Our recommendation this ski season is for a place that blends the best of the Alps: Italian and Austrian culture and gastronomy, matchless views, astonishing skiing, and an ambience all of its own
How do you like your wintersports holiday? There’s the social whirl of St Moritz, Gstaad and Courchevel, the competitivity of Verbier and Val d’Isere…and then there are the Dolomites in Italy. Here, the vibe is so different you could be on another continent. It starts with the mountains themselves, sheer caramel coloured walls and stacks of rock, rising vertically above the curiously open and gentle slopes below.
Then there is the culture, a blend of Austrian and Italian, but not really either – suffusing into the villages, food and people. The Dolomites are also home to the Superski area, a circuit of 1200 km of some of the most spectacular runs in the world, formed so you never have to ski the same slope twice as you tour the whole region.
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Our recommended base for exploring the area this winter is the effortlessly chic Gardena Grödnerhof, in Ortisei, at the heart of the area. (The German-Italian place names all point to the region’s mixed heritage.)
The family-run Grödnerhof may not be a palace like some of the most celebrated hotels in the Alps, but it’s every bit as stylish, and rather more understated, as any of its peers. Its design owes as much to Milan as it does to traditional Alpine themes; you are whisked into an effortless world of contemporary Italianate hospitality, but with a view to die for. There are two restaurants, the Gardena, in light Alpine style with Mediterranean dishes, and the Michelin-starred Anna Stuben, with a wine list to match the world’s best – and most eclectic.
Rooms are spacious and elegant and have sweeping views over the matchless Dolomites with light wood panels and cool grey tones; a blend of Austrian cosiness and Italian Bella Figura.
And then dash to the cable car around the corner as you are in the middle of one of the world’s most spectacular and distinctive ski areas. If you have not skied the Dolomites before, we recommend deliberately not looking out of the window of the lift as you go up and then taking a proper look at the top as the sheer scale and breadth of the view is like nowhere else. You may feel as if you are on a different planet. It’s one of the sunniest ski areas in Europe and also has among the best snowmaking facilities, so you can embark on your circuit which links to the ski areas of numerous nearby villages amid the likelihood both of fine Italian weather and crisp Alpine snow.
A couple of perks the hotel offers are private ski tours at sunrise, with a guide, before all those other people get to the slopes, or just before sundown, when others have left (we recommend the latter, particularly after experiencing the hotel’s wine cellar the night before). And then you may have time to swim, luxuriate in the outdoor thermal baths, and admire the starlight, before dinner awaits.
Find out more: www.gardena.it