 surface lifts. Skiing here is directly under the gaze of the magnificent 'Sasso Lungo' in Alto Adige, acknowledged as one of the most beautiful peaks in the Dolomites. To get from Campitello to Sella Ronda and the greater area beyond, skiers should ski over to the Pian Frataces - Gherdecia gondola then connect onwards to Passo Pordoi.
The Val di Fassa gateway to Sella Ronda is the chairlift from Passo Pordoi to the nearby ski resort of Arabba and access to Sella Ronda and Dolomiti Superski.
The Sella Ronda or Four Passes Tour is an iconic 42km lift connected ski tour around the stunningly beautiful Sella Ronda Massif, which draws huge numbers of skiers every season.
Entry points from the Val di Fassa are at Canazei and Campitello. En route the journey will take in Selva Val Gardena, Corvara and Arabba before returning to your chosen departure point.
Skiers can choose to go clockwise (orange route) or anti-clockwise (green route), with the orange route being the more challenging of the two. Skiers should allow 5-6 hours for this excursion. It is sound advice to make an early start to beat the crowds, especially at the end of the day.
Note that the Val di Fassa ski lift pass is not valid for Sella Ronda. To ski the Sella Ronda and beyond you need to buy the Dolomiti Superski pass, valid for 800 km of lift connected skiing, and another 400 km that isn't lift connected, all skiable on one lift pass!
Buffaure-Ciampac ski area is easily reached either by gondola from the village of Pozzo di Fassa (1320m) to Buffaure (2020m) or from the village of Alba (1500m), higher up the valley (near Canezai), where a cable car leads to Ciampac (2100m). The Buffaure-Ciampac ski area (32km) between 1390m-2428m is served by a total of 11 ski lifts with a capacity of 16,000 riders per hour. The ski slopes here are mostly intermediate red runs (25km) but there's also plenty of opportunity to ski off-piste on northwest facing slopes beneath Sella Brunech (2428m).
From the top of the Pozza-Buffaure gondola you can ski and ride a series of red runs and chairlifts between Buffaure and Ciampac, then ski the black run down to Alba and return to ski area by cable car. Ski the return journey from Ciampac back to Buffaure where you can ski the 6km long red run snaking down the Valle San Nicolo, with a typical outcrop of spiky red dolomite on the left side of the descent. On the final part of the descent, the steep Aloch run, illuminated for night skiing comes into view.
From Vigo di Fassa (1390m), a cable car heads up the mountain to Ciampedie at 2,000m, the jumping off point for another 16km of mostly red (10 km) and blue (5km) pistes including a 4km long blue run down to Pera, a tiny village just outside Pozza di Fasso (1320m). Ciampede ski area includes 6 ski lifts with a capacity of 8,650 riders per hour, and because there is no link with bigger areas, queues are rarely an issue. Most of the pistes are in a compression in the lee of the Rosengarten chain of mountains, and as with most of the Val di Fassa, the surroundings are inspirational.
A regular bus service runs 9km from Vigo di Fassa to the Carezza ski area (35km) at the top of the Costalunga Pass, on the border between Trentino and the predominately German speaking province of Sud Tirol. Carezza ski area is mostly gentle blue and easy red runs between 1752 m - 2337m, but also includes a designated freeride zone for skiing off-piste to the left of the Monte Coronelle chairlift. Carezza's 11 ski lifts have a lift capacity of 14,000 riders per hour and because Carezza ski area is not connected to any other, it seldom suffers from lift queues. For night-time fun the 'Christomanus' run (1.2km) is illuminated.
Although strictly speaking not part of Val di Fassa, the neighbouring Tre Valli ski area (100km) and lifts system is clearly marked on the Val di Fassa ski map and offers 100km more piste skiing nearby.
The nearest ski area to Moena (1200m) is the small Alpe Lusia Bellamonte ski area (26km) with 5 ski lifts carrying up to 10,700 riders per hour. Access to the ski area is by gondola from Ronchi (2-3km from Moena) to Le Cune (2380m). It's mostly easy beginner skiing at the top of the lift system either side of Le Cune and between Lasté and Bellamonte, with intermediate red runs from Le Cune down to middle station at Valbona (1820m) and a single black run from Valbona down to the base station at Ronchi. It is possible, in good conditions, to ski on a track back from Ronchi to Moena.
