A time for reflection…well.. we are by a pool after all!

Oooooh it’s nice not wearing ski boots.

As we kick back by our hotel pool in Singapore for the last couple of days it’s given us a bit of time to reflect on our three months in Italy and the Dolomites.

And here’s what we’ve come up with :

Firstly, we think that we will re-name the blog….”A visit to Planet Dolomiti!” With subtitle. “No season for fat skis”.

Well there’s no question that we had to undergo a bit of mental shift about half way through our stay in the Dolomiti given the lack of snow and our preference for off-piste skiing! We confess to recalling our endless winter at Les Carroz in France all those years ago and naturally our expectations were pretty high. We were egged on by a super early dump of snow in the alps last November, but which evaporated with warm rain by the time we arrived at the beginning of December.

There’s one thing that you can guarantee when talking about skiing, fishing, or sailing. The snow, fish or wind is always better somewhere else. You can make a whole career of chasing snow around the planet….check the blogs! And it will always result in phrases like – “You should have been here yesterday!” and “It’s dumping in the Rockies!” when you’re in the Alps. It’s like gravity. It’s totally a law of nature. However we didn’t quite expect that New Zealand would be getting more snow in January at the height of a southern hemisphere summer! That’s just perverse.

Once we made the “mental shift” around the middle of January, we were able to relax and more fully appreciate the breath-taking scenery of the Dolomiti and sheer mind blowing effort of creating their own winter regardless of what mother nature dished up. Add to that, we were gifted with day after day of bright sunshine which meant we could ski every day from 3 December until we departed, such is the snow & piste making capability of Planet Dolomiti. It’s worth mentioning that if we’d gone back to Les Carroz we wouldn’t have been able to put on our skis until mid January.  Up until then they’d literally had no snow.

I keep coming back to the scenery. We’re really not quite so sure why the world thinks that NZ is that beautiful? Gasp. Shock. Horror. But truly. Everyday we gazed out over the spectacular rocky peaks of the Dolomities and deep green forests and marvelled at the colours and contrasts. It always took our breath away. I think it’s easy to get a bit arrogant about NZ scenery. There are many other incredibly beautiful places in the world. It’s just that we’re spoilt in NZ …we don’t have to share the view with as many people.

While the village of Arabba certainly had some quirks, its location to the Sellaronda and Marmolada and access to high terrain was absolutely perfect. Having now visited every other Planet in Universe Dolomiti, we can confidently say that we were steered right by our Wanaka neighbour John in making Arabba our base for three months. Arabba is the most central location and it was only ever a maximum of 1.5 – 2 hours drive to any other corner of the Dolomiti we wished to ski.   This was a wonderful aspect to skiing in Universe Dolomiti.  Everyday was about making a journey on skis, not just lapping the same run over and over.  The Dolomiti, for us was all about discovering new valleys, villages and lunch spots and always a different vista.

But did we get to our target of riding 300 lifts?   Not quite!   Here’s the final stats.  Just short 9 lifts!   Oh well.  As G says…tell someone who cares!

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We loved meeting all the characters of our village, the Delmonego family Mario, Patsy, Heidi and Austin and Mario’s brother Francesco, the butcher.  No, he’s not the local hitman, just literally the village meat supplier.  Marilena (“grappa is for babies”) and Bob ( “Mr Fixit”) from the local market.   Renaldo our “vege man” who we finally cracked a friendship with.   Miriam & Peter at Bar Peter, Lorenzo at Rifugio Plan Boe and Gabriel the barista at our local watering holes.  Our boot buying & fitting sagas with the mercurial Renato in La Villa and Manfred the boot fitting maestro at Corvara. And last but not least, Gabi & Carlo our landlords, who despite major language barriers, looked out for us, and gave us a great place to stay.

