Cortina d’Ampezzo is the type of resort we imagine there would be if there were skiing in heaven. Spectacular scenery, wide, gentle open slopes, a charming and historic town and food and wine that’s, appropriately, to-die-for.
- The jaw-dropping, breath-taking, mind-blowing scenery of the Dolomites.
- An abundance of excellent mountain refugios where you can not only eat amazing food, but stay a few nights.
- Some awesome thigh-burning, wide-open groomed runs.
- You can access Alta Badia and Corvara and Sella Ronda ski resorts via spectacular mountain passes from the Averau ski area, which is well worth doing on a beautiful day.
- Did we mention the food? This is Italy after all.
- It's a very easy, two-hour bus ride from Venice Airport.
- The famous James Bond chase scene on skis, in For Your Eyes Only, was filmed on these slopes.
- Cortina is popular with the fur-wearing jet set. But along with the fancy hotels and expensive shops are plenty of relaxed, good value options.
- There are three separate ski areas, requiring buses between them, so it's best to stick to just one each day. Most of your skiing will probably be done at Faloria and Tofana.
- Not so much challenging on-piste terrain for expert skiers.
Cortina is truly blessed. Nestled amongst the mighty limestone cliffs of the Dolomite mountains, this bustling, historic town boasts several great ski areas.
Downtown Cortina is a delightful pedestrian-friendly area where locals go about their daily business, and tourists promenade the Corso Italia, ducking in and out of the wonderful shops selling antiques, jewelry, clothes and art, or settling in to one of the fine bars or restaurants. For a resort that’s quite popular with the jet set it still manages to maintain a relaxed vibe.
The town is spread out and the three main ski areas sadly aren’t connected. You’ll most likely find yourself on the town’s efficient public bus system (free with a ski pass), you’ll do plenty of walking and will probably catch a taxi or two. But it’s worth exploring all three ski areas, particularly the Averau area where you can get up close and personal with the Cinque Torri (Five Towers). If you make it as far as the Lagazuoi cable car you will be treated to some of the most spectacular views around. And if you get started early you can even link up with the famous Sella Ronda for a full day’s excursion – all of which is included on the Dolomiti Superski pass. We would recommend a guide if you’re doing this.
You will never go hungry in Cortina – on or off the slopes – and it’s worth skiing as much as you can in order to work up an appetite. There are hundreds of refugios and restaurants dotted about the mountains serving up amazing food. Some you can even stay a night or two. Given that the skiing isn’t aggressive it’s worth getting into a relaxed vibe and enjoying long lunches complete with wine, coffee, and dessert. You will have to ski a bit in the afternoon because a couple of hours later you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing a great restaurant for dinner in town.
Wherever you ski in Cortina you’ll be blown away by the scenery, set apart by its variety. There are wooded valleys, snow-covered wooden barns, rolling hills, limestone cliffs and your more classic Alps-style peaks.
Much of the skiing is below the treeline and there’s a good variety of slopes. The majority of the runs are wide, groomed runs suitable for any intermediate skier. Some are nice and long, with the occasional steep pitch.
Faloria is one of the main ski areas. It has a two-staged cable car with its base on the eastern edge of the town center. The runs connect with the area under Cristallo, including a lift that serves advanced skiers only.
Tofana is the other main ski area that has several base areas. The main base is a cable car on the northwestern side of town, down an inconvenient and narrow little street. You can catch the cable car in three stages, though the last is for sightseeing purposes only, and if you wish to ski down from the top of the second it’s a black run only. The other part to this ski area is called Pomedes (or Pocol) which offers some challenging intermediate (red and black) runs up the top and some lovely cruisy blues down the bottom. From here or from town you can take a bus to the Averau area. We highly recommend it as a day excursion, especially on a nice sunny day, enjoying lunch at one of the great refugios and taking time to absorb the scenery. Link it up with the Col Gallina area (snowboarders may have a tough time on some of the traverses) and a ride up the Lagazuoi tram. You can catch a bus back to town, but be aware of the timetable for the last bus. The top of the Lagazuoi tram is where you can choose to stay on the Cortina side, or head down to the Corvara area and link up with the Sella Ronda. Up here remain some historic World War I tunnels, some of which still have barbed wire.
Advanced skiers will need to slide into the relaxed vibe, since challenging on-piste terrain is limited. But if conditions are right, it’s well worth hiring a guide to explore some of the vast off-piste opportunities. Beginner skiers are well catered for with blue runs, particularly in the Pomedes/Pocol area. The only drawback being the inconvenience of having to bus or drive there.
If you’re staying in one of the hotels in the center of town you’ll find it easy to get around the center with kids without requiring transport. But you’ll most likely require a shuttle of some sort to get to the ski base areas each day, although some hotels are within walking distance of the Faloria cable car. A big advantage for families staying at some of the hotels a little further out is that they run their own shuttle buses to the resort base areas in the mornings and afternoons. This makes it easy if you have younger kids. Some of the hotels cater better to families, with children’s rooms and facilities.
Accommodation in Cortina ranges from flash and expensive luxury hotels to tiny refugios dotted about the mountains, and everything in between. You’ll want to pick your location carefully based on what’s important to you. Many are based a good distance from the center of town, though most of those provide shuttle buses. Hotels in the center of town, while convenient, can be noisy.Search Hotels and Deals Get your
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Cortina d’Ampezzo is a winter (and summer) destination for all sorts of tourists – not just skiers – so there’s plenty to do off the slopes. Of course, the shopping is one of the main attractions and along with furs and expensive ski gear you might even find a new painting or a flashy piece of jewelry, if that’s what you desire. We found that the bars started early and finished early with only the occasional nightclub pumping late into the night. So the happening après scene was more focused on wine bars, some of which were bursting at the seams, than late-night dancing!
There are great walking, snowshoeing and cross-country trails, about 70km of the latter. There’s also ice-skating, curling, a 1km toboggan run, snow-kiting and ice-driving. If you’re energetic it’s worth hiring a guide and some touring equipment to explore some of the backcountry areas.
The easiest way to get to Cortina is via the Cortina Express shuttle bus from Venice’s Marco Polo airport or main train stations. It takes two hours and has several departures a day. The bonus, of course, is the chance to take a side trip into Venice. At the airport the bus conveniently stops right where the Left Luggage department is, so it’s easy to safely store all your heavy ski gear and big suitcases.
We researched heavily how to get there from the north (via Innsbruck) but apart from getting a private shuttle bus or renting a car (it’s a 2.5-hour drive) it was fairly difficult and most options ended up routing you via Venice or Treviso Airport.
Cortina opens for the season at the end of November and operates until the second week of April. It can be pretty cold in December and January as this is one of the coldest parts of Italy. During the 13/14 season they received record snowfalls in January so many of the slopes were closed and the army was called in to help clear snow! Spring can be an excellent time to come, considering blue sky days make the scenery all the more spectacular.
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