There is a good ski bus service from Moena to the Ronchi and beyond to Passo San Pellegrino (15km south of Moena) where there's 74km intermediate and beginner skiing on slopes at Passo San Pellegrino (1918m) and on Col Margherita (2513m) served by a dozen ski lifts carrying up to 24,840 riders per hours. Alpe Lusia ski lifts are not covered by the Fassa Valley ski lift pass so if you wish to ski both Val di Fassa and Passo San Pellegrino (Tre Valli), it is necessary to buy the Dolomiti Superski lift pass.
The Val di Fassa ski map shows five distinct ski areas covered by the Val di Fassa 'local' ski pass, three of which - Carezza (35km), Ciampedie (16km) and Buffaure-Ciampac (32km) - stand alone and are not connected except by bus. The most popular ski areas - Belvedere - Passo Pordoi (22km) at Canezai and Col Rodella - Passo Sella (17km) at Campitello are connected by ski lift and, more importantly, connect to the massive Dolomiti Superski Region. There's also a 1km shuttle bus ride between Canezai and Alba making it easy to connect to Buffaure-Ciampac.
For guests staying in Val di Fassa (except Moena ) there are two choices - either the Val di Fassa 'local' pass or the Dolomiti Superski pass. In general, beginners or more cautious skiers will probably be happy with the Val di Fassa lift pass. For more adventurous skiers, including those who want to do the Sella Ronda ski tour, the Dolomiti Superski pass is the right (and only) choice and only marginally (15%) more expensive. Discounts apply for youths and senior citizens and kids up to 6 years old ski free.
Guests who stay in Moena have another choice - the Trevalli Pass. Trevalli offers another 100km of skiing at the San Pellegrino Pass/Alpe Lusia, with a connection to Falcade in the Province of Veneto. The first access lift to this area is just outside Moena on the road to San Pellegrino at Ronchi, but it must be stressed that this is a different lift system, not covered by the Val di Fassa lift pass. However, if skiers choose to buy the Dolomiti Superski Pass, this covers both Val di Fassa and Trevalli, with the bonus of another 1,000 km or so of piste elsewhere in Dolomiti Superski Region!
Strèda de Parèda 65, Canazei 38032, Trentino
Tel: +39 0462 601583
Alba di Canazei
Strèda de Contrin 15 (at the cable car station), Canazei 38032, Trentino
Tel: +39 0462 601206
Loc. Ischia 3 (at the cable car station), Campitelllo di Fassa 38031, Trentino
Tel: +39 0462 750261
Pozza di Fassa
Piaz de Sèn Nicolò 4, Pozza di Fassa 38036, Trentino
Tel: +39 0462 764085
Vigo di Fassa
Strada de Col de Mé 6 (at the cable car station), Vigo di Fassa, 38038, Trentino
Tel: +39 0462 763242
Strada Löwy, 42 Moena, 38035, Trentino
Tel: +39 0462 573440
I Ronchi 4 (at the cable car station), Moena 38035, Trentino
Tel: +39 0462 573207
Passo San Pellegrino
Sèn Pelegrin, 31 Moena 38035, Trentino
Tel: + 39 0462 573016
The inspirational beauty of the Dolomites coupled with the expertise of the Val di Fassa ski schools is a persuasive combination. There are 24 kms of blue runs available on the Val di Fassa lift pass, but most beginners' progress quickly, and many of Val di Fassa's well-groomed red pistes should be within their capability as the ski week unfolds.
There are several ski schools in Val di Fassa and careful consideration should be given to the choice of resort, ensuring that there is a ski school or ski school meeting place nearby. While each village has its merits, either the village of Vigo di Fassa or Pozza di Fassa would be a good choice. Both have excellent ski schools, and both areas tend to offer a quieter environment for learners, whereas Campitello and Canazei are much busier. Oddly, the area with most blue runs, Carezza (13 km), doesn't have an adjacent village.
