Our latest winter road trip destination is a famous ski destination in Northern Italy. Easily reached from Germany and most of Western Europe just over the Brenner Pass that connects Austria and Italy it is a true ski paradise. But that is not all Val Gardena has to offer!
Val Gardena, also known as Gröden in German, is a valley in the Italian Dolomites. The three main towns St. Ulrich, St. Christina and Wolkenstein are all directly connected to the ski slopes and provide direct access to over 79 lifts and 175 km of pistes. With the Dolomiti Superski pass there is even more to explore – 448 lifts and 1,258 km of slopes await visitors across 12 ski resorts all surrounded by the magnificent peaks of the Dolomites UNESCO world heritage site. Val Gardena also provides direct access to the Seiser Alm, a plateau especially suitable for families with kids and beginners.
The most famous ski tour in the Dolomites is the Sella Ronda which laps the Sella mountain range. It can be skied in two directions, we prefer the green counter-clockwise variant as it crosses the Sella pass, Pordoijoch, Campolongo pass and finally the Grödner Joch before returning to the Val Gardena valley. The orange variant runs clockwise and can be started and finished from any of the four valleys it passes. The tour is about 30 kilometers skiing distance and can be done by average skiers. More advanced skiers who keep up the pace can do the Sella Ronda twice in one day.
But Val Gardena offers a lot more than Sella Ronda. We particularly enjoyed the south facing slopes in the Santa Christina’s Col Raiser area. With only a handful of lifts and slopes it is not the most extensive ski area in Val Gardena but what it lacks in numbers it makes up in sunshine and gastronomy. There are no less than 12 restaurants and bars to choose from. One even better than the other. Keep reading for an overview of our favorite mountain side restaurants.
Despite having fairly little fresh snow this season the slopes were in excellent condition. Thanks to dozens of snowmaking machines and the latest slope preparation techniques the conditions were perfect. Add modern lifts and seemingly endless slopes and it is not hard to understand why we consider Val Gardena one of the best ski resorts in the world.
Where to stay?
Val Gardena offers a large range of hotels from simple bed & breakfast to luxurious spa hotels. Here are our favorites:
The Dorfhotel Beludei in Santa Christina provides 24 rooms and suites, a modern spa, restaurant and bar. It opened in 2014 and combines modern amenities with a cozy alpine style. The young team managed by Luis Schenk provides a personal service and makes you feel at home quickly. A hotel shuttle takes guests to a from the ski slope.
This five star hotel has welcomed guests in Sankt Ulrich for more than 200 years. The Adler Dolomiti resort offers a 3,500 m2 spa and wellness area with two different indoor- and outdoor pools, waterfalls, jacuzzis and a dozen or so different sauna and steam baths. If its luxury and wellness you are after this hotel is not to be missed.
Ski-in, ski-out at Mountain Design Hotel Eden Selva. Located directly next to the slope of the Sella Ronda this new design hotel in Wolkenstein provides modern rooms and suites, a wellness area and restaurant. It is located within walking distance of Wolkenstein with its bars and restaurants.
Technically the Alpina Dolomites hotel is not in Val Gardena but located up on the Seiser Alm but we still want to include it. This modern five star resort is regarded as one of the best hotels in the entire Dolomites and provides spacious rooms, an incredible wellness center with indoor- and outdoor pools and perfect service.
Where to eat?
The Dolomites are not just famous for their mesmerizing mountains and natural beauty but also for the high quality Italian food. We made a list of our favorite stops during our stay in Val Gardena:
Hidden away in the furthest corner of the Seiser Alm ski area Zallinger is a true refuge. Enjoy the sun with a glass of wine and some of the fine homemade dishes served on the terrace.
This cozy mountain hut in the Santa Cristina ski area provides authentic South Tyrolean dishes and panoramic views of Val Gardena.
Baita Daniel Hütte
A little further down from the Troier Hütte next to the main ski slope is Baita Daniel Hütte. A great place to stop for a nice lunch or a refreshing drink.
Boe Alpine Lounge
If you decide to ski the Sella Ronda you will probably want to stop at some point too. One of the nicest places is the Boe Alpine Lounge. At the top of the Boe cable car you find a pizza and burger bar, a self service restaurant and last but not least Kelina fine-dining restaurant with panoramic views of Corvara.
Where to Apres-Ski?
The Italian apres-ski does not come close to the parties you can find in Austria and France. But every town in the Gröden valley has a few bars where skiers meet for a drink or two after a long day at the slopes. These include Siglu in St. Ulrich, the snowbar at the bottom of the Saslong World Cup track in Santa Christina and La Stua and Luislkeller in Wolkenstein. Those looking for a party are best served in Wolkenstein.