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Experience the ‘Domomiti Super Ski’ in South Tyrol

Hotel Sassongher CREDIT: ASA Luxury
Hotel Sassongher CREDIT: ASA Luxury

THE Dolomites is quite simply an incredible place to be in. Let alone ski in.

The scenery. The restaurants. The atmosphere. The food. The wine. The bars. The hotels. It offers so much.

That’s before you even get started on the 750 miles of largely pristine slopes. Known as the ‘Domomiti Super Ski’, it’s the largest ski circuit in the world. It literally allows you to ski for days and never encounter the same run twice.

There’s no fewer than 50 lifts, across 15 resorts in the South Tyrol region – the northern most point in Italy, bordering Austria to the east and north. These particular slopes are heavily guarded from the harsh northerly storms by the beautifully imposing mountain range. Basically, it’s a geographical dream for a skier with the chances of a blue bird day sky high on the UNESCO world heritage site. In fact, it’s claimed the sun shines an unrivalled 8 out of every 10 days in the area… a big statement, fitting for an even bigger getaway. And if you’re going by my experience it plays out, as the sun had its hat firmly on every day I was there - and that was in mid-December.

Great British Life: Gary on the slopes (c) Gary PearsonGary on the slopes (c) Gary Pearson

All this in the very heart of the Italian Alps, a region heralded for its high-class mountain cuisine. And a special ’A Taste for Skiing’ lunch at Ütia de Bioch certainly endorsed this. ‘A Taste for Skiing’ is an innovative charity initiative which saw no less than eight Michelin starred chefs paired up with a mountain hut on the slopes of Alta Badia. Each creating a signature dish, available throughout the season.

At Ütia de Bioch it was the mushroom, yes mushroom, cappuccino which was cranking up the culinary volume. And I admit I was dubious about such a combination. But needn’t have been. Laced with a little fennel the subtle mind-twisting flavour combination tantalised the taste buds before they succumbed to a warm, gooey surrender. It was class.

My stay was split between two fantastic, family-run properties. Both stood shoulder-to-shoulder in tradition and quality. The Hotel Sassongher in Corvara, and ten minutes up the road, the Hotel La Majun in La Villa, also in Alta Badia.

Both have an unwavering devotion to guest relaxation. Spa facilities are incredible.

Great British Life: Sassongher CREDIT: ASA LuxurySassongher CREDIT: ASA Luxury

Sassongher has five saunas, a rooftop open-air jacuzzi (which at least 16 could comfortably squeeze into) and literally a chamber of water beds. That’s not to mention the Solarium, indoor jacuzzi, swimming pool, steam rooms and numerous areas to lay back and unwind… It was a labyrinth of luxurious relaxation. The one thing that really jumps out about the hotel is space. There is so much space. Everywhere. Aided by the fact it has only about 50 guest rooms. The hotel has been in the Pescosta family since the 1890s when it was initially a farm, as owner Francesco Morini informed me, before becoming a hotel in the 1930s. It maintains a heavy traditional regional feel about the place, with old Tyrolean lounges, rugs, and many wooden panelled walls.

Hotel La Majun, La Villa, Alta Badia, again haa sensational spa facilities. Here, there’s no less than three floors to relax on… topped by the quaint wooden open-air hot tub, suitable for up to four. A show stealer. While snugly sitting there, taking in the view of the surrounding mountain range as the mid-December darkness and cold draws in around you it certainly feels like you’re sliding away, swirling ever closer to your own piece of actual heaven. What a way to end a day’s skiing.

Great British Life: Hotel La Majun CREDIT: Alex MolingHotel La Majun CREDIT: Alex Moling

Other highlights at the La Majun are the modernised, open plan rooms along with the desirable ski-in, ski-out option. Again another hotel steeped in family history, and effervescent senior manager Roberta Rinna is full of verve and spark. Her grandfather was the village blacksmith of La Villa in the 1930s, and, in an era when women were unable to carry on the trade, the Rinna family opened its first two guestrooms in the early-1960s at La Majun, rented for a few weeks a year to outsiders to survive the tough times they found themselves in. The rest is history.

Both hotels bow to Ladin craftsmanship to give both their authenticity. Ladin was spoken by those who first inhabited the Dolomites. And it’s estimated about 30,000 people there still do. It’s one of three recognised languages in the Dolomites, German and Italian being the others. It’s worth noting the Dolomites were part of the Austro-Hungarian empire until World War One. After the war the region became part of Italy. Yet traditions remain strong. And ‘friendly camaraderie’ is now said to champion the hallmarks of the Ladin culture in Alta Badia. Something that was brought home when dining at the family-run Maso Runch Farm…

In business for more than 200 years, proud-to-be Ladin Enrico Nagler has lived and breathed the farm across four decades with his wife, five children and now grandchildren. It’s worth noting, if you like Ricotta cheese and spinach you’re going to love this place. It kicks off with these ingredients in all sorts of guises, in a series of starters, before serving up Goulash soup, succulent ribs and lamb that fell from the tiny bones, and did more melt in the mouth. Strong religious imagery shapes the place, and even an imposing statute of Jesus Christ on the cross looked out over the table as we ate.

Great British Life: Hotel Sassongher Photographer: Ugo Visciani CorvarHotel Sassongher Photographer: Ugo Visciani Corvar

Now, want me to let you into a little secret…All this, this whole experience, and more is now closer than it’s ever been.

How?

Well, Italian airline SkyAlps has launched a flight route from London Stansted straight into Bolzano, South Tyrol. It will operate twice a week - on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Until now, those visiting South Tyrol were faced with lengthy, two hour-transfers from major airports such as Milan, or Innsbruck.

Transfer time here was just shy of 90 minutes.

Great British Life: Hotel La Majun CREDIT: Alex MolingHotel La Majun CREDIT: Alex Moling

And this can all happen as SkyAlps is using a 76-seater De Havilland Dash Q400 aircraft. It’s a low-flying, ‘turboprop-powered’ plane, which company bosses are keen to point offers one of the greenest passenger eco-footprints in Europe.

So if you’re a skier who likes a million and one slopes, and a million and one ways to unwind then an indulgent dose of the Dolomites is definitely for you.

SkyAlps flights between London and Bolzano start from €184 each way. 50% off for children aged 2-11. Under 2s go for free. skyalps.com

Hotel Sassongher offers Comfort Rooms from €300 per night, based on two adults sharing on a half-board basis. sassongher.it/en/

Hotel La Majun offers rooms from €370 per night, based on two adults sharing on a B&B basis during the winter season. lamajun.it/

altabadia.org

Great British Life: Hotel La Majun’s dining space combines Alpine flair with Ladin accents Credit: Alex MolingHotel La Majun’s dining space combines Alpine flair with Ladin accents Credit: Alex Moling

GOOD TO KNOW

‘A Taste Of Skiing’ - €3 from each dish sold throughout the season donated to support paediatric palliative care charity ‘The Best Life Possible’, donations will add to the €18,200 raised from more than 6,000 dishes sold during the 2022/23 season, supplementing a fund aiming to build a new paediatric hospice in the Veneto region.

Chefs taking part this year include Slovenia’s only three-Michelin starred chef, Ana Roš of Hiša Franko, as well as Italian three Michelin starred chef Massimiliano Alajmo of Le Calandre. Each dish aims to create minimal waste and use sustainable ingredients, in line with Alta Badia’s position as Italy’s fourth GSTC (Global Sustainable Tourism Council) certified region.

Dishes cost from €21, including the dish and a matched glass of South Tyrol wine, and participating huts include Ütia de Bioch, Club Moritzino, Las Vegas and Jimmy’s Hut, amongst eight choices.



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