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Trip Report Arabba December 2012

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Trip Report Arabba December 2012

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Resort: Arabba, Dolomites

When: 22.12.12 – 29.12.12

TO: Neilson on F, T and HB from Gatwick to Innsbruck (allegedly)

Accommodation: Sporthotel (4*)


Beeep, Beeeeeeepppp, BEEEEPPPP…….aaarrrgghhhhh 2.30am on Saturday 22nd December and alarm announces the time to rise and head to Gatwick for the 05.55hrs flight to Innsbuck. So we’re out of the door by 3am (well, 3.10 to be accurate) for a clear 50 min run to the airport. Got a great short term car park deal for the week, so no hassle getting to check-in. All good, no stress….so far.
Even got my 4.6kg over weight baggage through with not even the bat of an eye.

Slight delay boarding, but only 15 minutes….

…..and then the sort of news that only serves as the beginning of a downhill experience, though not of the skiing type…. Shocked

Apparently Innsbruck is fog-bound with low cloud preventing landing (it seems it is an airport with no automated landing system (?), so the reliance on a manual approach rule it out in poor visibility (OK, these things happen, but more on that). We sit on the ground for perhaps an hour with el capitan giving us the odd update along the lines that the low cloud is anticipated to disperse around mid/late morning…sort of 11 o’clockish. So we take off at about 7.30am.

And the stack an hour and 10 minutes later around Innsbruck for about 45 minutes…..seems the weather has decided to stay put and either we’re hoping to dart in (ahead of Sleazy – for there is definitely some penis boasting going on), or head to Salzburg cos planes can’t stay in the air sucking up valuable fuel forever.

And, of course, off to Salzburg we head, landing 30 minutes or so later. Only to sit on the tarmac for 2 hours because a) it is a small airport and there is no room for us all in the terminal and b) we might refuel and take off and go back to Innsbruck….eventually a decision is reached, we de-plane, being informed that coaches are now heading to Salzburg from Innsbruck. Up until this point everyone was in reasonable humour. Well, definitely better being delayed on the way out as opposed to the way back…..ahem…..we were well tested on that theory as it transpired.

Into the terminal and an interminable wait for baggage and any sort of news on when the coaches would arrive….that was a three plus hour wait. Well, we were all given €7 vouchers for food and drink rolling eyes, and told to attend a meeting point at 3pm. A few disgruntled people began to realise that 2 hours had been added to the 2.5 hour anticipated transfer grrrrr. A quick enquiry with raised hopes as to the cost for a private taxi proved to quell that hope when €800 was mentioned. Shave a dog’s head!! Shocked

Ah well. Having been looking forward to a middayish arrival, we tipped up at nearly 8pm rolling eyes. It was quite a pretty way to see Arabba for the first time – under the moonlight, snow all around and the lights depicting a town nestled comfortably in a valley surrounded (guarded) by the magnificent sentinel mountains.



The Sporthotel: a truly warm welcome. I honestly struggle to recall a warmer, more genuine one. The 22nd was the SO’s birthday and I’d organised a big bunch of flowers and Prosecco on chill for the room a week or so before we were due to arrive. With a conspiratorial wink and whispered “it’s all taken care of”, we were given the room key card (more on these) and despatched to the second floor room…..which had a balcony looking directly over the central church and town – all bathed, as mentioned, in moonlight and town lights. Perfect. Travel troubles forgotten.







Dinner was available until 9.30pm, so plenty of time to freshen up and change.

With warm wood panelling, an array of art, traditional styling, a lovely (sought after) fireplace and air of peaceful tranquillity, the Sporthotel is everything one might expect from a 4*. The facilities were excellent with a health spar and all manner of treatments available should one wish. The boot room provided private, heated lockers that are accessed by swiping one’s room key card over a central pad. Access from the outside at the end of the day was also via the room key card. Great idea IMV – easy and relatively secure.

Food: plentiful and of a very high quality. Massive selection at breakfast with scrambled eggs and bacon available (and consumed) every day. Otherwise, fruit, pastries, yoghurts, breads, spreads, hams, cheeses etc etc etc. Dinner was a 3-course affair with a buffet salad selection on top…so 4-courses and 5 if one also went for cheese. I’ve never eaten so well or so much on a holiday….mmmmmmm

Christmas Eve saw an eight course affair that was the highlight. A real feast. Perfect.

