Claudia Da Rin

Ten of the best winter experiences in the Dolomites

The Dolomites always have an ace up their sleeves

 

What a fabulous year for snow lovers! All alpine hamlets and villages are covered by a delicate, snowy blanket, the shimmering sunrays bestowing a magical atmosphere. It is time to don that trendy ski suit, polish off your edges and wear four-buckle boots, getting ready to cruise down groomed slopes. Or is it? We do live in most extraordinary times, so snow slopes may be off our radars for a little while longer.

Still, no time to despair, as the Dolomites always have an ace up their sleeves; whether it is a fascinating museum, the starry sky at night, an unusual encounter with llamas or a staggering lunch in a jaw-dropping location, we will take you on an exciting journey of discovery where the Dolomites set the trend, again and again.

1. Starlight Room 360°

When it comes to stars shining bright, the mountain sky offers no better place. What a marvel it would be to fall asleep while contemplating the celestial sky: in the sublime Starlight Room 360° you can do exactly that! Adjacent to the Col Gallina hut at Passo Falzarego, about 16 km/10 miles from Cortina, you can wish upon a star while Morpheus knocks on your door, from December to March. Start with a delightful dinner while admiring the unique Enrosadira sunset, to be enjoyed at the venue, then it’s the turn of a myriad of constellations, trying to detect Ursa Minor, Ursa Major, Orion and many more bright stars, all within a super stellar setting.

This really is the experience of a lifetime!

2. Husky Sleddog

The close bond between men and dogs is well known, these animals expressing countless emotions and conveying their affection like very few human beings can do. What if you could take part in a sleddog adventure? You would see this close bond in action amid matchless scenery. Led by the only two mushers in Italy, Ararad and Monica, Husky Sleddog is a step into another world. Rides start and arrive at the Fattoria Sociale delle Regole Ampezzane in the Ampezzane Dolomites Park in Socol, towards San Vito, beyond the bridge on the river Boite (on the other side of the Area 51 Bar), close to Cortina; you will start with an initial guiding lesson, revealing some secrets on how to understand the dogs’ behaviour, then you’ll be off for your adventure on snow. Sleddog adventures are also organised at Passo delle Erbe. Lucy, Balto, Fox, Georgia, Koda, Rhea and just a few of the sweet husky dogs waiting for you. Italo and Greta will take you on a fabulous journey where these fantastic animals set the pace and reveal their captivating world.

 

3. Horse riding and winter carriage ride

An equally strong bond is between men and horses; these regal, magnificent animals have accompanied men in their adventures ever since record began. To prove this point, horse riding is a passion shared by many enthusiasts; it is not, however, only polo matches, dressage and wild adventures in the warmer months. In South Tyrol, in fact, you can swap skis for a saddle and enjoy the ride in the winter, as well. Ride around Bolzano, on the high plateau Renon, San Genesio, wild Val Sarentino and Meltina; admire snowy landscapes and feel the crisp mountain air while savouring this unique experience.

If it’s pure romance you are after, try a winter carriage ride on Seiser Alm. Experience Europe’s largest plateau with fresh eyes. Delight in viewing Sassolungo, Sassopiatto and Sciliar within a dreamy, snowy landscape and enjoy the most alluring aspect of these unique rock cathedrals.

 

4. Snowshoeing adventure

Pristine snowfields and slopes, unspoilt winter landscapes, silence enveloping each and everything: this is surely the recipe of a glorious snowshoeing adventure.  The Dolomites offer unbeatable scenery and countless opportunities for winter hikes with snowshoes, but the Fanes-Senes-Braies nature park is something special: try Giavo Grande, a demanding hike from Braies that takes on a superb viewpoint that encompasses dreamy Lake Braies, Monte Croce (Crusc de Rit) from La Val, from which you can admire Monte Croce, the Marmolada, Sella and Puez chains, in all their sublime majesty, or Störes from Badia towards Livinallongo: the view from the top of this mountain is breath-taking. Remember that you will be venturing into an ungroomed, non-secure environment, so proper training is essential. You should be equipped with a probe, a transceiver and a shovel.

Ask local mountain guides for assistance, if in doubt. We can give you full support

5. Paleontological Museum and Mario Rimoldi Modern Art 

Dubbed the “Queen of the Dolomites”, loved by the well heeled and surrounded by staggering natural wonders, Cortina also hosts some unexpected gems. Delve into the history of this fabulous area and discover that the Dolomites were once hosting tropical seas! You will learn about ancient marine fossils found in this region at the Paleontological Museum, where corals, sponges and fossils of various animals tell the fascinating story of a long-gone world. If, however, modern art is rather up your street, do not miss the Mario Rimoldi Modern Art Museum.

