Being a newbie skier, I’ve made the decision to go to the Dolomites for a big white madness. So, what does skiing in the Dolomites look like, what to watch out for and how is it different from skiing in Austria? Keep reading 😉
In 2013 just a year after passing my diving licence I went big time diving to Borneo. In 2021 just a year after learning how to ski I repeated the big-time pattern and went skiing to Austria and Italy. Now, what are the ups and downs of each location? How do the slopes differ? Which location is more suitable for beginning skiers? A rookie view on skiing will give you some hints how to survive the big-time skiing resorts.
Sankt Anton am Arlberg
Enormous skiing resort in Austria with lots of facilities for skiers. When my friend RS recommended that location, I saw the slope map on the internet and bought his suggestion straight away. On the map I saw lots of blue marked slopes. Just to be clear on the slope marking. Blue is easy, red is intermediate and black is hard. Meaning I thought it would be quite easy with that number of blue slopes. Well, I’ve changed my mind after arriving at the top of the mountain. Looked down one of the blue slopes and thought – hmmmm this is a blue slope… OK? Let’s try not to get injured while riding it down. Thing is that the blue slopes in St. Anton are steeper than everywhere else. It means my first skiing day after a long break was a bit of a nightmare. My body forgot what to do with the knees, with the hips and with the legs when having skies on the feet. However, from day two it started to be fun again.
Slopes and lifts
Where to start when you land in St. Anton and how to remember how to ski again. Take the chair lift to the Gampen peak. The slope number 27 is quite a pleasant one to ride all the way down to the valley. Slope 26 is OK as well… It later connects with slope 50 and you can also ride straight to the valley. If you get more comfortable on the skies, you can take the chair lift from Gampen peak to the higher Kapall peak and ride slope 43. The neighbouring peak Galzig is good if you get more comfortable on the skis. There I had my favourite slope 64 which was going all the way down to St. Christoph.
On the other side of St. Anton is the Rendl peak. It’s good to ride in the afternoon as in the morning the slopes are ice-covered. The slopes 11, 13, 14, 15 are very much fun to ride. How to get to the valley from Rendl? I used the gondola. There is a red slope 1 that goes down, but I simply didn’t have the balls to ride such a long red slope in St. Anton. What I did like however was the trip to neighbouring Oberlech. Apparently, this is the place where all the rich ands famous ski… well I only noticed higher prices in restaurants rather than a nice millionaire husband to be 😛 To Oberlech you take the bus 92 from the Railway station and get out at Lech Postamt. The slopes are just a 3 min walk from the bus stop. What about the slopes? They are less steep than in St. Anton. I loved the slopes – 200, 235, 210 and 212 all nice, long, and pleasant to ride. When it comes to the slope quality, it’s superb and they are fantastically prepared. Some slopes which don’t get sunlight are a bit ice-covered, so you just need to be extra careful while riding those down. I was simply amazed how wide the slopes are and how much work it takes every day to prepare those. Same is with the lifts. I would say that 90% of the lifts are always working. If some are out of order they don’t stay out of order for long. Maximum 1-2 days to do the necessary maintenance. My impression of the lifts and gondolas is very positive. I noticed that the gondolas are more modern than the chairlifts. Well, that’s OK and to be frank I prefer a better gondola quality to a better chairlift quality. This is where we come to the ski pass price. It’s around 250 Euros for five days in the peak season. Yes, it is a high price but taking into consideration the quality of slopes and the amount and condition of the lifts it is very much worth it.
When it comes to the skiing facilities, there are many ski rental shops, ski depos, ski service shops. I didn’t use ski rental as I have my own gear, but I did use a ski depo. Chalet Rosanna, the hotel I stayed at had it included in the room rate so why not use it. My hotel was a 10 min walk from the slopes, so I was leaving my skis and ski boots at Alber ski depo. Great service have to say. After one day the guys at the shop knew that my gear was A26 😀 In case you are going to St. Anton check with your hotel if you have a ski depo included in your room rate.
