Most skiers will, no doubt be familiar with the approach to Innsbruck airport. And if you have yet to experience it, it is a travellers treat, as it is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular aircraft arrivals in Europe.
The journey from here, the closest airport with regular flights to/from the UK, to the Alpe di Siusi is never complex, irrespective of your form of transport. All routes head south and through the famous Brenner Pass. Everyone knows the name, few, in reality, could point to it on a map.
The Brenner Pass has personality. I regularly travel through its station too and from the airport. It is the place where Italy meets Austria and the station in winter is a god forsaken place for the traveler. The winds are bitter, the rails carved from the snow drifts. None the less, I love to change trains here, from Austria’s smart, warm, sharp OBB trains to Trenitalia’s rolling stock from an age of compartments and chains pulls for the emergency stop.
My stop is at Bressanone, a 90 minute journey from Innsbruck, which is about the time it would take to complete the whole journey by car. The drive from Innsbruck to Bressanone is all motorway, the E45/A22 – which includes a spectacular 180m high bridge – and rarley if ever, is the route disturbed by snow.
Exit the E45/A22 at Chiusa and the balance of journey is no more that 25 mins, maybe 40 mins if you are to scale the heights of Alpe di Siusi itself. Traffic on the plateau is limited during the day to those holiday makers arriving for the first time or otherwise by license. The cable cars and local buses are frequent.
Most who enjoy Alpe di Siusi will stay in a local town below and adjacent to the plateau, mainly Castelrotto or Ortisei. For the those fortunate enough, a stay on the plateau is simply rewarding, magical and unique.
Our typical day begins at 8am every morning, just below the plateau. We walk our dogs along a wooded mountain trail, one of the lesser known access points. Our walks are solitary except for the three horseman who with their precious Haflinger work ponies, also use the track at this time of day as travel to their daily work. A sleigh ride on Alpe di Siusi is a dreamt of experience.
Alpe di Siusi must be unique. On any winter season day, you will find skiers of the downhill and cross country types, snowboarders in their snow park, families riding the lengthy toboggan runs, walkers and snow shoers roaming the tracks, and the horse drawn sleighs full of delighted, rug warmed passengers taking in the sites.
The rolling undulations of Alpe di Siusi makes it ideal for this mix of winter activities, and somehow these different activities complement the area and each other.
There is a certain atmosphere on Alpe di Siusi that I find difficult to accurately convey. Alpe di Siusi is not a resort. It has elements of a Cotswold weekend, picnicking and a Sunday afternoon stroll.
Descending to the plateau from the Ortisei bubble lift.
Downhill skiing here is relaxed, perfect family skiing, with only one, short black run offered to challenge the expert skier. The main features of the skiing on the plateau are the ultra modern snow making systems that guarantee good snow; Alpe di Siusi offers about 60km of slopes including 18 runs for beginners, 40 for advanced and 2 for professionals; longest piste is around 4k; a speed trap for those so inclined and the various self timed slalom courses. Saving the best to last there is a plethora of restaurant options. From casual patate fritte and sandwich to high-end cuisine offered in secret off-the-track-I’m-in-the-know style, to fashion leading five star luxury. It will take you years of holidays to get anywhere near to discovering them all, so we’ve listed a couple to help you out.
Zallinger – this outstanding restaurant hides in the Alpe di Siusi ‘back country’ and is missed by the majority of visitors, for good reason! The access piste is unassuming and easily missed, even when you’re on it! If anywhere ‘nestles within’ the surrounding mountain peaks, it is Zallinger. Your first visit here may, just, bring a tear to your eye – the winter beauty here is jaw dropping, including the small, white, steepled church.
Tuene Hut is a small restaurant invisible from any downhill piste. Irene the proprietor, spends her entire winter living and working here. The hut has been in the Welponer family for generations and only recently has the family opened it as a restaurant. Until about 2005, there was no electricity, or facilities here and yet the whole family spent all summer working with the animals from this very basic accommodation. Food here is simple, well prepared, traditional, well priced and enthusiastically served.
Baita Hut Tuene – our secret lunchtime stop.
Then there is the secret bus! Well, it’s not really a secret, it’s just that most are not used to catching an ‘off-road’ bus when skiing! I saw someone post on ski forum that this was the ‘most awesome bus ride’ of his life! I agree! The buses operate between Monte Pana and Alpe di Siusi, running about every 25 mins or so. It’s a one-way track, I mean track – it’s a logging track! About half way along, you’ll see the driver chat on his radio, to confirm that the other driver is where he should be. One or other pulls over and waits for the other to pass! At certain points, you wonder just how the driver squeezed the normal looking service bus ( with worlds biggest snow chains ) through such tight turns and narrow gaps! Don’t worry, there are none of those drops or cliffs to worry about, this is a trip through a forest!
About the Author: At 52 years, Tim Hudson is a businessman, veteran adventure sports enthusiast and expedition leader on skis, sailing and hang gliding.
Tim’s company, Inspired ITALY this year launched The Ski Safari – a mountain top refuge-to-refuge ski tour of the Dolomites. Having led seven Dolomite Ski Safaris in the last five years, there is no one better equipped to ‘Ski Lead’ you through this Ski Safari adventure and to discover the best cuisine experiences – Tim loves his food and wine!
He is a member of the Ski Club of Great Britain, British Association of Ski Patrollers and British Hang Gliding Assoc. He holds a current BASP mountain first aid certificate, and is a qualified hang gliding instructor and coach. He loves mountains!
Since 2003, Tim has lived full time in Italy, dividing his time between Umbria/Tuscany and the South Tyrol.
Ask Tim about his hang gliding adventure along the Kenyan Rift Valley in 1992 – he’ll bore you for hours!
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