The Dolomites have long been a top destination for skiers traveling from the UK, and even draw lots of visitors from neighbors with their own great skiing, such as Switzerland and Austria, which is an impressive compliment, but only in recent years have Americans begun to discover the region in significant numbers. This is likely to greatly increase after the 2026 Winter Olympic Games in Cortina, the “Queen of the Dolomites,” and a town that has already hosted the Olympics once (1956) but is better known for a fictional ski visit by James Bond, driving his winter equipped white Lotus Esprit Turbo here in the Spy Who Loved Me.
I just got back from an absolutely fabulous ski trip here, and there are so many good reasons why you should not wait until the post-Olympic crowds “discover” the place that it was hard to stop at just six.
1. Stunning Natural Beauty: There’s a good reason why the Dolomites have been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The geology is distinctive and utterly breathtaking, with giant fin-shaped uplifts and towering rock massifs at every turn. By their very nature, mountain landscapes are beautiful, and I’ve seen great views in the Rockies, Alps and Andes, as well the mountains of Japan and the Sierras and more, but frankly, none rival the Dolomites for scenery. It’s hard to believe and it is hard to explain, but I went with a group of well-traveled skiers and everyone felt exactly the same way, as did other visitors I chatted with on the gondolas and trams. I had first gone to the Dolomites to hike in 2021, and was so awestruck that I decided I just had to go back to ski. Several other visitors told me they had exactly the same experience. That’s how gorgeous it is – see it once and you immediately want to return.
2. Massive Skiing and Snowboarding: Depending how you define it, Dolomiti Superski, the completely interconnected resorts of adjacent valleys Alta Badia, Val Gardena and Cortina comprise the largest or second largest interconnected lift and trail system in the world – and all share a single lift ticket. First or second hardly matters, as it dwarfs anything you can image in the United States. We’re talking close to 900 marked trails served by 450 lifts, lots of gondolas, trams, and 6 and 8-passenger high-speed chairs, many with heated seats and bubbles. This efficient system links around four-dozen quaint villages, most set on valley floors and ringed with slopes and lifts. This makes entire towns ski-in/ski-out. You can go for miles and miles without ever taking off your skis (except to ride gondolas – and eat).
3. Reliable Snow: Europe is having one of its worst snow seasons in memory and resorts across France, Switzerland and most other parts of Italy are struggling to open terrain. But the Dolomiti Superski network was nearly 100% open, with better than average conditions across the board. The altitude is higher than in much of the Alps, it gets more snow, and most importantly, it has the most advanced snowmaking system in Europe, covering the vast majority of the terrain so they can lay down an early layer for nature to improve upon. While ski races were canceled all across Europe, Women’s and Men’s Championships were held in the Dolomites recently – this is where Mikaela Shiffrin won her record-breaking victory a few weeks ago. The terrain here is mostly on-piste groomers, no tree skiing or big bowls, so the powder skiing cannot compare to the epic year Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and Idaho are having, but the trails were in topnotch shape, especially for a subpar season, and last year, more typical, the snow was fantastic.
4. No Lift Lines!: You may have seen the viral videos or experienced the stories of the post-pandemic lengthy waits at top Western resorts firsthand. In five days, I never waited more than three chairs or five gondola cabins. That is basically zero lines, even on weekends. We rode several trams and never had to miss the first one that came. Few domestic resorts even have these, but the most famous is at Jackson Hole (a resort I love), where many visitors never even bother to ride it because of the long wait. All of this is much more impressive when you consider that just about every other competitive ski resort in the Alps is closed or limited, so the Dolomites should be much more crowded than normal, and yet, still no lines.
5. Bang for The Buck: The dollar continues to be strong against the Euro, which is a big deal, but even without a favorable exchange rate, everything from lodging to lift tickets to ski rentals to food – better food – is cheaper here. A 5-day unlimited Dolomiti Superski pass good everywhere across the region was about $325, much less than 5-day ticket at any major U.S. resort, and single day tickets were under €70, considerably less than half of what many destination mountains here get. Dolomiti Superski also takes the popular Ikon Pass, and I used mine for essentially free skiing the entire time. It was a totally turnkey experience, I didn’t have to go to an office or swap for a lift ticket, all the lifts have RFID readers and instantly recognized and accepted my Ikon Pass.
Because of the unique layout mentioned above, there are far more ski-in/out hotels than in this country, where this is often reserved for the priciest luxury spots, and an above-average 4-Star or 4-Star Superior (from the Italian rating system), with breakfast included and extensive steam/sauna/indoor pool facilities, can be had for under $250 a night in desirable towns. Another option is the myriad refugios, humbly known as mountain huts but much nicer than any of the backcountry huts in this county – essentially full-service bed and breakfasts up on the mountain, often with gourmet eateries. This gives you the option of finishing your ski day way up on the mountain, getting out for first tracks in the morning and having a unique and wonderful alpine experience. While there are similar refugios in France and Switzerland, the Dolomites are famous for them and have many, many more options.
6. Wonderful Food: Across the board, from low-end rustic to street food in town to Michelin-starred, the eateries here are superior to those in U.S. ski towns, and less expensive as well. The resort structure is completely different, with one company owning just the lifts and managing the trails and nothing more, no vertical integrations, so the ski schools, rental shops, and especially food and beverage are all independent. That means each mountain is covered with passionately family-owned options, including “huts” that have award-winning wine lists and verticals of Super Tuscans and collectible Barolos. For fifteen bucks I had mind-blowing pumpkin gnocchi with fresh buffalo mozzarella for lunch that you would be hard pressed to rival in New York or Los Angeles at any price, and that was the norm, not the exception. The same was true for après ski and going out to dinner in town. It’s Italy, and Italy is justifiably famous for its cuisine, even in the mountains.
Planning: The sheer number of lifts and trails and interconnected resorts and the miles between towns can make navigation a little tricky, and because there are so many towns and hotels to choose from, expert guidance can be extremely helpful. This confusion is exacerbated by the fact that there are virtually no chain hotels, it’s nearly all mom and pop, which is charming but makes it harder to differentiate from your keyboard without knowledgeable input. If you want to spend a few nights along the way in refugios (highly recommended!), arranging logistics yourself becomes even trickier.
One great solution is Dolomite Mountains, a well-regarded local specialist that runs hiking, biking, alpine skiing and ski touring trips across the region. It has its own guides and local staff, is well-connected, and offers both scheduled group trips you can join as a single or couple, and private custom itineraries for any size group. Both options include local transportation and moving your gear if you want to combine more than one town and/or hotels or refugios. They are reasonably priced within the active travel segment, and have an excellent track record. I traveled with them on a hiking trip that was fantastic and last year, as part of my women in travel series, I profiled founder and owner Agustina Lagos Marmol here at Forbes.
Alpine Adventures is a top U.S.-based ski vacation specialist that skews a little higher end, works with a lot of luxury travel agents, is a member of the prestigious global Virtuoso travel consortium. My husband has traveled with them to Japan and Switzerland and loves the company. Alpine Adventures is a very reliable and knowledgeable tour operator that has great package deals and some escorted group trips in other top ski regions across the world (including the U.S.), but in the Dolomites they do more custom itineraries. As a full-service travel agency, they can also do air and transfers and arrange for English-speaking ski instructors and guides, and basically handle everything from start to finish, while also offering a lot of rental chalet options in the region.
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