Cortina d'Ampezzo is one of the most prestigious ski resorts in the world and one of the most popular winter destinations ever, thanks to the wonderful context in which it is inserted. It's almost impossible to find another valley so wide surrounded by mountains of such beauty. Became world famous thanks to the 1956 Winter Olympics, today Cortina is also known as the Pearl of the Dolomites.
In this article we'll try to suggest you the most amazing activities, in our opinion, to spend the best of your vacations in Cortina d'Ampezzo in winter time.
...as soon as the sun goes down, temperatures rapidly drop...
Before proceeding, consider that we'll describe the activities that we personally consider most enjoyable and relaxing, the ones we would do with a friend who has never seen Cortina if he came to visit us in winter. We are not athletes, nor professional athletes. These are tips suited for a family, a not too trained person or anyone who is looking for peace and relaxation.(1) The Tofane after a snowfall. (2) Dibona Square covered with snow. (3) A house covered by snow.
Overview of the winter season
Cortina d'Ampezzo, like all vacation resorts, is strongly conditioned by tourism. In the periods of peak season the tourist affluence is strong and there can be logistic problems, both in the road traffic and in services, especially with snow. The busiest time is certainly from Christmas to Epiphany. The affluence could however be high, especially on the weekend, for all the winter months, until Easter.
In peak season it's very important to plan...
If you want to visit Cortina in high season, planning is very important. If you want to go to a restaurant, book in advance, maybe a lot in advance. If you want to go skiing and don't want to go crazy to find a parking space, try to be on the spot early in the morning, even before 8:30 am. The slopes will be less crowded and smooth as a pool table.
If you need a ski instructor, or you need to rent equipment, call whoever you need with plenty of advance. The same goes for eating: in the lodge at 12 pm there would be much less confusion than at 1 pm.
The reverse problem could be in low season periods, like November, or the first weeks of December or after Easter, where the chairlifts, cable cars, lodges and restaurants could be closed. In this case we suggest to verify in advance the actual opening of the lifts or activities.
The beginning and the closing of the winter season are difficult to predict, because you can not know how much snow will make, nor when, so each year is a different story. If you are interested in better understanding the dynamics of tourism in Cortina, do not forget to read our article on seasonality in Cortina throughout all the months of the year.
Winter in Cortina is characterized by cold temperatures, with a rather dry climate. Some days can even be relatively warm in the middle hours of the day, but as soon as the sun goes down, temperatures drop quickly. Like all mountain resorts, in winter it snows, sometimes a lot. Cortina is equipped to deal with snowfalls, but always consider that, in case of heavy snowfall, the time it takes to clear the streets and parking lots could be very long, causing some discomfort. In case of strong wind, remember that the lifts may be closed for safety reasons.(1) Christmas store window on Corso Italia. (2) Corty, the mascot of Cortina. (3) Corso Italia under the snow.
Ski and Snowboard
Downhill skiing and snowboarding are the winter sports par excellence in Cortina d'Ampezzo: the 66 slopes spread for over 120 kilometers and are served by 34 cableways. Here you can read an article where we have deepened the topic. There are also many rentals for ski equipment, lodges and bars where you can rest, sunbathe, drink a "bombardino" or do some Apres Ski to end the day. "Bombardino", also known as "Vov", is an alcoholic thick and sweet cream made with eggs covered by whipped cream. It's typical of the north east of Italy, and it's delicious.
Surely the most known Apres Sky in Cortina is the Chalet Tofane, but of course all other bars near the ski slopes are a good choice. The slopes are divided by difficulty, from the most accessible, to the most technical. Whether you're an experienced skier or a neophyte, you'll surely find a ski slope perfect for you. If you want to improve your technique, there are many ski schools, with hundreds of ski instructors for all needs. For more information about skiing in Cortina d'Ampezzo, we invite you to read the page we wrote on the subject, but what if you don't like downhill skiing? Don't worry, there are several alternatives.(1) Skiing on the peaks of Faloria. (2) A chairlift in the Dolomites. (3) Photo of a person skiing.
