Jeff Ward
Submitted by Jeff Ward on Wed, 12/02/2015 - 14:04

With several talented photographers on this trip, including one professional on the trip, putting together this trip report was much tougher than expected by the sheer overwhelming number of great shots!  In an effort to get something out there, I have decided to do it in 2 parts, with that in mind, here is part one of one of my all time favorite trips - Dolomites skiing. 



This is a trip we have been wanting to run for years, and with a crew of some of our favorite and most seasoned skiers, this year we made it happen.  We began the journey in Venice, where we loaded up our 9 passenger van and made the 2 hour drive up into the Dolomites.  We chose the quiet and charming village of Fornesighe as our basecamp, to avoid the busy tourist towns and experience Italy as the locals do.

tight van
"I'm not sure its going to fit...." It didn't.


While our GPS did a great job of navigating us into this 17th century village, it did not realize that our 21st century van might not fit down some of the smaller roads in town.  Here most of our passengers got out to photograph and join the locals in chuckling as we attempted to wiggle the Peugeot Boxer down this really narrow road.  Ultimately, we decided it wasn't going to make it, and we had to back up for about 100m down a road about 2 feet wider than our van.

Our lodging was an amazing renovated building from the 1600's that has been updated and converted into a Bed and Breakfast.  It had a charming feel, spectacular views and a wonderful couple that ran it.  Anna and Renato were gracious hosts, amazing cooks and great local tour guides.

Interior of the Dormi y Disna.


The courtyard of our home base.


Day one of the trip brought us to a local favorite, Monte Mondeval near the famous Passo Giau (an infamous cycling hill climb common during the Giro D' Italia with as many as 29 switchbacks!).  While the snow wasn't anything to write home about that day, the views were spectacular in every direction.

Tim enjoying our first tour in the Dolomites.




After spending the day on mostly North facing terrain, but finding the best skiing on sun warmed slopes, we opted for going on a corn hunt the next day.  This brought us to Monte Pelmo, a huge local landmark about 20 minutes from where we were staying.

Monte Pelmo in dramatic morning light.


While we had gone out looking for warm, spring snow that day, the weather gods had something different in mind.  The sky clouded over and a cool wind kept things from softening much.  We took one novelty run linking snow patches with short bits of "dry skiing" before heading down to a nearby hut for a cappuccino break.

The closest thing to corn we could find....


Snow quality was often questionable, but the cappuccinos could always be counted on.


Now sufficiently caffeinated, we opted to for scenery over snow quality and climbed up the dramatic slopes right below Monte Pelmo.  While the snow was "educational" on the descent, the scenery more than made up for it.

Larry and Karen pause on the climb up below Pelmo


The following day was a transition day for us.  The weather was coming in and we really needed a refresh, but that meant we would need to find a tour below treeline to has some visibility.  We opted for a tour suggested by a local guide friend called Spiz de Zuel.

On the summit.
On the summit.


We were still in Italy....
We were still in Italy....


We had an enjoyable tour through the Italian forest up to a summit in a whiteout.  While new snow was falling, the snow surface was still hard and less than inspiring.  Morale was at a low point.  The only thing to do was stop at a gellateria on our way home.  Once everyone had a gellato and espresso, morale improved markedly.

That night, the snow began in earnest. The next morning we loaded the van for a few days touring based out of a mountain rifugio.

Loading the van as we head out to Rifugio X.



"let's try them on the front wheels...."
"let's try them on the front wheels...."

A quick 15 minutes into our drive and beginning the climb over our first mountain pass of the day, we realized that we were going to need chains on.  After a bit of fumbling, we realized that our van was front wheel drive and finally got the chains securely fastened.  A few hours of driving saw us arrive at our trailhead and prepare for our skin into our new home base for the next few days.  Of course, after a harrowing drive on snow covered roads and before we could ski into our hut, we decided another cappuccino was in order.

Another cup of perfection....


We toured into a hut for the next few nights.  With almost 20 cm of new snow, we just had to go out powder skiing that afternoon.  We enjoyed a few amazing dinners and some great powder skiing over the next few days.

Stay Tuned for part 2.....