Northern Dolomites Ski Traverse

Northern Dolomites / Italy

Seven-day ski traverse amongst spectacular dolomitic rock towers and peaks
Long descents, light packs, comfortable lodging, Italian hospitality

Northern Dolomites Ski Traverse Highlights

  • Breathtaking scenery amongst stunning rock towers
  • Great skiing
  • Luxurious mountain huts and lodges
  • Excellent Italian food, coffee, and wine
  • Most days start with a chairlift ride

Northern Italy’s Dolomites have UNESCO World Heritage Site status for good reason – it is simply one of the most beautiful mountain landscapes on the planet. Because of its excellent snow and terrain, the Dolomites are home to one of the largest collections of downhill ski areas in Europe. But it is a big mountain range, and one need not travel far to get off the beaten path and into the backcountry. Amongst the famous, stunning dolomitic rock towers and pinnacles are ski-able summits, steep couloirs, glades, and mellow alpine terrain.

We will spend a week traversing the Northern Dolomites on skis. We will start with a chairlift ride or depart from a trailhead above treeline into the alpine, where we will soon leave the crowds behind and venture into this extraordinary landscape. After crossing a pass or two, and perhaps summiting a mountain along the way, we will enjoy a long run down to the next valley and our very comfortable, full-service hotel or mountain lodge for the night. After eating fantastic Italian food and drinking perfect Italian coffee and wine, we will be ready to sleep in comfort and repeat the process the next day.

Our packs will always be light, and there is even an option of having a luggage transfer to some of the lodges. For those who like roughing-it and a bit of suffering, this trip is probably not the one you should sign up for. For those who enjoy winter backcountry travel with exceptional scenery, great skiing, and delightful creature-comforts in the evening, this trip was made for you.

Northern Dolomites Ski Traverse: Day-to-Day Itinerary

The following itinerary outlines, for the most part, the most common Northern Dolomites Ski Traverse route. Throughout the traverse, we will have options to deviate from the itinerary in order to maximize enjoyment of the skiing, scenery, and summits according to weather and conditions. Almost-daily chairlift support enables us to make more turns than we could on a purely muscle-driven traverse. Some nights will be spent in mountain huts (better described as mountain lodges) and others in village hotels or guesthouses. All accommodations have double or quadruple rooms, common showers and, of course, always-excellent Italian hospitality. When there is road or cat access to one of our accommodations, we can organize a luggage transfer if enough participants are interested. 

Day 1: Travel day: Best to arrive in Munich, Germany in the morning (alternative arrival airports are Venice or Milan). Public transport via Innsbruck to St. Leonhard or Corvara, South Tirol. For custom trips and larger groups, we gladly quote an airport pick up in Munich. Our lodging for the first three nights is in a comfortable, family-owned hotel with excellent food.

If you prefer to arrive a day early to get over the jetlag and to ensure your luggage also arrives, we will gladly assist you with finding a hotel in Munich and picking you up at your hotel before the drive to St. Leonhard.

Day 2: This option is usually the second day of the Northern Dolomites Traverse, but given its length and character it fits better in our program as the warm-up day. We’ll take a chairlift to Pralongia, then complete a transceiver exercise and climb to Mount Settsass (2,600m). A northerly-aspect descent brings us to Armentarola and a return to our hotel in St. Leonhard. 500 m climb and 960 m descent.

Day 3: Option 1 is the original first day of the Northern Dolomites Traverse. In order to pull off this super-scenic day, we need good weather and good snowpack stability. After a 40-minute drive to Val Gardena, we will take the Col Raiser gondola in St. Christina, traverse the entire Puez High Plateau, and descend to Corvara in the Alta Badia Valley. 900 m climb, 1,400 m downhill, plus a fair bit of more or less level skiing across the Puez Plateau.

Option 2: A mellower alternative to Option 1: A 20-minute drive brings us to the Passo Gardena, from where we will ascend to the Craspeina Saddle and onto the Puez High Plateau. Ascend Sass da Ciampac and, if time allows, a second summit. Descend to Corvara. Depending on the route taken, it will be about 800 m climbing with a 1,200 m descent.

Day 4: A short walk from our hotel leads to the chairlift. From the top, we will make a short, descending traverse, then a long climb to the Lavarella Plateau and on to the Heiligkreuzkofel (2,907 m) or the Zehnerkofel (3,026)). A long descent will take us to the luxurious Pederü Guesthouse (1,548 m, double rooms, showers, luggage transport can be arranged). 1,200-1,400 m climb, 1,300 m descent.

