Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Corvara 2008

Waiting in the only lift line we saw the entire week, one of our favourite ski buddies took us to task. “Just look at this. There was no line last year. Stop writing about Corvara!”

Well, another year has gone by and another group of skiers is furiously lobbying NoCrowds to keep quiet about the most undervalued ski resort in Europe. Our view is that ski resorts get the customers they deserve and this unpretentious place deserves a higher profile amongst those who go to the mountains to ski and who love skiing more than hanging out with celebrities and being seen at fashionable “après-ski” venues. The families in Corvara work hard for our business, offer a great product, deliver good value for money and we’re on their side. As in years past, we make the case that if you want to impress your friends, go to Zurs or Zermatt but if you want to enjoy yourself more, spend less and get away from the hoi polloi, head for Corvara in the Alta Badia.

Actually, despite our singing Corvara’s praises for the last three years, we’re happy to report that not much has changed. The town of Corvara remains unspoiled by either McDonalds on the one hand or too many chi-chi boutiques on the other. Our favourite three star hotel, Parkhotel Planac, has the same charming and efficient staff as last year. The Dolomiti Superski region still offers the largest skiable terrain in Europe with 460 lifts connecting 1,220 kilometers of pistes across three regions of Italy, which is roughly the distance from New York to Chicago. The culture and cuisine, in which the locals take enormous pride, are an appealing mix of Ladin, Austrian and Italian influences. If you are interested in the region, no one is too busy to stop and tell you all about it.

One of the things that save Corvara from the destructive forces of intensive tourism is the fact that getting to the resort is not easy. Over the years, we have tried lots of permutations. We have flown into Bergamo and Venice and have rented cars and taken taxis, but we’re happiest with this year’s solution which entailed a late Friday flight into Bologna, spending the night there and taking a train the next morning to Bolzano where a taxi then took us to Corvara.

By leaving Friday night, we avoided the Saturday morning skiers scrum from London’s airports. By flying into Bologna, a convenient regional airport not particularly near the mountains, we avoided the high fares typically charged for skiing destinations in February. Our overnight in Bologna was a bargain as well. The train ride from Bologna to Bolzano is a snap once you are aware that Bologna has not one, but three Track 4s. (We missed the fast train getting up that learning curve as we madly ran around the station with all our ski gear.) The taxi from Bolzano, which takes you over the Passo Gardena/Groednerjoch, is the perfect introduction to the Dolomites’ dramatic scenery. With train and taxi, our transfer to Corvara ended up costing €65 per person which is about the best we’ve ever done.

In addition to finding a better way to get to the resort, we also added some new mountain restaurants to our growing list of favourites. Moritzino’s at the top of the Piz la Ila lift, the Armentarola Hotel at the bottom of the run into Armentarola and Trattoria Ladina Oies (the famous Teddy Bear restaurant) off the first chairlift out of Pedraces are still excellent but we also thought the Mathiaskeller Restaurant at the top of the second Colfosco chairlift and the Hotel Boe, on the Passo Campolongo half way between Corvara and Arraba were great finds offering good food at good prices with no crowds.

Just so we do not seem to be working for the local tourist board, we will mention that prices seem to be rising in Corvara, particularly for lift tickets and equipment rentals. A quick price comparison with lift tickets in Lech/Zurs for the same week showed that the Dolomites are catching up quickly to the big boys in France and Austria. Ditto for our equipment rental. That was not the case with food and accommodation which still seem reasonable by comparison.

Despite the whinge about rising prices, we absolutely love Corvara. For anyone hoping to ski in Europe far from the maddening crowds, we know of no better place.

Photo Credit: Freddy Planinschek

Useful Addresses

For taxi service to and from Corvara

Taxi Badia
Tel: 335 7373981
Cell: 0471 838080

Pescosta Alfredo
Tel 0471 836393
Cell 347 261 5525

Parkhotel Planac
Via Planac, 13
I-39033 Corvara in Badia
Tel: 39 0471 83 62 10
Fax: 39 0471 83 65 98

Moritzino’s Ristorante Gourmet
Piz La Ila
Tel 0471 847407 – 847403
Fax 0471 847395
Cell 335 600 94 56

Hotel Armentarola
I-39030 San Cassiano
Tel: 0471 84 95 22
Fax: 0471 84 93 89

Trattoria Ladina-Oies
Tel: 0471 839671

Rifugio Passo Incisa
32020 Arabba
Tel and fax 0436 79313

Mathiaskeller Restaurant
Tel: 0471 836754

Hotel Boe Restaurant
Passo Campolongo 19
Tel: 0436 79144

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