Alta Badia: South Tyrol’s Best Kept SecretInspiration
Adventure guide to South Tyrol
Alta Badia: South Tyrol’s Best-Kept Secret
The locals call it the Enrosadira, a natural phenomenon that seems to set fire to the Dolomites around Alta Badia skiing area. Yellow flames on the rocks turn to pink, then orange and deep red as the sun dips lower behind the silhouette of the mountains. The Santa Croce is particularly renowned for the nightly light show on its pale peak. And when the sun falls, and the last ski lift grinds to a halt, the Alta Badia’s legendary hospitality, fine cuisine and high-altitude wines begin to flow. It’s an extraordinary way to end a day skiing at one of Europe’s best resorts.
In association with South Tyrol/Südtirol, the northernmost region of Italy, Sidetracked brings you the winter adventure guide to Alta Badia (plus a heavy dose of La Dolce Vita!).
SLOPES AND DREAMS
The numbers speak for themselves: 53 fast ski lifts, 130km of expertly prepared pistes, a central position in the world’s biggest ski carousel, connected by a single lift pass, the Dolomiti Superski (which provides connection to more than 1200km of pistes – 500km with a direct skiing connection from Alta Badia), 300 days of sun a year, three Michelin-starred restaurants, the perfect skiing altitude between 1,300 and 2,778m, and the longest ski slope in the Dolomites (the Lagazuoi Piste at 7.3km in length). There’s little doubt that, between December and April, the Alta Badia valley is one of Europe’s best skiing destinations. Small wonder the Men’s Alpine Ski World Cup comes to Alta Badia for the Giant Slalom – and a Parallel Giant Slalom under floodlights – on the Gran Risa Piste. But numbers alone don’t do it justice. What makes Alta Badia so unique is the blend of the mountains and the weather, the fascinating history of the area, and the hospitality and food of the Ladins, the inhabitants of this land. Nowhere else can lay claim to this blend of millennia-old mountain culture and rollicking ski routes.
Under a cloudless sky, the unmistakable snow-smothered summits of the Dolomites are illuminated in sharp contrast. The pistes, treated overnight by a team of snow groomers, gleam below. Mountain huts, churches, and refugios dot the landscape. In the distance, a restaurant perches on a cliff edge – the promise of Michelin-starred food later in the day. First though, ski. There are 70km of easy/blue pistes, 52km of medium/red pistes, and 8km of difficult/black pistes. The size of Alta Badia and number of ski lifts also mean that there is mercifully little waiting at the lift stations and the pistes.
Alta Badia has long been famous for skiing. It was a forerunner of alpine skiing in South Tyrol, with the first ski school founded in Corvara in 1938 along with the first lift system. The sleigh lift to Col Alto was replaced in 1946 with a chairlift, the first in Italy. Growth since then has been considered and sustainable, a model for winter tourism worldwide.
Another reason for its success is the variety of pistes – it’s as friendly to families as it is to pros. It’s also vast. There are natural links with other areas, opening up infinite routes and a variety of mountain descents. Beginners will enjoy the abundant easy slopes, while the black runs of Gran Risa in La Villa and Vallon-Boè in Corvara, as well as the panoramic downhill run from the mountain of Lagazuoi (see below), require skill and endurance – but the landscape demands you stop and take it in.
One of the highlights when visiting Alta Badia is the classic ski round trip, the Sellaronda. It is well known beyond the borders of the region, and a round of the Sella-Massif is among the best circuits in the Italian Alps. The well-connected lifts allow uninterrupted skiing on 25 kilometres of ski runs in a single day. On the Sellaronda, there is really no need to take off skis, nor cover the same stretch twice.
For a day with added dimension, take the First World War ski tour, which offers stunning skiing and poignant history. The centre point of the tour is Mount Col di Lana, a scene of heavy fighting and now a memorial to the War of the Dolomites. There are areifacts from the First World War all along the route, including trenches that run through the rocks, parapet walks, and forts. It’s a long day, seven to eight hours, so an early start is needed.
Another insider tip is the Lagazuoi Ski Tour, a descent from the namesake mountain towards Armentarola in Alta Badia. It is the longest ski slope in the Dolomites, with slopes that winds between craggy mountain faces, vertiginous icefalls and charming valleys. In a unique twist, a horse and cart takes skiers from Sass Dlacia to the Armentarola ski lift, the entrance to the ski area of Alta Badia. The ‘horse’s lift’ has to be the most ecological lift in the Alps!
