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La Villa Dolomites half term trip report 2017

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
​Warning - this is long!

9 day trip Friday 10th Feb - 19th Feb (U.K. Half term and Venice Carnivale opening week). Our family of 4 and with another family of 3.
Destination - 2 days in Venice then onto 3 star Pensione Camoscio in La Villa, Alta Badia
DIY holiday - Total cost approx £5900 for a family of 4 with 2 teens

Costs
Flights £650
Venice hotel - €270
Venice spending - €560
Transfers for complete holiday €400
Hotel Pensione Camoscio in La Villa €2400
Resort spending (mountain lunches and drinks) - €700
Hotel drinks bill - €360
6 days 2 adult 2 junior dolomiti ski pass - €976
Ski hire - €340 (4 sets skis, 2 sets boots)

Flights - 60kg baggage Ryan air Stanstead to Venice Treviso. Booked as soon as released. Cost saving because we flew out Friday and returned on a Sunday. Kids had a mysterious 1 day illness (halftermitis) on the Friday. Sat-Sat flights were around £230 return each as a comparison. I've noticed flights for this year are way more (almost double).

Transfers - found a company which handled all our transfers for the whole trip including water taxis with no deposit upfront. Total cost was €695 for 7 of us in one vehicle. Our cost was €400. This was cost effective because we filled the vehicle to maximum capacity. Company was Trevisoairporter.com. Highly recommended, lovely Mercedes van, transfers on time, good drivers. Shocked at how tiny Venice Treviso airport was and were through immigration an hour before we had anticipated but they were there waiting for us. Company dealt with payment to water taxis so it was no hassle for us. One word of warning; when we departed the Venice water taxi for our vehicle, our driver was there with about 3 other guys and they immediately put our luggage on a rack. At this point we should have guessed that it was going to be a total rip off and they had no connection with our taxi driver but for some reason we were in relaxed holiday mode and once at the vehicle (albeit) about 100 metres away they wanted to charge us €25! We were cross that we had been so foolish but offered €20 as didn't want to get into an argument. Our taxi driver apologised as he said it was awkward for him to warn us in front of the trolley guys. Anyway, lesson learnt!

Venice hotel 2 nights - Hotel Pagganelli Family room b&b

Total Spending money for Venice including food, drinks, gondola ride, etc was €560

Transfer to Venice took half an hour. Water taxi great experience. I'll be brief regarding Venice as this is a ski report but useful in case anyone wants to tag on a weekend in Venice. We went for the opening ceremony in the Cannareggio area but as it was only on a small section of the river spanned by 2 bridges, the entire population of Venice were rammed on the bridge and along the 2 river banks. To get across the bridge was so unbelievably dangerous due to overcrowding, it was not only very frightening but extremely poorly organised and controlled by the police. I commute in London on the tube and this is nothing compared to the overcrowding on the bridge. We saw nothing at all and gave up and went back to the area by our hotel. It took us half an hour to get over each bridge. Never again will I do that so I strongly do not recommend coming to Venice just for the opening ceremony unless you want to arrive at the river bank and wait for 2 hours before the first show starts at 6pm.
After luggage fiasco described earlier it took 2 and 3 quarter hours to get to La Villa from the water taxi.
Taxi driver stopped at San Vito ski resort for us to stretch our legs and get a bite to eat and drove us through Cortina resort as we wanted to have a nose! As we travelled on a Sunday, roads were much clearer into La Villa.
So getting onto the nitty gritty of the ski resort review. Our taxi stopped at our hotel and as our driver was getting the bags out, the door of the Pensione Camoscio opened and a young man cried out Hello! Welcome families (insert surnames here), to Pensione Camoscio! Well what a start. From that point onwards we knew we had made a very good choice. Dropped cases in room. Both triple and quad rooms were lovely sizes (not like teeny French accommodation). Pensione Camoscio seems to be almost the only hotel in resort not to be involved in the online purchase of ski pass (sent to hotel) so we walked 5 mins to gondola where the ski office was and bought. Then went back to hotel where Pensione Camoscio's relative ran ski renato next door to hotel. As it was Sunday it was quiet and we were pretty much the only clients in there (unlike Saturday afternoon when we paid the hire bill and it was seriously heaving). Ski hire items then get sent down to their shop by the Piz la Ila gondola (if you request it) so very convenient as you then only have to walk down to gondola in normal boots and swap over. You do have to pay for storage of your own skis and boots at the gondola. Me and husband requested 5 star skis and kids 4 star skis but we all got a real mixed bag. Hubby got a top Ski but I only got 4 star ski. My younger daughter had exactly the same ski as me but a shorter size and hers was classed as a top ski. We kept questioning my ski choice as I wanted a good ski and they were insistent it was good, so we decided to go with the flow, especially as the hire ended up far less than we had budgeted for (as our teens are small they got junior top skis for a very good price. One got junior boots. The staff at ski renato didn't speak great English but we somehow communicated the basics. One daughter has very odd sized feet (one a cm larger than the other) and so they resolved that with the hire boots too. Anyway we were all happy with the equipment and quality as it turned out.
On a Sunday the ski pass office and ski renato shut at 5:30pm. Make sure you take ID for discounts on junior ski passes as husband had to walk back and get passports.
One tip, coming from Venice we were in Italian mode, but it seems the more frequently spoken language was German/Ladin so that threw us a little.
Back into hotel, we were informed that the wellness centre which was for over 16's only was actually available for all ages under the supervision of parents, as long as children were not too noisy. €3 per person for disposable spa slippers and €6 per 20 min session for jacuzzi but the rest of the wellness area was free. Note, many of the adults were naked in the wellness centre, which horrified our 2 teens! We also had to buy 2 very expensive speedo swimming costumes from Sport Tony up the road (although there were slightly cheaper bikini options in other shops) as we did not bring the girls costumes. So unless you want to waste €85 😬 bring your costumes!