Cross country skiing
For those who love the contact with nature and the tranquility, cross-country skiing is more suitable than downhill skiing. In Cortina there are more than 70 km of tracks for Nordic skiing that cross the beautiful Dolomiti d'Ampezzo Natural Park along the route of the former railway or the location calledPian de Loa.
The Sport Nordic Fiames is the starting point for cross-country skiing in Cortina. On site you can buy the entrance ticket, rent the equipment and possibly ask for the help of a qualified instructor. Consider that the average cost of cross-country skiing is lower than that of downhill skiing, which makes Nordic skiing a sport for everyone.
Some trails can be artificially snowed, but in order to find all the trails open, the natural snow cover is necessary. If you choose to ski along the route of the former railway in the direction of Ospitale it is possible to go for over 30 kilometers, until you reach the village of Dobbiaco.
Mountaineering and snowshoeing
If you don't like skiing along the ski trails, there are two alternatives to practice off-piste skiing: mountaineering skiing and walking with snowshoes. The snowshoes, in the local dialect, are called "ciàspes" and in italian "racchette da neve". Using one of these aids it is possible to walk out into the woods even if there is a lot of snow on the ground. When practicing these kinds of sports you have to be very careful, as deep snow changes the appearance of the woods, making orientation more difficult.
Alternatively, with mountaineering skis and snowshoes it is also possible to reach some mountain lodges through special tracks, closed to downhill skiing. It's really important to know that using these aids on "normal" ski slopes is forbidden, both during the day and at night. If you want to try this experience and you don't have the equipment, I suggest you go to a rental service, where they will rent everything you need without having to buy it. I recommend taking a mountain guide if you don't know exactly what you're doing and want to go to isolated places: the mountains should never be underestimated.(1) Mountaineering at Cortina. (2) Ski mountaineering in Cortina. (3) Snowshoeing in Cortina.
If it's one of those winters where it hasn't snowed, it's possible to practice "normal" hiking. Obviously it's not easy to find a winter without snow, but in this case it's possible to go walking to quite high altitudes. If you would like to learn more about this topic, we recommend reading the page on summer excursions in Cortina d'Ampezzo.
Anyway the presence of snow is not a big problem, because there are special roads where hiking is possible even without the help of skis or snowshoes. You can simply walk on snow roads groomed by snowmobiles or snowcats.
Believe us when we say that hiking in the white along the road leading to Ra Stua is something surreal. When you walk on ice and groomed snow you have to be careful, because it could be very slippery. We always recommend to attach, under your shoes, any kind of spiked crampons, which can be easily found in any sports store. Obviously, compared to summer, the days are shorter, so you should always choose relatively short hikes and dress appropriately, with warm, comfortable shoes and, again, always carrying crampons, so you don't slip on ice. If you are interested in a more in-depth article, here we have collected the best hikes you can do in winter.
When you walk in the snow, you need to be very careful: along snowy roads it's possible to cross ski mountaineers and also snowmobiles, which are often used to transport people to the mountain lodges. It's always a good idea to have a flashlight with you, and also to use brightly colored or reflective clothing. Finally, you should choose routes dedicated to pedestrians, such as roads going to mountain lodges, always staying on the side of the road and clearly visible. Also remember that walking on ski slopes is strictly prohibited, both during the day and at night.(1) Hiking at Cortina. (2) Going up to Malga Federa. (3) Snow walking.
In winter the waterfalls along the rivers freeze, so it is possible to equip yourself with ropes, nails, crampons and ice axes to climb them safely. Given the characteristics of the sport, is essential that the ice is solid, so it is one of those activities that can be done only in the colder months, but if you have a passion for climbing and an adequate physical preparation, it could be an interesting experience.
