Skiing & Snowshoeing Holidays

Winter Holidays in Europe’s most majestic mountains
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Organised & Self-guided Walking with a Genuine Specialist

Chalet Angelo were offering some high level walking this week and one of the options took guests to Lago di Sorapis, a majestic lake just the other side of Cortina.

As the drive took us to the Falzarego Pass and away from Badia, the blue skies sadly disappeared in the distance as a huge rain cloud hovered above Cortina. Guests sat questioning why they had chosen shorts for the day as organiser Gemma reassured them that clear skies were definitely forecasted! It was a small group of five, including myself, out for the day and the route was new to everybody. We had all heard stories that Lake Sorapis is a place of awe-inspiring beauty so we could not wait to start the walk.

The first hour flew by as we all conversed, getting to know one another. It soon became evident that we were sharing the route with walkers of the Alta Via 3, a long distance hut to hut walk. The traffic built up as we begin the gentle ascent heading for the small section of protected path. One of our guests, Rebecca, commented “If she can do it, then so can I!” as she pointed to a little girl no older than 3 years. The protected ledge, which offered a trustworthy wire to hold on to, opened up fantastic views across the valley as far as the eye could see.

Views across the Gruppo del Sorapis

Soon enough, Rifugio Vandelli poked its head out of the trees in the distance. We all put a bet on how long it would take us before we were sat comfortably enjoying a coffee; at a minute past midday, it couldn’t have been better timing. It wasn’t long before our eagerness to see this supposed majestic lake overcame us, so we plodded the extra 5 minutes up the hill before it came into view.

Lago Sorapis

A simultaneous “WOW” escaped everybody. The pure blue colour of the water, the protruding rock formations in the background and the sudden arrival of sunshine (something we weren’t sure we’d see!) created a picture-perfect scene so commonly found here in the Dolomites. We took advantage of such a place by enjoying a long lunch in the sunshine as the boys headed down to skim stones across the water. Before time escaped us completely, we decided to carry on with our walk at a leisurely pace.

Up until this point, it was difficult to understand why the walk was graded as hard. However, we soon came across an interesting path which incorporated steep ascent, light scrambling and loose rock – nothing our adventurous and sure-footed guests couldn’t handle nevertheless. Reaching heights of over 2200m, views were ever extending and changeable as we wound around the rock face.

Making our way across the protected ledge, hoping for some sunshine

When you go up, you must come down. The last downhill section introduced unstable scree which had some of us down on our bums – sometimes intentionally. Much support (as well as laughs) was offered to each member of the party and we all got down safely, with thanks from our knees. A nice, flat 2km stretch brought us back to swapping stories and having a good old natter before the track brought us out right alongside the van. A great day had by all unearthing one of the many hidden gems found here in the Italian Dolomites.

Collett’s blogs are written by our resort diarist, photographer and walker, Kelly Diggle. If you are out on a walk with her you are sure to be included in her photographs in one of her weekly blogs. Kelly’s personal travel blog can be found here.

By day, Corvara is alive with traffic. Cafés are full with coffee enthusiasts, coaches arrive and unleash excited visitors en masse as cars slow to find a space and cyclists push themselves to the top of the hill. By night, and particularly every Thursday evening in the summer, the road closes and local acts come out to entertain.

It’s between 5pm and 10pm that barriers are laid out to prevent any cars driving through. Almost instantly people take advantage of being able to walk on the road without worry as shops open their doors for late night intrigue. It’s at 9pm that the town really comes to life!

As I headed down to the open air stage, crowds began gathering from every direction in anticipation for the first act of the night. Before long, a group of ladies in long skirts and cowboy boots joined the stage to show off their country style moves. A warm round of applause encouraged the dancers to put all of their effort in, persuading the crowd to tap a foot to the music.

Between acts I decided to have a look inside an inviting building behind the stage. The open room had been filled with impressive water colour paintings for all to browse and enjoy, with each piece representing the Dolomite Mountains. It was clearly a perfect place for parents to respite as I saw many children queuing just outside for the free candy floss and popcorn on offer.

Upon hearing an accordion further up the street, I wandered over to have a look. Two young boys, no older than 12, sat confidently each with their own instrument, taking it in turns to play. Fantastic skill and entertainment surely enriched the dinner being enjoyed by a couple sat outside a restaurant behind them.

