Best spots for Freeriding & Ski Touring in the Dolomites

Daniel DawsonNovember 26, 2018

The Dolomites are an impressive limestone mountain range located in Italy’s northeast and split between the provinces of Trentino, Belluno, Bolzano, Udine and Pordenone.

The area has been a popular destination for all types of outdoor sports for more than a century. However, it is arguably most known for its superb ski touring slopes and routes. With more than 44 peaks rising above 2.000 meters tall, it is little wonder tourists from around the world descend on this superb skiing spot starting in December.

The winter brings snowfall in great abundance as well as outstanding quality. The series of huts that run through the range, servicing hikers in the summer, seamlessly transition into ski huts once the first snows arrive.

The diverse terrain of this UNESCO World Heritage site is perfectly suited for both freeriding down some of the range’s long and scenic runs as well as hut-to-hut tours or ski safaris, of which there are several popular routes.

In spite of taking up a relatively small area – just more than 1.400 square kilometers – the range is full of amazing ski touring destinations and will keep you coming back for years to come.

In order to ease the search for your next ski holiday, we have compiled a list of a few of the top spots that the Dolomites have to offer.

 

Marmolada freeride skiing

 

Among the many top-notch free ride spots in the Dolomites, Marmolada offers long and scenic runs all around the mountain. Photo courtesy of Enrico Geremia.

Rising 3.343 meters above sea level, the Marmolada is the tallest mountain in the whole Dolomite Range. Lying only 100 kilometers northwest from Venice it can be seen from the city on a clear day.

Many freeriders choose to challenge themselves on the Marmolada Glacier, which sits on the mountain’s northern face. It is very popular with freeride skiers due to its 1.490 meter long run.

The slope is perfect for intermediate off-piste skiers looking for a challenge as well as advanced skiers simply seeking out some scenic runs. While the peak is a bit advanced for beginner ski tourers, the Arabba resort is nearby and perfect for first time ski tourers.


In brief:

  • Starting point: Malga Ciapela is the best place to start a ski touring trip as it is located at the foot of Marmolada. Arabba is also nearby and allows for easy access to Marmolada.  
  • How to get there: there’s a bus shuttle service during the winter season, connecting the Marmolada area with Venice and Treviso airports. The closest train stations are Belluno, Bolzano and Brunico.

Top trips: Arabba-Marmolada guided freeride ski and Dolomites 4-day guided ski touring


Dolomite Haute Route

 

Ski touring in the Dolomites
The Haute Route of the Dolomites takes you through much of the region’s iconic scenery. Photo courtesy of Renato Bernard.

The ‘traditional’ Dolomite Haute Route runs through the eastern half of the mountain range, beginning in Falcade and finishing in Cortina d’Ampezzo. The route usually takes about six days and takes you through some of the most outstanding scenery in the Dolomites.

Over the course of the week, you will ski across the Forca Rossa di San Pellegrino, receiving excellent views of the Marmolada, before descending to the foot of the iconic peak. This will be followed the next day with a traverse through the Puez mountain range before heading to the north side of Lake Braies.

The highlight of the trip is a long and exhilarating run with a view of the Tre Cime de Lavaredo in the foreground before finishing off the trip in Sesto valley and transferring to Cortina d’Ampezzo to celebrate.

Some guides also offer slight variations to the trip, but whether its a ‘traditional’ one or not, all the routes will visit the same highlights.


In brief:

  • Starting point: This depends on the guide. Some will opt to meet in the village of Falcade to begin the traditional route. Others will opt to meet in Cortina d’Ampezzo and transfer to the start of the trip from there.
  • How to get there: There’s a bus shuttle service during the winter season that takes you to Cortina d’Ampezzo from Venice and Treviso airports. The nearest train stations are Calalzo (35 km) and Dobbiacco (32 km). 

Top trips: Dolomites Haute Route and off-piste ski touring trip and 6-day guided ski safari in the Dolomites


Sella Group Massif

 

Steep skiing is one of the big draws of the Sella Group Massif. However, it’s not the only. Hut-to-hut treks around the massif are also quite popular. Photo courtesy of Etienne Bernard.