Other than the Christmas Eve feast, each morning, at breakfast, one had to choose from 3 options for starter/main for dinner. Wasn’t disappointed once Very Happy

Wine: Hmmmm….a huge menu and not cheap. The lowest (few) wines started at €17…..many were considerably more…..I do like a decent red now and again….the resultant restaurant wine bill was hefty – even if limited to a bottle a night….unusually low for me Laughing. No regrets, though – this was supposed to be a special holiday and I was prepared not to have to scrimp around certain things….I think the most I paid was €47 for a particular vintage wine and it was worth every damn Euro IMHO Toofy Grin .

Then retire to the bar and relax with coffee and brandy, whilst listening to the pianist and singer who kept us all going with mellow jazz/swing type music – again, very tasteful, very good.

The location of the hotel is superb – 100m to Burz and 150m to the Portovescovo lifts (handy private steps down to the main access to the latter).

All in all, I would have no hesitation in returning The Sporthotel, nor recommending it. Indeed, I hope I will go back at some point. We were treated like valued guests in a calm, peaceful and restful environment that was slickly run, yet without any undue effort being displayed. Well done Family Pram Smile .

The Skiing: I am now a convert to the Sella Ronda. Having been to the Brenta Dolomites, which I also greatly like (not just for the skiing, but the scenery and the Italian “way”), this region is hard to beat. For variety, charm, the sense of adventure and the infrastructure. The pistes were awesome with the significant early snow delivering picture postcard scenery and quality skiing. I came away yearning to go back and discover more. From the black 13 down to Arabba, to the blasting fast reds 23 and 24 to Plan Boe, to the long red 60 at the top of Marmolada all the way leg burningly down to Malga Ciapela again and the black WC FIS run into Selva.

The Cruise the Blues intro day run by the Neilson rep on day one under clear blue skies that took in Campolongo and parts of Corvara proved to be a fast and blast introduction on practically empty pistes. A quality morning and terrific opener/taster for the area. Sold! Totally!

For various reasons, I did the Sella Ronda orange route on the last morning. 3 hours 15 minutes of some of the bizarrest conditions. Started out at 9.15 on the slow but peaceful 2 man chair to Portados before dropping down to the fast 6-seater up to Red 1 (from Porta Vescovo)……only to wait 20 minutes whilst they ran the chairs up out of their underground “shed”, onto the wires in reverse, before opening the lift….interesting, but come on guys, some of us are itching to get cracking.

The weather was closing in and, by the time we got going again, the snow was coming down hard and the visibility made any piste definition impossible. As I skied and transited the lifts towards Passo Pordoi, the vis got worse, the wind stronger and the skiing ever more “interesting”…..One lift O happened to be on was stopped every few metres as immense gusts of wind bearing fine crystals of snow whipped in and froze us where we sat.

Round the next corner….and the sun was shining…..then it was almost white out again, before the final leg was in brilliant sunshine – an uplifting run back at full tilt before a brief stop at Plan Boe for a well-earned Grande Birra and Williams chaser…..followed by more of the same at Mister X.

Such was the volume of food available at The Sporthotel, I didn’t eat much at all on the mountain. When I did, the restaurant at the top of Burz out of Arabba does an excellent Goulash Soup. Mister X in the town, a fabulous Carbonara with the Spec, Egg and fried Potatoes (an immense plate for €8 ) got the thumbs up from the SO.

Arabba: peaceful, pretty and friendly. Not a party town, unless in a group perhaps. Bar Pete (centre, near the Church) was quite lively for a few hours with some good sounds. For perhaps the first time, this didn’t really bother me – slower paced evenings, and some full tilt days. With the comfort and convenience of the hotel, maybe there wasn’t the desire to go out partying….that might be different in the future (2014 BB be warned Toofy Grin ).

Met up with hammerite for several grande birras at Pete’s which was great. hammerite – sorry we didn’t get to ski together in the end. Good to meet you in any event Smile .

Coming down from Porta Vescovo, there are several "temporary" shack-type bars which were a nice apres stop - some euro-banging music and a plentiful supply of Williams (amongst a wide range of beers, spirits, hot drinks etc)

Plan Boe was also another cheerful and lively bar for some apres prior to negotiating the blue back to town Toofy Grin.

Christmas Eve, following the immense feast, and I went to Midnight Mass at the Church – rammed, totally, though managed to get a seat and then sat/stood (well followed my neighbours) through a charming service. Lots of warm well-wishing and hand-shaking plus Buon Natele to everyone. A nice end to the evening and start to Christmas Day.


