Today we guests of Chalet Haus Valentin, affectionately know as "HV", are winding down our fabulously festive Christmas Week in the Dolomites. This chalet is renowned for its incredibly warm and sociable atmosphere, and many guests here this week are returning for their second, third and even fourth visits. Along with the team of unfailingly helpful and enthusiastic Collett's hosts, we have been generously taken care of by the Zweerings Family, Reiner and Cristina, daughter Mel and grandmother Monika. Their home is your home. Except it is probably more immaculately cleaned than your own and has a self-serve bar!
Despite the snow being somewhat lacking this week, the piste conditions have been brilliant, with everyday offering two different organised ski days. Guests have taken advantage, getting out before 9am and rarely returning before 4pm, hopping on the ski shuttle run by the team each afternoon for the last leg to the chalet.
The snowshoeing has been replaced by some of the sunniest winter walking most of us hardy British walkers have ever encountered. Indeed we have been hard pushed to find a cloud in the sky this week, and a few rosy-cheeked faces have returned to the chalet each day.
This week can't be discussed without mentioning food. We have started our days with a hearty continental style breakfast with warming porridge, eggs, cheese, ham, local breads, pastries, cereal, fruit, yoghurts and more. Armed with a packed lunch prepared by the team or some euros for a Refugio lunch stop, we spend the day working up a hunger and anticipating the evening's menu. Painstakingly prepared by the family, we have been treated to a nightly 3-course meal with wine, that is a wonderful mix of local flavours and ingredients. Thursday was a special Ladin menu, the traditional local food of the area, and unlikely to be forgotten by the Collett's guests. In large part due to the beautifully and tenderly slow cooked pork dish - the portions being roughly one pig per guest!
Christmas day was a food extravaganza. Whilst we all silently rejoiced in not having to slave over a hot stove all day or try not to burn the turkey, we settled into a candlelit 7-course Christmas dinner that rivals any we have experienced before. A wonderful mix of traditional cuisines, with antipasti, semolina ghocchi, porcini mushroom penne, lemon sorbet pallet cleanser, speck, and of course a bit of roast turkey thrown in. We all just about managed to squeeze in the mascarpone filled crepes and amaretto ice cream for dessert before collapsing in the bar for a well needed digestivo. Classic Christmas music and group games then followed for those with the energy.
What a week, it is hard to do justice to all that we have been lucky to experience. Along with the constant aroma of delicious home cooked food, the week has been accompanied by lashings of hot glühwein and cocktails in the bar, beautifully handmade Christmas and table decorations, breakfast bucks fizz, Mike's fiendish multiple round quiz, a lot of Bananagram, and smiles and laughter from all.
An enormous thank you to our brilliant Collett's team of hosts, Chris, Rachel, Mike, Seb, Emma and Sam. Along with the family, their 24/7 efforts and energy (which no one can fail to notice), have meant we have had the most memorable of Christmas's and leave with big memories and even bigger bellies!
Despite no natural snow falling at all this season, the main pistes were open and in great condition from top to bottom. That was due to the area’s fabulous snowmaking system, which I rate as the best in the world. Snow machines were in action day and night everywhere you looked.
Diego Clara of the lift company Dolomiti Superski, which is responsible for the pistes too, told me: “Out of 1,200km of pistes in our region, 1,100km are covered by snowmaking and over 500km are open already.” The Dolomites was the first area in Europe to introduce snowmaking back in 1980 and has set the pace ever since. There are now 4,700 snow guns in the region, the biggest of which can produce 60 cubic metres of snow per hour. And the snow the guns produce lasts much longer than natural snow - because there is less air in it, it warms up less quickly.
*900km of Piste now open (26-12-15) - See the Full Article - Snow-making keeps pistes open in the Dolomites