Toward the bottom of the street, I saw yet another gathering. Bouncing excitedly down the road I caught a glimpse of men dressed smartly in traditional Lederhosen. As I ducked through the crowd, the men burst into Schuhplattler, a traditional folk dance, rhythmically striking their knees, thighs and soles to the beat of an accordion. It did nothing but bring smiles to people’s faces as the tempo increased and then men churned out some striking high kicks in turn.

To top off a wonderful fun-filled evening, a Zumba group burst into action, blasting out catchy music across the street. With a large area at the back (covered mostly in darkness), it would have been rude not to join in and give it a go. The Zumba-experts let out a cry of encouragement as I jumped into position, promoting the idea to other passersby. The atmosphere during the entire evening was fantastic with a wide variety of entertainment; I might just have to pop back next week to find out what’s in store.

Collett’s blogs are written by our resort diarist, photographer and walker, Kelly Diggle. If you are out on a walk with her you are sure to be included in her photographs in one of her weekly blogs. Kelly’s personal travel blog can be found here.

Anyone who comes to the Dolomites in search of adventure is surely spoilt for choice when it comes to Via Ferrata. With 76 in the immediate area, it stands to question what makes the Brigata Tridentina so popular for our Alta Badia visitors. Walk organisers ventured out at the crack of dawn to get a feel for the Via Ferrata that receives such bright eyes and beaming smiles from our guests.

Climbers approaching the start of Via Ferrata Brigata Tridentina near Corvara in the Italian Dolomites

Upon arrival to the car park just below Passo Gardena, we were not sure how long the walk in to Tridentina would be. However, after following the well signposted ‘Via Ferrata’ for ten minutes, we caught sight of the iron wire – easy! Simultaneously a large waterfall revealed itself which attracted our eye to the iron stemples creeping up the side of the rock and out of view.

Climbing on Via Ferrata Tridentina

The view over Passo Gardena to Sassongher and Corvara

The first hour of the route changed between stemples, iron pins and exposed rock. At no point did the climbing become difficult as stemples were perfectly placed when no visible footholds could be found. As we twisted round the face and climbed higher, the waterfall continued to flow alongside us among the orange-tinged limestone. Easy, manageable hand holds were obtainable throughout which took focus away from the exposure, but having the wire present meant that it could be used if needed. Breath-taking views across Passo Gardena, Corvara, Sassongher and the Fanes National Park opened up during the second hour, encouraging frequent breaks to soak it all in.

Passo Gardena

Climbing the ferrata

A local man of an older generation confidently overtook us at a safe place, whilst exchanging a warm smile and a chirpy good morning. His self-assurance and ability to do this Via Ferrata alone supported the 3B grading that this route has; any age and ability can happily complete this route with little difficulty or skill.

A small, vertical ladder took us almost to the top before bringing to light the spectacular bridge. Balanced between two separate rock faces and supported by numerous iron wires, the bridge sits above a very large ravine from where the road below can be seen – an adrenaline filled experience in itself.

Lago Pisciadu, 2500m
Rifugio Cavazza

As we reached Rifugio Cavazza, a five minute walk once unclipped, the temptation of Lago Pisciadu was upon us. With its pristine turquoise water glistening in the sunshine, we all agreed it would be perfect for a post Via Ferrata swim before heading to the balcony for a well earned Cappuccino and strudel.

For more information on Via Ferrata with Collett’s, Click here.

Collett’s blogs are written by our resort diarist, photographer and walker, Kelly Diggle. If you are out on a walk with her you are sure to be included in her photographs in one of her weekly blogs. Kelly’s personal travel blog can be found here.

by Tom Collett

The first Collett’s Ski Safari was a huge success and a truly memorable Dolomites experience for a group of 12 skiers. I was privileged to be one of them. (Occasionally one has to ‘up-sticks’ and leave the family in the name of product research!)