As for the area? Not one for beginners IMO. Even for improvers, it could be challenging. For moderately confident skiers, the area around Arabba is outstanding. Accessing the easier, wide and cruisey blue slopes at Campolongo, or Corvara is straightforward with Red 23 on the way back being the favoured route – the lift will download if anyone is unsure about tackling the run.
On the Porta Vescovo side, there are really only 2 blues at the midway point of the telecabin uplift. So, unless one is confident on what I reckon are proper reds (i.e. more like the French variety that Italian…Laughing…), then Arabba may not be the best place to be.

Skis: Brand new Salomon Enduro XT800s……surprise, surprise. The hire place had ordered them in for someone the week after….so I pointed and said “those…please”….and they duly obliged. As one or two may know I have been deliberating on which skis to buy….I know now. These 175cm skis cut through the chopped up, glided over the corduroy, were self-assured on the hardpack/wind blown shiny stuff, copped well in the new snow and were stable at some eye-watering straight-lining. Nuff said.



Lessons: a one hour tweak the technique with the Italian Ski School with……one Alex Martini. I was chatting to the local ski school director who rates Alex highly. Indeed, he is part of the national squad. Following an injury which has temporarily curtailed his DH career, he is training for the ski-cross for the 2014 Olympics – he’s trained and competed with Darren Rahlves! He’s also good friends with David Simoncelli, the Italian GS racer. Anyway, at 23, he seems to have a really bright future. A great character and with outstanding English – so the lesson was clear and the communication about angulation, fore/aft movement etc etc all extremely understandable.

We had a great lesson and ironed out a few minor issues like me occasionally being too static in posture. We did a few drills for better transition and improved angulation which seem to have helped. I also now have a video of me skiing – a first – courtesy of the new Go Pro that he followed me down with….or from in front when the b’stard was skiing backwards at speed for a few hundred meters….Laughing.

Good luck with the ambitions, Alex. If anyone is looking for private lessons, at €39 for 1 hour, you’ll get a lot out of it with this guy – recommended.

================================================================

Now, back to the return trip….due to depart Arabba at 4.30am for the flight from Innsbruck.

6pm the night before….rinnnggg, rrrinnnggggg, rrrriiinnnngggg…..”hello?”…..”It’s Paul, your rep here”…..”hello, Paul”…..”really sorry, but the flight is now departing from Salzburg and you will be leaving at 2.30am”…..”eh? WTF for”……”sorry, boss has said that the weather tomorrow is low cloud and fog, so to avoid delaying you any more than is absolutely necessary, we’re diverting the flights out and subsequently your return to Salzburg….”


So, after a bit of cursing and no little disappointment, I checked the weather….suspicious? Moi? And determined that every forecast for the following morning was clear blue skies – including the airport’s own site.

Duly phoned rep and asked him exactly why, in light of our outbound experience (i.e. last minute changes) they were altering the airport when at least 3 different weather sites suggested clear skies. Needless to say, no answer was forthcoming….I will pursue this. By chance we had a TO employee 9not related to Neilson) who reckoned compo would be achievable….fairly easily Toofy Grin.

When we stopped en-route it was just outside Innsbruck (nothing like rubbing salt in the wounds). In the clear sky at 4.45am was the moon and the odd cloud with a hint of morning mist. Anyone on the ground at Innsbruck who would care to corroborate the conditions, please let me know!


And good old Neilson also failed to get the passenger manifest to the airport check-in, so every passenger’s details had to be manually entered…..a bit of a major fail given how long they had to organise the admin IMV. As I’d booked seats for both trips, there was a risk that we wouldn’t get what we’d paid for. Fortunately, I had taken a note of the seat numbers and we were early enough in the check-in to secure the seats…lucky old Neilson/Thomas Cook.

================================================================

Well, there we have it. First Christmas skiing. First trip to Arabba. Neither will be the last. Toofy Grin




Lame attempt at December Photo Competition Laughing



Herd of Piste Bison going out to roam the slopes



Moon rising over Arabba


Last edited by Poster: A snowHead on Mon 31-12-12 18:09; edited 2 times in total
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Chasseur wrote:
.... and the black WC FIS run into Selva.



Sasslong A actually dumps into St. Christina. A minor detail. wink

Sounds like a great stay. Madeye-Smiley
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Chasseur, great trip report, thanks! To say that it has whetted my appetite for the Birthday Bash would be putting it mildly. I had, however, thought that I was in for a whole week of cruisy blues: from what you say, it seems that there are plenty of reds and blacks and that I'll have to do something about my lamentable lack of fitness in the next month. rolling eyes
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Mollerski, quite probably Laughing the vis was iffy....that not at the top of Selva?
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Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
So I wasn't the only Snowhead caught out by the Innsbruck pea soup. See my Journey from Hell thread.

