Between shifts working at a hotel and skiing in Cortina ski resort on my first ski season, I would often spend my days off exploring the wider Dolomiti Superski area. This meant I became very familiar with not only the best slopes in Cortina, but also those in the resorts of the Sella Ronda ski circuit. This guide aims to walk you through the two routes around the circuit, as well as delving into some detours to hidden gems to check out and the best places to stay on your next luxury ski holiday in Italy.
Formerly the world’s longest ski circuit, this 40km loop encompasses 4 Ladin valleys and 4 mountain passes around the Sella Massif. There are two ways around the Sella Ronda, the green route, travelling anti-clockwise, and the orange route in the clockwise direction. Neither route stands out as more challenging, although the orange way tends to be the busier direction while the green route has a few more lifts to ride. The circuit has been well designed so that you never need to ski the same piste twice and as it’s made up entirely of red and blue runs, it is suitable for intermediate skiers and above.
At 40km long, with 26km-27km worth of descent, skiing the Sella Ronda circuit will likely take the average skier a full day when taking into account the lift queues, time for a filling lunch and waiting around for everyone in your group to catch up. However, as a solo skier on one of my days off, I managed to complete both routes in addition to taking several detours. As long as you’re competent on red runs you should be able to complete one loop with ease.
It is still recommended that you set out early, after filling yourself with a hearty breakfast to give you the energy for a long day of skiing. The circuit is incredibly well sign-posted meaning you won’t have to worry about acutely studying piste maps at the top of lift stations to work out where to go next. Simply follow the clearly marked routes and you’ll be well set to conquer one of the longest ski circuits in the world on your next luxury ski holiday in Italy. While the Sella Ronda can be skied in any conditions, I would recommend skiing the loop on a bluebird day so you can truly appreciate the stunning vistas of the Dolomites as you make your way round.
While it should be noted that you can pick up the circuit from any of the four valleys on your sojourn of the Sella Ronda, we start our guide in the ski resort of Alta Badia. This is due to the fact that when living in Cortina ski resort on my first ski season I would get a bus to the village of Corvara in Alta Badia and it was from this hub that I would always begin my exploration of the mountains.
Alta Badia is a fantastic area to stay with plenty of blue and red runs to help get reaccustomed to skiing. As the closest resort on the Sella Ronda circuit to both Cortina d’Ampezzo and Brunico in the Kronplatz ski area, it is the prime spot for those who want to get the most out of their Dolomiti Superski pass and explore all the skiing that a luxury holiday in the Dolomites provides.
Alta Badia comprises of six mountain villages in total. The villages of Corvara and Colfosco lie directly on the route of the Sella Ronda circuit while San Cassiano and La Villa are connected close by. Badia and La Val lie a bit further away from the loop although you can still ski over from Badia or bus it from La Val. If you head over to La Villa it is definitely worth having a go on the Gran Risa, a piste that is famous for hosting the giant slalom on the Alpine Ski World Cup, where the legendary Ingemar Stenmark and Alberto Tomba have proven themselves victorious.
Here at Ski In Luxury we have a number of luxury chalets in the Dolomites in which to stay with several located in Alta Badia. Chalet Sotciastel is a stunning Alpine retreat in an idyllic setting on the mountainside away from the bustle of the resort. This historic, converted farmhouse provides a truly unique experience for up to 11 guests and with the driver service you will have easy access to and from the pistes of the Alta Badia ski area and the wider Sella Ronda slopes.
If you’re looking for somewhere with a bit more activity then Chalet Mi Amur or Mi Chalet would be perfect for you. Located in La Villa, these self-catered properties come with saunas and Jacuzzis and provide incredible mountain views for your next luxury ski holiday in Italy. Chalet Mi Amur is ideal for groups of 8-12 while Mi Chalet is an elegant home that offers an intimate luxury stay for two.
A short 7 minute drive will take you from La Villa to Corvara to start the Sella Ronda circuit. Alternatively, you can ski over to start your loop. Provided you get one of the first lifts of the day there will still be plenty of time to complete the circuit and ski back over to your luxury chalet in Alta Badia. There are lots of well marked signs to point you in the right direction of the Sella Ronda making getting lost an impossibility.
Heading along the green route in the anti-clockwise direction, you will travel from Alta Badia over the Gardena Pass into the resort of Selva Val Gardena. While the Sella Ronda ski circuit avoids any black runs, Selva Val Gardena is an area with some challenging skiing that will push the experts of your group to the limits. Lots of long reds and blacks can be found on the mountains surrounding this ski resort, with the highlight being the Saslong men’s downhill run; the perfect opportunity for a quick detour if you find yourself making good time round the loop.
Val Gardena is the largest of the four ski areas found around the route of the Sella Ronda. With over 175km of slopes, a visit to the Selva ski resort gives plenty to ski with an abundance of great pistes to explore. There are over 21km of black pistes in which to hone your skills, more than anywhere else on the Sella Ronda, while over 50km of blues and 100km of reds make it a perfect destination for skiers of all abilities. All of this just means that staying in Selva Val Gardena is really a no brainer for your next luxury ski holiday in the Dolomites.
You can stay at the aptly named Chalet Sella Ronda, located in the Selva Val Gardena ski resort. With private spa and entertainment facilities and access to the neighbouring Hotel Rodella’s facilities also, this luxury catered chalet is perfect for up to 8 guests. Smaller groups looking to experience the same premier services can be accommodated in Chalet Selva in the same area.