Created in 1974, it houses the exceptional works that once belonged to this eminent art collector: from De Pisis to Gino Severini, Morandi to Guttuso, but also foreign artists like Kokoshka and Leger, this remarkable museum will simply astonish you.

6. Abbazia di Novacella

Passion for wine has, indeed, been going strong in South Tyrol for many centuries. You only need to look at the many vineyards dotted around the region to see why. Wine growing also happens to mingle with other, unexpected aspects of our lives: take the exceptional Abbazia di Novacella, in Varna, close to the border with Austria. Not only is this convent, run by Augustinian canons, replete with sublime artworks, a convention centre and a boarding school, but it is also one of the oldest wineries in the world, with documents attesting vineyards in the area as early as 1177.  Everything in this monastic complex abounds with superlatives: from the complex itself, an architectural ensemble spanning many centuries and combining Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque, Rococo and Classicist influences, to an incredible Rococo-decorated, rich library, containing precious books and manuscripts, completed in 1778. A highly ornate Abbey church, a cloister with pointed arches and gothic frescoes, a museum displaying works by late Trecento artists, lovely gardens and even its own Miracle Fountain, dating back to 1669.  This really is a world apart.

7. LUMEN – Museum of Mountain Photography

Mountains and photography go hand in hand, that’s a given. Games of light and shade, memorable sunsets and surprising sunrises, the stark profiles of snow-capped mountains against the blue-bird sky, stark colours adding hues to our lives: it is surprising to see to what extent photography told the story that unites men and mountains. At the LUMEN –Museum of Mountain Photography in Plan de Corones at 2775m, you will learn about the most interesting aspects linked with this fascinating art. This brand new architectural masterpiece covers 1,800 square metres and four floors, devoted to the art of mountain photography from all over the world, along with historic pictures and digital innovations, as well as a rich programme of temporary exhibitions and events: this is a dream come true for photography enthusiasts. What’s more, do not miss the AlpINN restaurant: the brainchild of Michelin-starred chef Norbert Niederkofler and Paolo Ferretti, the concept of mountain culture is here reinvented: food is seen as a shared experience, with the restaurant akin to a large living room. Seemingly suspended in mid-air, it is a unique venue, a food space that takes mountain dining to a higher level.

8. A trekking tour with llamas and alpacas

The friendly, curious and kind nature of llamas and alpacas may not be well known to everyone, but these South American animals, from the camelids family, are a joy to be with. Known ever since the 3rd century BC, they were held in high regard by the inhabitants of the Andes and are still much loved today. Did you know you could take part in a trekking tour with llamas and alpacas?  In Oberbozen, by Bolzano, you can find a farm called Kaserhof with 208 llamas and alpacas, which organises this highly original experience. Spend a day in the company of about 20 tame stallions who carry backpacks and food, while you lead them over an elevation gain of about 300m. 

An experience you will not easily forget.

9. Dinner at Anna Stuben, Gardena Grödnerhof

Most visitors come to the Dolomites to enjoy the scenery and wide, open spaces, but they are also attracted by the panoply of staggering gourmet options. Wherever you go, one excellence after the other tells the story of a land where fine dining is much more than a myth, it is part and parcel of your experience. One case in point is the Michelin-starred Anna Stuben at the Gardena Grödnerhof Hotel in Ortisei. Chef Reimund Brunner employs fresh regional products to concoct traditional dishes that speak the language of authenticity. With the idea of conveying direct and intense culinary sensations to his guests, any meal here will be a memorable affair, enjoyed in a cosy, stunning mountain atmosphere.

Pair your option with an incredible choice of delicious wines to reach an idyllic gourmet experience.

10. Cocun Cellar Experience

Speaking of innovative, exceptional dining, you cannot beat the Cocun cellar and its restaurant at the Ciasa Salares hotel in San Cassiano. Step into this cellar and breathe the air only a fabulous selection of wines can ooze: here, more than 27,000 bottles with 2,000 labels await in what is considered one of South Tyrol’s most spectacular wine experiences.  Led by young and enthusiast Clemens Wieser, a everything here is beyond extraordinary. Open from 4pm to 10 pm, extraordinary food awaits here, along with all types of wines, even natural ones. The outcome of sustainable farming, these wines are devoid of pesticides and chemicals and possess a strong character. Ciasa Salares was one of the first places where you could try these innovative wines, back in the 1980s.

This love for innovation is sensed throughout in this South Tyrol institution: do not miss the Chocolate and Cheese Rooms as well. If this is a dream, may it go on and on!

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