Hotel - only about 20 - 25 Rooms
Traditional style hotel
Bar area small with a separate smoking room, of which the door was kept shut but on the Ladin evening it was opened and designated as non smoking but stank out the bar area. I really do not like any smell of cigarettes but managed to survive. Showers in room great, hot and forceful. Safe operated by an old fashioned key though. Loads of cupboard space and hangers in wardrobes. Towels changes every day.
Any problems you had they would deal with. We asked for some extra pillows mid week and Emmanuel said we should have asked sooner as they could only help us if we asked! Hotel was situated in the centre of La Villa about 5-7 mins walk to the gondola. There were quite a few events going on all week in the day and evening and the events list was pinned up by the lift and restaurant. I wasn't sure if this was because it was carnivale week because I found out later that the locals celebrated Carnivale on the next 2 weeks.
One night they gave out awards for people that had stayed at Pensione Camoscio for 25, 30 and 35 years. We asked the staff for confirmation because we could not believe it and they said they had someone a few weeks ago that had stayed on 40 occasions!
Hotel food - now this is where we were totally surprised. Amazingly delicious food. Great breakfast, really high quality ingredients. Your usual selection of items but really good quality. Eggs, meats, cheese, freshly baked croissants, yogurts, cereals, jams, fruit salad, fresh breads etc.
Evening meals were even better. Always a buffet salad to start with which was absolutely delicious. Then either a 3 or 4 course menu after, of which they gave you the list the night before. (On day of arrival you have to have a pre set choice). Very flexible with food choice, if there was nothing you liked they would cook you simple alternatives. By the end of the week we were becoming progressively stuffed and I couldn't even eat the main course, let alone dessert, so I had to reduce the size of my salad portion. 🙄
We had a Valentine's dinner and a Tirolean dinner with live music (a guy with a harmonium). Beware if you sit close to him you may get get dragged up to participate as I discovered! Drinks were very reasonable, and considering the amount of alcohol we consumed (which was quite a lot) we were very surprised at the final bar bill.
The staff: Emmanuel, Ingrid, Elena, Alma, were fantastic, Emmanuel having a few sneaky drinks with us and enlightening us to the various local drinks on offer. Even Elena's little boy (toddler) made appearances to shake our hands! On the last night they bought us quite a lot of drinks for free (grappa tasting!) as we had spent so much at the bar!
There was only one other English family, at the hotel, and although we did not make friends with this family, we certainly made up for it with lots of other Germans. In fact one couple we spent 2 days skiing with.

