The winter wonderland of northern Italy is a great place to relax. On the snow-covered mountains, life doesn’t get much better. But while it is 20º C on New Year’s Day in the Swiss alps (source), I wonder how long I can, in good conscience, continue with winter sports. Skiing has been one of my favourite hobbies for decades. The feeling of ‘flying’ down a mile-long slope is second to none.
However, with Christmas 2022, the alpine meadows remained green. Climate change indeed. And winter sports, like so many things in our consumer society, unfortunately, contribute to it.
Energy-guzzling snowploughs, thirsty snow cannons. The cutting down of trees to make way for slopes. I feel less and less good about it. And I confess, although I am ashamed of it, I went skiing in the Dolomites last week. I was probably alone, feeling embarrassed, judging by the fun-seeking crowds on the slopes.
Luckily, I have family in Italy who are avid hikers. So they drag me along on snowshoe hike trips. This is a way to enjoy the winter landscape with a minimal environmental footprint. Moreover, apart from being eco-friendly, it is also economical for your wallet. You don’t have to spend money on expensive ski passes and gear.
The energy used may be enormous, but it comes from a renewable source, i.e. you. At least judging by the clothes, that can be wrung out after a bit of a hike. And if you eat less pasta to compensate, it’s also good for the waistline. A win-win!
Therefore, I have listed three beautiful places below to enjoy some wonderful snowshoeing.
Near Malga Federa
The town of Cortina d’Ampezzo is located in the Dolomites, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
From Passo Tre Croci, walk 210 metres uphill to reach Rifugio Mietres at an altitude of 1710 metres. The path descends and ascends gradually. It is possible to sleep as well as eat well at the rifugio. Do call to check if the hostel is open before you leave to avoid disappointment.
Gores de Federa trail to Malga Federa
To reach Malga Federa, follow the Gores de Federa trail that winds through the coniferous forest of the Ampezzo Dolomites Nature Park. You’ll see frozen waterfalls and the Dolomites towering above you along the way. The trail gradually ascends 638 metres. There is a free car park at the start of the route. The rifugio Malga Federa has a restaurant and rooms.
Rifugio Col de Varda Monte Agudo
To get to rifugio Col de Varda, follow a 300-metre steep path from the ski area car park. There is a great view of the mountains on the rifugio’s terrace. You can eat and sleep there; if you don’t feel like walking back, take the ski lift down. Parking is free.
Accommodation near Cortina d’Ampezzo
B&B Hotel Passo Tre Croci Cortina is located just under ten kilometres above Corina d’Ampezzo. Located on a cross-country ski slope, the hotel is one of the most budget-friendly choices in the area. It has modern rooms, a bar, lockers for skis and an extensive buffet in the morning and evening.
Snowshoeing Asiago Altoplano Monte Verena
Monte Verena is a two-thousand-metre mountain in Veneto near Vicenza. It is also a small but popular ski resort.
Follow the hiking trail from the car park to reach rifugio Forte Verena (inn). It is a steep climb, with an altitude difference of 400 metres. But the views of the high plains of Asiago are worth all that sweat. En route, you will see relics from World War I, such as Fort Verena. Finally, you arrive at the inn and a ski lift.
The restaurant is busy, especially on sunny holidays and weekends. So if you want to ensure you get something to eat, bring a packed lunch. Or alternatively, be prepared to wait half an hour outside in the cold for a spot inside.
The car park costs ten euros per day. But the car park is free if you spend at least 10 euros in one of the bars or restaurants or buy a ski pass. So ask for a parking voucher when paying for your drinks or meal.
Ortisei in Val Gardena
Val Gardena snowshoeing options
Fairytale Val Gardena is another winter resort framed by the mighty Dolomites. The numerous cross-country trails are also suitable for snowshoeing.
If you desire a wonderfully luxurious holiday, choose Hotel Angelo Engel in Ortisei. The hotel has fantastic service and a spa, and the hotel shuttle will deliver you to the slopes.
Planning the snowshoe hike
- Walking through snow is much more tiring than just walking through the mountains. Especially if you are going through fresh snow, keep this in mind when planning the route.
- If you plan to go off the beaten track, consider hiring a guide. That way, you have the best chance of surviving avalanches or after getting lost or in an accident.
- Dry clothes. Unless you are fit, you may sweat quite a lot while climbing. I, therefore, bring clean underwear and a T-shirt in my backpack that I change into during a break.
- Wear layers. Walking uphill, you will probably get warm quickly, but it soon cools down when you stand still, sit or walk downhill. Therefore, wear layers so you can quickly adapt to changing conditions.
- One can rent snowshoes and poles in most ski resorts for a tenner a day. Use your own mountain boots. Your feet will probably get wet from the snow. Therefore, ensure you carry dry socks in your backpack for the way back.
- Use Gaiters, which are waterproof covers over your shoes and trousers. These will keep you clean and mostly dry.
Carry a backpack with the following:
- a bottle of water
- dry clothes
- chocolate or student oats
- hat, gloves, scarf
- mobile phone
- sun cream
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