The Lagazuoi

We tried to do this tour before Christmas but the cable car was closed for strong winds. But today, all systems are go!  Sun shining?  Check.  No wind?  Check. Feeling better? Check.

To get to the Lagazuoi Pass requires taking a series of connected chairlifts from Passo Campolongo and then a small shuttle taxi from a little town called Armentarola.  As with anything involving Italian driving, the shuttle bus was well and truly the most exhilarating part of the trip!

90km/hr up a narrow mountain road!!
90km/hr up a narrow mountain road!!

From Passo Falzarego you take a small (and a little rickety) cable car to the Lagazuoi at 2800m.  We were treated to incredible views in every direction, with choughas flying gracefully in the skies.   I love choughas.

There is a bit to do at the summit, but we were unsure how long it would take us to complete the run back to Armentarola.  There is another huge refuge just below the summit and a walk along the ridge to the very top, for what we figure will be even more breathtaking views.  There’s also a run down the south-east face of the mountain back to the cable car.  But Gra wanted to just get going to make sure we didn’t run out of time.   Just before leaving the cable car exit, we spotted a very distinctive pair of skis plastered in Treble Cone stickers.  We immediately knew John was in the vicinity.   We made a good search of the area but couldn’t locate him, hopefully he’d catch us up on the run.

 

Even though the track down was very narrow, it was a spectacular run through the steep sided canyon that runs NW down towards Armenterola.

As Graeme mentions in his little film, much of the landscape here was radically changed back in WW1 when the Italians attempted to take the Austrian held lands to the NW.  They were halted here by the Austrians and the high peaks of the Dolomiti.   Realising the futility of surface to surface attacks both armies began to excavate galleries and caverns in the mountain with the intent of blowing up their adversaries and fortifying their own positions.   The Austrians let off their biggest bomb here, and pretty much destroyed a whole peak, with the aim to send rocks raining down on the Italians below. Apparently the Italians knew it was coming and got out of the way!  Smart Italians.   Actually if you read the history a bit more, the Italians had probably deserted their position in favour of finding some food and warmth miles away.  This part of the Italian front line was severely under-provisioned and many troops actually starved or froze to death without firing a single shot.   The futility of war indeed.

Back to the light & fluffy world of today…we’re off to find coffee.  Along the way there is of course two places to stop for food or drink.  Of course we stopped at both, I mean it would be rude not to!

 

First coffee stop was the charming Rifugio Scotoni.  It was nearly midday but only -7C! Second coffee for the day.   Outside the Russian contingency were keeping warm externally by the fire and internally with the local grappa!

Continuing further down the piste, we caught up with John at the next refuge and joined him, his son, Steve and grand-daughter Gracie for lunch.   Following lunch we skied the last section of track to meet with the “Horselift”.    For €2.50 pp, you get to hold a long rope with a knot handle and have a horse sleigh pull you along a gentle incline back to Armentarola.  There were 2 ropes, with 10 handles on each side.   These strong horses were pulling along 40 people.  I wanted to film the experience but it was all a bit fraught with the number of people on the ropes behind.  Apparently if you fall off, they don’t stop and wait for you.  Before we started, John told us that he fell once and was literally skied over by the person behind him.  Hmmm, comforting thought?  So I decided discretion was the better part of valour in this instance.  The reality was that the speed was fairly slow and provided I was careful I probably could have shot some footage.  But I’m sure we’ll do this trip again and I’ll be ready.

What a fun day.  Full of breathtaking scenery, history, cute refuges and a fun “horselift” to end the day.  I think this is what our friends Jen & Stu were talking about when they were recommending we do a horse ride while skiing in the Dolomites.   We were a little perplexed about what they were referring to and had envisaged trying to sit astride a horse with our ski boots on….but now we know!

Very modern restaurant near the Vallon
Very modern restaurant near the Vallon – look at the view!

Yesterday we found another ultra modern bar to lounge about in.   It’s on the sunny side of the hill between Arabba & Corvara.  It also has a fancy restaurant and a view over Corvara to die for.  Just the place for an end of day Bombadino before we head back to the apartment and as Graeme has reminded me in a hushed and excited tone….”the new washing machine!”  Gotta love that man.