The ski resort
It was our first time in Italy and our first half term ski holiday. We were impressed with queue times, although the gondolas were pretty busy from 9am (we always got the lift up at opening time; 8:30am) there wasn't an awful lot of waiting time, probably a few minutes at worst case scenario.
La Villa/Alta badia area, has quite a lot of blues of varying degrees, but as it's just off the Sella Ronda circuit and quite a large area we felt it wasn't as busy as Selva. We did worry that we would be bored of the large amount of blues but by mixing up our days with staying locally one day and then skiing further afield in Arabba etc on another, gave us enough variety. Lifts were very child/beginner friendly in La Villa/San Cassiano area, only the one to the right of Roby we thought was quite fast on approach (for the nervous/beginner). Our friends are very nervous skiers so we are always aware of slope/lift difficulty on their behalf. Loved the moving travelators for the chair lifts and the automatic bar release/kid safe chairs.
Our friends had private lessons with The ski school nearest the Piz la Ila gondola (next to chalet Prades), possibly called ski school dolomiti? Not La Villa ski school which seemed to offer group courses, whereas this school offered only private lessons. There was plenty of availability for adult group or private lessons over UK half term. Not sure about child availability. Also bear in mind, that the ski school said that the local Carnivale holidays were the last 2 weeks of Feb and therefore did not clash with our UK half term, although I understood that some of the UK took their half term a week later.
Pistes were in excellent condition, although after several days of high temperatures, the off piste and mountain side was turning browner by the minute. We did receive a fair amount of snow a few weeks before half term though. The odd piste was scraped but runs in the shade did not suffer from the typical freeze thaw conditions that we expect from the French alps in moister conditions. Aspect seemed to be irrelevant.
Mountain restaurants in the local area were excellent. We liked to eat at restaurants with table service rather than self service and the bill for 4 with a meal each and a drink came to around €60-€70 per day. This could be easily reduced if children/adults were happy to share meals as they were quite large. Self service was around €45.

If you like trying new drinks, we tried:
Hugo - prosecco, elderflower, mint
Aperol spritz - I know this isn't new but it is my new favourite drink! Prosecco, aperol, soda water
Bombardino - egg nogg liqueur and rum served warm with whipped cream. There is also a version with a shot of coffee which name escapes me.
Cloudy German beers were very good too and the kids rated La Fraina's hot chocolate as the best.

Sella Ronda - we were very kindly escorted around by Snowhead SteveM, who had stayed on after the Snowheads Arabba 13th birthday bash with his family. We did the anti clockwise circuit and deviated off to do the Saslong and skied to Secada/Ortisei area, which has very beautiful views. We were going to do the 10k run from the top but our daughter had shin slap so we had to make our way back the way we came. This area had some very nice reds from the top. We found the directions quite difficult so we were very grateful to Steve for making our experience so easy. However, later on once we actually looked at the Sella Ronda piste map it did list all the runs and lifts needed for each circuit! Doh! We did find however that there were quite a few gondolas, trains, and walking across roads, which the kids were not so keen on but as I mentioned before we did deviate off the circuit.

Marmolada - we were guided there by our new German friends (who happened to be doing the Marmolada and Hidden Valley on the same days as us). We got the gondola up from La Villa at 8:30am, then skiied over to Mont Crep/La Vizza area (rather than the Boé gondola up from Corvara). Then we went down into Arabba up a few lifts onto another gondola and got off mid station, then I believe a long run down to the Marmolada cable car. Be prepared to be wedged in like the London Underground! We reached here by 10:30am. Note there is a cafe but no toilet; you have to use the hotel nearby. I've been told there is a toilet at the 2nd cable car though. There are 3 sections to the cable car. You have to go to the top. When you ski down, (which is a long run) you get a chair lift at the bottom which takes you back up the the mid station gondola (not to be confused with the cable car). I'm not sure where the gondola would take you if you went to the top but as we were being escorted we didn't really pay an awful lot of attention.

Hidden valley - A nice experience. Very scenic skiing down through the Valley. You ski down to Armentarola from Piz Sorega gondola down run XX to the bottom and on the right before Hotel Armentarola there is a taxi rank which takes you up the Valley to the hidden valley cable car which is opposite the base of Cortina slopes. It costs €6 per person but is a good 10-15 mins journey. You then get the cable car up to the top and take what appears to be the only run down. It is steeper at the top and narrows to a wide track with many undulations so you need to ski fast to get over them, therefore it is not suitable for slow skiers. Towards the bottom is Scotonis Rifugio but as we got there by about 10:30am we couldn't have lunch as it was too early, which I was gutted about. You carry on down until it flattens out and then you can either get a taxi for €2 each or the horse tow which is €2.50 each by taking the left track. There is also a sign directing you. We were not sure if you waited for the taxi or had to call the number on the sign but we got the horse tow. This is probably only 1km from hotel Armentarola and it surprised me how close we were at the bottom of the run, compared to the top. I assume the Cortina area is also covered by the Dolomiti ski pass so you could make a day of it.