Located in the northwestern part of the Dolomites, the Sella group is an enormous and spectacular massif with plenty of ski touring available for participants of every level.

The massif is renowned for long and steep freeride runs paired with astounding views of the surrounding valleys all the way down. Among the most popular peaks in the massif are the Piz Boe (3.151 m), the Cima Pisciadu (2.985 m), the Boeseekofel (2.910 m) and the Sass Pordoi (2.952 m).

The massif is also home to some of Italy’s most famous descents, including the Val Mesdi from the Pordoischarte. For those looking for something other than purely powder runs, there is also a wide assortment of channels, including the Holzer couloir, the Sass de Forcia couloir and the Ghiacciaio couloir.

For those itching for panoramic views, the Sella Ronda is a classic tour around the whole massif that easily scratches that itch as well as gets in some pretty epic runs as well.

Be sure to spend at least a week touring this unique spot in the Dolomites. All the different types of runs and scenic mountain passes will ensure every minute that you are out on the slopes is well spent.  


In brief:

  • Starting point: Arabba and Malga Ciapela are the most common starting points for these types of trips.
  • How to get there: there’s a bus shuttle service during the winter season that takes you to Arabba from Venice and Treviso airports. The closest train stations are Belluno, Bolzano and Brunico.

Top trips: Sella group guided steep skiing trip, Freeride skiing with a guide in Sella group and Dolomites 4-day guided ski touring  

Val di Fassa

 

The mountains and alpine forests around Val di Fossa make for an excellent backdrop to a hut-to-hut or freeride skiing adventure. Photo courtesy of Etienne Bernard.

The Val di Fassa is a gorgeous valley located in the western half of the Dolomites. It is renowned for its natural beauty, boasting great mountain views, alpine forests and cozy mountain lodges.

Among the numerous highlights are the Passo del Mulaz, the Passo delle selle, the Picol Laste, the Cima Vallacia, the valley of Duron and the Rifugio Antermoia. Many of these offer black-rated slopes, making this trip ideal for expert skiers looking for a thrill.

The numerous huts that dot this valley as well as the surrounding mountains also makes the region an excellent spot for some hut-to-hut ski touring. The astounding beauty and high-quality skiing are a combination that is sure to keep you enthralled throughout the duration of your stay.    


In brief:

  • Starting point: Most guides will pick a meeting place within the Val di Fassa resort area, such as Campitello di Fassa or Canazei di Fassa.
  • How to get there: The closest train stations are Bolzano, Trento and Ora. You can take a bus from there. There’s also a bus shuttle service during the winter season, connecting the airports of Treviso, Venezia, Verona, Milan and Bergamo with the Val di Fassa region.

If you need accommodation in Val di Fassa, here are some places recommended by local guide Etienne:

Top trips: Val di Fassa guided ski touring and Val di Fassa 3-day guided ski touring


Best time to visit

 

So-called ‘ski safaris’ are by far the best way to get the broadest possible sample of this diverse and scenic region. Photo courtesy of Paolo Tassi.

The best time to visit the Dolomites for ski touring is from December to March, over which period of time snow blankets the mountain range.

Unlike other popular alpine skiing locations, the Dolomites have a relatively mild winter. Daily average temperatures hover around around freezing, making long stretches of skiing quite comfortable.

The Dolomites are also renowned for the amount of sunlight that they receive. While snow is always abundant, a remarkable eight out of ten days are sunny during the winter!

Other activities in the area

 

Ice climbing in Val di Fassa
Ice climbing in Val di Fassa. Photo courtesy of Renato Bernard.

If you are interested in trying out some other winter sports during your trip in the Dolomites, both ice climbing and snowshoeing are quite popular and offered in or around major ski touring destinations.

If you fall in love with the winter scenery of the Dolomites, but want to see what all the fuss is about its summer season, then come to the range for some hiking, rock climbing or climbing on one of the numerous via ferratas.

Whatever you choose to do, you will surely not leave the range disappointed.

So what are you waiting for? Start planning your next ski touring holiday in the majestic Dolomites today and discover!

 

 

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