The top 10 ski runs in Italy outdo all others
If you are a beginning skier, skip this article.
If your slope-sliding skills are intermediate, take a look, but with caution.
Experts searching for a challenge, read on. You will learn about some of the best skiing in Italy.
Life in Italy is not just about great food and gorgeous citizens. The skiing is world-class, too. The long sunny winter days, terrific dining right on the slopes, and après-ski customs that will make your head spin (if you don’t believe that, try a Bombardino — but make sure it is après skiing!) all make skiing on the peninsula a trip worth taking.
Following is a list of challenging ski runs in Italy. They are listed alphabetically — you’ll have to decide which is your favorite.
¶ Fraiteve at San Sicario: America’s best female skier, Lindsey Kildow, had her Olympic dreams shattered in February when she crashed during a practice run on this demanding course. Negotiating the 2,543- foot drop over a two-mile distance is electrifying. The piste starts above the tree line, offering a magnificent view to the northwest. The course is unforgivingly steep with a constant barrage of huge curves. It only gets easy when you finish.
¶ Gran Risa at La Villa: The shortest run on the list, Gran Risa is also the most technical. At just over one mile long, with a vertical drop of 1,470 feet, it is far from harmless. What makes it special is the steep 53 percent grade, without relief, until the bottom. The run features continuous sharp, sweeping turns through trees to keep your blood pumping. If you can look up, enjoy the breathtaking view of the convergence of two valleys. This season, the middle has been widened, but it remains a serious test. The World Cup circuit returned to the Gran Risa this year, for the men’s giant slalom and slalom races.
¶ Kandahar Borgata at Sestriere: This is where bad boy skier Bode Miller stunk it up during the Olympics. He is one of the best skiers in the world, but failed to finish in three of five events. That should tell you something about how challenging this run can be.
It starts at the highest peak in the expansive Via Lattea (Milky Way) ski area. Slightly more than two miles long with a vertical drop of 3,000 feet, Kandahar features long, steep, wide turns and near sheer straight stretches. A portion of the run called the “Diagonal” inclines sharply to the right. At the end, another steep wall brings a final chance to test your courage. How cool will it be to ski on the same slope as the Olympics? As with Miller, it depends on whether you finish.
¶ La Bellunese at Marmolada: This is 7½ miles of holding your breath: La Bellunese starts off with a bang, a precipitous plunge that seems to last forever. You’ll pass a small lake, then the trail levels out for the final two miles into the village of Malga Ciapela. This run is designated as red (intermediate) because it is wide from top to bottom. But the top is very steep, and at 10,965 feet, the weather can redefine the word foul. The vertical drop on this baby is nearly 6,000 feet.
¶ Olimpia delle Tofana at Cortina d’Ampezzo: Cortina is the most beautiful of Italy’s Dolomiti ski areas, and the Tofana is Cortina’s crown jewel. The vertical drop is 2,375 feet and the length is just short of two miles. The northwest-facing slope dives, takes deep turns, runs across unexpected (small) jumps, and the “Big S” — a roaming double turn on the steepest section of the run. The world’s best women skiers will be here this season for World Cup races.
¶ Panorama at Civetta: This is a long, intermediate run with breathtaking views of Alleghe Lake. Starting at the peak called Col Dei Baldi (elevation 6,310 feet) and ending in Alleghe (the town, not the lake), the vertical descent covers 3,270 feet over a distance of more than three miles. The trail is wide at the top, and meanders down the side of the mountain. A short steep stretch marks the tree line, where the path narrows to about 20 feet across and begins a series of medium turns until the finish.
¶ Saslong at Val Gardena: This is a terrific, 2.3-mile run that can be included on the famous Sella Ronda ski circuit. A postcard- like route through trees, Saslong starts at 7,380 feet and offers a 2,752-foot drop in elevation. The piste is wide from start to finish, and due to its eastern-facing orientation, is best tried in the morning. About midway down the slope, new “camel jumps” will keep you leaning forward. Men’s World Cup Super G and downhill races were held here this month.
¶ Sylvester at Kronplatz/Plan de Corones: At an altitude of 7,464 feet, this 3.1 mile-long beast starts with an abrupt drop and the slope angled to the left. As that first part flattens out, you have your only chance to reconsider, and take the lift at the middle station going back up. If you continue down, the piste narrows to about 15 feet, and scoots along the side of the mountain for a short stretch. Then the fun begins, starting with a sweeping, steep turn to the right. From here, Sylvester comes alive, thrashing down the hill with one dizzying turn after another. The final 300 yards flatten out again as you reach the base, where the lift takes you back up. The vertical descent is more than 4,700 ear-popping feet.
¶ Trametsch at Plose: This is a long (almost 4½ miles with a drop of 3,775 feet), narrow run that turns relentlessly from top to bottom. All the turns are tight and steep, testing your strength and endurance. Accurate adjectives include undulating, merciless and exhilarating.
¶ Tre-3 at Madonna di Campiglio: Perhaps the most beautiful run listed, the Tre-3 starts well above the tree line on a narrow trail that slides along the side of a tree-filled bowl. Facing to the east, you can see the valley below, the town of Madonna di Campiglio and the mountains (with more skiing) on the other side. As you reach the tree line, the path widens and drops sharply before entering a series of long turns to the bottom. The vertical descent is 1,853 feet over a 2½-mile track. The finish is at the Cinque Laghi (Five Lakes) gondola, and right in the center of town, where you’ll find that Bombardino waiting.
Jim Sajo is a freelance writer living in northern Italy.
For more information ...For details on the resorts where these 10 challenging runs are, or about stops on the World Cup ski tour, check these Web sites.
— Jim Sajo