Snowboarders have been meeting on the sunny slopes of Alta Badia since the 1980s. Just like for skiers, its popularity is in its variety – as suited to pro boarders as it is to beginners. Along the curving runs and fine pistes, the snow park in Alta Badia is designed to encourage the most dramatic of acrobatics.
In 2009, the nine mountain ranges of the Dolomites were placed on the UNESCO list of the world’s protected natural paradises – so the area now officially ranks among the most beautiful landscapes in the world. The natural parks of both Puez-Odle and Fanes-Senes-Braies extend into Alta Badia. And as we’ve mentioned, the best time to wonder at this natural marvel is during nature’s nightly show, the Enrosadira, which paints the mountains in kaleidoscopic colours as the sun sets.
FOOD AND DRINK
The Ladins – the inhabitants of this region, with a distinct language and millennia-old traditions – are known for their exceptional hospitality and food. Traditional cuisine in Alta Badia has its roots in farmyards of the region: quality ingredients, simply cooked. Classic dishes of the area include a delicious barley soup, Turtres (fried pastries filled with spinach or sauerkraut), Cajincí (ravioli filled with spinach) and Furtaies (a spiral-shaped, fried dessert) – the perfect blend of alpine and Mediterranean cuisine.
Food inspired by these classic dishes can be found in trattorias and rustic farmhouse, mountain refuges and, increasingly, fine dining restaurants. South Tyrol has 19 Michelin-starred restaurants with 26 stars in total. There are three Michelin-starred restaurants with six Michelin stars in the Alta Badia valley alone.
Where to eat
St Hubertus at Hotel Rosa Alpina
Chef Norbert Niederkofler’s uniform now proudly displays three stars – it’s one of only nine restaurants with a trio of Michelin stars in Italy. The chef is originally from South Tyrol and takes the fabulous raw ingredients of the region and elevates them to beautiful works of art.
La Siriola at Hotel Ciasa Salares
Under the creative genius of chef Matteo Metullio, La Siriola has earned two Michelin stars and specialises in local Ladin cuisine with modern touches. It also has a cheese room and a chocolate room.
La Stüa de Michil at Hotel La Perla
Chef Nicola Laera has a Ladin mother and a father from Puglia, and it this food and sensibility that run through this cosy wood-panelled restaurant. It’s an evocative location for some of Italy’s most exquisite food. She has held a Michelin star since 2002.
Piz Boè Alpine Lounge
This lodge enjoys breathtaking views at the upper station of the Boè cable car in Alta Badia. But it’s the combination of those views along with the wine-and-dine experience that skiers come home talking about.
Sommelier on the Slopes
Now there’s an irresistible name for an event! Sommelier on the Slopes brings a ski expert and a sommelier to accompany participants for a wine tasting through some of South Tyrol’s most refined wines on the slopes of Alta Badia. The events take place on seven afternoons, to be confirmed, between December and March. Information is available from the tourist offices.
A Taste for Skiing
In 2018, A Taste for Skiing celebrates its 10th anniversary. This gourmet initiative, organised under the motto ‘Ski The Italian Way’ assigns 10 gourmet chefs to a refuge on the slopes of Alta Badia, where they will create a gourmet recipe to be served to skiers throughout the winter season. The dishes will tell a story connected with the chefs and the local products, as well as the producers themselves. Each dish will be combined with local wine, carefully selected by an experienced sommelier from South Tyrol.
There’s a theme here! This event brings together the favourable climate, fertile soil, and love of winemaking responsible for making South Tyrol’s wines so good – and of course, the skiing. On Sunday 24th March, the region’s best wines will be carried to 2,000m across four mountain huts. Information is available from the tourist offices.
Gran Risa FIS Ski World Cup
Every winter, around mid-December, the world of skiing looks to South Tyrol and Alta Badia for the four races of the men’s Alpine Ski World Cup. The Giant Slalom on the Gran Risa Piste in Alta Badia (Sunday 16th December 2018) and the Downhill Race in Val Gardena are among the great classic competitions of alpine skiing. The night-time Parallel Giant Slalom on the Gran Risa (Monday 17th December) is one of the most popular races among the spectators.