Dolomites Superski Pass
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he Dolomites, the rocky Alps of Alto Adige, are among the most dramatic mountain ranges in Europe. Home to many popular ski resorts and no less than eighteen peaks rising above 10,000 feet, they are formed of dolomitic limestone and porphyry, a combination which turns soft pink at sunrise and flaming red at dusk. Visitors are likely to see this wonderful light show often, because the topography of the region makes it unusually sunny all winter long.

For skiers, there is no better way to see Alto Adige than the Dolomite Superski pass. Touted as the world's most extensive ski pass, it grants access to a mindboggling 1200km of groomed runs, with hundreds of lifts leading to and from almost 40 separate facilities. Following the Superski itineraries, a fairly skilled skier can see four of the world's most spectacular mountain passes - Sella, Pordoi, Livignalongo and Badia - in one day. You can buy a pass in any resort; at prices ranging from 37 to 46 Euro/day, it's an incredible bargain.

You can hop onto the Dolomites Superski anywhere and travel it in any direction, but here's a sample itinerary:

In the heart of Alto Adige, the delightful Ladin town of Corvara sits at the foot of 9,000-foot high Sassongher, a classic massif. This is the heart of the Val Badia, bordered by the Sella Range and liberally crisscrossed by hundreds of ski trails. The towns of Pedraces, La Villa and San Cassiano are easily accessible on skis or by bus. From here, head across the breathtaking Passo di Sella, in the direction of Canazei, a resort village in the Val di Fassa, capital of cross-country skiing. Three Dolomite groups come together here - Sassolungo, Sella and Marmolada - which means there's a huge selection of slopes for all types of skiers. Characteristic of this region, many of the buildings in town have beautifully painted and decorated façades. Nearby is cheerful, unpretentious Moena, where the 11th-century church of S. Wolfgang has lovely frescoes and a baroque casement ceiling.

he next stop is Marmolada, "queen of the Dolomites." At 10,965 feet, it offers an unequalled panorama of the entire region and is not far from the internationally renowned resort of Cortina D'Ampezzo (which is actually in the region of Veneto). The atmosphere here is quite different: although small, Cortina is extremely cosmopolitan, and its boutiques, restaurants and night clubs are as outstanding as its ski slopes. Take the lift to the 10,673-foot summit of Tofana di Mezzo, or to any of the many rifugi (rustic lodges). Also nearby is Lake Misurina, which magically reflects the triple peaks of Lavaredo in its crystalline waters.

For a complete change of pace, the next destinations are San Candido and nearby Dobbiaco, quiet villages joined by a web of world-class cross-country trails leading past such quaint hamlets as Sesto and Moso.

Just outside Brunico/Bruneck is Plan De Corones which, at 7,460 feet, offers another sterling photo opportunity, countless lifts and slopes.

More exhilarating views are available at Passo Gardena, doorway to the lushly wooded Val Gardena. Just a few minutes away are the charming villages of Selva di Val Gardena and Santa Cristina, where the Saslonch-Ruacia run passes right at the foot of the 17th-century Fischburg Castle. From here you can ski to the year-round resort of Ortisei/St. Ulrich. Serious skiers will stay at the more altitudinous Alpe di Siusi, where sunlight and snow are virtually guaranteed. Incidentally, this small corner of Alto Adige is home to many of the best ski schools in the world.

Madonna di Campiglio is some distance away and is not included in the Skipass, but skiing enthusiasts should definitely know about it. Not as well known as Cortina, it is nonetheless a world-class resort with every imaginable amenity, plus 60 miles of slopes and trails.

If you're a really great skier, you can register for the Grand Prix Dolomiti Superski-Nordica, a 12-part course encompassing all types of slopes and skis. When your card shows that you've completed all twelve segments, you'll receive a diploma, a badge and a surprise gift. Register at one of the ski pass offices in Cortina D'Ampezzo, Plan De Corones, Corvara, Selva Gardena, Canazei, Arabba, Sesto Pusteria, Obreggen, San Martino di Castrozza, Plose, Moena or Alleghe.

Alto Adige is brimming with hotels, from the very luxurious to the spartan. There are literally hundreds of pensions, basically large family homes with five to ten rooms, which offer clean, comfortable lodgings and excellent food for 20 Euro/person and up a night. Here are some lodgings in the area.

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