Delight in the Dolomites
It’s hard to start the day wrong when the sun rises over glistening snow with regal,
jagged mountaintops in the near distance. That’s what mornings are like surrounded by the Dolomite mountain range of the Alps in South Tyrol, Italy. The region, which lies on the border between Italy and Austria, is described by many as “bicultural,” which means, in addition to the impressive natural landscape, visitors are treated to a unique cultural experience, in which everything from language to cuisine, is a fine mix of Italian and Austrian.
Winter Sports Wonderland
South Tyrol is a gorgeous spot to visit any time of year. In the summer, you can bike, hike and swim, and enjoy long days of outdoor leisure. But if you do choose to visit in the winter, and happen to be a winter-sports enthusiast, you won’t be disappointed.
JAX FAX visited in mid-December, at the start of the ski season, and enjoyed the trails at several nearby resorts, using the same ski/lift ticket for all. With a Dolomiti Superski pass, you can ski at 12 resorts, equaling 1,200 kilometers, or 745 miles, of slopes. There are ample slopes for the most advanced skiers, but there also are a variety of trails to choose from for intermediate skiers. As stimulating, and highly challenging as the skiing can be, a mountain hut, where you can enjoy locally made schnapps and other refreshments is never far away. At the 3 Zinnen Dolomites Resort, JAX FAX’s ski group stopped at one such mountain hut, Rifugio Larice, sitting outside to enjoy a schnapps with accents of pine because it was made of fruit from trees that grow alongside the pines trees. There’s both indoor and outdoor seating, but you can often comfortably sit outside because the area has 300 days of sunshine per year.
Starting at the 3 Zinnen Dolomites resort, the group made its way to the nearby Kronplatz Resort. Along with open-air chair-lifts, there are many closed, gondola-style lifts. The slopes in South Tyrol tend to be long, so having technologically up-to-date chair lifts and gondolas is a great advantage, making the skiing both convenient and picturesque. At least half the experience is watching snow-capped scene after scene unroll before your eyes, each one worthy of a postcard, or at least your Instagram feed.
From the ski slopes of Kronplatz, you can ski to the front door of the new mountain restaurant AlpiNN from Norbert Niederkofler (the first 3-Michelin-star chef in South Tyrol). After a long, leisurely lunch, you can visit Lumen-The Museum of Mountain Photography, located adjacent to the restaurant, and see how the spectacular landscape you’ve witnessed has been documented.
You could easily spend a week, or more, skiing the Dolomites. One of the best things about the experience is the proximity of the many resorts to one another, so that you can try at least one new resort every day. From Kronplatz, our ski group made its way to the Alta Badia ski area, and then to Val Gardena, and last, to the Alpe di Suisi ski area. You can often travel from ski area to ski area on your skis, rather than by car.
A morning of exhilarating skiing was capped off with a feast of a lunch at the mountain hut Sophie that started with a variety of local cold meats and cheeses, many choices of wine, and a glass of Sophie 8025 Gin, the mountain hut’s proprietary gin, made of local flowers and herbs, and named for the altitude of the mountain, in feet, where the hut is located.
JAX FAX spent a couple arduous, but rewarding, hours, snow-shoe hiking the Val Senales Glacier, about an hour car ride from Bolzano, the regional capital of South Tyrol. There are modern-day igloos you can go inside, and even book to spend the night in.
Rest & Relaxation
Rigorous exercise on slopes and glacier can make a day, or even a few hours, at a spa a great relief. Luckily, the most challenging day of the trip was capped off with a stay at the five-star Alpina Dolomites. Offering a full-spa experience, with massage, facials, sauna, and beyond, a highlight is an indoor-to-outdoor pool, in which you swim, with the touch of a button opening a small glass door inside the pool, from what feels like 80-degree Fahrenheit water inside to water of a similar, or just-slightly-higher, temperature outside. It’s warm enough to allow you to sit on a bitterly cold night, with your body immersed under water, watching the stars and moon overhead, but not so warm that you can’t swim short laps.
Another stand-out spa in South Tyrol can be found at the Josef Mountain Resort, which not only features a well-equipped indoor-to-outdoor pool, but multiple jacuzzis of varying temperature.
Fine Wine-and Apple Juice
If you’re a fine-wine connoisseur, South Tyrol is a destination to add to your list of future vacation spots because it’s the region known to have the best white wines in all of Italy. JAX FAX’s tour group was treated to a wine tasting at Cantina Bolzano. Alongside chardonnay and sauvignon wines, you can taste and purchase Riesling, a multitude of other white wines, and dessert wines like Moscato, and many others. There also are ample red wines, like merlot and cabernet
If you’re not a die-hard wine fan, you’ll have nothing to worry about, as the region is also known for its stellar apple juice, which can be found, with, and without, alcohol, in nearly any bar or restaurant you stop at. A local company, Kohl, can arrange an apple-juice tasting, and pairing, with your dinner. The dinner JAX FAX enjoyed featured both wines and apple juices, so diners could contrast what each course would taste like with a perfectly matched wine, and what it would taste like with an equally perfectly matched apple juice.