Day 5: By using a World War I supply road, we will ascend above tree-line and work our way over several cols with the option to climb a small summit (Kleiner Jaufen) on the way to the Ofenmauer (2,458 m). Option 1) Descend to the Gasthof Brueckele, another quaint mountain lodge that is also accessible by car (i.e. luggage transfer possible). Option 2) Given good stability, descend a great north-facing run to the Pragser Wildsee, and from there take a taxi to Gasthof Brueckele. 1,100 m climb, 1,200 m descent.

Day 6: A long climb brings us to the Duerrenstein (2,850 m), a great ski ascent with excellent views of the glaciated peaks to the north along the divide of the Alps. A long descent brings us to Schluderbach (1,430 m). A taxi pick-up and 15-minute drive will bring us to Cortina D’Ampezzo for lodging in a comfortable hotel. 1,350 m climb, 1,400 m descent.

Day 7: A day-trip from Cortina will finish off our ski traverse. The objective will be chosen based on conditions and options are countless. Most likely, we will start the day with chairlift or gondola assistance. Lodging in Cortina.

Day 8: Transfer day / rest day / departure day. Return to Munich or prepare for one of our other ski touring trips in the Alps.

Details and Logistics

Meeting point

Meet at our hotel in the Badia Valley, South Tyrol for dinner at 18:00 on Day 1. Over dinner, we will discuss the itinerary, weather, and mountain conditions, and do a personal equipment check.

Best season/climate/weather

Mid-March until end of April offers the best combination of weather, conditions and snow stability. Temperatures can vary hugely. If winter weather patterns prevail, you can expect temperatures between -5°C and -22°C. Normally in spring, the temperatures range from -10°C overnight to +15°C during the day, especially on sunny days and when descending to the valleys.

The lodging

Our first three nights will be at a cozy, family-run hotel with close access to the Sella Ronda ski resort, probably the largest in the world.

The other nights will be spent in comfortable alpine huts or village guesthouses with multi-bed bunk rooms and whenever possible, in two-bed rooms. All of them are equipped with shared showers. The huts usually heated in the common rooms and they provide wool blankets or down duvets in the bedrooms.

All of the huts offer a four-course dinner (soup, sometimes salad, meat entrée and dessert), and breakfast (coffee or tea, bread, butter, jam, cheese, sometimes sausage).

Special dietary needs can usually only be accommodated to a limited extent in the huts. Please talk to us if you have concerns.

The water in the huts is drinkable so there is no need to bring a purifier.

You can buy lunch food in the valleys before departing on each leg of the ski traverse. Snacks and sandwiches are also for sale in the huts.

Included: Guiding by an internationally (UIAGM/IFMGA) certified, multilingual, mountain guide, all guide expenses, all valley lodging in double rooms with half board dinner except Cortina lodging with breakfast only, all hut nights with half board dinner (4 courses) and breakfast, all taxi rides that are part of the itinerary, luggage transfer from hotel in Badia Valley to Cortina mid-trip.

Not included: Air travel, gondola and ski lift rides (if necessary), airport shuttles (can be quoted separately) supplements for single rooms, lunches, beverages, rental equipment (if necessary), additional luggage transfer between lodges and huts (if desired), any additional costs due to itinerary changes.

Northern Dolomites Ski Traverse  Custom Trips / Private Group Departures

Northern Dolomites private group pricing:
Why not find some friends and put together your own group? For private groups, we can offer the following pricing assuming the same inclusions :

2 participants: 50% premium in addition to our advertised per person price
3 participants: 30% premium in addition to our advertised per person price
4 participants: Our advertised per person price
5 participants: 8% discount of the advertised per person price
6 participants 13% discount
7 participants 16% discount
8 participants 20% discount

Northern Dolomites private group / custom trips itinerary options:

Additional days:
A great way to acclimatize and to expand your trip by a day or two is to add ski touring days near the starting point of our traverse. The Dolomites offer endless off-piste skiing options. Ask us for a quote for additional days.

For custom departures, we can also extend or shorten the trip. The huts and lodges offer enough ski touring terrain to keep us entertained for plenty of extra days.

While this trip is relatively luxurious as ski traverses go, it is still physically demanding and takes us through serious mountain terrain. You must be able to ski safely and in control at all times while wearing a 6-8 kg backpack. Your skiing ability does not need to be technically perfect, but you should be a solid mountain skier with good “survival skiing skills”, and the ability to negotiate adverse snow conditions on steeper slopes without falling while still traveling at a decent pace.

