The winter is drawing to an end with our final week of guests. The snow is receding from the lower slopes and with the changing of the clocks the warm afternoon sun is a perfect opportunity to enjoy a spritz after a day of spring skiing. This is undoubtedly one of my favourite times of year. The warmer weather brings with it a gentle breeze, a sign that the winter has run its course, time to turn one’s attention to the summer ahead. Here in the Dolomites it won’t be long before the snow covered hills become flower filled meadows.
That said, there is still plenty of good skiing to be had and we have been out on the mountain most days making the most of the last week of the season.
Last week we went to check out a Dolomites favourite, the Hidden Valley. Starting at a height of 2,752m, the run stretches an impressive 11km, winding its way down from the top of the Lagazuoi cable car back down to Armentarola where you can re-join the Dolomites Superski area. Lagazuoi holds historical importance after its involvement in WW1 as part of the Austrian front. Because of this it is also a popular destination in summer, as it is possible to climb the full height of the mountain inside the tunnels dug out by soldiers approximately one hundred years ago. If this doesn’t appeal then the cable car will whisk hikers and skiers alike, over sheer Dolomite cliffs, to the top of the mountain.
From here we made a visit to the Lagazuoi Rifugiowhich offers incredible panoramic views of some of the most impressive and recognisable peaks in the Dolomites. We enjoyed the sun and a quick expresso before stretching our legs on the black run that twists its way down from the summit, back down to the cable car again.
Then it was time to head down the Hidden Valley itself. With the best weather we could have hoped for and the sun on our backs we started our descent, stopping from place to place to take in the views. It is completely and utterly isolated from civilisation and the reason behind the name becomes apparent very quickly. The run is a mixture of gentle, undulating tracks higher up where the valley is wide, then is frequented by slightly wider and steeper pitches as you drop down lower between impressive high walls. Ice falls cling to the rocks either side and glint in the light that falls through the gaps in the peaks.
Rifugio Scotoni is a welcome stop for many, sitting roughly half way down the valley. It has an excellent reputation for its food, including an enormous mixed grill! This is another attraction to the area that can be enjoyed all year round –I first visited on one of our summer walks to the area.
Just a bit further on and the slope flattens out into Capanna Alpina, a tree filled basin with another pleasant Rifugio nestled at its base. With a bit of a skate the group pushed on to one of the biggest attractions of the day. The horses!
Getting back to the resort
Getting out of the Hidden Valley and back to resort by your own steam would be quite an undertaking as the terrain almost completely flattens. Therefore upon arrival at the bottom a collection of horses and carts stand in wait for skiers. For the price of just €2.50 each, up to fifty skiers can take hold of two long, knotted pieces of rope and hold on determinedly as the horses pull you back to the resort! Admittedly I was a little nervous at first but as soon as we were moving and away I started to enjoy the novelty of it all, and soon enough it was time to jump back onto the lift and ski back into resort.
All in all it’s easy to see why the Hidden Valley is a favourite for many who visit the Dolomites. With fantastic views, lovely skiing and impressive surroundings on offer, it all culminates in a truly memorable way to end the day -Who else can claim to have been towed through the mountains by horse and cart with skis still on foot?
For more information or to book your trip to the Dolomites go to our Dolomites landing page.