Val Gardena is a three-village valley named for the river that runs through it. This forms the north-western part of the Sella Ronda, arguably the best joined cruising circuit in Europe. The villages are Ortisei, the biggest and lowest, small Santa Cristina and wide Selva Gardena, the most convenient entry point for the circuit. The other elements in the Sella Ronda equation are Alta Badia (where San Cassiano, Corvara and Colfosco are located), Arabba/Marmolada and Val di Fassa (where the main resort is Canazei). The four valleys, separated by passes, encircle the Gruppo Sella, dramatic crags rising out of themeadows that make the pistes. This means that Sella Ronda users can admire the towering rock faces from the safety of terrain that takes you in to ski eternally.
The Sella Ronda is an inner core within the vast Dolomiti Superski area, 460 lifts serving 1,200km of connected pistes on a single lift pass. The Sud Tirol was part of Austria until it was given to Italy after the First World War. This element still show in place names and local culture nearly a century later. For example, Selva and Ortisei are called Wolkenstein and St Ulrich. Val Gardena is also more confused since the bulk of the inhabitants are Ladinos, whospeak their own dialect, typically in addition to Italian and German.
The Sella Ronda circuit, constituting 24km of pistes covered by 14km of lifts, is completely marked in both directions: orange signs go clockwise, green ones go counterclockwise. In optimum conditions, it can be achieved within three to four hours by confident intermediates, but that's not counting the rogue queuing factor. Replacing the revered T-bars with high-speed chairs has brought down the original lift time in under two hours, but there are still potential bottlenecks, especially on weekends. Getting stranded in the wrong valley after the lift system closes will cost you an expensive taxi fare. The orange circuit is a lot more user-friendly, with more interesting pistes and less poling, but both give variations planned to stretch the Sella Ronda into a full day trip.
© 2012 Athena Goodlight
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