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Mile-munching skier Michael Wolstenholme takes his wife and pre-teen daughter to Italy’s stunning Dolomites in the South Tyrol and finds even he can’t help slowing the pace and trying something other than just skiing…
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This is the second day of our family ski holiday to the Italian Dolomites and I find I am still constantly asking myself “why on earth did I leave it 20 years to ski here”?

So why did we finally choose the Dolomites? Firstly, I have never spoken to anyone who has not loved it, secondly, it’s supposed to be really good for families, and last but not least, it has a reputation as being decent value for money. Some say it’s over 50% cheaper on the mountain than some other parts of the Alps. With a new family addition due towards the end of the year, I didn’t need to be told about this advantage twice…

 

More than just ski…

My wife, super excited 11-year-old step-daughter Chloe and I are staying in a lovely village called Corvara in the Alta Badia valley, which is part of the largely Austrian speaking part of the Sud Tyrol region of the Dolomites in Italy.   

The Alta Badia valley doesn’t have an abundance of UK ski tour operators, but one of the small independents that particularly stood out was Collett’s Mountain Holidays, who specialise in  this area, offering downhill skiing as well as snow shoeing and other activities. This appealed as it meant taking the occasional break from skiing to discover the beauty of the Dolomites by other means to get a different perspective.

Which is how we found ourselves enjoying a day of snow shoeing and a half day of cross country skiing with all of the other chalet guests during the week.  Chloe also spent a couple of hours tobogganing with one of the other families – not for the faint hearted!   

Our stay with Collett’s was superb, we all loved every minute of it and were impressed by their level of service and expertise. Each evening over a pre-dinner aperitif, they would put together a list of guided activities for the next day. There were always two ski itineraries each day, plus snow shoeing options.

As it was the Easter holidays, there was a real mix of groups in the chalet including other children for Chloe to socialise with. Some people were there just to snow shoe, some like us primarily there for the skiing. Others were there to do a bit of everything, which made for good conversation at dinner and inspiration to try other activities.  

To break the week up and to give us some ‘family time’, I had also booked a night for us in one of the piste-side mountain huts called Las Vegas. I had in mind that this would be a fairly basic but still special night on the mountain, but rather than research it, I booked it through the tourist office and didn’t give in another thought.

It turned out that the Las Vegas ‘hut’ was actually a rather large mountain restaurant and hotel which was decidedly more 5 star than ‘rustic’. The girls were pleased, of course, and secretly so was I. The rooms were really plush, the view simply incredible, and the dinner delicious. Best of all we were the first on the slopes in the morning!  

 

Corvara and the Selle Ronda

Corvara is perfect for a family holiday. Situated among the giant limestone cliffs of the Dolomites and right on the Sella Ronda – a rocky massif which you can circumnavigate in a 50km loop, meaning you can head out in the morning and do some serious skiing before returning to the centrally located ski school to meet the kids.  

Skiing the full circuit of the Sella Ronda is a must – anti-clockwise is slightly better – but I would also recommend using it to access other excellent nearby ski areas such as Arabba, Selva and Alpe Di Siusi.

In total Corvara and the local Alta Badia area offer 130km of piste to explore. These are mainly blues and reds and the way they are all nicely connected makes enjoyable skiing for all the family, without anyone having to ski outside of their comfort zone. In several places Letang was able to ski down a gentle blue while I could take Chloe down a neighbouring red run.  

The all-important ‘money saving’ mountain restaurants (Rifugio’s) in this region are excellent, serving tasty, hearty and good value Austrian and Italian food. As promised eating out was significantly cheaper than on previous holidays in France and Switzerland, with a main course of pasta or meat and vegetables costing about €8. Food being central to Italian culture there is no shortage of eateries, with options available all the way up to Michelin starred restaurants.

Chloe and Letang both took ski lessons during our week. It was only Letang’s second skiing holiday and after a couple of falls and an injured knee last season, the aim of this trip was more about getting her confidence back. The result is that she now loves skiing as opposed to just ‘giving it a go’.

Chloe, who has done several weeks of skiing now, had group lessons and I could see the improvement in her technique enough to suggest that on the last day she did the black run up in Colfosco with me. To her credit, she got down it without a problem, after some ‘gentle’ fatherly encouragement and reassurance!    

Overall, we all really loved our family trip to Corvara and we will definitely be booking again with Collett’s to this resort.

With an 11 year old, we did not have to factor in kindergarten, child-care or any of the services parents with toddlers or younger children may need but from what I could see, Corvara would be a good choice for families with kids of any age.

For us, experiencing the guided activities offered by Collett’s really gave our trip an extra dimension. It was fantastic for us to do new activities for the first time together as a family and these are the memories that will stay with us for years to come.

 

Snowhow

Ski School 

We used Corvara Ladinia Ski and Snowboard School. Collett’s don’t book the lessons as part of your package but will come with you to the school to help arrange them.  

The Ski School itself is near to all the main lifts with a nursery and complete beginners area and wide, long and gentle piste for improvers.

Children’s Group Lessons - €215 for 5 days, Adult Group Lessons – €205 for 5 days, Private Lessons – €44 per hour

scuolascicorvara.it 

 

Other winter activities

Cross Country Skiing There is a centre at Armentorola. The cost is just €5 for a day-ticket with under 12’s free. Kit hire is €16 per day and lessons are €42 per hour.    

Tobogganing This starts at the top of the Piz Sorega cable car and runs 3.5km down through 466 meters of vertical to San Cassiano. Sledge hire from €7 per day at Ski Peppi.

Snow Shoeing Collett’s offers free daily guided itineraries and kit hire.

 

Our Trip

We went with Collett’s Mountain Holidays. The cost for 2 adults at Easter going Sunday to Sunday was £1390 including 7 days bed and breakfast and 6 nights 3-course dinner with wine. There was a 30% discount for the third person sharing the room. Flights not included but airport transfers from Venice Marco Polo or Treviso are.

colletts.co.uk/winter 

Las Vegas Lodge costs €175pppn and includes evening meal, breakfast and use of their toboggans and winter walking boots.

lasvegasonline.it 

 

Flights

British Airways flies from Heathrow, Easyjet from Gatwick and Luton, Ryan Air from Stansted

 

Ski area and pass

The full area Dolomiti Superski pass covers 1,200km of piste over 12 zones and 450 lifts! The Alta Badia area has 130km of piste which has plenty to offer for all levels, €242 for 6 days adults (€226 for Alta Badia only), €170 for 6 days under 14 (€158 Alta Badia only).