Ski Guide: Cortina, Italy

Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy, one of the world's oldest and most stylish ski resorts, sits 3 hours from Venice and can be reached via a steep and winding road.
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Kleine Scheidegg

Kleine Scheidegg

'Buildings in the Swiss ski resort of Kleine Scheidegg'

Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, one of the world’s oldest and most stylish ski resorts, sits 3 hours from Venice and can be reached via a steep and winding road. The town is nestled in a valley at approximately 4,000 ft. and is surrounded on all sides by slopes. The crags and cliffs of the rugged Dolomite Mountains do somewhat limit the skiable terrain (especially for beginners and intermediates), however skiers have been flocking to Cortina for over 2 centuries to experience its legendary cuisine and couture.

Only at Mt. Cortina
In 1956, Cortina d’Ampezzo, served as the host city for the seventh Olympic Winter Games. The open-air ice rink constructed for the games has been adapted for year-round use. Ice is groomed in both summer and winter for skating, curling, and “ice-bouldering”—an adventurous indoor climbing activity similar to rock-climbing. As a legacy of the 1956 games, Cortina claims Italy’s only Olympic bobsled track and ski jump, both of which still host national and international competitions.

Best-Kept Secret
Decorating the slopes of Cortina are over 50 “rifugi,” small shelters built over the last century to shelter shepherds and hikers. (The Italian term roughly translates to shelter or refuge.) Today, these cozy refuges have been converted into pubs, restaurants and modest hotels. Their rustic interiors are complemented by roaring fireplaces that warm wet boots and mittens while hungry skiers and snowboarders order homemade traditional Italian fare. Rifugio Pomedes sports a large wooden terrace where dining is delightful on mild days. While many rifugios are only open for lunch, some, like Rifugio Averau, serve dinner and a hearty breakfast for those staying in the 10 bunk beds of the hostel-like dormitory.

Where to Sleep
Cortina’s dedication to luxury has produced several high-end, grand hotels. The Miramonti Majestic Hotel has been offering upscale accommodations since 1893. Located just outside the village, the sprawling resort maintains several outdoor spaces dedicated to the art of après ski including a piano bar, billiards room and a small cinema that are not restricted to hotel guests only. The slightly less grand Hotel Meublè Oasi is located near the Faloria gondola, which services the Faloria peak (while there, stop for lunch at the Rifugio Capanna Tondi for fresh pasta and local wines). The hotel offers prices by the week, starting at €335 based on double occupancy.

Where to Eat
Cortina is a culinary sanctuary for every skier and snowboarder that has endured lunches at North American lodges consisting of overpriced bland chili, soggy pepperoni pizza or mystery-cheese nachos. While Europe as a whole has a leg up on the meals that accompany a day on the slopes, Cortina and its slope-side rifugios are in a class all their own. Away from the slopes in Cortina proper are several high-end restaurants, like Tivoli and El Toulà. Tivoli overlooks Cortina and features an extensive menu that has been awarded 1 of 3 possible stars by the prestigious Michelin Red Guide, Europe’s oldest hotel and restaurant guide; the first was published in 1900. A Michelin star is an honor that chefs world-wide aspire to receive, and last year’s guide awarded 229 Italian restaurants with 1-star ratings (only 6 in the country received 3 stars.) Click here for a list of restaurants in Cortina d’Ampezzo.

Where to Shop
This is one mountain town where the shopping is as legendary as the skiing. Forget quaint gift shops; the shops in Cortina d’Ampezzo are for the sophisticated (and wealthy) shopper. Click here for a full list of stores.

For the Non-Skier
The Cortina Adrenaline Center can help arrange high-speed tobogganing, snow-rafting and bobsledding—yet, it seems the main off-slope activity is merely to be seen on the fashionable -- and car-free -- village streets. During summer months, the steep Dolomite mountains offer some challenging mountain-biking. Choose from constructed paths or follow nature’s own course. Experienced hikers can test their merit and their courage on the Dolomite’s Via Ferrata, or “iron paths.”

Biggest Bang for Your Buck
While the 52 lifts near the fashionable central village service nearly 90 miles of groomed runs, skiers can also purchase the Dolomiti Super Ski Pass that includes access to more than 50 resorts in the surrounding area. Click here for seasonal pricing.

Travel Channel Tip
When packing, make sure that fashion meets function. Both the clientele and the skiing are A-list, and while you’ll want to look your best, you also need to be well-prepared for Dolomite terrain.

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