The first time you see the Dolomites, you'll wonder how you'll ever be able to ski and snowboard down any of the mountains. The rocks slope down vertically, with no way to get down aside from with a parachute.
But there is plenty of space next to those magnificent landmarks and those pistes still offer enough red tracks to enjoy some good turns.
I went to Val Gardena for a week and the region offers 1,220 kilometers of pistes in total. There are 12 regions, all of which you can explore with 1 ski pass. We stuck to Val Gardena, and decided to only snowboard most of the pistes once, as there was so much to explore.
You’ll find most pistes around the iconic rock Sassolungo/Langkofel (3,181 meter), Dantercepies and Fermeda with the top Seceda.
It seems that most people were heading towards Sassolungo and it’s indeed a nice and wide area. There are many lifts and pistes. You can go all the way to the back of Sassolungo and to the Mountain Hut Rifugio Des Alpes. From there you'll get a stunning view towards the Sella towers, but also through to the valley further South.
It was the carnival week when I was there and it was quite busy, though still not too busy. I’ve seen worse elsewhere. It seemed that people were spread across the whole area nicely. There was only one day that the lines at the lifts got a bit too long, so we headed towards the other side to Dantercepies.
To my surprise that part was pretty empty. There is a quick and nice gondola which takes you all the way to the top. From there you have a really nice and long run down. It’s facing the South, so maybe people might have thought that the conditions might not be that good, but if that was the reason, then they were wrong. The snow was fab and even in the afternoon we had some good turns, as not too many skiers have moved the snow.
If you arrive on the top at Funivia Selva Wolkenstein with its Bar Ristorante Dantercepies, then take the first track on the right and keep right. It’s marked as a black piste, but I seriously have no idea why it’s black. If you get down red slopes, then you’ll be fine here too. And it’s worth it, as there are even less people. Keep right till you get to the bottom and to the Baita Ciampac hut. There is a 2 seater chair lift waiting for you to get you back up a bit. I enjoyed that ride the most, as it was so empty where everywhere else was a bit too busy.
After taking the chair lift you can head back to the gondola again. On the last run on that day, you should take it easy and plan in a stop at the Baita Panorama hut. That’s the spot where you should wait for the sunset, as it will set in the valley right in front of you, next to the majestic Sassolungo.
They have a nice terrace outside and if the weather is not playing along, then it’s also cozy inside.
You still have 10-15 minutes after the sun sets to make it down again. Enjoy leaving the last track, stop in between and listen to the nature. It’s a special moment when you are the last on the slope riding down and when you stop it feels like you are the only one in the middle of those rock formations.
No worries… you are not the last one. The snow groomers are busy preparing the pistes again for the next day.
We also headed to the top of Fermeda (2,500 meter). Now that is a long ride to get up there. But that also means a very long ride into the valley again. Superb! From the bottom it looked like the hill had many green spots, where the snow had already gone and only the pistes were white. But at the moment we were standing at the top, at the Seceda hut, and looked down into the valley, we just saw snow everywhere. It was like magic and we were so happy to have gone all the way to the top. Only at the steeper parts and facing South, the parts we couldn't see, was where the snow had already melted. The pistes themselves were all fine.
We got a tip to stay at the Seceda restaurant to also check out the sunset from there and it was worth it. The restaurant closes only a few minutes earlier, so it’s a good spot to warm up and wait. To the West is a big steep drop, a proper and impressive cliff. Right after that is another red piste going into that valley. I have no idea how that one is, but it looked very inviting… next time!
The view towards the West is not really spectacular, but the view to the South and East are the ones to enjoy. If there aren’t too many clouds, you can expect to see the whole beauty of Sassolungo, Sessla towers and Pizes de Cir.
Also, here you have a few minutes extra after the sun sets. But don’t wait too long as it’s really a very long and nice run down into the valley. We stayed in Wolkenstein/Gröden and when you arrive at the bottom in Plan da Tieja, you have to take a short bus ride. Many hotels provide you with a bus ticket - just ask at the reception.
I rented a snowboard at the ski school “Scuola Sci Selva”. I was not really happy with the Burton binding they had, as the screws were fixed in the middle, quite close together, which gave the whole binding quite a bit of room for movement when leaning into the curves. But apart from that the equipment seemed to be good and its location is good, as it’s very central and close to a couple of lifts.
From there it’s also not too far from a few good Apres Ski bars like the bar La Stua. So change your boots for some comfy shoes, have a drink and hit the dance floor.
Val Gardena is really in the center of the Dolomites and you might wonder how to get there. I've shared a bit of info about that here:
Dolomites: Ski, Snowboard and Get Active Amidst Stunning Scenery