You need to be in very good physical and mental condition, ready to be on your feet for about eight hours each day, including, steep, continuous, uphill climbs of up to 1,200 meters (4,100 ft). Some of the summit ascents require scrambling along exposed ridges on crampons, however, you can also choose to wait at the ski depot. The guide will carry a rope for those clients who prefer a belay.

We do not recommend this trip for backcountry ski touring novices.

FAQ

Can the Northern Dolomites Ski Traverse be done on a split board?

Some sections of the Northern Dolomites Ski Traverse lend themselves to split boards, but other parts are not split board-friendly. There are some low-angle descents and up-and-down sections that must be done in “walk mode”. Also, in case the party needs to rope up in bad visibility, skiing tends to be easier than boarding thanks to the ability to ‘snow plough’. All in all, the Northern Dolomites Ski Traverse is probably not well-suited to split boards.

Are there extras we can purchase at the huts and will we need cash?

All of the huts provide a three- to four-course dinner (soup, sometimes salad, meat entrée and dessert), and breakfast (coffee, tea, bread, butter, jam, cheese, sometimes also sausage). These meals are included in your trip price.

However, be sure to bring some Euro cash for the extras in the accommodations – they often do not accept credit cards.

Beverages are available for 3-6 €. Good wine costs 20-35 € per bottle. The water at the huts is officially not drinkable, but our guides say “although it is good”.

When showers are available, they cost around € 3, or shower + towel is around € 5.

You can purchase lunch-to-go at the huts and in the valleys. Snacks, sandwiches, and hot lunchtime meals can also be purchased in the huts for 1o to 20 €.

To be well on the safe side, we suggest bringing about 50 Euros in cash per day.

Can I refill my BCA canister in Europe?

We haven’t seen the BCA system in South Tyrol. If the cartridges are different from those of ABS, Mammut, etc., then it might be difficult to find them. You should look for it in bigger cities before arriving for the traverse. Generally, in higher mountain regions in spring, people don’t bring airbags as often.

Feedback (from the Ortler Ski Traverse)


We will gladly put potential clients in touch with previous participants of each trip in order for interested guests to get more personalized references and their questions answered from a more objective point of view than what our office could provide.


“Walter was a very good guide. We felt secure in the mountains with him. He also knows the area a lot. His company was good although he seems to be a little tired after many days in the mountains. We also had a very good time with Kurt. He is a real gentleman! We really liked him! General trip organisation and the communication were perfect. The itinerary was also very good. We decided together to stay 3 nights at Branca Hut for better skiing and it was a good choice. Incredible lodging and food quality. It was one of the highlights of our trip. I will definitely recommend OnTop to my friends. 10/10” Eric B., Quebec, Canada


“Everything went great on the trip save a little bad weather. Walter was great and lodging, etc. exceeded expectations. I would recommend OnTop in the future.” Micah H., USA


“Long story short, we could not have asked for a better guide than Kurt. He was incredibly professional and accommodating of everybody in the group, made us feel safe throughout the expedition, provided consistent, helpful feedback on how we could improve our own techniques and knowledge in the mountains, and was generally just a great guy and fun person to hang out with. We would 100% go on another trip with Kurt (and intend to!), and would highly recommend him to anyone looking to do the Ortler or any other kind of similar trip!

I thought all of the communications and trip information sent out was incredibly helpful and thorough. It’s difficult to know exactly what you’re going to need for a trip like this given the hut conditions and physical requirements on the mountains, and you all definitely helped us navigate these unknowns well. My only suggestion might be to provide one or two quick check-in emails closer to the start of the trip, more to help prevent people from rushing to buy things at the last second than anything else 🙂 Itinerary was perfect in every way (for us at least). I really don’t have anything to add here, great work!

Huts/Lodging: The endless pasta helpings kept us alive and energized on the trip, and the food was great for the trip, not to mention delicious. Lodging conditions were actually better than expected, which was a great surprise as well.

That said, there are a few things I would suggest emphasizing more strongly in the trip details/itinerary that’s sent out in advance of the trip:

1. HIGHLY encourage people to bring earplugs (not just an optional nice to have) — we ended up bunking with some serious snore-ers and the earplugs saved the night for me. A few of my bunk-mates were less lucky and I know this was definitely a point of frustration for them.
2. Make sure people bring extra cash for the huts. Even with buying lunches, showers, and post-trek beers, we cut it a bit too close. Perhaps suggesting 50-70 euros per night per person or something similarly specific.
3. Bring extra ski socks. For our crew at least, this was the larger contributor to the lodging “stink” factor and could have been helped by one or two extra sets per person.

