December 3, 2015

The stunning cliffs around Corvara © Marcus Exner

When winter rolls around, I welcome the chilly weather. I’m a great fan of winter sports, and having lived in France for so long I frequently head to the slopes when the cold months kick in. While France undoubtedly boasts some stunning mountain ranges, such as the French Alps and the Jura Mountains, northern Italy has one of Europe’s most sunning mountain ranges– the Dolomites.

Recognised by UNESCO for their staggering natural beauty, the Italian Dolomites are home to a mix of cultures and a fascinating history. Each time I visit the Italian Dolomites, they take my breath away. Here are just some of the wonderful activities you can do, whether you’re with the family or enjoying a winter getaway for two.

Corvara

The picture-perfect villages dotted amongst the Dolomites are scenic enough to be on the front of any greeting card. Perfect hubs for skiing and outings during the day, you’ll find the charming villages of the Dolomites to be a home away from home. The commune of Corvara is made up of snow-topped wooden cabins in the winter, while in the summer months the landscape is transformed into a luscious green paradise. My favourite thing about Corvara is probably its great selection of gourmet restaurants, like the one at Hotel La Perla, which serves up hearty, beautifully presented food in a cosy setting.

 A view over the commune of Corvara.
A view over the commune of Corvara. © Luca Sbardella

Badia

The commune of Badia in the Dolomites is home to the villages of Pedraces and San Leonardo. Badia is known as one of the gems of the Italian Dolomites and I love the architecture, as the houses have all been preserved in their original Latin style. Whenever I visit this part of the mountains I like to lose myself in the local culture, taking part in any and all events that take place – I’ve even witnessed local weddings! The village of Pedraces is especially great for kids, as it boasts a fun and safe playground.

Winter hiking

Winter hiking is a great option for those who aren’t ski-friendly. If you stroll beyond the pistes at Corvara, there are almost 20 kilometres of woodland routes to explore on foot, so don’t forget your winter walking boots! Winter hiking is a great way to enjoy the natural landscape without causing any environmental damage, and you’ll be rewarded with stunning blue skies, panoramic winter views and even the chance to see the local wildlife in the form of golden eagles, arctic hares and silver foxes.

If you walk from San Leonardo, following the signposts to Oies, you’ll be greeted by the beautiful church of Santa Croce, and views over the nearby village of Pedraces. If you’re in the mood for something other than skiing, head to the Cortina Adrenalin Center, where you can go bobsledding down a full track, with the help of a professional pilot and brakeman of course! As with all winter outings, remember to check the weather conditions before you set off.

Skiing in Folgarida

When someone asks me about skiing in the Dolomites for the first time, I always point them towards Folgarida. It’s got great slopes for all skiing abilities, whether you’re just starting out or have been hitting the slopes for years. At the base of the resort you’ll find lovely, wide, sunny slopes which are great for beginners, and fun to play around on if you’re just after a light session. Purchase a lift pass and you’ll benefit from over 150 kilometres of scenic skiing. A purpose-built resort, Folgarida is great for families on their first skiing holiday, as there’s lots to see and do in the hotels surrounding the slopes.

 A scenic ski lift over the Italian Dolomites.
A scenic ski lift over the Italian Dolomites. © roman.petruniak

Skiing in Madonna di Campiglio

Personally, I always take the lifts from Folgarida to the nearby ski area of Madonna di Campiglio. The slopes here are a dream for well-seasoned skiers, and it has more of a traditional feel to it than the other more family-friendly villages. There are also some really great ski runs which are perfect for anyone who’s a little rusty and looking to build up some confidence on the slopes. I’ve visited Madonna di Campiglio several times, and still find skiing here exciting due to the variety of the runs available. The town is traditional but chic, with stylish bars and cafés lining the centre.

 Take to the slopes!
Take to the slopes! © Leo-setä

With Eurotunnel Le Shuttle, Calais is just a 35-minute journey from Folkestone, and from there the Dolomites are yours to explore!

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