South Tyrol – Simply Stunning

STORY BY Debbie Gabriel 11th November 2016

  Italy’s most northerly region of South Tyrol is home to some of Europe’s best ski areas, as well as some of the planet’s most spectacular mountain scenery – so amazing and worthy of protection it has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

That’s just the start.  The South Tyrol is also home to cosy, authentic mountain villages where hotels tend to be family-run for generations and restaurants serve up gourmet quality food using locally grown ingredients and all at much more reasonable prices than you’ll find in most other leading European ski regions.

Alpine and Mediterranean cultural heritages influences combine here in everything from the region’s food and wine, to its spa tradition – all adding to its eclectic and unique nature.

Whilst the ski slopes have a good natural snowfall record, backed up by a mighty arsenal of snowmaking machines which cover most of the region’s ski slopes, allowing the region to provide a snow guarantee from December to April, it none-the-less has a 300 days of sunshine a year record.

And best of all with only 2% of its visitors coming from the UK, South Tyrol is a secret ski spot waiting to be discovered, and the perfect place to avoid crowded slopes.

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The Skiing and Snowboarding

The South Tyrol is home to the famous Dolomiti Superski region, one of the world’s largest ski areas with over 1200km of runs spread across 12 valleys all on the one lift pass. The size of the network means that there is a huge range of skiing available from beginners and kids runs to championship level slopes, as well as great cross-country and off-piste skiing terrain.

It’s also the location of the Sellaronda a famous circuit of 26km of runs around a vast Sella Massif mountain which towers spectacularly above as you ski round.  You can start on this circuit from any point on it and ski round in half a day if you’re a good skier, or you can choose to take your time and travel off in to one of the valleys that radiate off the central circuit – such as Badia or Gardena (which recently won an awards as the best resort in Italy) – before rejoining it and heading back.

Both the Sellaronda and Dolomiti Superski regions underline a key attraction for many skiers in South Tyrol – the sense of travel.  It’s easy to ski from village to village from your base accommodation each day and never ski the same run twice.  It’s a very different and more fun and relaxed way to ski than at many resorts elsewhere.

Besides Val Gardena or Alta Badia (home to half-a-dozen villages including best-known Corvara), there are dozens more ski areas top consider in South Tyrol.

Kronplatz is one of the largest and most exciting individual ski areas with such an impressive lift network it boasts more gondola lifts than almost any other ski area on earth. It also has some of the most challenging runs in the Dolomites including the infamous black run number 5 (although there’s plenty here for all ability levels so don’t worry if that sounds too intimidating)

If you fancy combining a South Tyrol city break with a bit of snowsport why not consider basing yourself in Merano where a new cable car whisks you up to the ski area of Merano 2000 above.

Throughout the South Tyrol you’ll find well-groomed pistes and modern, efficient lift systems backed up by comprehensive snowmaking.

There are also runs for all ability levels with even complete beginners welcomed by the 1000 ski instructors employed in the area’s 60 ski schools!

Wherever you ski though don’t forget to take a break in one of the numerable mountain huts famed for their fresh local cuisine.  In fact the area boasts an amazing 19 restaurants with a Michelin Star rating.

Alta Badia has a particularly strong reputation for its affordable, gourmet quality but easily available mountain cuisine.

Besides Skiing and Snowboarding

South Tyrol is a fantastic destination for all things snow related – not just skiing! Adrenaline junkies can go ice climbing up frozen waterfalls, or why not enjoy the landscape on a pony ride or horse drawn sled? Activities like snow shoe walking and cross-country skiing are also very popular with cleared, marked trails; equipment to rent, and ski schools to teach you technique and guide you if you need them.

One area particularly popular for snow shoeing is in the Fanes Natural Reserve is an excellent alternative to skiing and one of the best ways to explore the beautiful nature reserve. It’s easy to do and lets you reach heights that were only once accessible to ski mountaineers.

Snow Kiting is another popular activity and the Lago de Resia is perfect for adrenaline junkies.

Or why not try some of South Tyrol’s lift-accessed wonderful, long toboggan trails?

The RudiRun on the Plose mountain is the region’s longest toboggan trail at 10.5km with two different sections – RudiRun One is a relaxing run suitable for all levels of experience, whilst RudiRun Two is a more challenging run for experienced sledders.

Spa Culture

After all the activity (or perhaps instead of it!) you’re going to need some relaxation time so you’ll be delighted to hear that the South Tyrol also has a strong spa tradition, with many spas and thermal baths offering traditional treatments such as milk, honey and hay baths – the perfect way to relax at the end of the day.

You can even buy a combined thermal baths and ski pass ticket!

Winter Family Fun in South Tyrol

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With the genuine nature of South Tyrol and the locals’ love of kids, it’s a great choice for a family ski holiday. Fortunately the facilities are great too with dedicated ski schools for kids and some very special child-friendly attractions too.

For example in Alta Pusteria there are several winter playgrounds for children to discover giant snow men, ice castles and enjoy non-ski based activities such as reindeer sleigh-riding.

Alpe di Siusi near Val Gardena is another good choice with gentle slopes and specialist instructors on hand for children (but some more challenging terrain including black runs for experienced kids and their parents to tackle)

Val Gardena also offers special ski schools for children as well as ski lifts and is featured by several UK tour operators.

There are a wealth of family accommodation options too to suit all needs. There’s even a special South Tyrol’s Family Hotel association which offer visitors a choice of 25 independent hotels that all specialise in catering for groups of different ages, with each property offering parents the opportunity to relax and explore on their own if they wish whilst their children are cared for by qualified nannies in the hotel’s crèche.

Children can also take part in organised activities in the surrounding area. The hotel group’s colour code makes it easy for visitors to find properties with facilities meet their needs: yellow hotels meet basic criteria, orange add a little more to the experience and red hotels are the most family-focused with more than 90% of rooms devoted to families.

Families can also opt for a farm stay (usually sleeps up to four and is a great alternative for families looking for that extra special stay.  Each property’s focus can vary – from wines or organic food to health and fitness – and accessible farms with disabled access.

With free skiing in the Dolomiti Superski area for children aged up to eight this winter and a discount for those aged between 8-16, when accompanied by a parent, there has never been a better time to try skiing as a family.

How to Get to the South Tyrol 

Getting to South Tyrol is easy as the region is just a short distance from a number of airports – Verona, Milan-Bergamo, Milan, Venice and Treviso as well as Innsbruck and Munich.

Flights are available with BA, EasyJet, Ryanair and Monarch from a range of UK airports including: London Heathrow, London Gatwick, Manchester, Leeds, East Midlands, Bristol, Liverpool, Glasgow, and Edinburgh. Lots of people travelling to South Tyrol hire a car at the airport, but there are also quick and convenient bus transfers from Milan, Malpensa, Bergamo, Verona, Innsbruck or Munich airports, starting from €48 per person – make sure you book at least 48 hours in advance though.

Der im See versunkene Grauner Kirchturm am Obervinschger Reschensee ist zu einem pittoresken Wahrzeichen der Region geworden.

Get more information on: http://www.suedtirol.info/dolcevita

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