To summarise, we had probably our best ski holiday ever and have every intention of going back.


Last edited by Poster: A snowHead on Thu 23-02-17 22:07; edited 2 times in total
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
@mini_mo, great report. Thanks for taking the time to post. The hotel in La Villa sounds a great find. We were also in the Dolomites over half term staying at Kastelruth at the bottom of Seiseralm. It's my family's 9th half term trip to the region. Be warned - you'll become hooked! This time wd skied a bit on Seiseralm, a bit round Canazei, a bit round Alta Badia (did you visit the chapel at S. Croce?), and a bit in an area new to me round Obereggen/ Pameago. Even after 9 years of half term trips and many additional long weekends I still find new areas, runs, restaurants and bars. This coupled with great snow, lots of sunshine and the best of Germanic, Ladin and Italian culture has meant that for us and the families we go with, the Dolomites is the only choice.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
@mini_mo, great trip report. We were in Corvara for the same week and also had a great time. It looks as if there were more people from the UK in Corvara this year than last year. The ski school numbers seemed to be up about 50% and they were struggling a bit with the numbers and were surprised at how many of us there were. I still don't think I ever queued for more than 2-3 minutes which is nothing compared to France at half term. Next years half term (at least for the south of England) clashes with Carnival which is a relatively busy period but I'm sure it will be fine.

We also bagged the great value Ryanair flights for this year and I'm still trying to work out what to do for next year after the big jump in cost. The Ryanair flights keep going up so it looks like I might have to wait for the other airlines to release their flights.
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@olderscot, @mini_mo, you've perhaps looked at these options already but over the years in travelling to/from the Dolomites we've used Innsbruck, Munich, Bergamo, Marco Polo, Linate, Malpensa, Verona, Bologna, Zurich and even on one occasion Frankfurt! We did the transfers in a day, occasionally leaving the UK late on Friday and staying the night at an airport hotel. Worth also looking at indirect flights. Some friends we were with last week went Lufthansa LHR/ Frankfurt/Verona for £180 return and it worked v well. Transavia from Rotterdam to Innsbruck also is usually good value.
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@mini_mo, nice report, very useful. Can I just make one small correction: there is a toilet in the Marmolada cable car, at station 2 but downstairs from the cafe by the museum entrance. I think there is also one in the back of the base station. Just in case anyone is put off from visiting wink
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@mini_mo, Good report - cracking area isn't it and it's amazing conditions are still so skiable in what has been a drought season in the Dollies.

Did you try the run back to La Villa under the Gondola? My fave in the whole area.

Marmolada is not my fave - too many chuffing cable cars for what seems to me to be a pretty ordinary run back. Better to spend to time on the runs from Potovescovo back into Arabba IMO
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Hi all,

I've had to adjust the total rolling eyes as once I got the credit card balance, added the sterling for euros and the flights it came to more. Oh well! If there's anything else that not quite right please tell me. I wrote the review on the plane and was so engrossed we landed (very heavily albeit) and it gave me the shock of my life! I also can't remember the run number down to Armenterola (no. 11?). Also Marmolada recap is a bit vague.

@ Scarlet - I'll adjust that bit about the toilets
@ pjs - no we didn't do Santa Croce - maybe next time! Also thanks for the flight tips, Brilliant will look into these.
@ Olderscot - I cannot believe flight increase this year, it's almost double, we may consider using Avios (thanks Brexit!), but you are right there are other options such as Bergamo, but thanks for the heads up.
@ Red 27 - We did the Gran Risa a few times but as it was generally the last run of the day my legs were not fresh and technique went out of the window. The kids on the other hand almost came down it straight at some points! No short radius turns for them! We did do it first thing and then went back up the gondola which was much better as nice pair of fresh pins to help. We also liked the red to the right.
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After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
We were in Colfosco half term and cant wait to go back! I too have been looking for next year already. My kids are on half term week commencing 17 February- I thought Carnivale was much earlier next year?
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@Holidayqueen,
Quote:

My kids are on half term week commencing 17 February- I thought Carnivale was much earlier next year?


