I have been there before. San Cassiano, nestled snugly in the Alta Badia region, is a simplistically elegant and beautiful Italian village that is a far cry from the many purpose-built constructions of the Alps. The Dolomites should be one of the 7 wonders of the world, especially at sunset when the characteristic jagged limestone mountain range emits an awe inspiring red and orange hue that believe me, will not need any Instagram filters!
Unlike previous visits, this time was blighted by the apprehension about the lack of snow fall across the whole of Europe. In fact, it hadn’t snowed in almost a month and although mild conditions, the weather was obviously cold enough to create a good enough base with artificial snow.
The Italians are well known for their artificial snow making abilities but what I witnessed surpassed any expectations. With snow cannons billowing clouds of the white stuff across the mountains, incredibly, the Italians had managed to blanket most runs. So much so, that the famous Sella Ronda was open for business and I managed to snowboard it on both the green and orange routes.
For those of you who do not know, the Sella Ronda is a round trip around the domineering Sella Ronda. This is a serious day’s skiing and even more testing for a snowboarder, with plenty of flats that need speed and pre-planned navigating to get round. It is a bit of a challenge for a snowboarder, but well worth the effort with some beautiful tree lined blue runs with scenery that could easily be from the Lord Of The Rings. At times it seemed surreal snowboarding across a thick white carpet of snow with lush green mountains and trees either side, but an experience I will never forget.
Occasionally, we had to walk short distances across villages (like Arabba) to link up with the Sella Ronda route runs, but this was considered all part of the challenge and experience. They can’t make the Sella Ronda too easy can they?
The whole Alta Badia area is served with fast and efficient chairlifts and bubble gondolas with little or no queue times. I can imagine that it would get busier in peak season, but when we were there (mid December) we had no problems at all and on occasions, we struggled to see another skier in sight on the mountains. A far cry from the busy hustle and bustle of the mainstream French resorts.
Off course, being in Italy I was looking forward to the food and I wasn’t disappointed with the mountain restaurants. Being so close to the boarder, the menus were often a fusion between Italian and Austrian style food. I mainly stuck to the traditional Italian pasta dishes and thoroughly enjoyed my lunches. I was also pleasantly surprised that the dishes were often under ten quid and great value for money.
The drinks are also reasonably priced and a particular favourite to enjoy via a stop off on the last run of the day, is a Bombardino. This popular drink is half Advocaat or eggnog and half brandy and is totally delicious. A great warmer before heading down the final leg of the last run when the lifts are closed and the mountains are quiet (apart from the sound of the piste bashers!).
I have been to the Alta Badia region at the height of the ski season in perfect snow conditions, with endless and perfect powder runs. Off course, we didn’t have that, but the Italians are superb with coping with the cards that mother nature deals them and overall, I had a great week with enjoyable snowboarding.
Mark is also the manager of Jamie Barrow (Britain’s fastest snowboarder)