Sunday, March 11, 2012

Skiing the Italian Dolomites

About 32 Chicago area skiers, traveled to Madonna di Campiglio, in northern Italy, near the Austrian boarder, by way of Verona and a 2 ½ hour bus ride from there.

Being Italy is extremely Catholic, the name of the town did not come as a complete mystery and sure enough, the first buildings there included a church and part of the church is still standing. 

After checking into the Hotel Rafael, many of us traipsed off to rent some skies at this obscure shop following a rough map of the town and after walking through most of the town, we managed to find the sign.  We took the small elevator down one flight wandered into this small shop, the size of a studio apartment, filled with skis of several makes and sizes.  The owner and one assistant waded through about 15 of us, adjusting our bindings, sticking labels with our names on the skies, which then thankfully were delivered to the ski room of our hotel which freed us of the necessity of toting them through the town and up the hill.

Great, I thought, all set to ski in the morning.  In Europe, the dining room opens about 7:30 so we didn’t missed dinner after traveling overnight to Frankfort, having a significant layover for our flight to Verona, and the aforementioned bus ride, we all thankfully filled our appetites and turned in early.

The trip was organized by CMSC (Chicago Metropolitan Ski Council).  My club, Lake Shore Ski Club, is a member of CMSC as are all the other ski clubs in the surrounding area so the trip was filled with members of various ski clubs.  However, there were other members of Lake Shore on the trip and we formed a natural clique who skied and ate together.  Claude and Yann, two Frenchmen and Vladimir, a Russian and I skied together until the last day.  Both Claude and Yann are chefs and it is routine for them to make connections with chefs wherever they eat.  So soon were receiving a modicum of special attention mostly by receiving recommendations on the nightly menu.

The food was the best ever for me for a ski trip.  Nightly dinner began with a salad bar, appetizers followed, pasta next, then the main course, topped off by dessert all of which were better than average.  And throughout the week, the menu changed giving us plenty of variety to choose from. This is a lot of food, but we were burning enough calories by skiing that we devoured everything, every night. 

Instead of requiring passport size photos for a laminated ski pass, my photo was taken at the ticket window and my image was put on a credit card size ski pass which used Radio Frequency ID technology to permit entry through the gondolas turnstiles.  This system is far superior to having a paper pass with a bar code which requires scanning by an operator from the viewpoint of the skier in that RFID can be scanned through clothing.  So if you are bundled up, there is no need to unzip your jacket and dig out your pass.   

Like many European ski areas, there were a number of interconnecting slopes which all provide a route down to a village or town and a gondola back up.   
Madonna di Campiglio, in the Trentino-Alto Adige region of Italy, is a large resort with 19 lifts (5 gondolas, 12 chair lifts, 2 surface lifts) that offers skiers an incredible 1000 meters (3281 feet) of vertical descent. It has 35 pistes with a total length of 60 kilometers (38 miles). The majority of the pistes at Madonna di Campiglio are covered by snowmaking.

And there are many spots at higher elevation to stop for a drink or food at family owned establishments.  In fact this is one of the more pleasant aspects for skiing in Europe.  It’s almost like eating in someone’s home.  Locals always seem to know where the best places are and it is best to come in early for lunch or after 1 PM to avoid the crowds. We did a very good job of skiing the entire area. 

Here are my three skiing companions, Claude, Yann, and Valdimir.
And one of me with a great background.
The ski trip included a 2 ½ day trip to Venice which my roommate Vladimir and I went on which the two Frenchmen departed for the states.  We hope to ski together in the future.


SkylersDad said...

Wow, that looks beautiful! What a great experience Dave.

GETkristiLOVE said...

Looks like a great trip!