Beginner skiers are unlikely to need the more expensive Dolomiti Superski lift pass, as the Val di Fassa pass will provide more than enough skiing for beginners and early intermediates, with all of the resorts either linked by ski lifts or ski bus.
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Canazei and Campitello lead the way with a combined tally of 35kms, and of course both of these resorts also link to the 42km Sella Ronda tour, and the vast Dolomiti Superski region.
From Campitello, the Campitello-Col Rodela cable car deposits skiers and boarders at 2,485m, and directly from this high point there is a swathe of well groomed red runs served by seven chair and surface lifts, extending in one direction to the Sella Pass road, and to Pian Frataces in the other.
From Plan Frataces the lift system rises towards the pistes of Canazei. Take the Plan Frataces - Gherdecia chair to gain access to this area, which in turn connects to the Fodom lift out of the Val di Fassa over to Arabba. At this point it is important to know where you are and that you have the right lift pass, as the Val di Fassa lift pass isn't valid in Arabba, or anywhere out of the Val di Fassa.
Remaining within the boundaries of the Val di Fassa lift pass, there are eight ski lifts on the Canazei side serving the open red runs with the backdrop of the towering Marmolada. Canzaei is the most popular resort in Val di Fassa and these runs can get very busy, especially at the end of the day as day skiers from the Sella Ronda and Dolomiti Superski return home.
The other connected area is Ciampac - Buffaure (25 km), and not being otherwise connected to the Sella Ronda, it's less busy than Canazei - Campitello. Given the openness of the pistes and uninterrupted views of stunning Dolomites scenery, this should be a 'must do' on any visit to Val di Fassa. The Alba base area at Ciampac is connected by shuttle bus to the Canazei base area, a journey of about 1 kilometre.
Starting from Pozza di Fassa, the gondola quickly lifts skiers and boarders to Buffaure, which incidentally is one of the most scenic ski school meeting places anywhere in the mountains. At Buffaure there are three chairlifts in the immediate area, with six marked runs. However, given the open nature of the well groomed piste, there are several route options available. The top lift is Col de Valvacin and from here you can ski to the Orsa Maggiopre lift which will carry you up to the Alba/Ciampac side. Should you be tempted to ski down to Alba, which is a charming village, be aware that the run into Alba is a 3km black. Otherwise stay at Ciampac and enjoy the sking and the almost unbelievable views.
The other three, smaller areas with intermediate pistes are Carezza (12 km), Vigo di Fassa/Ciampedie (10 km) and Marmolada (5km). Marmolada has just two runs on the slope of the Marmolada glacier and enjoyable for a short morning or afternoon, and the lift is not far from the village of Alba, by skibus.
Carezza, at the top of Costalunga Pass, is overlooked by the beauty of the Rosengarten chain of mountains. Although it is a small area, there is a high ratio of mountain restaurants, and smart skiers will plan a morning here, working up an appetite for lunch before taking the ski bus in the afternoon to another area in the Val di Fassa, such as Vigo, the next village towards the valley. The red runs of Vigo are clustered around the Ciampedie area, located on the opposite side of the Rosengarten from Carezza.
While advanced or expert skiers would not choose Val di Fassa on the basis of the statistics alone, it's important always to remember the Canazei - Campitello connection with the mighty Dolomiti Superski region, where 20% of pistes are designated black. And, of course, other reasons to visit include magical mountain scenery, good food and la dolce vita.
Spring is when Val di Fassa's off-piste really comes into its own, but unless you know the area and conditions well the ski area is best explored with an instructor from one of the local ski schools or hire an independent mountain guide.
The star of this park is the BigAirBag, a massie air-attress (17 x 11), perfect for cushioning jumps and ideal for practising and training in safety. In addition, there are parabolic curves, boxe and rails. The Dolomiti Belvedere Snowpark is easily accessible fro the cable car from Canazei.
Located between the Grohmann and Slei slopes, off the Col Rodella cablecar, this Snowpark is suitable for those taking their first steps in freestyle, with three kickers and fun boardercross course with parabolic curves
Easily reached fro Moena, via the Ronchi-Le Cune gondola, the big feature here is a 400 long boardercross track (medium difficulty). It features four parabolic curves, followed by some woops, and another thee parabolic curves precede the final fun box.
