Which way today? Each morning it was the same excited question. Clockwise or counter-clockwise, for another day-long adventure on the Sella Ronda, perhaps the world’s most beautiful ski circuit. The area, in Italy’s Dolomites in the South Tyrol or Alto Adige, is known as a place of elegant skiers and long lunches, but it’s secretly also one of the best family ski destinations in the world. Our pair loved it, delighted to be heading off on a long ski that they knew couldn’t end until we arrived back at our starting point in time for tea.
The Sella Ronda is a 40-kilometre tour of the pink, craggy rock formation of the Gruppo del Sella. It’s an inspirational intermediate tour so not the place for those looking for somewhere for tots to learn. But if you’ve got youngsters – such as my Henry, nine, and Georgia, 12 – who’ve done plenty of skiing and who have persuaded you, for the first time, not to put them in ski school, it’s perfect.
Each direction offers wonderfully different runs (all perfect for an intermediate skier) and spectacularly different views – there are long, straight pistes through valleys, curving runs on tree-covered mountainsides, and even a trail though a tumble of red rocks covering a gentle hillside.
Each day we would pass through Arabba, Corvara, Val Gardena and other villages. As we grew more confident, we knew we had the time (and energy) to head off on side-trips. There were the runs from the back of Corvara down to San Cassiano and La Villa – an area bigger than some ski resorts in itself. And the underground funicular took us from St Christina to the Seceda area for the best views of the whole week, along with a long, long sunny run all the way back down.
The Sella Ronda might appear daunting, but it’s well signposted, there are only one or two spots where the runs are anything other than open and well-pisted intermediate fare, and there are endless beautiful places to stop en route. We'd opted for an Easter family ski holiday, and the April sun made it a joy to sit down with sandwiches, either by the gondola at Corvara, or – our favourite – on benches just off the piste in Val Gardena. That was about halfway round from Canazei, where we were staying. At the end of the day there was the choice of the gondola down, or a long, increasingly slushy but otherwise fast run. The children favoured the latter.
Crystal’s Chalet Violetta sits just up from the river on the edge of the village. Our light, airy bedroom looked down the valley towards town and across the snow-covered slope outside, where the children (far from exhausted) tobogganed as their form of après-ski until the snow gave out late in the week. The bus-stop was just outside for the several-minute hop to and from the main gondola, although it was an easy stroll for an après-ski wander around town. And wander we did, buying souvenir pasta from the supermarket and eating ice-creams. Back at the chalet there was cake and hot chocolate for tea, a courtesy bar in the big lounge and multi-course dinners in the gaily-painted subterranean dining room, with free wine that went around again and again, just like the skiing…
Read more about family ski holidays in Italy.