Skiing or snowboarding in Arabba, the Italian Dolomites

Arabba ski resort Italian DolomitesOn the 17 March 2013, 4 intrepid explorers arrived in the picturesque resort of Arabba in the Italian Dolomites. Our party consisted of myself; a ex seasonaire snowboarder, my boyfriend; a complete beginner and our two friends who (3 years ago) had been on one ski holiday where one learnt to ski and the other snowboarded. We didn’t really know what to expect as we had heard many different accounts of the resort so we were quivering with anticipation for our first day on the slopes.

My boyfriend and I had booked into ski lessons as I had decided to give skiing ago after 9 years of mediocre boarding and I thought it would be nice for us to learn together. I had swapped equipment with my skier friend on one of my winter seasons, but the boots were ill fitting and I had a terrible time, vowing never to get back on skis ever again! So I thought, why not, I’ll give it another try! Our friends decided to wing it and see how they got on and maybe get a lesson if needed.

Our first encounter with Igor, our instructor was life changing. He was 6ft 2, a deep chestnut colour and wearing sunglasses even though it was chucking it down with snow and you could barely see 2ft in front of your skis! As the boyfriend had never been on anything slippy on snow, just putting the skis on was the first challenge, but after a few tentative minutes, he got used to the fact that the things on his feet were a good 5ft long. The first lesson flew by in a flurry of snow, moving carpets and snowploughs! Having done it before once, I could get the hang of the snowplough pretty quickly, but due to my boyfriend’s out turning feet, he found out that the quickest way to stop was to panic, lean back and fall over! This continued for him until about the 3rd day.

Meanwhile, the other two were pioneering up the mountain. They quickly discovered that the grading in this resort was very different to that of French resorts. The ‘blue’ slopes were more like reds, the ‘reds’ were more like blacks and there was very little else. As the snow was about a foot deep on the pistes, it rapidly became more Victoria sponge icing than Christmas cake icing so as early intermediates and soaked through to the skin from the blizzard, the first day’s skiing ended with lunch.

Eating out in ArabbaEating in Arabba is a wonderful experience with a mixture of Austrian and Italian cuisine. The thing we enjoyed the most were the prices! For the four of us at lunch with a (huge) pizza, a couple of sides and a few drinks each rarely went above 50euros. It was the same up the mountain. The average large beer came out at 4euros and coffee around 1.50euros. Very good considering you are in a ski resort!

Sella RondaBy the next day, the blizzard had blown itself out and we awoke to blue skies and deep powder! We could now see the mountains that had eluded us the first day and were taken aback by the sheer beauty of the place. Igor had a different pair of sunglasses on today and looked even more like the Italian stallion boyfriend and I had decided he was. We were back on the nursery slopes again today and found it much easier to ski when you can actually see the snow you’re meant to be skiing on. Boyfriend and I actually made some progress today! We could also see that the nursery slope was in fact at the bottom of a rather terrifying black run, on which today there was a race slalom course set up so teenagers with rockets attached could fly down. This did nothing for boyfriends confidence, but he soldiered on bless him! That afternoon, we split up and I went off with one of our friends on our snowboards and left boyfriend in the care of the other friend. After 2 runs, I hurt. I came to the conclusion that I was never meant to be a snowboarder and I would concentrate on the skiing from now on. We went to the pub. Boyfriend on the other hand, had ventured (with friend) onto the ‘big’ slope. This was a massive mistake as the ‘big’ slope was far steeper and longer. He spent most of the time on his backside shouting profanities. We don’t talk about Tuesday afternoon.

arabba skiingFor the rest of the week, we all improved, skier friend booked a couple of private lessons and boyfriend and I developed rather large crushes on Igor who can only be described as a ‘Hero’.

By the end of the week, boyfriend was a bit broken so our last day, we all went up the gondola , left boyfriend with a beer and the 3 of us carried on up to the next level where our friends had discovered 2 lovely blue slopes to play on. This was the moment when skiing ‘clicked’ for me. These slopes were perfect! Gentle, yet enough gradient to pick up speed, wide and quiet and with some little off pisting to keep the snowboarder happy. I wish we had discovered these earlier in the week as they were perfect for perfecting technique.

Bombardino The night life is limited, but friendly and reasonably priced. Apres ski is usually taken in Peter’s Bar which is right in the centre of the resort and can be heard before you see it. If you are a fan of Euro Pop, Cheese, ACDC or actually anything, this is the place for you! You cannot leave Arabba before having a ‘Bombardino’ which is a Dolomiti special. Best way to describe this is a warm, alcoholic crème brulee in a glass with oodles of squirty cream on it. Perfect to warm up after a day on the slopes!

Overall we had an excellent time in Arabba and I would definitely return, maybe once boyfriend and I are a little better at skiing as this is not the resort for beginners. If you are an early intermediate or proficient skier/boarder, you won’t be able to resist the charm of this little gem in the fantastically beautiful Sella Ronda ski area. I am already looking forward to going back and discovering more of what the Dolomites have to offer.

And Igor.