Lucious Snow and Pizzas on the Rocks; Skiing South of the Border, in the Dolomites
Like most people, my mail box is stuffed with special offers for "inexpensive, once in a lifetime vacations." I’m cynical. Most of them end up in the trash before I open the letter.
Thankfully, my friend Irina actually looks through hers, and next thing I knew, she and her boyfriend and my girlfriend and I were off on a couples vacation to South Tyrol: Five days of adventure, three on the slopes, all for €320 a head, including all-access lift tickets and two meals a day at the hotel. Who could say no?
Despite being so close to the Alps, of which I have literally dreamt, after studying here for three years, I still hadn’t gone snowboarding – only bragged to my American friends about how I could go anytime I wanted….
We took off in a small, 1996 Opel Corsa, and wisely, I quickly fell asleep. When I awoke a few hours later, we had stopped at the most scenic rest stop I have ever seen, skillfully overhanging a 100m cliff, looking out at the beauty of rolling snow-capped mountains… a hell of a location for a McDonalds!
After the spiritual boost, and a Big Mac, we were off again and my camera stayed close to hand for the rest of the trip. As we neared the end of the journey, the road took a steep incline and the engine temperature rocketed just below the red section, and I saw myself spending the next few hours replacing blown hoses and walking the rest of the way. The hairpin turns were also not helping my car sickness in any good way.
But we arrived without incident at the hotel, a family-owned Pension called the Joergenwirt. I started to relax. The view was spectacular and well worth the trouble. Set well up on the side of a mountain, we had an unrestricted view of the panoramic, sky-high Dolomites, to where the sun went down, deep in the middle of the valley. The range covers a wide area in Northern Italy, with the Marmolada the highest peak at 3344m. I couldn’t have asked for a better reason to break out the camera again.
The Joergenwirt is a family owned, pension hotel, reasonably priced, but more importantly, very comfortable and relaxed. Our room was small and the heating unreliable. and the TV was mostly in Italian, with only a few German stations. but it had a very comfortable bed and shower, the most important features on a ski vacation. In summer, a larger room would have mattered more.
After a somewhat chilly night, we woke to a sumptuous Austrian country breakfast with rolls, soft boiled eggs, muesli, sausage, coffee, hot chocolate. Hard to go wrong. There was also dried fruit, a perfect take-along chair-lift snack.
After breakfast, we wanted to get to the slopes. The day was overcast, but not too cold. The only problem was that I hadn’t seen any snow. I decided to say nothing; why spoil the mood? The Plose website had reported a lot of snow on the mountain, although tourism websites have been known to stretch the truth.
The crowd of skiers and snowboarders in the parking lot cheered me up; I doubted they were there for nothing, though few had availed themselves of the Falk Tours Special – the ticket office had never heard of our rebate offer, and looked at us as if we were crazy.
Twenty minutes later, the ticket man finally gave us our three day pass. Turns out it makes a difference whether you are male or female for tax purposes in Italy. The ticket man didn’t go into details, but evidently, he was required to enter the correct m/f ratio at the end of the day.
Armed with our tickets and a new bit of trivia, we made our way to the first gondola, and the first sight of REAL SNOW. Ten minutes later, and almost 1200m higher, I was happy to find that every slope except one was fully covered with luscious, healthy-looking white stuff.
Plose is considered a mountain for beginners and intermediate skiers and snowboarders. The summit has wide, tree-free spaces where you can carve wide sweeps without worrying about falling off any steep sides. The mid and lower half of the mountain has some more challenging trails, narrower, but still spacious enough, with wide turns where experts can blast through and the more trepid can stop for breath before moving on.
It all reminded me of Mt. Bachelor, in Oregon, which is actually higher (2764m vs. 2445m), but is dwarfed when comparing their longest runs (2.4km vs. 7km). We were actually changing altitudes so quickly that I got a little queasy.
Still, I wasn’t looking forward to a lunch break. My experiences in America were nightmares of pizza cooked with heat lamps, grease with a side of charred burger, and odd-tasting fries.
My friends finally convinced me to join them at the Pension Geisler, conveniently placed between two lifts that go up to the summit and at the top of the tree line at 2050m. Besides inexpensive rooms (even cheaper than the Jörgenwirt), the Geisler Pension’s real specialty is pizza. It is cooked in a stone oven, fresh to order, and delightful. Even though we timed it exactly wrong, and had to wait 20 minutes for a table, the service was quick enough, cheery and fun. At only €5 for a cheese, and around €9 for the most expensive pizza, we each joyfully ordered our own full-sized, specialized pizzas. Not surprisingly, many of the diners were repeat customers, and come several days in a row.
On the following days, we tried the soup, which is a meal in itself; the strudel, baked fresh, but with raisins; and more pizza – they have around 15 different kinds. In spite of a constant full house, the headwaiter recognized us by the third day and stopped to chat
The remaining days passed happily much like the first, except that the clouds went away, revealing mountains beyond mountains, much further than I could see. Giuseppe Verdi once said, "You may have the universe if I may have Italy."
From the top of Plose, looking at the endless waves of peaks in all directions, with the white of the slope below, I knew exactly what he meant.
Schnauders 4, I-39040 Feldthurns
Tel. 0039 (0472) 855214
Fax. 0039 (0472) 855521
Nuova Plose S.p.a.
Tel. Info +39 0472 200 433
Fax +39 0472 200 498
39040 Val Croce
ItalyTel: +39 0472 521319