Interesting. Half term at my sons school in London is the week commencing 10th Feb, so clashes with Carnival (Shrove Tuesday / pancake day) which is on the 13th next year.

@mini_mo, we're also thinking about digging into the avios. Not that there's any flights normally available but I think a gold card lets you use double points to get a seat. As you say the Ryanair flights are double what they were last year which is why we haven't booked them.
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@mini_mo,
Quote:
Bombardino - egg nogg liqueur and rum served warm with whipped cream. There is also a version with a shot of coffee which name escapes me


Calimero. Madeye-Smiley
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@mini_mo, please tell me you did phone in saying they have halftermitis, Happy
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Thanks for this , went to Sestriere this year loved it. We ski advanced, and like a large area to explore... so I think trying the La Villa, dolomitic area sounds ideal. Sestriere was first time in Italian Milky Way and have to say loved the Italian vibe.
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Lovely report of my favourite ski area. If you do it again, do the great war ring, the ski panorama tour and, if you have a car, do a day in Fortuna. All three are less busy than the routes you did and the views, if anything, even more spectacular.
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You know it makes sense.
@cameronphillips2000, where's Fortuna please?
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Sorry Cortina, my sank spellcheck
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 Poster: A snowHead
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@cameronphillips2000, snowHead I thought perhaps there was another area that I'd never heard of!
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@mini_mo, great report and thanks for the kind words - was great to meet up and ski with you and your family, apologies we ended up so far from base to get back with your daughter suffering. Hope you'll be coming back to this area, as others have said there are so many variations and excursions to be tried.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
For others planning to visit the Marmolada the museum at the top of the intermediate cable car is worth a visit. Details of the guerilla war fought in and around the glacier during WW1.

We enjoyed it.
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mini_mo wrote:
Hidden valley - A nice experience. Very scenic skiing down through the Valley. You ski down to Armentarola from Piz Sorega gondola down run XX to the bottom and on the right before Hotel Armentarola there is a taxi rank which takes you up the Valley to the hidden valley cable car which is opposite the base of Cortina slopes.

The Hidden Valley cable car base station is at a pass called Passo Falzarego (near to Cortina as you say). The mountain which the cable car goes up is called Lagazoi. When you get out at the top of the cable car in addition to the observation deck at cable car level there is a nice mountain restaurant which you have to climb up some steps to reach.
mini_mo wrote:

It costs €6 per person but is a good 10-15 mins journey. You then get the cable car up to the top and take what appears to be the only run down.

Actually it's not the only run down. From the back of the observation deck you will have skied down a fairly steep slope for maybe 100 yards and then by a sign turned left for the Hidden Valley run. If instead you turn right that takes you onto a red/black run (I believe the classification changed a few years ago) which brings you back down to the base of the cable car. From there you can also cross to the other side of the road and ski down to the Cinque Torri ski area which is well worth a visit. (Be warned though that the first part of the run from Passo Falzarego to Cinque Torri is fairly flat, involves some poling and it helps to know which sections you need to schuss, but still definitely worth doing). The Rifugio Averau at the very top of the Cinque Torri slopes is highly recommended for lunch.
mini_mo wrote:

It is steeper at the top and narrows to a wide track with many undulations so you need to ski fast to get over them, therefore it is not suitable for slow skiers. Towards the bottom is Scotonis Rifugio but as we got there by about 10:30am we couldn't have lunch as it was too early, which I was gutted about. You carry on down until it flattens out

You forgot to mention the frozen waterfall which you pass on the left hand side Wink
mini_mo wrote:
..and then you can either get a taxi for €2 each or the horse tow which is €2.50 each by taking the left track. There is also a sign directing you.

At the point where the sign is and where you took the left track there is a second Rifugio called Capanna Alpina which is also very good. Incidentally part of the building has a flat roof and you will often see one or more of the restaurant's dogs sitting on it watching the passing skiers! Laughing
mini_mo wrote:
We were not sure if you waited for the taxi or had to call the number on the sign but we got the horse tow. This is probably only 1km from hotel Armentarola and it surprised me how close we were at the bottom of the run, compared to the top. I assume the Cortina area is also covered by the Dolomiti ski pass so you could make a day of it.

The SuperDolomiti Pass covers the Cortina area (and a whole lot more!) Very Happy
mini_mo wrote:

To summarise, we had probably our best ski holiday ever and have every intention of going back.

Smart move! Toofy Grin
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