It’s no secret that the Italian Dolomites are one of my favorite places to visit in the world. While the summer months are perfect for hiking and camping, I love visiting in the winter months just as much to spend some time skiing, sledding, and enjoying plenty of other winter activities. Last February we were invited to the beautiful region of Alta Badia, one of the biggest ski areas in the world, and instantly fell in love with the culture, food, people and endless activities the region has to offer. It has since then become a yearly tradition for us to visit for a quick weekend escape from Zurich, especially since it’s only a 5 hour drive from our home. After returning from our annual trip again this year, I wanted to share my itinerary and travel tips to help you plan the perfect weekend winter getaway in the Dolomites.
Things to know before you visit:
- I highly suggest renting a car, especially during the winter, since the main attractions/popular spots are quite far from each other. Relying on public transportation or a taxi could be time consuming and expensive.
- Make sure to pack properly for cold weather conditions. You can find my winter packing list ideas at the bottom of this blog post here.
- Plan out your trip in advance. The Dolomites span a much larger area than you might think. It’s important to plan out the main attractions you want to see since the road conditions, weather, and mountain passes can all cause unexpected delays.
- Buy a Dolomiti Superski Pass – This ski pass gives you access to one of the biggest and best ski areas in the world with over 1200km of ski runs and 450 connected lifts
- Try the local Ladin cuisine. The Alta Badia region is home to some of the best gastronomy in all of Italy. Whether you’re at a mountain hut or dining at one of the region’s three Michelin starred restaurants, every meal you have here is of the highest quality. For more local Ladin food examples check out this Ladin cuisine guide from Alta Badia Tourism – you’ll definitely want to try everything on this list!
Where to stay:
Day 1: Arriving in Alta Badia
We spent the majority of this day driving from Zurich to Alta Badia because a major snowstorm had arrived in the Dolomites, which caused many passes and roads to be shut down for hours. We had to drive extremely slow because of the unsafe road conditions, but eventually we arrived at our hotel in the evening located in the beautiful village of Corvara. The hotel we were invited to stay at was called Hotel La Perla and I cannot say enough wonderful things about our stay here.
From the moment we entered the hotel, everything was taken care of and we instantly felt like family. This is not a normal 5 star luxury hotel, but rather a charming wooden house you might find in a mountain tale with some of the most impressive views right out your window. The best part is you can even ski in and out directly from your doorstep. While the hospitality, location and wellness amenities are worth bragging about, what really made this hotel stand out for me was the food! The food is not good, it’s delicious and changes every night you dine there. The dining experience is enhanced by the enchanting atmosphere of the cozy wooden restaurant that makes you feel like you’re dining in someone’s home. After our bellies were full, it was time for us to get some rest to prepare ourselves for a busy day of skiing.
Day 2: Skiing in Corvara
Our first full day in Alta Badia was off to an early start as we headed for the slopes to do some skiing. With over a meter of fresh snow, we were excited to enjoy some powder and beautiful mountain views. We spent the morning skiing in the Corvara area, taking the Col Alt lift directly from our hotel and then several other lifts that led us further into the mountains in the direction towards San Cassiano.
As the weather began to worsen in the afternoon, we decided it was time to stop for a warm meal at the beautiful and newly renovated Ütia de Bioch Hütte. The owner, Marcus, whose family has owned the hut for generations, greeted us with a warm smile and incredible hospitality. He offered us local wines to try, delicious Ladin Turtres (spinach and ricotta turnovers), homemade tiramisu and plenty of other gourmet dishes created by the region’s Michelin starred chef Norbert Niederkofler. You might think of mountain hut food as being basic or boring, but every meal you have at a mountain hut here in Alta Badia is far from ordinary. With every dish, you can tell just how much time and effort is put into creating it.
The time flew by and nearly three hours later we were finished with our meal (Italians like to enjoy their meals especially with lots of wine/apertivos). By this time the lifts were close to shutting down for the day so we hurried up and finished off our last run before returning back to our hotel.
Day 3: Skiing in Colfosco
While the weather continued to worsen on our third day here, we were eager to get out onto the mountain and explore some new lifts. To start off our day we headed up the Piz Boé gondola to enjoy a cappuccino at the mountain hut located at the top. I would highly recommend stopping here on a clear day for some breathtaking views overlooking the valley and surrounding mountain ranges, plus the hut is pretty beautiful too!
After waiting a bit for the storm to die down, we headed in the direction of Colfosco, which was by far my favorite lift. The beautiful mountain views, long runs, and charming wooden farm houses dotted amongst the landscape left me constantly in awe. This is also a wonderful area for ski touring and snowshoeing since there are many designated and easily accessible paths for both of these activities.
