Planet: Valle Isarco. Gitschberg & Jochtal

We put today’s destination into Gina “the GPS” today and she promptly told us that we needed to head over the two high mountain passes we’ve become very familiar with :-Passo Pordoi and Passo Sella.  This route has endless hair-pin corners and so we are starting to second guess Gina a little.  An alternative route through Corvaro only has the one high pass – Passo Campolongo, directly out of Arabba and the rest of the journey is on a wide road north to the Bressanone Valley where we want to go.

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Away from Arabba at 8am, we joined what we suspect was the normal domestic traffic rather than the tourists.  Our driving (or rather should I say, Gra’s driving) has improved to such an extent that he pretty much keeps up with the sane locals.  We followed a fellow in his Opel all the way down the valley.  There’s obviously no law in Italy about crossing the centre line.  This guy spent most of his time on the wrong side of the road.  He would get a big surprise and expensive fine if he drove this way in NZ.

Arriving at Gitschberg resort, we caught the access gondola up to the ski area – not a snowflake to be seen.  It always amazes us how we start off in grassy paddocks and then magically transported to a world of endless piste on  the high plateaus of the Dolomites, where they have created kilometres of piste with man-made snow.  Another gorgeous sunny & still day, we hiked to the summit to look north to the mountains on the Austrian border.

There’s some amazing possibilities for touring terrain here.  So tempting…but we’d need grass skis!  We did see our first off-piste line….all of 3 ft from the groomed piste and of course have dedicated it to …”I’ve got a line” Riley!

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“I’ve got a line”….the Chris Riley off-piste run of Gitschberg.

The Gitschberg and Jochtal resorts are two mountains linked by a giant gondola that spans a huge valley between.  Again it’s hard to comprehend the infrastructure investment required to link these two resorts.   It was quite a bit shadier and colder over at Jochtal and for some reason, I failed to take any photos –  which is a shame.  One of the most enduring memories of this side of the “hill” is the ski instructors trying to run lessons on what we think was the worst possible slope you could imagine.  Sure, it was on the valley floor and fairly flat and wide.  But it was rock hard ice with just a scraping of man-made dust on it.  The 50 or so students in various groups were falling like lemmings on the impossible surface.  It was also in the shade and freezing cold.   It was a case study on how to turn people off skiing for life!

We avoided the beginner slope carnage and headed back down to the valley floor.  These runs are often incredibly long.  Anywhere between 6 & 10km.  Sometimes they’re the steepest in the resort, other times they are quite cruisey like the one today.  But we always love ending our day with a ski down through the trees.

Hanging up our skis for the day, our plan was to find somewhere to say overnight and visit the third resort in this area called “Plose”.   Plose is located up the hill from the fairly sizeable town of Bressanone (or Austrian spelling Brixen).   We had in mind what should of course be a superior town….Saint Andrea.  Actually Saint Andrea was an Italian Dominican priest who lived in Pistoia near Florence in the 14th century.  He was called the “Father of the Poor”… absolutely nothing to do with where we have chosen but interesting nevertheless.

What a name! It's sure to be a good town!
What a name! It’s sure to be a good town!

By lucky chance we stumbled upon a terrific hotel just a 2 minute drive from the Plose access Gondola.  Hotel Gasserhof is a fairly large concern but totally family run.  One of the son’s checked us in, Dad is in the bar, Mum on reception, another son was the sommelier and Uncle is in the kitchen.  Incredible value, although we did choose one of the very low winter season times to stay.  Our room was beautiful with breakfast and a 5 course dinner included in the tariff!  They also had an amazing heated pool, sauna and spa complex…..what a shame we didn’t bring our togs!   Definitely a place with an “X factor”  we may find ourselves visiting again before we leave Arabba, as this far flung corner of the Dolomiti universe has some serious potential.   And we’ll be sure to bring our bathers!!

And before I forget….yesterday we did not break our vertical metre record…it still stands at 6,891m in one day!   Gra says…”We’ll have to go hard tomorrow then….!”

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