12/10! But seriously, we had THE best time on the trip and haven’t been able to stop bragging about it to our friends and family. Keep up the great work and we can’t wait to embark on another adventure with OnTop (and Kurt)!” Carl T., CA, USA


“Kurt was fantastic. Literally could not have asked for better. His knowledge and respect of the mountain were encouraging. He not only inspired confidence in us, he took ample time throughout the trip to share his knowledge from improving skinning/kickturns to highly technical rescue techniques. He was positive and encouraging while pushing us the exact right amount so that we got the most out of our trip.

Organization was great. The one thing that might have been helpful, is doing some sort of video/virtual gear check before the trip. Everything worked out fine but I did do some scrambling last minute to make sure I had the right gear. Doing a gear check a month out or a few weeks out would allow ample time to replace anything that was insufficient for the trip. Due to uncertainty, I definitely brought wayyyyy to much stuff. Help paring that down in advance of the trans-Atlantic trip would be helpful.

Itinerary was fantastic. Loved the starting point and welcome dinner. The first and last days were by far the easiest which was great. Having the hardest days as the 2nd and 2nd to last was perfect. Each of the huts we stayed at were great, well located.  The lodging and food were fantastic. We didn’t eat a bad meal.  Definitely a 10! …especially if I get some sort of referral discount 🙂 haha ” Simon W., CA, USA


“Walter was excellent, the best guide I have had. Very informative and tolerant in every way. Food and lodging was for the most part good. You guys were great as far as trip organization/communication goes. Itinerary was good which we had to change due to weather conditions 10/10.”
Richard K., CA, USA


“Very good performance by Walter, a positive energy and great guiding! Lodging was top quality except the one highest in the Ortler System. Communication/trip organisation was very good. 10/10 ”
Timo P., Sweden


“In summary, I was really happy with every aspect of the trip that OnTop were responsible for. The administrative support from you two, and Jorg at times, was super – quick, helpful, accurate – from beginning to end. When we had questions about travel planning you went out of your way to get answers and make suggestions.

Once we arrived in the Ortler area, everything worked great – Walter met us as planned. As you know the big wrinkle was the skis not showing up for 4 of our party and boots not showing up for 2 (you might suggest to future parties that they not put their boots in their ski bag). Walter was super-flexible (it probably drove him crazy) and went out of his way to work around this problem, he got on the phone and found skis and boots that worked as well as could be expected, and was creative in thinking up itineraries that gave us flexibility in case the gear showed up after we started. As a guide he is very competent in a quiet but appropriately-present and directive way. He was clear about safety concerns and about the implications of decisions and explained his thinking well. He made sure we were travelling at the right times and places given snow conditions. All in all we were really happy with him.

The lodging was super – as you know better than we’re used to in the mountains. Traube Hotel in Stills seemed to work fine, it was very quiet when we were there so we had good service, and the drive up to Sulden is short.
I’d give the experience and OnTop support – ski issues aside – a 10/10 and would unreservedly recommend the trip and you to friends.”
David T., BC, Canada


“Enjoyed the trip very much. Walter did a good job, given the fact that we were 4 individuals with different personalities / expectations. I would use OnTop again.”
Richard D., London, UK


“Outstanding. We really enjoyed Walter’s guiding style and his ability to quickly assess our group and adjust the touring appropriately. The trip was very well organized and everything went as planned.  A great tour and well designed itinerary. We appreciated the Hotel Cevedale and the ability to ski to the hotel. Plenty of food and comfortable huts. 10/10!! We hope to be back again soon.” Stefan S., USA


“Martino was excellent. Knowledgeable, professional. Went above and beyond both on and outside the trip.  A little more direction about how to get to Solda in terms of options may have been helpful but we appreciate the communication. 9/10 – Thanks guys. We had fun!!” Matt P., Canada



Northern Dolomites Ski Traverse Gear List as Downloadable .PDF


Technical Equipment

 Alpine touring skis for spring ski touring, no wider than 100 mm underfoot
 Alpine touring boots, compatible with touring binding
Ski crampons compatible with your skis and bindings
 Adjustable ski poles
 
