The Dolomites has recently attained UNESCO World Heritage Status rubber stamping their natural beauty

Surrounded by some of Europe’s most breathtaking scenery and steeped in history and tradition, Val Gardena (actually the collective name for the villages of Ortisei, Santa Cristina and Selva) is an unlikely ski resort trailblazer.

And yet this South Tyrolean gem - set deep in the Italian Dolomites - suddenly finds itself hip, as I discovered on my latest visit to the valley. Certainly, compared to the singularly Gallic charms of the French Alps, the place is quite the cultural multi-tasker. Consider the evidence: it is Italian, but the roots of South Tyrol are predominantly Austrian. Thus the locals speak three languages (Italian, German and Ladin), and the resulting culture is an intriguing mix of Teutonic efficiency and Italian cuisine. Perhaps it is no wonder that avant-garde pop legend Giorgio Moroder is a Val Gardena local.

For most British skiers, Val Gardena is synonymous with a mystical circuit called the Sella Ronda, which itself is part of the absolutely enormous Dolomiti Superski area. In addition, the resort has 175 km of in-bound pistes to explore, so get ready to rack up a serious mileage count. Personally, I liked to break up each day with coffee and pasta at Baita Daniel Hut, one of the sun-kissed mountain huts that populate the region.

The aforementioned Sella Ronda is a rite of passage and the obvious place to start, but there are some lesser known gems worth seeking out, such as the well-named ‘La Longia’ - an exhilarating 10.5km run from the top of Seceda down into Ortisei. Or, if you’re feeling brave, the Saslong run used for the annual downhill FIS race each December is one for the experts. For the record, I wasn’t feeling brave enough and left that one to Bode and his braver mates.