Val Gardena

In the Italian Dolomites, the ski resorts of Selva, Santa Cristina and Ortisei form the Val Gardena ski area. Val Gardena also connects into the Sella Ronda, providing intermediate skiers with almost unlimited piste skiing amid spectacular mountain scenery.


Val Gardena is a beautiful valley in the Dolomites in which there are three ski resorts, the largest of which is Selva. Almost everywhere in this tri-lingual region of Italy (Italian, German and Ladin) has at least one other name, so the valley is also called Gröden and Gherdëina, and Selva is also known as Wolkenstein.

Selva/Wolkenstein is near the head of the valley at an elevation of 1563m and surrounded by cliffs and mountains, the most dramatic of which is the serrated peak of Sassolungo. The village itself is attractive but rather strung out: all its lifts are at its north-eastern and south-eastern edges, so check where your accommodation is before booking. Lower down the valley at 1430m, Santa Cristina (St Christina) is smaller and quieter. Selva has several ski sectors, one of which (Ciampinoi) it shares with Santa Cristina and this is where the famous Val Gardena downhill race takes place. On the other side of Santa Cristina is more skiing on Seceda, which stretches all the way to the pretty mountain town of Ortisei (St Ulrich, Urtijëi) further down the valley at 1235m. And on the other side of Ortisei is another ski area, called Alpe de Siusi (Seiser Alm). All the Val Gardena slopes are covered by a single lift pass, and linked by a bus service. Skiers can also cross from one area to another at valley-level. In Santa Cristina this is easy because an underground train runs between the two lifts, but at Ortisei, it’s a 12 minute walk.

Above Selva, Val Gardena joins the Sella Ronda, a circuit of lifts and pistes which loops around a huge limestone massif called the Gruppo del Sella, connecting Val Gardena to Val di Fassa, Alta Badia and Arabba/Marmolada. The combined ski area is huge with about 500km of piste, far more than anyone could ski on a week’s holiday, and all the lifts are covered by a single pass – the Dolomiti Superski. The slopes don’t get as much natural snow as the northern and western Alps, but the artificial snow-making is superb and particularly impressive early in the season.

The Sella Ronda is famous for its short easy runs but in Val Gardena red runs predominate. The local area therefore suits intermediates better than beginners or nervous skiers, although everyone can enjoy Val Gardena’s mountain restaurants, which are among the best in the Alps. Experts looking for a challenge will find about 15 black runs in the valley, but most aren’t much steeper than the surrounding reds. There are more black slopes on the far side of the Sella Ronda at Arabba, but few in between. Similarly there is one famous off-piste itinerary that cuts across the Sella Ronda called the Val Mezdi but overall the off-piste is very limited: the jagged peaks of the Dolomites are wonderful to look at but are not suited to freeriding.

Val Gardena Pros & Cons

+ Largest resort and ski area on the Sella Ronda
+ Huge piste network, thanks to Sella Ronda
+ Beautiful mountain scenery
+ Very effective artificial snow-making
+ Lots of tree-lined slopes for skiing in poor visibility
+ Superb red runs for intermediate-level skiers
+ High quality, affordable mountain restaurants

– Selva village is very stretched out
– Ortisei is a long way from the Sella Ronda
– Very limited freeriding for off-piste enthusiasts
– Not enough steep pistes to challenge experts for a week
– Few blue runs near Selva and S. Cristina for novices
– Snow cannons become less effective in a warm Spring

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Val Gardena Resort Stats

Base: 1236 m
Peak: 2518 m
Vertical: 1282 m
Ski Area: 500 km
Longest Run: 9 km
Beginner: 30 %
Intermediate: 60 %
Advanced: 10 %
Number of ski lifts: 80
Lift Capacity: 115553
Ski Season Starts: early-December
Ski Season Ends: mid-April
Nearest Airport: Innsbruck
Transfer Time: 1 hour 45 mins

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Val Gardena Resort Ratings

Ski Area star rating
Lift System star rating
Snowsure star rating
Beginner star rating
Intermediate star rating
Advanced star rating
Scenery star rating
Charm star rating
Apres Ski star rating
Other Activities star rating
Getting There star rating

Total Ratings = 11

Ratings sum = 37

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