I just got back from my first week of snowboarding since the year 2000. Which, in itself, is pretty amazing, since in the past ten years arthritis has kept me from doing a sport that was a big part of my younger life (I was even a certified ski and snowboard instructor). Not a whole lot has changed in the technology or style of snowboarding, but the on-hill experience has been enhanced by better lifts with electronic chip passes (RFID), combined with users’ smartphones for a “connected” ski trip.
A winter vacation in Alta Badia in the Dolomites is ideal for lovers of skiing and snowboarding; a bit less so for those who don’t go out on the slopes, although you can go sledding, hiking, or snowshoeing, or enjoy spa treatments at luxury hotels in the area. There is no question that it is not a cheap area for a holiday, though sometimes you might find last minute ski deals that make the price more tolerable!
Here are four things we particularly enjoyed and suggest you don’t miss if you’re in Alta Badia.
1) Skipass 2.0
As highly connected social people in our regular life, we cannot resist sharing our vacation experiences online. And the Dolomiti Superski Pass helps us do this, and boast about how much we accomplished on our week off, thanks to RFID technology. The skipass contains an antenna that is read by near field readers at the access point to all the lifts in the area. Since the tickets can hold a certain amount of data about how you move around on the mountain, why not make that data available to the user? That’s just what they do when you log in to utilizzo.dolomitisuperski.com where I learn that I rode approximately 70km of slopes or almost 15,000 meters, using 17 different lifts. I can even see a map with the lifts I took, animated in order of usage.
Needless to say I also made good use of Foursquare while I was there, and became mayor of a few ski lifts. I also tried the Dolomiti Superski’s application, for iphone and android, called SkiBeep. It is useful to plan routes between ski areas (which gets complex on the paper map) and should also track your time and distance, but the program still needs some work as I often got server timeouts and crashes.
2) Anything sponsored by BMW
There is some healthy competition between sponsors BMW and Audi at Alda Badia and neighbouring areas, resulting in well financed signage, technology, and activities. We would drive a bimmer if we could afford one, so enjoyed the brand’s prominence at Corvara. It made us feel almost chic enough to be there.
In 2012 at Col Alt, BMW set up a timed grand slalom course on an easy slope. Called BMW xDrive Cup, you can use the course with your skipass. As you beep through, the cameras start and you are recorded and timed. You can watch the movie at the base of the Col Alt lift or online, though it takes a few days for the data to appear on the website. Here I am on my third try – I cannot seem to beat 26 seconds, even if i run straight into a gate like in this run!
The men in our group also went to test drive the X5 and X6M at the base at La Villa. The cars are big, fast, consume a lot of gas and have tons of electronic gadgets like video feedback for everything including backing up a curve. It sounds like they had a good time! Check out the photo of Tommaso with the beast.
3) Pre-opening breakfast on the slopes
If you pay extra to do only one thing on your trip, do this! At the restaurant in the Col Alt “rifugio” (chalet), on Tuesday and Thursday mornings you can book a very special breakfast before the slopes open. Ride up on a grooming machine (there’s room for about a dozen people) at 6:50am and see the sun rise pink over the mountains. Get a gorgeous buffet of local foods including fresh cheeses, speck, eggs, breads, jams, streudel and more. Then, if you can still move (in fact we tried not to overeat), ski down on the freshly groomed runs before anyone else messes them up. The lifts open at 8:30. Read more and see all the photos of breakfast at Col Alt here.
4) Massage and spa treatments
If you are staying at a rental apartment as we did, you probably do not have easy access to a spa/ wellness area, which are for the most part attached to the luxury hotels. We went around looking for the best prices, style, and service of spas in Corvara. Many hotels do not accept non-guests in their spa areas, even with paid treatment.
Tommaso and I enjoyed the administrations of Karin Kem at Hotel Marmolada; this India-trained local woman determined that we needed to push out toxins and have a good sports massage. In the photo above you see me in a special detox waterbed cocoon like thing, slathered with mountain mud, arnica and salt, while Tommaso is relaxing after the massage, with volcanic stones placed at key points on the body. We liked the natural products used and felt very relaxed and ready to hit the slopes the next day. Another location that comes recommended is the spa at Hotel Post, where again they use natural products and offer some multi-treatment packages for beauty and relaxation.