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Location: snowHeadLand
Resort: Arabba

Country: Italy

Domain: Dolomiti Superski

Author: agavin

Date: 11th - 17th March 2006

Our holiday: This was actually our 3rd trip to Arabba in the past 5 years. The 1st time was in my 2nd weeks skiing and is probably the reason I so love the area because it was the place I 'got it'.

The 1st time we went with a TO and stayed in a chalet with folks we didn't know, the 2nd time was an independent trip by ourselves and this specific trip was as part of a group of 20 who hired out 2 adjoining chalets from a TO.

Me and Mrs agavin are roughly 9 week skiers and confident / capable on pretty much anything on-piste. The rest of the group consisted of all types from beginners to a few similar level skiers and 4 boarders - 3 of the boarders done seasons in the US a few years back.

Website : The Italian Dolomites domain website is at http://www.dolomitisuperski.com/. This contains info about all the resorts (and links to their websites) in the domain including webcams (some live streaming ones for Selva), interactive piste maps, accommodation, transport links etc. One cool feature, is that you can go onto the website and type in your lift pass number, and it will provide a history of the lifts you used giving the times you rode them, the start and end altitude and an estimate of the distance covered on skis - http://217.199.29.129/jsp/applet/findTransit.jsp?Lang=ENG (because it is a little hard to find!).

The specific Arabba website is www.arabba.it. Once again it has webcams and a load of local information. You can download some PDFs which are essentially a list of local accommodation on a map in the same form as the brochure you would pick up from the tourist information office.

Another good website for the area with pretty accurate weather forecasts, avalanche information and some additional webcams is at http://www.arpa.veneto.it/ (follow the Neve e Valanghi link).

Basics : Arabba is in the heart of the Italian Dolomites (NE Italy) right on the Austrian border. We travelled with a TO from Gatwick to Verona followed by a 4 hour (stop included) coach transfer. In the past, we have flown to Venice and driven by car which should be no more than 2.5 hours.

Arabba is located at 1600m and has about 70km of its own local piste rising to around 2900m and facing North and South depending on which side of the valley you are skiing. It is one of 4 main villages on the Sella Ronda which is a route around the giant Sella Massif of around 46km (half on skis - half on lifts) over 4 mountain passes and can be skied in either direction. The other resort areas the Sella Ronda passes through are Selva val Gardena (about 1.5 hours from Arabba - the largest town and ski area), Canazei (The 2nd largest and probably lowest of the resorts) and Corvara (The most 'characterful' and easiest local skiing).

A 6 day ski pass for the entire domain (1200km of piste) costs around 170-250 Euros depending on the time of year and is 'hands free'. Of this, probably about 500-600km are lift linked or easily accessible with a short ski-bus/taxi ride - the remainder being satellite resorts which could take anything up to an hour to reach (e.g. Cortina).

Lift system : From Arabba, 2 lift stations send off 3 sets of lifts. Heading in an anti-clockwise direction for the Sella Ronda and above the nursery slopes is a new quad chair. A 5 minutes walk away on the other side of the road is a cable car to the top of Porta Vescova allowing access to the slopes on this side of the mountain as well as the clockwise Sella Ronda route. From the same lift station, is a gondola (25 man capacity!) which allows the link to the Marmolada glacier if exited at the mid-mountain station, or the top of Porta Vescova just above the Cable Car station.

Considering the entire area, there are very few drag lifts left. Chairs are a mixture of old and new, but in general copes very well even at half terms despite a few bottle necks. The Sella Ronda can be skied entirely in an anti-clockwise direction without using a drag - and there is one drag left in the clockwise direction.

The terrain : The area is predominantly intermediate with a large number of relatively untaxing Reds and Blues. Skiing is both above and below the tree-line rising to its highest point at the top of the Marmolada glacier at 3300m (and highest point in the dolomites). The great thing about it is that you can ski a lot without ever touching the same run 2x. The poor thing about the area is that it has a lot of very short runs as well!

Arabba is probably not the best resort on the Sella Ronda for beginners as the jump up from the nursery slopes to the next blue is quite large.

