Guest blog from two Canadians
Val Gardena is a spectacular ski region nestled in the Italian Dolomites, a place of extreme beauty and rugged land.
The three main villages; Ortisei, Santa Cristina and Selva Val Gardena are home to 10k-ish full-time residents. These picturesque villages boast upscale restaurants, shops, hotels and apartments to accommodate and entertain outdoorsy guests.
Languages Spoken – Ladin, Italian & German
The native language of this mountainous region is Ladin – the only place in the world where this language is spoken/officially recognized.
The Ladins are an ethnic minority with an ancient history in the Dolomite mountains dating back to the Roman Empire. We were told “witches” fled to this remote area to escape persecution and still practice here!
Val Gardena hosts hundreds of thousands of skiers and hikers - with the majority of tourists from Germany. You won’t hear much English spoken in this area so we recommend downloading Google Translate!
The rock face and snow covered alps are breathtaking. The ski mountains are connected by arteries of countless trails, 80 lifts and amazing full-service restaurants.
According to two couples (one from Switzerland and one from France), Val Gardena has the most beautiful views of all the alps. And THE best lunch culture - no self-service buffets of chicken fingers and frozen pizzas. The food is delicious (as you would expect in Italy) with seemingly mandatory beers, wine, aperol spritzers and shots to get you down the mountain in time for après ski happy hour!
The views and atmosphere are unsurpassed! We skied in February 2023. The weather was beautiful and sunny. The area hadn’t had snow for weeks so it was a little icier than normal but still amazing. The skiing is a little less challenging than the bigger North American hills we’ve skied but really lovely! Unlike NA where all trails tend to end at a main hub, you can easily go up the lift in your village and end up two villages over. Many of the runs are flatter and shorter. The logistics can be daunting if you’re not great at reading maps and bus schedules. As an example - on our first day we took a bus, multiple gondolas & chairlifts, a train through the mountain and a tram!! Very cool!
Our 2nd day we did La Sala Ronda (green arrow) around the mountain. About 6 hours of going up and down to get around the mountain. Quite neat!
Our favourite day was skiing the Alps de Suisi. You take an adrenaline producing bus ride up the mountain from the top of the Monte Pana chairlift. It’s an adventure and you get away from the larger crowds. Beautiful view and easy skiing. The Cross country trails at top of Mont Pana looked nice. Many neat looking hotels on this mountain.
If all that sounds exhausting you could stick to one mountain and enjoy a leisurely lunch!
Here are a few tips to help you discover the Dolomites.
We flew from Toronto to Frankfurt. Frankfurt has direct flights to Innsbruck. We had to fly via Berlin but noticed on the airport board that there are direct flights to Innsbruck.
Try not to travel on a Saturday. Most hotel packages are Sat to Sat so very busy on the autobahn up to Val Gardena. Also - if you can avoid Germany’s school break it will be less crowded on the hills.
Do You Need a Car?
The short answer is NO. But read the longer answer first before making a decision.
There is a bus from the Innsbruck airport to Val Gardena. The bus is fine if your apartment/hotel is within walking distance (while carrying your skis) to a ski lift. Otherwise you may want a car. Avis, Budget and other car rental places are at Innsbruck airport in the Parkade building.
If you rent a car budget about 30 Euros return for tolls. Cash and credit cards accepted.
There was a bus service in front of our apartment but often packed so we had to wait for multiple buses. Bus service back from skiing is only available after 3pm. We had trouble figuring out the right bus back to our apartment and hopped into what we thought was a shuttle bus but was an unmarked taxi that did not take credit cards. He was not a happy driver. Parking is available at many base lifts. Free or 8 Euros for the day.
Bring Euros - some ski lift parking only accepts cash.
Where to Rent Skis
We did one day of gorgeous cross-country skiing in Selva. We rented our equipment at Intersport. They were excellent! We recommend reserving online a few days ahead of time during busy season.
Walter Ski Rental is fantastic for downhill rentals and has 3 locations. We stayed in Selva Gardena and used the location off of Col de Leche. Excellent equipment and service. Parking across from shop near Dantercepies lift.
Where to Eat
We are not foodies so ate lunch on the mountain and had breakfast and dinner in our apartment. Here are three suggestions but I don’t think you can go wrong with any restaurants in this area!
Pizzeria Da Rin - in Selva village. Amazing pizza, service and a pretty good price (given the area). Medel was recommended to us but we didn’t get there.
Off Col Raiser - Cuca is a lot of fun! Lots of outdoor seating in the sun. Great music. If you pay cash they gift you with a free shooter.
Best Après Ski - @apresskisnowbar at base of the Saslong lift is very lively. Home of World Cup 2029.
Bring Euros - some restaurants require cash if bill is under 30 Euros.
Where to Stay
Hotel Fanes looked nice. There is a very swanky hotel in Selva close to the lifts (can’t remember the name but it's beside the hockey rink).
Note: This is a very expensive area. Renting an apartment vs staying in a hotel allows you to have breakfast and dinner at home. You don’t want to brownbag lunch. Lunching in the Italian Alps is unsurpassed. If you have a car it would be cheaper to pick up a few staples in Innsbruck. The Selva Supermarket is very $$$.
Purchase a good quality power adapter (NA to Europe) to charge electronics. We had a cheap one that required some MacGyver-ing. The plugs are inset and round so I think a round adapter would fit better than our square one.
Other Things to Do
The Val Gardena Pro Hockey Team - is super popular with locals and a lot of fun to watch.
Hiking - there are all kinds of hiking trails. Little huts all over the mountains for rests and overnights. Not sure how that works but would be gorgeous temperature and views in Spring/Summer/Fall.
Mountain Biking - looks like a mecca for mountain biking during off-season.
There are likely many more things to do and tips from more experienced and frequent travellers to this incredible ski destination. You will love it! Safe Travels!
Interested in contributing a Travel Guide as a Guest Blogger? Please email Stephanie at firstname.lastname@example.org