Christmas in the mountains – a real joy to treasure.
Christmas is a time of joy, of sharing, of hope. In this most extraordinary year, we feel we need our wishes to come true, more than ever. One longing we all surely have in common is to share our experiences, our adventures and our delights with our loved ones, our friends or simply the others, at a time when gatherings are few and far between. Still, no time to despair: there is a place where we are never alone – nature. There is no denying that nature is our primary source of energy and well-being, and in this respect the mountains bring us life in the shape of natural fauna and flora.
Towering peaks and soothing snow-covered meadows, frozen waterfalls and lakes, the shimmering sun rays adding a magic spell: this is Christmas in the Dolomites, when a symphony and sounds and a vibrant palette of colours keep us company and feed our souls.
Simon and Garfunkel may well have praised the silence of darkness in their iconic song, but the mountains in the winter are far from silent! It is true that most animals hibernate in the colder months and that snow softens noise because of the air that infiltrates between its flakes, and yet precisely this sound reduction allows us to hear
more intensely. What is there to listen to? Some birds do not migrate south, so you may find yourself hearing the tweet of an alpine finch, a white partridge, an eagle crying and even a deer watching you.
Walking along the streets of a mountain hamlet, you could hear the screaking of your steps on frozen snow or the axe going through wood, with someone preparing to light a fire, perhaps a big one, where people gather to drink mulled wine. Can it get Christmassier than this?
Snow has arrived pretty much everywhere in the Alps, colouring the landscape and adding a feeling of warmth and cosiness. Don’t we all love to hike, ski, explore or simply gaze at snow-capped mountains, admiring their stark profiles against the blue sky? Snow crystals are marvellous – just look at an enlarged image – and made even more unique if we think that no two snow flakes are alike.
One simple question may spring to mind: if water, which makes up snow crystals, is transparent, why is snow white? The effect is given by the reflection of light: each time light hits a snow crystal, its path is slightly diverted and it then re-emerges from the snowpack in a multitude of colours. These colours are then perceived as white by our eyes because white is the sum of all these colours. This really is going to be a White Christmas!
The mountains dazzle and impress because of their mighty presence, breath-taking scenery, but also for their intensely coloured flowers and plants. You may think that the height of summer offers the most vibrant hues, but winter is a stronghold of marvellous flowers, just as well. Think of Helleborous niger, the Christmas rose, the pretty white flower that adorns meadows, hardwood forests and woods between December and April in the Dolomites. Green Ivy, red holly berry and mistletoe brighten our days during the long, dark winter, and who can resist kissing under them? You should know that these bright colours are the result of pigments, which are influenced by the outside temperature, the minerals in the soil and sunlight.
Every season thus brings colours, and at Christmas we should add Gold: the colour of the sun – shining bright and warming us in winter – it was traditionally one of the presents brought to the Infant Jesus by the Wise Men.
The Dolomites and the lakes: a love affair that dates back to the dawn of time and a typical Christmas tradition. The allure of these hypnotising specks of water is made even more sublime in the winter, when the water freezes, giving the lakes the aura of a magic mirror. You may ice skate on a few of them – beware of ice thickness of course – and the most famous in South Tyrol is Lech da Sompunt, close to La Villa, overlooking the Sas dla Crusc (2907m) and Lavarella (3055m) mountains. Here, ice skating and curling have been going strong since the 1950s.
In this photo I'm skating on Lake Misurina with a stunning view of Tre Cime di Lavaredo
Corvara and Cortina d’Ampezzo host great ice stadiums if you want to practice your skating skills – or even dance the night away to the tunes of “Ice Disco Dance”! You may also have a go at the Lago di Fiè, in Fiè allo Sciliar, taking in the marvellous scenery of Seiser Alm, the Lago di Braies, quintessentially festive when it dons its snowy blanket, but also Lago di Anterselva, the third biggest natural lake in South Tyrol, which even hosts a cross country track in winteer.
Looking ahead to 2021 and fun while skiing, do not forget you can enjoy the best South Tyrol recipes on the slopes with A taste for skiing (from January until April 2021), a scrumptious sunrise breakfast, followed by powder skiing, get to know the secrets of South Tyrol wine with a Sommelier on the slope (select dates from January to March), and a Wine Ski safari next March. What a feast!
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