 

 

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Buon Natale – Merry Christmas

Sorry.  You’ll just have to read this post out of order!   The 10 days travelling in France has put me seriously behind on the blogging front.  So jump forward to Christmas Day with this entry….and then we’ll go back to 19 Dec….!   And hopefully over the next few days I’ll finally get up to date.

Merry Christmas.

A sleep-in after getting home from Bar Peter just before mid-night last night. We’ve spent the morning catching up with friends and family by various electronic means…but in contrast to 8 years ago when we were in France no telephone calls. We’ve texted, viber’d, sent emails, FB message’d and Facetime’d.  Ooops…I tell a fib, Graeme’s oldest friend, Andrew from South Africa had secretly obtained our Italian phone number and rang us this morning…the old fashioned way.  What a lovely surprise.

Much excitement as we opened our “precious parcels” from our lovely friend Georgie. Beautifully wrapped in 2 lovely gift bags that have had pride of place on our Christmas tree window ledge since we returned from France, Georgie has spoiled us with Medjool dates, Ferrero Roche chocolates, home made blackberry jam, home made spicy chutney and then a special presentation box of French regional treats. Wine, terrine & foie gras and fig paste…..yum, yum.

Georgie's delicious christmas hamper
Georgie’s delicious christmas hamper

Just after talking to the Whānau in NZ & Oz, we got a knock on our door. Our landlady, Gabi had dropped by with a plate of home-made christmas treats. It’s hard to know if Gabi & Carlo like us. Language is a huge barrier and we’d had quite a few questions to start with, which could have been construed by them as “pretty annoying”. Also I think the muddy footprints we left on the stairs and in the ski-room after our farming trip to France was not appreciated, even though we did sweep and mop up. But we thought we’d try to break the ice and left a little box of chocolates on their doorstep last night. Maybe we’ve cracked it…there’s 2 months to go.

Our Christmas present to each other today, was an hour’s massage at the next door Spa Hotel Elvado and lunch at Rifugio Fodom, which was again recommended to us by the English family we met last night. But to justify lunch we decided to skin there rather than catch the lifts.

It is noticeably warmer today and there is a strong NW wind with clouds whipping past the top of the mountains. There were warnings posted on the digital noticeboards at the bottom of the lifts that some of the higher slopes and lifts may close due to high winds. Looks like we chose a good day to be a bit slack. Unfortunately, this little weather blip isn’t bringing any snow. The best guess about when the snow will fall is not until 4 January. But in the meantime the cold sunny weather is prediced to return. We certainly have some very cold temperatures expected this week.

Lunch was delicious as expected, especially the Pasta del giorno – the capellini al tartufo (thin spaghetti like pasta with a truffle crumble sauce)….OMG.   Refugio Fodom was really busy.  I imagine all the tables will be booked out during the Christmas/NY period so we’ve taken their phone-number.

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Capellini al tartufo, pasta of the day at Rifugio Fodom

Well, the massage was a little underwhelming. Unfortunately we’ve been spoiled with massages from our friend Ursula for all our years in Wanaka. Comparing notes over dinner tonight, we learned that while “Matthieu”our masseuse, enthusiastically swamped us both in massage oil and “rubbed” all the usual bits of our bodies, he didn’t really put his “back into it”. After 7 days straight of fast & hard piste bashing we really needed an Ursula work-over. This tiny girl would grind her elbow and knuckles into our bodies to release our stiff ski muscles.  We have both decided that Matthieu, with his super-soft hands & delicate technique, would have a more promising career in embroidery rather than sports massage.

Nice quite night at home tonight. We’ve cracked open Georgie’s duck terrine, some proscuito from Francesco Delmonego the local butcher, gorgonzola, tomatoes and finally Gabi’s delicious biscotti and christmas treats. Not quite a “prawn on the barbie” type of Christmas, but not bad all the same.

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Gabi’s delicious christmas treats