A few years ago, Pam and I went on what was arguably the best ski trip of our lives. We spent six-days on Ski Safari in the Dolomites with Inspired Italy, a SeniorsSkiing.com advertiser. The updated account about this bucket-list experience follows:

The Dolomites is the vast UNESCO World Heritage Site in Northern Italy. It received the designation because of its natural beauty and unique local culture. The region, aka South Tyrol, is the section of Italy bordering Austria. The Austrian influence is everywhere: road signs, architecture, dress, customs, food.

Imagine almost 750 miles of slopes and trails connected by an integrated skiers’ transportation system: 450+ chairs, bubbles, trams, trains, moving sidewalks, and surface lifts. That’s what we and four others explored with Tim Hudson of Inspired Italy. Under his cheerful, expert guidance, we skied about 120 miles (123,000+ vertical feet) and stayed in four refugios, on-mountain lodge/restaurants. In addition to the lifts, we were transported at times by helicopter, snow cat, taxi, and dray horse. What a delightful and memorable experience!

Horse powered lift.

We skied the third week of March. It was unseasonably warm, with conditions varying from hard corduroy when the group set out around 8:30AM, to ideal turning snow a few hours later, to frozen daiquiri at lower elevations.

Runs tend to be intermediate and long. Picture endless white ribbons winding through cliffs, steep meadows and dense forests. Each day we encountered a black or two. Every night, an armada of grooming equipment tends to terrain that, stretched end-to-end, would extend from New York to Chicago.

Unlike other skiing adventures, Ski Safari in this part of the world combines interesting on-mountain lodging with gourmet dining. Our first night was spent in Rifugio Fuciade, a small hotel with fantastic rooms, great views, and spectacular cuisine. Ten thousand bottles line the walls of its wine tasting room.

Another night, at Rifugio Plan de Corones, our room’s floor was sloped and creaky and the communal bathroom was down the hall. But there, too, the food was exceptional.

Perhaps the best-known name in the Dolomites is Cortina d’Ampezzo, site of the 1956 and 2026 Winter Olympics and where new slopes and a new network of lifts are being developed for the games. Cortina is a luxury shopping destination, and while that’s not my interest, Pam enjoyed the stop, which is scheduled into all Inspired Italy Ski Safaris.

Cortina d’Ampezzo

Each of the 450+ lifts is accessed with a single RFID card. They are all included in the full IKON pass. If you ski with IKON, the already reasonable cost of a Ski Safari package will be reduced.

At the start of each run, Tim briefed us on where we were headed, what to expect along the way, and info about geology, geography, and history. Here was a major front line in WWI. This trail is used for the Woman’s World Cup Downhill. That one is where the world’s longest slalom is held. The info was interesting; his delivery, entertaining, and his attention to clients, impeccable. No one got lost.

One morning we skied an endless trail into a valley running through a broad circle of towering peaks. To the side of the trail a lone ice climber worked his way up a frozen face of arctic blue. No other skiers, no other sounds, just the deep pleasure of being in the moment.

Most days we stopped for lunch at 1:00. Tim’s selections were invariably first-rate. Most places have similar menus of regional offerings. Some are modern, others more traditional. The group had bonded quickly and every meal reflected a sense of its gemütlichkeit.

Around noon one day, frozen daiquiri was getting to my legs and Tim, always attentive to staying on schedule, advised that Pam and I should take an hour-long taxi ride to reach a lift where we’d be able to access that night’s refugio. In essence, we were being temporarily kicked off the island, but he made a good call. One hairpin turn after another, the taxi snaked up and down forested vertical valleys, through charming villages; over deep ravines. The driver left us at a gondola, after which we skied to a chair or two, and arrived at the refugio around 2:30. A band was performing on the deck. The temps were in the 60s; the sun shining. The panorama exceptional. We ordered drinks, dropped into lounge chairs, and mellowed out.

VIDEO: These two SeniorsSkiing.com subscribers offer their thoughts about their Ski Safari experiences. Click above to screen.

COVID UPDATE: Tuscany and Italy, in general, saw a noticeable ripple of American visitors during the late summer following a change in Covid restrictions. Inspired ITALY bookings show that this trend is continuing into the Winter season.

While all non-EU visitors are required to take various tests, the key qualification is to be vaccinated, a requirement to buy a ski pass. Because rules change, contact Inspired ITALY prior to booking.

Getting There: There are three main airports to access the Dolomites: Munich, Venice and Milan. We flew to Milan, though many Inspired ITALY guests choose Munich and then take the train to the Val Gardena area.

4 Comments

  1. EILEEN FISHKIN says:

    I did SKI SAFARI in 2 different years. First time almost 28 years ago. Second time with my then 11 year-old granddaughter, who is now 33!. An amazing place to ski. The beauty of the area is spectacular. The Sella Ronda an interesting day. Waiting for our guide to return from chasing an errant skier, we missed the last lift home! Skied down to a nearby village, into a refugio, called the guide service, and they came to pick us up 3 beers and an hour later! Did not return to our lodgings til after 6 pm! I still have my ski pass!

  2. Jon: Thanks again for your plug on Inspired Italy back in December of 2018. It made me aware of this exceptional trip and resulted in my doing the Safari 2 years in a row in 2019 and 2020. These were without doubt the 2 best trips I ever had skiing in Europe. I highly recommend it to all skiers. January and February are the best months for sure to go.
    Tony Borden

  3. Stuart Rempel says:

    In my over 50 years of skiing in over 150 resorts in the world, my experiences at Dolomiti Super Ski have been the best! Highly recommend a trip there sooner than later.

  4. Just a heads up, one cannot take a train to Val Gardena directly from Munich. You’ll have to get off at Balzano, and bus or taxi or use some other commercial transport from there, or maybe there are car rentals, Balzano is a fairly large town. But, it’s not far from Val Gardena, and, if one is staying in Ortesei, it’s about as close to the major highway and high speed trains that run up and down the Brenner pass as you can get near the Sella Ronda.
    Of course, if Munich offers direct flights, that may be the easiest and quickest trip.

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