Located on the San Pellegrino pass, at 2,000m., this is probably the best snowpark in either area. Access is by four person chairlift, and on arrival riders will find a slope style lane with jumps and rails, half pipes, kickers with routes for every levelof competence. Add to that music, refreshment areas and the sight of riders challenging each other to spectacular jumps.
Across the Val di Fassa, there are an abundance of mountain refuges, usually built in a traditional, rustic style inside and out, adding to the pleasure of a lunchtime stop. Many of the refuges have guest bedrooms if lunch gets out of hand! Here are some suggestions to enjoy:
Salei - self service and table service
No of beds: 20
Tel: + 39 335 7536315
Valentini - table service
No of beds: 46
Tel: +39 0462 601183
Friedrich August - table service
No of beds: 40
Tel: + 39 0462 764919
Maria Sass Pordoi - self service
Tel: +39 0462 601178
Baita Pradel - table service
Tel: + 39 3334250152
Ciampac - table service and self-service
No of beds: 20
Tel: + 39 0462 600060
Tobia del Giagher - table service
No of beds: 25
Tel: +39 0462 602385
Baita Cruz - table service and self-service
No of beds: 21
Tel: + 39 0462 760354
El Zedron - self-service
Tel: + 39 333 6676888
Malga Crocifisso - table service
Tel: + 39 0462 764260
Negritella - table service
No of beds: 15
Tel: + 39 335 6535126
Bellavista - self service
Tel: + 39 0462 763200
Baita Checco - table service
Tel: + 39 335 6563512
Each Val di Fassa village has a different character but all share beautiful views of the Dolomites towering over the valley. Most visitors to Val di Fassa will stay in one of the villages descibed below
Skiset have outlets in all the main di Fassa resorts, and have agreed to give Ultimate-Ski readers discounts of up to 50% if they book online in advance. You also save time when you arrive in the resort because the equient you reserved will be fully prepared and waiting for you. You can check locations in each Val di Fassa village, equipment available and discounts currently on offer here.
At the head of the valley as you approach from the south, Moena is a smart resort, very popular with Italians. The bustling centre of the village is festooned with smart shops, bars and restaurants. Skiers can choose between skiing the Trevalli area (100km) or Val di Fassa (122km). There is an excellent ski bus service to Trevalli, and if the conditions allow, it's possible to ski back to Moena. However, if you don't have a car, access to the ski areas of Val di Fassa is difficult, as there is just one ski bus in each direction each day so if staying here the Trevalli ski area is your best bet.
The village of Vigo di Fassa, next along from Moena, is smaller and quieter with a traditional feel. It is well situated for access to the Vigo-Catinaccio cable car up to the Ciampedie ski area. It is also the closest village to the Carezza ski area, well served by the Val di Fassa ski bus. Vigo di Fassa is home to the Ladin Museum, a celebration of the culture and traditions of the Val di Fassa, as well as the Ladin Cultural Institute.
Continuing north along the valley, Pozza di Fassa is in the heart of the Val di Fassa. Here, the ski lift system rises to the Buffaure area, and and across to Ciampac/Alba (from the Alba base there is a frequent shuttle to the Canazei base area, jut one kilometre away). It is one of the most popular villages for visitors, with more guest beds than any other village except for Canazei, and as well as the skiing has attractions such as the natural Spa Centro Terme Dolomia. The night skiing on the Aloch run is also very popular and is used by racers for training purposes.
Part of the popularity of Campitello is because it gives direct access to the Sella Ronda and the Dolomiti Superski circus beyond. As well as its location, Campitello is very well known for its typical rustic architecture and narrow streets. A much smaller village than its' neighbour Canazei, Campitello has just over 700 permanent inhabitants, although this number is greatly swollen by visitors during the season.
