In South Tyrol, in the heart of the majestic Dolomites under UNESCO World Heritage protection, Val Gardena is a paradise for people who love skiing, hiking and good food. Out in the wide-open spaces where the earth is closest to the sky, the Gardena scenery is breathtaking, especially in winter when everything is coloured white. And it is no coincidence that Val Gardena is among the most renowned ski resorts in Italy, the best for the 2023 edition of the ‘World Ski Awards’.
A skier’s paradise
Val Gardena is in the world’s most extensive ski area: the Dolomiti Superski, with hundreds of kilometres of perfectly maintained slopes for skiers of all levels. One of the best-loved tracks in the valley is the ‘Saslong’, the legendary slope used for the annual World Cup races, which starts uphill from the Sochers-Ciampinoi chairlift and winds down for almost 4 kilometres. The most romantic setting for skiing is the ‘Bravo’ slope on Mont de Seura, in the Monte Pana ski area in Santa Cristina, a track surrounded by mountains and forests.
Ortisei, Santa Cristina and Selva di Val Gardena
Among the most popular resorts are Ortisei, Santa Cristina and Selva di Val Gardena.
Ortisei is the largest of the three, offering gentle and scenic slopes on the Alpe di Siusi that wind through snow-covered forests and amazing views of the surrounding valleys. The Seceda slopes are more technical and challenging, with the ‘Longia’, a 10.5 km slope that runs all the way to the village, leading from the station on the mountain.
Santa Cristina is a pretty, sunny little village at the foot of Sassolungo connected to the Monte Pana facilities where cross-country skiing is practised.
Selva in Val Gardena is the highest village of Val Gardena, as well as one of the access points to the so-called Sellaronda (the track around the Sella group covering an impressive 40 km, 27 of which to be covered on skis) and the ideal place to access the ‘Saslong’ with the chairlift taking visitors to the top of Mount Ciampinoi, which dominates the entire valley.
Mountain lodges in Val Gardena
Val Gardena boasts unique gastronomic delicacies, enhancing the exquisite local products. Canederli, large dumplings made of bread, milk, and eggs, are the gastronomic hallmark of these areas and are often served with Speck, the typical cured and smoked ham that lends an unmistakable flavour to the dishes. When you visit these places, it is practically a must to buy it and take it home, vacuum-packed, to try your hand at some tasty recipes, like this Pizza roll with asparagus and speck. The many mountain lodges in the area offer not only dumplings, but even barley and sauerkraut soups, mushroom soups and desserts like the magnificent strudel and apple fritters.
Refreshment points for skiers and hikers, the mountain lodges of Val Gardena are a heritage of Alpine culture. Scattered among the peaks, they cherish ancient stories and offer an authentic cuisine linked to the territory.
Rifugio Fermeda. At an altitude of 2109 metres, the Fermeda mountain lodge at Alpe del Seceda can be reached from Santa Cristina via the Col Raiserl cable car and a 15-minute walk on flat land. The main dishes include Tirtlan, a big ravioli made of wheat and rye flour and filled with spinach, potatoes, and fresh cheese, served with a generous sprinkling of grated cheese, and the Kaiserschmarren, a very thick crêpe filled with blueberry, currant, or apple jam.
Baita Sofie. A spectacular view of the Seceda peak at 2410 metres, on the sunny side of the Val Gardena, where people can comfortably sit outside even in the winter. The Seceda cable car takes visitors up to the top and then there is a short walk. Homemade pasta with venison ragout, homemade focaccia and homemade Sachertorte are on the menu. Try the home Spritz made with citrus macerated prosecco, thyme, and bitter orange zest.
Rifugio Resciesa. It is reached with a walk of about 20 minutes from the Resciesa cable car from Ortisei. You eat with an eye on the forests of the Puez-Odle nature park.The restaurant with two traditional Stubes offers Ladin and South Tyrolean specialities: beer-battered ribs, the classic dish of pan-fried eggs with bacon and sautéed potatoes, goulash with canederli or knödel in broth.