Skiing at San Pellegrino
Colin and I above Alleghe with Monte Pelmo (3,168m) behind

This unique ‘hut to hut’ skiing holiday in the Dolomites was made all the more special by a variation of sublime snow conditions and a delightful group of people – from Paddy and Carol in their late sixties (ex-members of the NZ ladies ski racing team) to Steve and Amy (a couple in their 30’s from Washington D.C .) As the week progressed, snowfall and fresh powder made way for immaculately manicured pistes and sensational panoramas set against cloudless blue skies. It was a great pleasure to witness people’s amazement as every turn revealed another staggering vista.

Skiing the ‘Hidden Valley’
Skiing down to Nuova Levante
from San Pellegrino

A Collett’s Ski Safari highlights the extent and sheer beauty of this vast ski network. The feel-good factor is immense and it is further intensified by the ability to ski from one beautiful valley to the next, covering miles of pistes (mainly intermediate, often easy and occasionally quite steep), starting perhaps at 3000m before descending into the lower tree-lined pistes that spill you out into picturesque, little-known resorts. From these you start your next ascent to another breathtaking launchpad, which, moments earlier, had been a distant speck against a backdrop of dramatic peaks. Sometimes ski buses and taxis were required to keep us on the move but these journeys were generally short and hassle-free.

Our guide, Mario
Setting out for the day at Passo Carezza

If you stay in one of our catered chalets in the Dolomites on a conventional Collett’s winter holiday, you can certainly ski for miles, visiting several different valleys before heading back to your base. Indeed, this is one the key attractions of our winter holidays in the Dolomites. However, on a Collett’s Ski Safari you just keep going and going. And everyone in the group looked forward to sitting over a map and a beer in the late afternoons retracing the day’s route and marvelling at the distance covered. This particular tour took in Arabba, Pordoi, Canazei, the Val di Fassa (Vigo, Pozza, Moena & Predazzo), Carezza, Obereggen, San Pellegrino, Falcade, Alleghe, Zoldo, Cinque Torre, Cortina, the Hidden Valley, Corvara and the Alta Badia – but the sheer enormity of this ski area meant that we missed out on places such as the Val Gardena, the Marmolada, San Vigilio and Plan de Corones, all of which are gems and will surely be included in future Collett’s Ski Safaris.

Skiing at San Pellegrino
Skiing at Cristallo, above Cortina

Finally, a mention for the huts that accommodated us each evening. This aspect of the safari was certainly one of the most gratifying and heartwarming. It is a wonderful experience to ski to a hut in the late afternoon, take off your skis and settle in for the evening. It’s also a bonus to find your rucksack waiting for you. The first thing I did was to call the family and let them know where I was, describing the day and then the amazing winter landscape before my eyes. Some of the rifugios were perched high in the mountains just off the piste, some were lower down in wooded areas accessed by winter tracks. All were homely and provided more than adequate accommodation with en suite bedrooms and hot showers. We had such delightful evenings playing cards and other games. In one hut perched high above Cortina we were all on such a high that dancing and singing prevailed for most of the evening, admittedly fuelled by a drink or two. The hospitality in the huts was warm and welcoming. The staff fed and watered us very well and dinner was always excellent and an enjoyable focal point of the day.

Steve & Amy skiing Son Forca at Cristallo
Admiring the view and taking some photos of Monte Pelmo (3,168m)

After dinner we would usually stay at the table for a couple of nightcaps. Everyone seemed to have a recommendation in this department and our tired limbs would eventually hit the sack sedated by a certain grappa or amaretto – you name it, we probably tried it. But such was the camaraderie that inevitably prevailed on such a venture, no one really wanted to break up the party and be the first to bed.

Either way, every morning I woke up forgetting that I was in a remote mountain rifugio in the Dolomites, only to enjoy that realisation when I heard the voice of a room-mate that wasn’t my wife’s. Then I would throw back the curtains to be invigorated by the view, get dressed, enjoy breakfast and slowly but surely get excited about the day ahead…. the skiing, the scenery and the sheer exhilaration. I came home feeling 20 years younger.

Getting ready to ski the hidden valley
Collett's Dolomites Ski Safari Slideshow
Collett’s Dolomites Ski Safari Slideshow – Click to play

The next Collett’s Ski Safari is 16th to 23rd March and there are still places available. For Winter 2013/14 we hope to launch a more extensive programme of ski safaris, so keep an eye on our website or email or ring us on 01799_ 513331

The whole group!
Setting off for the day’s skiing