Canazei (including Alba) is the biggest and most popular of the Val di Fassa resorts, with over 14,000 beds in hotels and apartments available for guests. From Canazei, skiers head to the Belvedere area, and then on to the Sella Ronda tour, and the expanses of the Dolomiti Superski beyond. Alba, on the other hand, allows skiers to ski at Ciampac and over to Buffaure (Pozza di Fassa). On this basis alone, it is easy to see why this is the most attractive resort to skiers. It also has the best night life of all the villages and the superb Eghes Wellness Centre.
The bars are even more numerous than the restaurants, and vary from simple bars where you can grab a quick espresso, Italian style, to chic lounges in the luxury hotels complete with table service from a smartly dressed waiter. When it comes to night-life, the choices are quite distinct; the quieter resorts are down valley in Pozza, Vigo and Moena, but if late nights are as important as the skiing, Campitello and Canazei are the places to be.
Trentino is proud of its superb regional dishes and wines. As well as pasta and other Italian classics, try the local polenta, mountain cheeses and salamis as well as typical local dishes such as delicious "canederli" (barley soup) and typical "cajoncie" (ravioli). Wines from the vineyards near Trento are excellent, and the red Marzemino can be outstanding, as can be the dry white Nosiola. To round off a satisfying evening meal try a 'digestive' of local grappa infused with fruits of the forest. Look out for restaurants which display the sign 'Osteria Tipica Trentina' - these restaurants serve only local produce, from the water on your table to the fruit you may eat at the end of your meal.
The gastronomic mainstays of the Val di Fassa resorts are the pizzerias and family run restaurants that are so typical of Italy, where you will eat good food and drink without breaking the bank. In addition, many of the hotels welcome the public for lunch and dinner, and if you include hotels with restaurants in the overall tally, there are literally hundreds of eating choices in the Val di Fassa. If you're looking to splash out, the 1-star Michelin restaurant, the Malga Panna in Moena is highly recommended.
There are over 50 km of marked cross country trails (including one illuminated circuit for night skiing at Pozza di Fassa) spread throughout the Val di Fassa. As with downhill skiing, there are trails suitable for all levels, and if you wish to learn to cross country ski or improve your skills, there are two ski schools (one in Canazei, the other in Pozza di Fassa). Every year on the last Sunday of January, the famous 'Marcia Longa' cross country ski race takes place in Val di Fassa and the neighbouring Val di Fiemme. The main 'Marcia Longa' is 70km long with 'Marcia Longa Light' at 45 km, and in 2010 there were 6,500 entrants for the races. Cross country ski schools include Scuola Sci di Fondo Fassa in Canazei (Tel: +39 0462 601409) and Scuola Sci Valojet in Pozza di Fassa (Tel: +39 0462 763309)
There can be fewer experiences more enjoyable than getting away from it all on a walk through the stillness of a winter landscape. Val di Fassa has 28 walking itineraries ranging from 2km to 18km in length. Some are more difficult than others, but the tourist board publish a walking map to make your choices easier. Extending from the marked walks, snowshoers can follow longer itineraries into the forests of Val di Fassa. Most of the walks pass at least one restaurant or mountain refuge, so you may wish to plan your excursion around a tasty Val di Fassa lunch.
Many Val di Fassa hotels have 'Wellness' centres but there's also an excellent public facility in Canazei - the Eghes Wellness Centre - complete with a variety of baths and saunas as well as a heated swimming pool (entrance fee winter 2010 €26). For more information see www.canazei.org. The Terme Dolomia in the Hotel Antico Bagno in Pozza di Fassa specialises in therapeutic and beauty treatments www.termedolomia.it
Each resort village of the Val di Fassa has a range of shopping including many chic clothes shops, sports shops stocked with top brands, specialist food and drink shops, art galleries, etc. The bigger resorts of Moena, Campitello and Canazei not surprisingly lead the way in the 'retail therapy' league.
There is ice skating on natural ice rinks at Campitello and Moena, plus indoors at the ice stadium in Alba di Canazei, which also hosts ice hockey matches. Also in Alba is the 'Slide Park' inner tubing slope, which is great fun for all ages. For a bit more adrenalin, visitors can try ice climbing up frozen waterfalls or take to the skies for a two person hang glider ride and see the Val di Fassa scenery from an entirely different perspective.