Climbing skins, well glued and precisely fitted to your skis (leaving the edges free once applied to ski base)
 Modern, 3-antenna avalanche transceiver
 
Lightweight, metal snow shovel
Avalanche probe (two to three meters long)
Backpack (40 – 50 liters) with outside straps to attach skis and crampons
Climbing harness for glacier travel
One triple-action locking carabiner or two conventional locking carabiners
Crevasse rescue equipment, if you are familiar with it. (Prusik cords, webbing, pulleys, auto-locking device). Your guide will bring a full set.
 General repair kit and Leatherman (can be shared between several people)
 Spare parts specific to your equipment
Ski helmet (optional)

Clothing

We suggest using the layering system: Bring light, technical clothing that doesn’t take much space in your backpack and dries quickly when sweaty or wet. Layers can be added and taken off quickly when weather conditions change during the day.  

Wind and waterproof shell jacket with hood (Gore-Tex or similar)
Wind and waterproof over pants (Gore-Tex or similar)
Warm pants (eg. lined Schoeller fabric)
 Thick fleece or wool pullover, or PrimaLoft jacket
Medium weight fleece shirt
Capilene, fleece or wool underwear, top and bottoms
 Two or three pairs of gloves (lightweight and heavier weight)
Scarf or neck gaiter
 Socks (synthetic or wool, thick outer and thin liners)
Wool or fleece hat, covering the ears
 Gaiters that fit over your ski boot (unless pants seal tightly to your boots)
Sun hat, preferably with wide rim
Bandana (optional)

Around the huts and guesthouses

Spare underwear and socks 
Toiletries (minimum supply with small containers for soap and shampoo)
Small, lightweight travel towel
Down vest or light insulated jacket (optional)
Lightweight sleeping bag liner (preferably silk). Wool covers or duvets are provided in the huts
Light hut slippers or crocs (optional). Some huts provide them, others don’t.
Alpine Club card, if you are a member 
Ear plugs (recommended)

Other items

Sun glasses with high UV protection. Nose cover optional. Extra pair of glasses in the group is a good idea
 Goggles with high UV protection
Sun screen and lip protection with high SPF
 One-litre water bottle with an insulator. Water bladders not recommended
 Small thermos (optional)
Headlamp with spare battery
Rain cover specific to your pack, or large plastic bag
 Light stuff sacs or Ziploc bags to keep your backpack organized and important items dry (recommended)
Snacks (nutrition bars, dried fruit and nuts, etc.) Lunch food can be purchased in the huts and guesthouses
 Personal first aid kit and other needs (eg. blister kit, prescription medicine, anti-inflammatory, contact lenses, prescription glasses, etc.)
Pocket knife (optional)
Passport
Health and travel insurance documents
Camera, spare batteries (optional)
Compass, maps and GPS (optional)
Ski wax / skin wax
Hand sanitizer or sanitary hand wipes 

GROUP SIZES
Client / Guides

3-7  Clients/Guide

TRIP INFO LINKS
DIFFICULTY
  • Up to 8 hours per day on the skis
  • Minimum high-intermediate skiing ability
  • Can steepish and somewhat narrow couloirs
2019 DATES

7 nights, 6 days of touring, Sunday-Sunday

Dec. 23 – 30, 2018
Dec. 30 – Jan.6, 2019
Jan. 6 – 13
Jan. 13 – 20
Jan. 20 – 27
Jan. 27 – Feb. 3
Feb. 3 – 10
Feb. 10 – 17
Feb. 17 – 24
Feb. 24 – Mar. 3
Mar. 3 – 1
Mar. 10 – 17
Mar. 17 – 24
Mar. 24 – 31
Mar. 31 – Apr. 7
Apr. 7 – 14
Apr. 14 – 21
Apr. 21 – 28

Custom trips any time, duration and itinerary!

PRICES

US $1,990
CA $2,690
€ 1,790
£ 1,590

Included: Guiding by an internationally (UIAGM/IFMGA) certified, multilingual, mountain guide, all guide expenses, all valley lodging in double rooms with half board dinner except Cortina lodging with breakfast only, all hut nights with half board dinner (4 courses) and breakfast, all taxi rides that are part of the itinerary, luggage transfer from hotel in Badia Valley to Cortina mid-trip.

Not included: Air travel, gondola and ski lift rides (if necessary), airport shuttles (can be quoted separately) supplements for single rooms, lunches, beverages, rental equipment (if necessary), additional luggage transfer between lodges and huts (if desired), any additional costs due to itinerary changes.