The Dolomites mountain range in northeastern Italy has become a popular winter holiday spot for adventurers, who come for the snow sports and stay for the stunning scenery and delectable local cuisine. The Dolomiti Superski circuit – one of the world’s largest ski areas with 1,200km of slopes – is a big draw for holidaymakers, and is sure to keep skiers entertained for days, while cross-country trails provide a more sedate way of exploring the mountains. There are plenty of cultural and educational offerings too, including vibrant local festivities and star-gazing opportunities against the majestic mountain backdrop. So if you’re looking for a place to disconnect and recharge, look no further than the Dolomites for a beautiful winter break.
Dubbed “the Queen of the Dolomites”, the Marmolada is the highest mountain in the range. Its highest peak towers 3,343m above sea level, and it’s a majestic sight, with rugged peaks and dense forested areas. A cable car whisks skiers up to Punta Rocca, where you can admire the sunrise views over the peaks and soak up panoramic views of the vast Dolomiti Superski area. Swoosh down the 12km-long La Bellunese, the Dolomites’ longest run and one of the most spectacular in the area.
One of the best resorts of the Sellaronda circuit (a unique circular route that runs up and over the mountain passes around the Sella massif), Arabba boasts excellent connections to ski resorts. With some of the steepest slopes in the area, it’s a great base for intermediate and advanced skiers. The town is home to indulgent spa hotels where you can unwind and rest your sore legs after a day on the slopes.
Snowboarders are spoiled for choice in the Civetta ski area, Veneto’s largest ski circuit comprising 72km of runs and 22 lifts. Swoosh down powdery slopes and glide through alpine forests as you soak up views of the jagged peaks of Monte Civetta. The much-loved Gran Zuita run takes in three slopes, snaking down through magical woodland scenery and delivering some of the most spectacular views of the Dolomites mountain range.
Take in all the beauty of winter as you experience the muffled silence of a snowy forest with snowshoes strapped to your feet. From Rifugio Fedare, a trail snakes to Jof de Melei and Passo Giau through a dense forested area hemmed in by the mighty Dolomites. Soak up the serenity and hushed sounds of nature, stopping to refuel with a piping hot drink from your Thermos.
From Col di Prà in Taibon Agordino, a trail makes its way through the Valle di San Lucano, where ski mountaineers and snowshoers feel at one with nature. The route is considered to be suitable for amateur trekkers, but you’ll need a bit of stamina for the trail. After a couple of hours you’ll have weaved your way to Pian de la Stua, reaching the foot of the Pale di San Martino. This is a lofty mountain range characterised by jagged pinnacles formed of colonies of coral more than 300 million years ago and a rocky plateau dotted with deep crevices.
The charming little town of San Tomaso, which is guarded by the mount Sasso Bianco, is nestled above Cencenighe Agordino in a quiet Alpine setting far away from artificial light pollution. As a result, the night skies are very clear. The town’s planetarium – featuring a four-metre dome – educates visitors on the constellations and galaxies that light up the night sky. In the observatory, you can enjoy a guided observation and gaze at the stars through a state-of-the-art telescope.
On 5 January, the eve of the Epiphany, bonfires dubbed ‘pavarui’ brighten the night sky of Cencenighe, flanked by the Monte Pape. Locals flock here annually to see the bonfires, said to bring a good year ahead. The town buzzes with excitement, with children nibbling on sweet treats and adults sipping on mulled wine. Handmade gnocchi are traditionally enjoyed in the early evening.