Good to see Arabba is still on form, hope it keeps it up for the BB in Feb. Counting the days.

snowHead snowHead
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Chasseur, great write-up mate. Arabba has been on my todo list for far too long.
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Pedantica, worry not - you'll be absolutely fine....just head off towards Campolonga and Corvara - cruisey blues all day long with plenty of piste side watering holes Toofy Grin

It really is a stunningly beautiful area Very Happy
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Mr Piehole, thanks. After that week, it is quite possibly at or close to the top of the list.
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Chasseur wrote:
....that not at the top of Selva?


No, the approach to the Sasslong starts at the back of the Ciampinoi lift station (Selva), there's a spilt into A or B above St. Christina and both end in St. Christina. Madeye-Smiley
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Pedantica wrote:
Chasseur, great trip report, thanks! To say that it has whetted my appetite for the Birthday Bash would be putting it mildly. I had, however, thought that I was in for a whole week of cruisy blues: from what you say, it seems that there are plenty of reds and blacks and that I'll have to do something about my lamentable lack of fitness in the next month. rolling eyes


Pedantica Worry not, there are plenty of nice cruisy blues and there will be lots of bodies to make up skiing parties with (and the odd body from the dark side).

snowHead snowHead
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Chris Wood741, Very Happy It's not that I mind long, carvy reds and nice blacks, I don't at all, but my fitness leaves something to be desired at the moment. Embarassed
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Chasseur,
I stayed at the Sporthotel in the summer for a week, as you say truly welcoming place. We had half board and the food was restaurant quality, proper 4* hotel.

Is the very nice blonde lady still behind the bar, when we were chatting to her she was contemplating whether or not to come back for the winter. If she was would you believe she is 55 Shocked that's what mountain air does for you.
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Kel, no, she wasn't, evidently replaced by an extremely attractive French lady (but with a bit of French attitude) of around late 20's I'd say.
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Most enjoyable report. thanks. Must admit it has got me wondering whether I made the right call in choosing to give the Dolomiti a miss this year.

snowHead
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Chasseur, Great report, must go there soon. wink
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25 sleeps to go- good job I'm driving, to be fair the others in the group are flying in to Verona and we haven't had weather problems there in the past.
Good write up BTW- hopefully I'll meet some SH's at the bash in Feb... Very Happy
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Chasseur, Nice trip report and thanks for posting some photos. We too always have private lessons at the Scuola Sci Aabba but with someone else who is also fantastic. I think the quality of all there instructors is extremely high as I believe there is a high benchmark for them to be allowed to join the ski school, based on the conversations with our instructor.

I think we were lucky last year with Neilsons as we flew in and out of Innsbruck with no trouble, no waiting around at the airport and only 2.5 hours transfer, so was in Arabba by lunch. That said we had less snow in previous years as the weather was mild and sunny.
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Chasseur, Could you tell me where you hired the skis from as i would like to rent some enduro XT 800 skis when I am in Arabba in March.
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Mr Piehole wrote:
Chasseur, great write-up mate. Arabba has been on my todo list for far too long.



+1

This gets the juices going for my March trip. Great stuff
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riverman, I'll try and get the name of the place - I booked through Nelson. The place was next to Mister X and above the ski school. The Enduros had been specially booked by another punter, so it should be possible to pre-order.
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Chasseur, Happy Birthday. Great report and great to meet you too. I believe I owe you a beer!

Seems we pretty much followed you round on Friday (or vice versa). The weather was interesting in places!

As for Innsbruck on Saturday, we flew out on time but most of the early flights were delayed seemingly by a big patch of low cloud hovering just over the airport (and nowhere else!). One of our chalet mate's flights was diverted similar to yours (to Friedrichshafen), apparently not because of the weather but due to the original pilot being ill and their replacement not having the credentials to fly into/out of Innsbruck. We had an equally nightmare journey out - left home at 5am, got into resort just after midnight - Gatwick to Arabba via Friedrichshafen and a few hours sat at a service station somewhere inbetween Innsbruck and Bregenz! The scary lady manning the toilets probably had her biggest ever takings that night.

