OK, we’re ready for our journey to the far-flung corner of the Dolomiti Universe – San Martino. We’ve packed our picnic lunch…well no….just our credit card!! The freshly cooked food in the mountain huts is just too good to be wasting time with stale, home-made bread rolls.
We attempted to plot our course in Gina, our car GPS this morning. But she wasn’t having a bar of it. Tried every variation of San Martino, but all we got was a 6 hour journey to the south of us. Maybe it’s a hint to get her and Gino to a warmer climate? Frustrated with Gina’s lack of mountain ski resort knowledge, we turned to Google Maps for help. It recognised “San Martino” the ski resort and we used it to help plot our course.
We left early as we knew it could take up to an 1:45 hours to get there. But Gina seemed to be taking us into the back blocks. The roads became more narrow, less cleared of snow and more windy. The villages were deserted (well it is Sunday) and the low cloud gave us a suitably eerie atmosphere. We were starting to get a little nervous as we’d also lost mobile reception and Google Maps was now struggling to locate us. Then as we wound through the narrow one way streets of an ancient farming village, we knew we were in a spot of bother as Gina proudly announced…”You have arrived at your destination!”
This little village was in fact, called “San Martino Siror” …so Gina got some part of it right. But then…just as we were having another go at Gina…a car passed us with skis on their roof racks. “Follow that car”…I suggested to Gra. He was already onto it as he stamped on the accelerator and we shot off in hot pursuit of the skiers. We saw that the car had turned off to head up a mountain road with a large sign…..saying….San Martino di Castrozza. Aaah so…”di Castrozza” was the missing piece of information that Gina needed. Personally I still think she was being perverse and just wanted a holiday by the sea!!
Soon we found out that there were other skiers on the road to San Martino this Sunday morning…in fact quite a lot. So many that I’d say we were officially in our first traffic jam. Slowly we wound our way up the mountain in the line of traffic and arrived at the first entry port to the San Martino ski resort. Up we went to the a small plateau above 2000m. To find…lots of snowboarders.
This is the first time we’ve seen any snowboarders en masse. Obviously persecuted in other parts of the Dolomiti, small herds have congregated in the San Martino area to ply their craft. As is typical for snowboarders, their movements were skittish and unpredictable. Leaping back and forth across the snow piles at the sides of the piste – we spent our first few runs re-learning our snowboarder avoidance techniques. For 3 months now we’ve had the deep scraped piles of man-made snow swept to the sides of the piste to ourselves. Neither G, nor I can edge on the firm pack to save ourselves and we have spent most of our time skiing on the extreme edges of the piste. Which, in itself, is not a bad safety technique as no self respecting European on their knife-edged carving or GS skis would be seen dead skiing slowly in that muck. However, snowboarders, like us…love the stuff. And for the first time, we’ve had real competition for our piste line!! Nothing that a swift and stealthy pole poke won’t fix…he, he, he..[maniacal laugh]!
But wait…there was more to San Martino than meets the eye. Above the plateau was some seriously steep long gully runs that wound down to the only other flat area four ridges across and nearer the bottom of the valley. It dawned on us that the terrain in this resort, in a good snow year would be quite something. The runs are steep and long as they wind down theses gullies, with interconnecting traverses linking each one. Gra thinks it’s a bit of a weird place to try and build a ski resort…but from our point of view, the crowds thinned noticeably and we enjoyed some great steep and fast …”for us”… runs.
After lunch we took the car further into the village of San Martino. We didn’t stop to look around because, of course all the shops are closed for siesta, but from the little we did see, it looked charming. Very Italian, with hardly an Eastern European, German or Dutch number plate to be seen. On the other side of San Martino, a huge cable car runs up the south face of a peak called Rosetta (2743m) and onto another NE facing high rocky plateau. Wow! The terrain here! With a refugio plonked right in the middle of the plateau which is open in winter. Definitely one for the memory banks. If Universe Dolomiti ever gets the hint of a good snow year… this “weird place for a ski-resort” will definitely warrant a closer look.
Heading home, we abandoned Gina to her fantasies of a beach holiday and just used Google Maps to find our way back to Arabba. Sensibly Google took us back over the San Pellegrino pass and onto roads that we’d travelled before.
Tomorrow we are going for a mini-break in our maxi-break. We have booked in for a night at Rifugio Scioattoli at 2225m in the Cinque Torri (“5Torri”) area. We had spied this lovely little refugio on a previous visit and we’re looking forward to heading back there and staying the night.