After a few runs, we worked up an appetite and headed to the charming mountain hut known as Jimmi Hütte. I had a delicious rigatoni dish with fried sage and local mountain cheese that was to die for, as well as tried Kaiserschmarrn for the first time. If you’re unfamiliar with Kaiserschmarrn, it’s a traditional Austrian dish made up of shredded sweet pancakes topped with stewed berries, powder sugar, and cream. This is a perfect dish for those with a big sweet tooth and great for sharing since it’s quite large and filling.
Pro tip: Reserve the table at the top of the hut ahead of time so that you dine with one of the best views in the Dolomites overlooking the Val Gardena Pass.
With tired legs, we started to work our way back towards our hotel in Corvara so that we could enjoy some wellness in our hotel (don’t miss out on this wonderful amenity while staying here). After a long day of skiing, a nice sauna and swim in the heated pool was just what our sore muscles needed.
While we were supposed to start our drive home on this evening, the weather forecasted that the next day would be perfectly clear skies and sunny – a skier’s dream! So we decided to extend our trip by an extra day to finally enjoy a blue bird day on the slopes. It has been my dream to see the Lagazoui piste on a clear day since it was completely covered by a heavy snowstorm with zero visibility when we visited the previous year. You might recognize Lagazoui by its famous sauna located on top of a mountain, which has unfortunately since been shut down. Besides the sauna, it offers one of the most beautiful pistes in the Alps where you can ski while enjoying panoramic views of the surrounding mountains. If you get a chance, I would highly recommend skiing here not only for the views, but also because it tends to be less busy than some of the other pistes in the area.
Day 4: Enjoying a Blue Bird Ski Day in La Villa
On our final day in Alta Badia, we awoke to the glorious sight of the sun lighting up the mountains just outside our window and perfectly blue skies. To say we were excited to go skiing would be an understatement. Unfortunately, we also woke up to the news that Lagazuoi was closed due to an avalanche in the area which had shut the pass down – I guess I’ll just have to wait until next year to finally see it! With a quick change of plans offered by our guide for the weekend, Elena, who works for Alta Badia Tourism, we climbed into her car and headed towards the village of La Villa. We spent most of our morning here, enjoying the empty slopes, sunny skies, and stunning mountain views. We even took a visit to the picturesque Santa Croce Church, which has been a place of pilgrimage since 1511.
After exploring the church, we stopped at a mountain hut on our way down the mountain where Elena recommended we try a “bombardino.” The entire time we were skiing I had always wondered what this strange yellow drink so many people were ordering was, which I later found out was called a bombardino. The bombardino is revered as an Italian’s favourite drink in the winter and is the perfect reward after a long day on the slopes. The drink is made by stirring creamy egg liqueur (which gives it its peculiar yellow color) into brandy and then topping it with whipped cream and cinnamon. It is warm and reminiscent of eggnog, making it the perfect winter drink.
With a few more runs under our belt, we drove back to Corvara and met up with Alessia (the direct of marketing at Alta Badia Tourism) and another Italian photographer at the top of the Piz Boé lift. We ventured off to a more hidden mountain hut for lunch known as Crëp de Munt which specialises in traditional Ladin dishes. We started off our meal with an apertivo and a massive plate of turtres and föies da soni (potato fritters), which are traditionally eaten with sauerkraut. I know it sounds a bit strange, but trust me it’s delicious! For my main meal I ordered a simple plate of penne with roasted tomatoes, rocket, basil and smoked cheese and it was by far my favorite mountain hut meal of the trip. I’m always impressed when someone can make a simple dish extraordinary and memorable. If you get the chance, you must stop here for a delicious meal and enjoy the remarkable scenery!
As the sun was beginning to dip behind the mountains, there was one more place I wanted to see before we said our goodbyes to the Dolomites. We took the lift in the direction towards the Sassongher mountain where there is a beautiful piste that winds through several wooden farm houses with Sassongher towering in the distance. With the sun on our faces, we stopped to take some photos here and just enjoy the incredible scenery around us.
Eventually it was time for us to head back to our hotel and pack our things before beginning our drive home to Zurich. It’s always so hard for me to say goodbye to places that I’m able to form a special connection to and the Dolomites are no exception. The warm hospitality of the people, the incredible food, and stunning mountain scenery is something that’s hard to find anywhere else in the world.
I hope you can find my itinerary and travel tips of use when you plan your very own trip to the Dolomites. If you’ve ever been to the Dolomites in the winter and have any tips or fun ideas you’d like to share, let me know in the comments below!
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Thank you Alta Badia Tourism for hosting us during our stay. We are so thankful for your generous hospitality and for making every trip so memorable! As always, all opinions and experiences are my own.