To be frank I didn’t party a lot in St. Anton. I have the rule that I don’t drink while skiing and that I don’t ski while being hungover. Moreover, I concluded that partying and drinking I have in Kraków and during holiday I don’t have to party wild. However, I can recommend a good restaurant. It’s Arlberger Dorfstubn.
The cordon blue is amazing and the Käsespätzle just rock. In case you are the party parson, bet you can find lots of bars in St. Anton to have a beer or two 😉
What I really liked doing after skiing was going to the sauna. There is a public swimming pool in St. Anton which has a nice sauna complex in it. The price for the whole day – sauna and pool area, is 23 Euros.
It’s fine given that you normally spend at least three hours in the sauna area. You might ask, what were you doing Alice after skiing. Well… not much. I finished skiing normally around 2 or 3 pm. Went to my hotel for a nap, got up, had a shower, went for dinner, got back to my hotel, and went to sleep. Skiing and being the whole day in the fresh air makes me tired. Two times I went to the sauna 😛 Hey, it’s one way of spending your holiday. Firstly, get tired and then sleep it off 😛
Generally, would I recommend going to St. Anton? YES DEFINITELY!
Gigantic skiing area… just gigantic. It includes resorts like Val Gardena, Val di Fiemme, Marmolada, Alpe di Susi, Seceda, Cortina d’Ampezzo, San Pellegrino, Alta Badia etc. Basically you have endless possibilities for skiing. I was there eight days and each day I was skiing in a different area. The slopes here are not that steep as in St. Anton. Even the red ones, so if you are a beginning skier you will do just fine. Fun fact is that Dolomiti Superski is in the Sudtirol area of Italy… so the second language used there besides Italian is German 😀 English is also used but you will have more luck communicating in German than in English. Also, the town names are in German and Italian. It might be confusing as they are different in each language.
There are many locations you can choose to stay if you wanna ski in the Dolomiti Superski area. My impression is that there are three main towns to choose from if you want to get access to some pretty good slopes. Those are Ortisei (ita)/St. Ulrich (ger), St. Christina (same in both languages) and Selva (ita)/Wolkenstein (ger). I’ve stayed in Lajen/Laion as in the high season the accommodation in one of those three was way beyond my budget. However, the ski bus connections between those towns are great.
I had a bus every hour going from Lajen to St. Ulrich and there I could change busses to Wolkenstein for example. The buses between St. Ulrich, St. Christina and Wolkenstein run approximately every ten minutes. The ski bus connection in such a large ski area is crucial as good luck with finding parking close to the ski lifts. Well, parking places close to the lifts and gondolas are there. You just need to be there very early to find a spot or extremely lucky to find a spot in the afternoon. Additionally, the parking prices are quite high… the prices vary from 6 to 10 Euro for a half day. During my ten day stay in the ski region I used the car to go to Cortina d’Ampezzo for sightseeing and to go to Predazzo for New Year’s skiing.
Both times I was extremely lucky as I not only found a parking spot immediately, I also didn’t have to pay for it. In Cortina, I didn’t notice that parking was payable soooo I didn’t pay. Somehow didn’t get a ticket for it. In Predazzo the parking was free of charge. Maybe because it was the 1st of Jan so it was a public holiday or something… anyway… Free parking is always good.
Slopes and lifts
The first thing that comes to my mind when I think about the slopes at Dolomiti Superski is long. The second word is wide. OMG are the slopes long and wide over there. It was a pleasure to ride those down. The longest is La Longia which is in the Seceda area and is 10 km long. Imagine skiing down a 10 km slope… incredible experience. Another one, Gardenissima, is for example 6 km long… did that one as well. Generally the Dolomites offer something for everyone.
