At the start of 2023, Anna Clara Lee, one of Marchay’s Travel Managers, took a ski trip to the Dolomites. Below she shares her insights and recommendations to our valued community. Indeed, while this region is a little difficult to reach, the effort is well worth it for the exceptional skiing, food, beauty and culture.
Who goes to the Dolomites?
The Dolomites are a gem destination not widely known among non-Europeans, a discretion that is about to change with its hosting of the 2026 Winter Olympics. The Austro-Hungarian empire handed the region over to Italy at the end of World War I, so it sits both geographically and culturally among the intersection of German speaking Europe and Italy (locals speak Ladin, a cross between Italian and German). Over the past few years, there have been a significant number of new luxury hotel openings to meet the region’s world class food scene. Even better, the Dolomiti Superski area has recently been expanded to the biggest ski network in the world, with 450 lifts and over 1200 KM of pistes all connected and accessible with one pass. This is enticing Americans to choose this region for their ski getaways, despite the long journey. Whether you’re sitting amongst locals whose families have been there for decades, royalty or celebrities who have found solace and retreat here, creatives seeking inspiration, or your own travel companion, one thing is for sure – everyone is planning to return.
Planes, trains, & automobiles: How do you get there?
There are a few options, none of which are incredibly convenient, but all of which are undoubtedly worth it. Depending on your larger itinerary, you can fly into INN, VCE or MXP. Innsbruck is typically the most convenient international airport, roughly ~2 – 2.5 hours driving depending on which hotel you’re checking into. If you plan to spend time in Venice, Milan, or surrounding areas, both airports are doable, but note you will be in for a long drive or train ride. If already in Europe, VRN is an easy airport to manage and offers suitable nonstops. Whichever way you arrive, renting a car is a must. Not only will you want to explore on your own and hop around the smaller ski towns, but the resorts are quite spread out and transfers are notoriously overpriced. Just be weary of the speeding cameras and toll booths!
How is the skiing?
If you’ve skied at any ski resort in the US, you’re well equipped to ski here. Thankfully the runs are fairly flat and wide, as you’ll want to look up to take in the views as much as you can. The 15 ski resorts are accessible on the Dolomiti SuperSki pass, making it even more convincing to stay longer. Be prepared to take more lifts than you’re used to, and factor in time to break for a gourmet lunch and glass of wine on the mountain. Cortina d’Ampezzo is the most famous of the resorts, but if you have an opportunity to visit Alta Badia nearby, you’re in luck as the Sella Ronda is one of the most well-known and jaw-dropping ski circuits in the world.
Which are the best resorts?
FORESTIS has gained a lot of attention recently, and for a good reason. This boutique, wellness-focused hotel located a ~30-minute drive up the mountain from Brixen is the definition of sanctuary. Stefan Hinteregger and Teresa Unterthiner brought their vision to life in creating this restorative retreat, which was previously a dormant piece of property, originally built as a sanatorium in the early 1900s. From a complete spa day of holistic treatments, saunas, and cold plunges to an outdoor day starting with a guided hike in the morning and ending with a convenient 3-hour ski-in ski-out afternoon, there is something for every wellness lover. We encourage you to drink the Kool-Aid here, you won’t regret it.
I am counting my lucky stars that I was able to stay at one of the most truly special hotels I’ve ever been to, the Rosa Alpina, before they closed for renovations at the end of March. Though it’s understandable that being an Aman hotel, they must update certain things such as the spa and size of the rooms, I am hoping they don’t change much more than that, as this hotel was nearly perfect in my eyes: unbeatable level of service, a sense of place like no other, and the Dolomite’s most well-respected chef, Norbert Niederkofler, showcasing his passion and love for local ingredients in his 3-Michelin star restaurant, St. Hubertus – does it get better than this? While it’s set to be a 2-year renovation, construction in the Dolomites understandably takes longer than expected due to logistics, but you can expect this winter wonderland gem to reopen in time for the Winter Olympics in 2026.
Aside from the two I split time between, there is no shortage of luxury hotels in the area. Check out Lefay Resort & Spa Dolomiti,Cristallo, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Cortina d’Ampezzo, and MiraMonti for more inspiration.
If you are as passionate about food as I am, that is reason enough to make the epic journey here. The Dolomites are home to the highest concentration of Michelin-starred chefs in Italy, paying homage to the local mountain cuisine. Not only are the hotels’ restaurants phenomenal, but the family-run spots in town are to die for. Expect a cross between Italian, Austrian and German food here, with delicious bottles of wine starting at a quarter of the price you find in the US. Make sure to stop by the concierge desk and ask for their favorite local spots and be cognizant of the limited hours and days of service, as is the Italian way.