For those of you looking to experience ultimate luxury like nowhere else on the Sella Ronda then Chalet Alpurio is the place for you. While only sleeping 6 guests, this luxury chalet has some of the best facilities of any property on offer in the Dolomites. The chalet’s spa facilities are unrivalled with a massive garden containing a heated whirlpool pool and outdoor sauna. The private spa inside is where you’ll find further wellness facilities including a Jacuzzi, sauna, Hammam and dry floatation bed. With a gym and games room as well, it will be hard to find a reason to leave the chalet on your return from the slopes.
Val di Fassa
Continuing our journey around the green route, you will head from Selva Val Gardena over the Sella Pass and through Val di Fassa. Come off the Sella Ronda route here to visit the charming mountain village of Canazei. This traditional village is a centre of the Ladin culture with many festivals held here throughout the year.
As this’ll be approximately the halfway point on your tour you might fancy stopping off for a bite to eat. When I travelled round the Sella Ronda in a large group, after reaching the top of the Sass Bece lift, we headed off down the Belvedere run and into the snowpark before enjoying a refreshing drink and Italian lunch on the sun-drenched terrace of the Baita Gherdeccia. After all, Italian cuisine and top-class skiing is a simple recipe for a luxury ski holiday in Italy right? From here it is a matter of ease to get back onto the Sella Ronda ski circuit.
As you continue on your journey, you will make your way from Val Di Fassa over the Pordoi Pass and into my personal favourite skiing area round this loop, Arabba. The green route through Arabba is actually fairly simple, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to enjoy the magnificent scenery as you cruise along a succession of easy blue runs. The orange clockwise direction is slightly harder here with a number of trickier reds to conquer. Whichever direction you choose, there’s plenty of opportunities to explore additional beautiful tree-lined pistes in Arabba.
A lot of runs here, both part of the circuit and off it, all funnel in towards the beautiful authentic mountain village of Arabba. This means that this part of the Sella Ronda circuit can get a bit busier so it’s worth taking your time to avoid any accidents and keeping a head count so you don’t lose any members of your group before progressing. On both ways around the circuit you will get to experience the novelty of the Arabba Fly chairlift. This two-way 6 seater high speed lift will zip you from one mountain in the resort over to the other giving you a good view over the pretty village as you pass fellow skiers travelling the other way, many of who might even be skiing the opposite direction of the Sella Ronda to you that day.
Part of what makes Arabba my favourite spot for skiing on the Sella Ronda is more to do with the runs off the circuit than on it. Lots of long and challenging black and red runs lead into the resort and offer a fantastic variety for expert skiers. It is ideal for those wishing to push themselves on their ski holiday to the Dolomites.
Marmolada – Skiing in Arabba
A little bit off the beaten track of the circuit, but definitely worth a mention since it is accessed via the runs around Arabba, is skiing the Marmolada. At an altitude of 3,343m the Marmolada is the highest peak in the Dolomites and guarantees great snow conditions along with a challenging workout. La Bellunese ski slope runs from the top of the cable car station at Punta Rocca (3,265m), all the way to the 1450m high town of Malga Ciapela. This 12km long uninterrupted run will take you from the breathtaking views at the top of the glacier past the remarkable Dolomite mountain faces in a winding stretch of pistes that will have you needing a well-earned break by the bottom. If you have a chance, skiing the Marmolada is a personal favourite of mine and a must on your luxury ski holiday in Italy.
It should be noted that it is not really achievable to ski the Marmolada in addition to completing the Sella Ronda. It is more of a whole day’s activity when starting from Arabba or one of the nearby resorts on the loop. If you’re looking to stay at the best chalet to experience this then you will be hard pressed to find one better than Cesa Del Louf in Arabba. Sleeping 10 to 19 guests, this incredible chalet is made up of two individual but connected buildings. A plethora of spa facilities, cinema room, heliport and the use of snowcats and quadbikes are just a handful of features that make this unique property stand out. The best part is, as long as you’re comfortable with a bit of off-piste, you can ski in and ski out directly onto slopes of the Sella Ronda circuit!
Closing the Loop
Having covered the four main resorts/ski areas to be found on a Sella Ronda ski holiday, as well as delving into some fascinating detours, the only thing left to do is to close the loop. From Arabba you will journey over the final mountain pass, the Passo Campolongo, and back into the village of Corvara in Alta Badia. It was during our days off from the hotel that we would end many a day at the apres bar L’Murin. Steins as big as your head and a lively party atmosphere upstairs by the DJ were the reward for a successful ski day. The Sella Ronda circuit never truly felt completed until you were scream-singing Johnny Däpp at the top of your lungs with all of your friends!
The Sella Ronda circuit is a must for any skier’s bucket list and being able to tick off both directions is an added bonus. It is clear though that this loop offers only a small glimpse at all the amazing pistes and runs to find when skiing in the Dolomites. It is definitely worth traversing the loop at least once on your next luxury ski holiday in Italy but it is also worth exploring pistes further afield throughout the different ski areas situated around the circuit.
One of the excellent features to this loop that I’ve touched on previously is how well sign-posted the circuit is. It not only offers clear directions while on the pistes of the loop but there are also a lot of helpful signs pointing you towards the circuit from all the areas around. This means that it is extremely easy to utilise the circuit to travel to a new ski area, spend the day enjoying fresh and challenging new pistes, and then follow the clear directions to the circuit and back to your point of origin. Wasting precious ski time poring over new piste maps of an unfamiliar resort becomes a thing of the past when going on a Sella Ronda ski holiday.
If this has inspired you to consider a luxury ski holiday in Italy along the Sella Ronda ski circuit then why not contact one of our Ski Specialists. Send an email or give us a call on +44 1202 203650 and we can help plan your stay at one of a selection of luxury ski chalets.