Getting to Know Alta Badia

Discover classic Euro skiing amongst the mighty granite steeples of the Italian Dolomites.
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Steep and Deep: Alta Badia's terrain appears intimidating at first, but covers a varied and rewarding swath of the ski-perfect Italian Alps.  (courtesy, Alta Badia Tourist Board)
Take Me to the Top: Panoramic view of the Dolomites from Alta Badia's high cable-car station.  (Kate Siber)

Okay, IÂ’ll admit it. When I arrived in the Dolomites, I was downright intimidated. Alpen-glowing rock spires glowered down on me like Gothic statues. Steep, snow-covered pistes scratched their way through rocky gargoyles, and the strings of gondolas creeping up the mountains looked like bizarre snow monsters from a Spielberg flick.

It was sunset on an April evening and I had just arrived in Alta Badia, a slim, glacier-crafted valley in the Italian Alps. After three hours navigating the windy roads and mini-towns between Venice and this mountain-squashed nook, I was no doubt a bit foggy-headed. The next morning, I realized my mistake. Instead of pride-swallowing chutes and heartbeat-skipping cliffs, I found the opposite: mild to challenging slopes meandering benignly through spectacular rock gardens.

In fact, I discovered that the Italian version of skiing is far different from the American. Instead of busting their quads pummeling steep slopes all day, the Italians prefer a more leisurely approach. On cruising down a gentle hill, they’ll stop for espresso oh, say, three or four times and take at least two lunch breaks—or one incredibly long one.

On my first day, I found folks in fabulously outdated fluorescent one-piece ski suits chatting idly on the sides of slopes and sunbathing in front of the many restaurants and rifugios, wooden huts only reachable by ski that serve local cuisine. Plus, lunch always seemed to include wine or champagne, completely foreign elements to my own ski-bum sensibilities. I realized that this scene seemed to be not so much about the skiing as it was about pure, unadulterated leisure.

Published: 4 Oct 2005 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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