Arabba also has the steepest runs on the Sella Ronda on the North facing Portavescova side both above and below the tree lines with a few medium difficulty blacks (pisted daily) which can end up moguled and icy later on in the day, but generally have good snow on them.

Best Runs:
o All the reds and blacks down on the Porta Vescova side are fun
o There are a selection of 3 reds back down into Arabba from Bec de Rocces which are wide and cruisey
o A trip over to the Marmolada gives a good long run through a pretty valley to Malga Ciapela
The red down from the top of the Marmolada is about 12km long giving a decent from 3300m back down to 1400m for a good long ski without riding a lift
o There is a Red down into Corvara from Boe that is wide and not too steep and begs to be carved at speed
o The Red down from Dantercepies into Selva is a good fun descent with some slightly steeper bits winding through the trees
o The Reds and Blacks down into Selva including the Saslong World Cup downhill run are good fun descents through the trees that can get tricky when mogulled.
o The runs Red/Black down to Tana Del Lupo above Canazei in both direction on the Sella Ronda are fun
Laguzoi (The hidden Valley) is a 12km Red through a non-lift linked valley below stunning cliffs and past frozen waterfalls - and you get to be towed by horses on the flat bits for that all-round holiday experience!
o There is the ladies Slalom course at La Villa which has a little bit of everything with steeps, windy bits and is usually nice and cut-up for a bit of a challenge
o Personally think that the Sella Ronda route in the anti-clockwise direction is better as you get to follow the sun through the day and I think get one more significant run in than on the clockwise direction.

'Warnings':
o The 'Alta Badia' area above Corvara is 'blue land' which has some wonderful confidence building blues - but also some areas you may need to pole!
o The Red on the clockwise Sella Ronda at the top of Porta Vescova is the only way down initially before it branches meaning that it can be very busy and heavily moguled by lunch time despite being a joy first thing in the morning. Not good at that time of day for the nervous.
o On the anit-clockwise Sella Ronda, there is an annoying bit between Corvara and Selva with a lot of very short runs between a set of chairs gradually taking oyu higher up the pass to above Selva.
o Returning from the Marmolada and starting to ski down to Arabba, there is a short top section of a piste that is steep and narrows into tight left hander. After lunch this can get very busy and icy with great big moguls at the bottom where it turns into a track. Saw a 6 man domino pileup happen one day!
o May not be the best resort for boarders as there are often flatish sections between lifts and for me it was fine to Skate this, but for the boarders in our group it was a pain.

The snow : The snow this year was excellent - probably the best of any of our 3 trips. However, it is also worthwhile pointing out that the entire area is very well covered by snow-cannons (in fact the entire Sella Ronda can be opened on artificial snow!) and the grooming is generally immaculate - so even in 2001 which was a bad snow year, everything was very skiable and the conditions were very good on-piste (even for a 2nd week skier wanting 'ideal' conditions).

Off-piste : Didn't do any, but some of the boarders did a day with a local guide and thoroughly enjoyed it. I believe they did the Val Mesdi descent - but be aware that there is a 45 minute hike to get to it.

The resort : Arabba is small, but has a decent supermarket and a variety of small restaurants and bars. There are a few banks/ATM's, a pharmacy and 3 hire shops. Most hotels permit use of their 'wellness' facilities even if not staying there.

Food : Food was generally good being a mixture of Italian and Austrian. Particular mentions go to Scottonis in the hidden valley, The hotel at Tana del Luppo for gorgeous valley scenery and Boe for a last drink on the way back to Arabba.

In the resort, we had excellent Pizzas at 7-Sass - and others said that Al Table made great pizza and pasta and a few others praised the local grill for their mixed grill. Bar Peter is a good place for an early evening drink.

Local specialities include Bombardino for warmth/dutch courage (got to try it!) and 'spek con patat con uova' (a fry up of potato, bacon and fried egg!).

Accommodation : Stayed in a Neilson chalet. One of their more basic ones, but comfortable and convenient nevertheless.

Costs: Our mountain meals (drink, dish and desert) were coming to between 20-25 euros for 2.

Conclusion: Probably still my favourite resort for convenience, scale of skiing (for those who like 'travelling') and the most awesome mountain scenery I have seen (Prettier than Zermatt - but maybe not as 'rugged').

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