Perfect your form in the Dolomites
Resort Report: Cortina d'Ampezzo
Saturday 17 January 2004
Where is it?
Where is it?
Cortina d'Ampezzo, just 30 miles from the border with Austria, became famous when it hosted the Winter Olympics in 1956 and still sits proudly at the top of the social ladder for many Italian skiers. Despite its closeness to Austria, 75 per cent of visitors are homegrown.
Chocolate box or concrete box?
Chocolate box top to bottom, from the craggy pink cliffs of the Dolomites which tower above the town to the faded grandeur of its centre, replete with pedestrianised main street and picture-postcard bell tower.
What's the snow like?
With the highest lift-served skiing at 2,930m on Mte Tofane, the Queen of the Dolomites has altitude on its side. Unfortunately, latitude is less helpful - being on the southern side of the Alps can mean erratic snowfall. But 95 per cent of the slopes are covered by snowmaking.
Fifty-one lifts serve Cortina's fragmented ski areas, plus an infrequent ski bus to get you between them. The highest cable car goes up to 3,200m, but it's for sightseers only - from the top you can see all the way to Venice .
The 90 miles of piste are mostly gentle. The long blues and greens in the Socrepes area are the perfect place to learn how to ski and you'll have most of them to yourself - 70 per cent of Italian visitors never make it on to the slopes. For more testing tracks you need to head up high, to Ra Valles or Forcella Staunies, where narrow blacks lead down between the granite outcrops.
Where can I leave the kids?
The Miniclub (003 335 707 0957), situated near the Socrepes base station, will pick up skiing and non-skiing three- to 11-year-olds direct from your hotel. Alternatively, Cortina's ski schools will point them downhill from the age of four.
Can I get some air?
A terrain park up at Faloria has a half-pipe and the Socrepes area is ideal for boarding beginners. For off-piste, your best bet is to head up the Cinque Torri chairlift.
How much for a lift pass?
A high-season six-day Dolomiti Superski lift pass is €182 (£125) for adults and €127 for seven- to 15-year-olds.
My legs hurt. Can I slope off?
Masochists should slope off to the bobsleigh run (0039 436 860 808), built for the 1956 Winter Olympics and home to the terrifying taxi bob. Hedonists should make for the Corso Italia to indulge in Cortina's main sporting activity - shopping. There's also an Olympic ice rink and indoor pool.
Enough exercise. Where can I eat up my euros?
Food is taken seriously in Cortina, with more than 80 restaurants. Michelin-starred Tivoli (0039 436 866 400) is one of the best in town with deer, rabbit and other local wildlife; book well in advance. El Toul (0039 436 3339), a converted hayloft on the edge of town, serves up delicacies such as Venetian calves' liver to those who can afford it. If you blew all your money on the Corso Italia, settle for pizza at Cinque Torri (0039 436 866 301) instead.
Après-ski starts and finishes fashionably late in Cortina, which might explain the deserted slopes first thing in the morning. First stop should be the relaxed Enoteca wine bar which, with over 700 wines, could be your last stop as well. Later on, the action switches to Area and the Bilbo Club.
How do I get there?
Cortina is just 100 miles from Venice and Innsbruck so bars and restaurants, if not pistes, can get crowded at weekends.
In the area
If you want to clock up miles rather than calories, buy the Dolomiti Superski pass, take the bus 20 minutes out of town to the Falzarego Pass and there's the biggest circuit in the world at your ski tips - 450 lifts and 750 miles of piste.
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