Finding the “Ohau” of the Dolomites

I’m doing a bit more of the driving now.   Quite a nerve wracking experience for both of us. It’s pretty hectic behind the wheel… you need to judge how close you are to the cliff on the side of the road, change gears with the right hand and make sure you don’t brake too hard or corner too sharply on the icy and gritted narrow mountain roads.  The on-coming cars and especially the trucks and buses that skim past us on these super twisty mountain roads see me swerving erratically to the side of the road and slowing to a snail’s pace.   Poor Graeme is doing his best to remain calm and he’s taken to calling the corners for me like a rally car navigator.   Using the GPS map display he calls … “Hair-pin coming up – 2nd gear, straight section 3rd, right angle downhill 3rd”.  For most of the road down to the true valley floor it would be rare for either Gra or myself to get out of 3rd gear, which gives you an idea how twisty the roads are.   I must be getting slightly better as he only gasped in genuine fear twice on this morning’s journey.

We explored another new area today. About an hour’s drive from Arabba, we ventured further into the Val di Fassa. We’d skiied part of this area on our biggest day (in km’s) on 6 Dec. Today we ventured further down the valley di Fassa to visit 2 little ski areas that are only connected by bus to the other areas of the Dolomites. The first area is called Carezza in the Passo Costalunga and the second called the Ciampedìe just over the other side of a spectacular group of peaks called the  Cantinaccio Group.

It was immediately obvious that these two little resorts were off the beaten track and much more “chilled out” than the main areas linked to the Sellaronda like Arabba.  We were greeted by a lovely friendly old fellow who was manning the ticket office.  I was trying fairly unsuccessfully to ask for a map of the ski area in Italian.   He caught on fairly quickly and switched to English.  He was very interested to learn we were from NZ.  He asked how long the flight was.   When we told him “more than 25 hours” he shook his head in disbelief.   Not only did we get a map, we received his coffee & lunch stop recommendations and which piste was skiing the best.  A lovely warm welcome…much like our beloved Ohau resort in NZ.

There’s only 15 lifts at Carezza, but the runs they serviced were long, steep, and nicely groomed.  Very few people were skiing in the area and the piste was still in perfect condition even at 10am when we arrived.  Generally we find a way to do a circuit of the lifts and along the way today we were fooled into taking a track that was not part of the piste, but a rather cheeky path to a little mountain bar & restaurant.  We figured that someone in the family must be the local groomer driver and this was a way of getting more business.  Unfortunately there was not a trail back to an open piste without walking back up the hill or down across the meadow to a closed run that had yet to be fully groomed.   We realised that for the first time since we have arrived in the Dolomites that we were actually going to have to walk!    “Best have a coffee to contemplate this unexpected development”, we thought.   And to our amusement over our coffee, we watched others arrive down the same track.  Must be the Germanic temperament but the people following us were less impressed with the restaurant’s cheeky attempt to attract more clientele and certainly didn’t stop to sample their fare.

By lunch-time we’d skied all the open runs and then made our way back to the car.   From here we took the car a little further down the road and around the other side of the mountain range from Carezza.   The Ciampedìe resort is on the north facing side of the mountains and sits in a tight mountain cirque of stunning peaks.  Lots of kids from the local race teams were tearing down the perfectly prepared slopes, I suspect that this resort has produced an Italian champion or two?  Although, despite having a steep black slope named after him, Alberto Tomba didn’t begin his race career here.

Returning home safely to Arabba [with Graeme driving]…we stopped by to admire the light show and Christmas tree at the village church.    Better late than never, Arabba seems to be getting into the spirit of things.  Good thing too as Christmas is tomorrow for them!!

Our village church lit up for Christmas
Our village church lit up for Christmas


Back at the apartment I tried my hand at making the Italian dish we’d enjoyed a couple of times at lunch.  Spinach Canerli (dumplings) with a pomodoro sauce.   Turned out OK…. mind you after a day of skiing, Graeme would eat anything!!

Home-made Canerdeli (dumplings)
Home-made Canerdeli (dumplings)



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