riverman, the OH and I had some new Enduro LX750 hired from Ski Service da Nico http://www.skiservicearabba.it/index.php?page_id=1050&lang_id=3 which is just under the Portavescovo lift. Nico may stock 800s too.
Interestingly Nico was also our ski instructor for 3 sessions during the week (very thorough and pretty old school) with the Reba ski school, apparently I ski with my legs too far apart Embarassed


Last edited by You'll need to Register first of course. on Tue 1-01-13 13:03; edited 2 times in total
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Chasseur, is it this place http://www.skirentalarabba.it/index.php/en/ski-and-snowboard-rental.html ? If so it belongs to the ski school and only opened last season. We used them for a wax mid week and they were pretty cheap and made a good job. All the instructors take turns in there helping out when they are not teaching.

Our ski instructor told us about it last year and I think they may offer a discount if you also book lessons, although its not advertised.

They do have the enduro XT 800's listed under their 5 star skis. Makes me tempted to try something different for a day.
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sounds a wonderful holiday - with two rather horrid journeys. Can't wait to see it all for myself on the BB. Pedantica, it's my knees which are worrying me, rather than fitness. One hard day and they get a bit hot and puffy. So I'm up for some cruising/lunching/cruising days.
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pam w,
Quote:

it's my knees which are worrying me, rather than fitness. One hard day and they get a bit hot and puffy
Sad My knees aren't great either, but mostly they only hurt when I stop - they're fine while I'm actually skiing. Confused

Quote:

So I'm up for some cruising/lunching/cruising days.

Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy ad infin.
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Quote:

mostly they only hurt when I stop - they're fine while I'm actually skiing

mine too. When I get back I take some ibuprofen, rub on some Voltarol, and sit with my feet up when possible. I never normally do more than one day at a time of hard skiing as I ski quite a bit with people who like to take it gently. I'm a little concerned about the "on2off" week, but plan not to do too much outside the lessons, to keep the knees going throughout the week.
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pam w wrote:
So I'm up for some cruising/lunching/cruising days.


You and Pedantica will love a trip over to the restaurant at Santa Croce. It's a bit of a hike up a hill to the restaurant and church but well worth it and if you carry your skis up you can ski back down. Great food and fantastic scenery.
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geepee, great. You coming too?
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
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pokemon, thanks - that's the place. All the skis looked pretty new and they managed the ski school bookings.
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Pedantica wrote:
geepee, great. You coming too?


I'd definitely be up for it on a good weather day.
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geepee, Very Happy Mind you, I'm going to have to be a bit careful about naughty lunches if the food is as good as people say in the Portavescovo! And not be TOO gentle with the skiing - must do a bit of hurtling, after all. wink
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Quote:

I'd definitely be up for it on a good weather day

What makes you think we'd be up for it on a bad weather day? Shocked Not that there will be any of those.
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+1 for santa croce on a nice day. mind your head though (best wear a lid inside Wink ) worth the last few paces up to the viewing point, too after lunch before popping the skis back on.

and the run back down is probably one of the best blue / easy reds in the area (all in the sun too, since it will be a nice day, of course)
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Oh my word. How many sleeps is it?
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andy,
Quote:

mind your head though (best wear a lid inside
I doubt it'll be a problem for me. wink And pam w is quite a bit shorter than you too.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Teaser - this is at the very end of the piste map. You can't go any further.
The scenery in all the other directions is more impressive, and there's a big map showing all the peaks and ranges and climbing routes etc.
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pam w, It's only because it's such a lovely setting and deserves to be done on a nice day for the views. It's still worth it for the food anyway though with dining inside. wink

andy, I somehow don't think pam w and Pedantica will have the same problem with the beams. wink
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Thought I'd also post a photo of Santa Croce I took in Feb 2012. It was quite a warm day but at least the skies were blue. Previous visits had been either snowy or low cloud.



Not sure if this will work but here's a link to a panoramic photo I took on my iPhone using the Microsoft Photosynth free app.

http://photosynth.net/view/4a64e820-6dbc-4f66-9f66-3b398a4340ec
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
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andy,
I stayed in Pedraces last year, did that run 3 or 4 times every morning before the crowds arrived. Perfectly groomed as you would expect, awesome run, I would say it is definitely the best cruising run in the area.

Having a bit of a Doli tour this year Alleghe, Cortina, Kronplatz, Corvara over 15 days, cannot wait.
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Told ya the scenery was more impressive in the other directions.
Can't get that panoramic pic to work - need Silverlight apparently.
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Works on my iPhone- great pic and I now have another destination for next month Cool
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