With such a renowned apple industry, you also can’t leave South Tyrol without tasting a locally home-made apple strudel, or other apple-based pastry or dessert. It will be a culinary highlight of your trip.
History, Frozen in Time
Visit the South Tyrol Museum of Archeology in Bolzano, where you can see Ötzi, an ancient human, who was discovered frozen in a mummified state after over 5,000 years by hikers in 1991. You can view the original mummy, along with clothing and artifacts found on, and alongside, him. The museum does a fine job educating visitors about what scientists have been able to determine about Ötzi’s life and death.
The history of the region also can be seen at the last hotel JAX FAX stayed at, Hotel Goldene Rose, near the Val Senales Glacier. The hotel was built next door to a monastery from the 1300s. The town where the hotel is located, Certosa, was founded by Carthusian monks in 1326. Much of the monastery was destroyed by a fire in the early 1900s, but guests of the hotel can still stroll through the same passageway where the monks used to walk. It’s easy to see why the monks chose this spot.
How to Get There
JAX FAX flew Emirates, economy, non-stop from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City to Milano Malpensa airport in Milan, Italy. Flying time: 7 hours, 50 minutes; 9 hours, 25 minutes on the return flight to New York. Then, a five-hour drive from Milan to South Tyrol. For other options for getting to South Tyrol, visit www.suedtirol.info
Where to Stay
The first night of the trip, in Versciaco, JAX FAX stayed at B&B Joas (www.joas.it) in a room that featured a mountainside private deck. Other features of the hotel: spa with Finnish sauna, steam bath, tropical shower, panoramic relaxation room, juice and tea bar and sun terrace. Ski-in/ski-out access.
In Alta Badia, JAX FAX stayed at the Chalet Ronn (www.chaletroenn.com). The beautiful wood paneling gives the hotel a cozy, rustic atmosphere. The spa includes Finnish sauna, steam bath, relaxing area with a fireplace and an outdoor whirlpool with a view of Sassongher mountain, Col di Lana and Sella. Ski-in/ski-out access.
In the Alpe di Suisi ski area, JAX FAX stayed at Alpina Dolomites (www.alpinadolomites.it), a five-star hotel featuring holistic treatments, multiple-day personalized health and wellness programs, and an indoor/outdoor pool. Ski-in/ski-out access.
In San Genesio, JAX FAX stayed at Zum Hirschen (www.hirschenwirt.it). Featuring a deer-hunting theme, the accommodations are comfortable and cozy. The spa includes services such as massages, and a heated outdoor pool that’s warm enough to swim laps in, even in winter. 20-30 minute car ride to ski resorts.
JAX FAX spent the last night of the trip at Hotel Goldene Rose (www.goldenerose.it), which was built alongside an historic monastery from the 1300’s. Guests can tour the original passageway of the monastery, watch a video detailing the history of the structure. 20-30 minute car ride to ski resorts.
Other great options:
Hotel Santer, Dobbiaco: www.hotel-santer.com
La Perla: www.hotel-laperla.it
Hotel Lamm: www.lamm-hotel.it
Hotel Schgaguler: www.schgaguler.com
Josef Mountain Resort: www.josef.bz
Chalet Hafling: www.chalet-hafling.it
What to Eat & Drink
There are 20 Michelin-starred restaurants in South Tyrol. JAX FAX enjoyed a fine meal at the 1-Michelin-star restaurant, Tilia (www.tilia.bz), located in Toblach.
At Kronplatz ski resort, visit the newly opened mountain-top restaurant, AlpiNN (https://alpinn.it/en/) from Norbert Niederkofler, the first 3-Michelin-star chef in South Tyrol. The AlpiNN is open winter and summer, when the cable car is open, but it is possible organize special events for which the cable car can be put into service.
Great place to stop for a meal in the city of Bolzano: Italia & Amore (www.italiaamore.it)
In the Val Gardena ski area, you can visit the mountain hut, Sophie (www.seceda.com), for a many-course meal, and a glass or two of Sophie’s proprietary gin.
For a light meal in Marling, which also includes an opportunity to shop: Food Design Culture Im Kult (www.imkult.com)
South Tyrol is known as having the finest white wines in all of Italy. You can sample some of those white wines, at Cantina Bolzano (www.kellereibozen.com) in Bolzano.
The region is known for its high-quality, and great variety of, apple juice. Kohl (www.kohl.bz.it) can create an apple-juice tasting event for your group, in which an array of apple juices are paired with a meal.
Where to Ski
With a Dolomiti Superski pass, you can use the same pass to ski at 12 resorts, equaling 1,200 kilometers, or 745 miles, of slopes.
Several of the many ski areas to explore:
3 Zinnen Dolomites (www.dreizinnen.com)
Alta Badia (www.altabadia.org)
Val Gardena (https://www.valgardena.it/en/)
Alpe di Siusi (www.seiseralm.it)