Northeastern Italy is home to some of the world’s most beautiful mountain ranges: the Dolomites and the Julian Alps. The Dolomites have a collection of more than 500 chair lifts, trams, gondolas, and surface lifts, which can be used to reach a massive expanse of terrain; it’s almost hard to put into perspective. My best comparison of the scale would be linking Colorado’s Keystone, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Vail Beaver Creek, and Ski Cooper together. Not only is the region massive, the mountains are huge and dramatic and the villages come with awesome character. Alpinism is the lifestyle here, and communities have been built around living with the mountains. Skiing is a way of life, not just recreation. The trams are plentiful and can be found everywhere at random. They reach places we would never even consider to building to in the US.
Taking advantage of this infrastructure to access the mountains is what I look forward to sharing with people. When the snow is good the off-piste terrain can become very rewarding but can’t be taken lightly. It’s the real deal with real consequences. The piste is just as awesome. The Italians and Austrians have put snowmaking everywhere as to always guarantee skiing. I have been in this region during major droughts and am blown away by what they have open for people to ski.
We take advantage of the complex connection of lifts and trails between valleys as part of our tour. One such famous loop is the Sella–Rhonda, an awesome forty-mile trek from one village to the next through some amazing terrain that can take day or years, depending on how many distractions may delay the journey. I feel like a kid in a candy store with A.D.D. skiing though this part of the world. There are treats everywhere.
One of my closest friends was distracted by one of the treats I had my eye on for years. But the way Shane McConkey looked at it was different. I saw it as a ski descent. He saw it as a place to ski off massive cliff with the aid of a parachute. The amazing couloir (seen in the photo) drops from the peak of Sassongher and can be seen from a ski area made famous from its World Cup stop, Alta Badia.
This year, when I noticed the couloir my heart skipped a beat as I realized it was the site of one of Shane’s and JT Holmes famous ski base drop and one of Shane’s last. I must have taken a hundred pictures of it this trip.
Further along in our journey we ascended another tram 2000m tram to Marmolada where we could see almost the entire region.
Traveling from the Dolomites to the Julian Alps is almost as exciting as the skiing and eating. On the Autostratas (highways), left lane slow drivers are run over. Driving here is a respected task and isn’t taken lightly. Its like off-piste skiing, you have to pay attention all the time.
Located in a picturesque valley of northeastern Italy is the Village of Valbruna. It was this little village where my friend Marco grew up and inspired me to try and figure out how we could bring people here to visit. First it was the mountains than it was the skiing but the huge bonus is the hospitality. When we pull up to the “Valbruna Inn” this year it was like coming home for not only me but also the guest we brought. The menu and the wine put together for our meals was amazing and Marco followed it up with a selection of Grappa that would either peel the paint off a car or be tasty enough to want us cheering for more.
The “Valbruna Inn” was where we would base ourselves for the next few days as we skied the immediate neighborhood and the neighboring countries of Slovenia and Austria. We ski in Italy, have lunch in Austria, coffee back in Italy and dinner in Slovenia. Rifugios in the middle of nowhere on mountaintops have world-class food.
This year’s journey has just made me that more excited for next years and those following. A skier can be distracted for a long time over here. Combined with the wine and dinning we will never run out of entertainment of here.