Communication in Arabba was always a challenge.  We underestimated the lack of English spoken in our village.  First it’s Fodom (the local dialect), German second and Italian sometimes a distant third.   In France, our experience was that most people spoke English, but they just choose not to, unless you at least tried to speak French first.  Then with the typical Gaelic “Bof” when the French can no longer stand the mess you are making of their beautiful language and switch to English.  In contrast, most people in our village genuinely don’t speak or understand English.  I am not particularly gifted at languages and while I didn’t make any major gaffs like announcing to the whole village that I was frigid (“Je suis froid”) as I did in France, I also didn’t manage to construct enough coherent sentences to engage the locals in any deep & meaningful conversation.  It’s a shame.  In many ways, I found Arabba a bit of an enigma and I would have loved to delve a little deeper.

Further afield.  We loved the opportunity to revisit with our Euro friends, Georgie, Hubert & Marie and Rick & Liz on our road trip to France.   And what a wonderful surprise to catch up with an old Aussie friend, Jane for a couple of days skiing.

We are officially “Italophiles” …if there’s such a word.  We love the people, food, wine and history.  Our little side trips to Verona, Treviso and Venice were real highlights.  We’ve barely scratched the surface of Italy on our trips here over the last few years and I can see us back here many more times in the future.

And finally who got our vote for the winner of the #1 Dolomiti Ski Fashion Crime?

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Well it was a hard choice …but we think the fellow at Cortina gets our vote.  Mainly because he’s also wearing his stylishly colour-blind number in Cortina …which is a seriously fashion conscious resort and secondly because of his choice of matching headwear which really tipped our decision in his favour.

Ski Fashion crime contender
Ski Fashion crime Winner!!

And so it’s back to the real world.  We hope that Wanaka has saved a little summer for us before we head into winter once again.  

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Still finding “gems” and that vertical record.

It’s toally amazing that after skiing 25 days here in the Dolomites, we are still finding new ski runs and riding new lifts. This morning’s routine started with our usual 900m laps from the cable car, coffee at our funky chair place and then we search out a nice place for lunch. Welcome to our Dolomiti Universe where we lurch from lunch to lunch.

Outside Baita Gherdaccia
Outside Baita Gherdaccia

Today we found a lovely place called Baita Gherdaccia over in the Belvedere area of Val di Fassa. So far our favourite lunch places have been Baita Daniel in Val Gardena, Refugio Fodom at Passo Pordoi and now B. Gherdaccia joins the list. Here we were treated to a complimentary glass of Prosecco and delicious appetiser of spinach and ricotta pastry. We had a lovely attentive waitress and our own sommelier.

We are starting to learn a lot more about wines. In particular we’ve become fond of a lighter red variety called Langrein.  It’s a grape variety native to the Sud Tyrol region of Italy, ie., north-eastern border with Austria.  It’s like a pinot noir…but not.  Related to the syrah grape, Langrein has more body than a pinot noir but with a similar light ruby red colour.   Talking with the sommelier from our hotel in St.Andrea, it is unlikely that we will ever find any these wines outside the Sud Tyrol area.  The volume produced is so small that almost all of it is consumed locally or sent overseas on private order.

After lunch we headed a little further around the Sellaronda and discovered a huge statue of a steer outside what we understand to be a famous steak restaurant. We didn’t go inside, but it looks promising for a future visit…although I’m not sure we could eat a steak at lunch time and still make it back to Arabba on our skis.

Heading back to Arabba, we caught up with John and his family at R.Boe. We had a nice chat with his son Steve and also met up with Patsy and her daughter Heidi and grandson Austin. Here was a chance to solve one mystery. Yes, the blue ribbons on the cars mean that a baby boy has been born to the owner of the car. A white ribbon means…just married and a pink ribbon means a baby girl. Good guess hey?

The mysterious blue ribbons.
The mysterious blue ribbons.

And finally without even seeming to try ….we beat our vertical record.  We are definitely more ski fit now.  Also the extra weight we’ve gained from our daily gourmet lunches also helps our downhill momentum considerably!

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