If it’s your first day skiing after a long break, you can start at Alpe di Susi. It’s an area that has many easy slopes which are not very steep. I started my first day in the Dolomites there… only! After coming from St. Anton and its blue slopes when I saw a red slope at Alpe di Susi I thought – hmmmm that’s a red slope, really… doesn’t seem like one. Point is that in Austria I was doing only blue slopes. In Italy I was mostly doing red slopes and occasionally black. Yes, black marked slopes. Most times I was shitting myself when riding it down but hey… a bit of risk is not bad, right 😉
Depending on how long you stay in Dolomiti Superski and what your experience level is, try the slopes in Wolkenstein, St. Christina and Seceda. Also, Obereggen is worth a visit. You won’t get disappointed. Avoid Alta Badia… somehow didn’t find the vibe there as in other areas and Cortina – very expensive. What is really cool though, in the Val Gardena ski area you can do the Sellaronda. The point here is to ski around the Sella massif. You can do it clockwise (marked orange) or counterclockwise (marked green). You don’t need a special map for it as the SELLARONDA signs are very visible and the navigation based on the signs is quite easy. I did both circles. The clockwise one took me 3h and 24 min. The counterclockwise took me 3h and 13min. Nearly the same but I liked the counterclockwise more. The queues at the lifts were shorter 😉 All nice and good but the only thing that annoyed me very much was the amount of people of the slopes. There were much more people than in Austria. Meaning the waiting time to the lifts and gondolas was longer and the slopes more crowded. It wasn’t that bad only during peak times – 9 am to 11 am it was just annoying.
The lifts were OK… somehow noticed that the chair lifts were better than the gondolas. OK, you could confidently say that some gondolas were brand new, other however… yeah. The tooth of time has bitten them. The Saslong gondola for example… not that new or the Col Raiser also OK but the freshness smell has faded away. Now coming to the skipass price – 403 Euros for eight days in the high season. Was it worth it? Yes, it was worth it. When buying the Dolomiti Superski pass you have access to ALL lifts and gondolas of the area – ALL. Taking into account the number of lifts, gondolas, slopes, free ski bus service, slope quality all of that is very much worth every penny.
Skiing facilities and apre ski
Geez the number of bars and restaurants on the slopes is mind blowing. Basically, on the top, middle and bottom of every slope you have a bar. Judging by the number of skis in front of each…
I presume more people were sitting in the bars than were on the slopes. That would then explain the queues for the lifts and gondolas in the morning. Again… as I don’t drink during skiing and don’t participate actively in apre ski drinking, I can’t say much or recommend any bars in St. Ulrich or Lajen. I can however recommend a good hotel in Lajen – Albergo Gasthof zur Krone. I got a big room with a cool view. The owners are an elderly couple who make every effort to make you feel comfortable and welcome. Toni, one of the owners is a former ski instructor and a walking skiing location encyclopaedia. He gave me many good hints about where to go and what to avoid 😉
If you are a sauna fan, you won’t be disappointed. In St. Ulrich there is a public swimming pool with a not too bad sauna complex. They have quite a variety of saunas – from steam baths over finnish saunas to a kelo sauna. However, my favourite was the sauna that smelled like Christmas and the infrared sauna with waterbeds 😀 Price for that pleasure is 22 Euros for three hours or 24 Euros for the whole day… meaning it’s better to buy the entry for the whole day as three hours are just not enough to explore the whole complex.
Covid safety measures
To ski in both locations you need to be vaccinated. When buying the skipass you need to show your vaccination certificate, also called a green pass. It’s not only that. FFP2 masks are mandatory to wear while skiing. Well, you need to wear them when you get into a gondola. On the top of the mountain people take them off and cover their faces with skiing scarves. However masks are mandatory. Also when it comes to entering bars, restaurants, hotels, saunas, museums etc. in both locations you will be asked to show your green pass. Generally if you are not vaccinated forget about going.
St. Anton or Dolomiti Superski?
Now, if I had to choose a better place what would I go for? Probably both as they are just different. St. Anton is more challenging. It’s also less crowded and you have variety while staying in one town without traveling long distances. Meaning you save time. Dolomiti Superski also has lots of variety, but you spend more time on getting from one place to another. The slopes are easier and longer. It also means it’s more crowded. However, in the future I would like to return to both locations. To explore the more difficult slopes in St. Anton and other areas in Dolomiti Superski.
P.S. Italy has the better food, although I won’t be able to look at pizza for a very long time 😛
One thought on “Rookie Guide to the Alps and Dolomites”
Love the adventures and Thank you for sharing! I hope travel from the US will become easier soon!