Before we become absorbed amongst the profusion of flowers and fruits of Spring, I wanted to share my first and last skiing experience of the season. Climbing up through the foothills of the Dolomites, we arrived at Zoldo Alto, (no, not the home of a mountain warrior king,) but a pinprick of a town nestled between the gallant Mount Pelmo and Mount Civetta. This ski resort boasts 86 cascading pistes where the highest reads a rather dizzying 2100m.
Before arriving, we stopped off for breakfast at Tana de ‘Lors, (alarmingly meaning bear den) an osteria with seasonal foods, cosy rifugio for exhausted limbs and a handy bar for eager skiers or hikers passing up through to the mountains in need of a lightening caffé.
We went for, well, the usual, (we’re still in Italy after all – what were you expecting, full English?)
Once our tummies were warm with froth and sweet pastry, the cerulean sky draws us out of ourselves. The sun beaming down on freshly fallen snow to the joy of all Italians, who have had to suffer the dreaded ‘fake snow’ that is frantically sprayed on the slopes in an attempt to satisfy all snow-related expectations.
The cerulean sky draws us out of ourselves
I begin to feel a little nervous, decked out as I was in my boyfriends’ mother’s gear, everything a little baggy making me feel like a twelve year old girl in her granny’s anorak, or worse – that bit in Bridget Jones when she storms off after a fight with Darcy only to have embarrassingly picked up his ridiculous, black coat instead of her own.
My boyfriend went to fetch our pomeridiani (afternoon ski passes) as I picked my way towards a story-book chalet where a St Bernard puppy of a man led me into a hut filled with millions of ski boots. I whispered my foot size to him, 40, which is rather large for a woman considering all Italian ladies wear a neat 38. On with the boots, I clomped to the next counter to get my skis straightened. There really is an awful lot of precaution required for skiing that I did not feel strictly prepared for. Perhaps I gave off more of high-octane ski vibe than I felt?
‘Don’t worry, I did a bit of Pilates last night, so technically I’m all warmed up for this,’ I assured my concerned boyfriend.
He looked about as convinced as a sock, but said with a nod:
‘You’ll be fine.’
We passed through the barriers with a click and into the shuddering ovovia, an egg shaped ski lift, literally meaning ‘the path of the egg.’ I have to say, they barely give you a moment to clamber in, rather – you blink and you’re left behind.
I might just add that my boyfriend has skied since he could pick up a spoon, and is generally the Dolomiti Superski king and also the most patient man in the world and for some reason has the utmost esteem in my skiing capabilities. Obviously he snowboards gracefully too, but kindly decided to ski with me for the day.
‘I’ll save snowboarding for another life,’ I said.
Oh but the view as we rose higher and higher. The fretted rooftops lifting away, we were greeted by a multitude of tottering treetops, gnarled but gorgeous in the silent snow. Despite the early morning tiresome digging out of equipment, piling on layers and drawn-out preparation, it is all undoubtedly worth it: the world up here is fresh and animated.
Here one cannot help but mentally wipe the slate clean. Mountains rise up in front of us and skiers appear as tiny, black buzzing things, carving their way down the handful of testing, black pistes on view.
Gracefully emerging from the ski lift, you’d think I was a pro. Eyeing up the Rifugio Su’n Paradis , I hoped before lunch I’d suitably channel all the skills I had learnt the year before and during my an Italian Erasmus trip to cute ski resort Folgaria, (incidentally home of the first ski lift.)
The Val di Zoldo and Ski Civetta form a dazzling blue and white paradise created approximately 200 million years ago from a primeval sea. The best known peaks of the Dolomites: Marmolada, Pelmo and Civetta are part of the spectacular Sella mountain plateau. These magnificent rock faces broodingly watch us from under glistening snow masks, as we sip our golden beer and eat prosciutto and fungi stuffed panini. Children bundled up in multicoloured gear, devouring chips and indifferent to their fearlessness.
I discovered these mountains were atolls, a chain of islands formed of coral. It’s fitting to bring in Coleridge right about now, as I believe he can sum up the day in one simple phrase:
In nature there is nothing melancholy
This article has been featured in Visit Veneto, a beautiful online Italian magazine featuring stories and experiences of this wild and rich region of Italy.