As for me, it's one of those things that I wouldn't do even for money, suffering from vertigo. I don't have the slightest idea how to approach this sport. Surely, however, I can tell you one thing: be accompanied by professionals. The right place to ask for information is the office of the Alpine Guides, which is located in the center, in Corso Italia 69/A. Here you can find their website.
A cable car ride
The view of Cortina from above is priceless, especially in winter when the lodges and lifts are at maximum capacity. The easiest way to see a breathtaking panorama is to take the cable car, an activity that we strongly recommend, even if you are a lover of skiing and winter sports. Once you reach the top you can visit the lodges to have something to eat or drink, while observing the incredible panorama and taking some photos. The most accessible cable car is "Faloria" (2,120 meters above sea level), just a few meters from the Cortina bus station. The cost of the ticket is more or less 20€ round-trip. Right at the arrival of the cable car you can find the Faloria mountain lodge, where you can have a drink or lunch.
As an alternative to Mount Faloria, it is possible to climb the Tofana (3,244 meters above sea level), a mountain certainly more impressive and not suitable for everyone. The departure of the Tofana cable car is behind the ice stadium, the first stop is at Col Drusciè (1,778 meters above sea level), where you can find the restaurant Col Drusciè and the Masi Wine Bar Cortina, where you can stop to eat or drink something and enjoy the view. If you want to reach the top, you can take the cable car and continue further, it will cost more or less 30€ round-trip. Be careful though, going 3,000 meters could cause some dizziness due to the reduced oxygen, and the cold is very biting.
A couple of tips before going up the mountain: dress very well, check the closing time of the cable car and do not arrive late. If you are afraid of heights, you may feel a little uncomfortable during the ride, because in some points it's really high, but there is no danger. Try to choose a sunny day and don't forget your sunglasses, the snow can be dazzling.(1) The Faloria cable car. (2) Picture not yet shooted. (3) Skiing on the peaks of Faloria.
Lunch at the lodge
Many people think that mountain lodges are unglamorous places where you can eat sausage, polenta and a glass of wine, in an austere hall, warmed up with a wood fire. If this is a reality in some places, you should know that in Cortina many mountain lodges are in fact elegant restaurants, with sophisticated menus and modern furnishings. If you are planning to go to have lunch in a mountain lodge, we have written a deeper article here, but can continue reading below if you only need a rough idea.
Both in summer and in winter it is possible to reach many mountain lodges by your own strength, or by taking a ski lift. It's not necessary to toil to enjoy clean air, sun terrace and a great lunch.
The mountain lodges that can be reached with the ski lift or with the car and a short walk are many, for example the Rifugio Scoiattoli, the Rifugio Faloria, the Rifugio Averau, the Rifugio Lagazuoi, the Rifugio Col Gallina and many others. Other lodges are accessible by walking or by renting a jeep or a snowmobile, provided by the lodge itself, such as the Rifugio Dibona, the Malga Federa or the Rifugio Mietres.(1) Lunch at Rifugio Scoiattoli. (2) The mountain lodge Mietres in winter. (3) Malga Federa with snow.
Dinner at the lodge with sledge
Some mountain lodges offer the possibility to have a different and very funny dinner: you reach them on foot or by snowmobile, you eat, drink and then you go down by sledge, even better if you do it at night.
This is an activity that requires sufficient snow, as the sledding trails are not artificially snowed. The three lodges equipped for this activity are Malga Federa, the Rifugio Dibona and the Rifugio Mietres. Before planning your dinner, I recommend calling and making a reservation. If you do not have a sled, you can try to ask if they can provide it to you. Alternatively, you can go to any ski rental in the valley, which usually also provides sled rental.
If you decide to venture into this fun activity, don't forget to dress well, with waterproof pants and warm shoes. Also essential are gloves, a head flashlight with new batteries and a little bit of common sense, because the descent could be dangerous (if the snow was frozen or if you have exaggerated with schnapps). I want to repeat it: it's absolutely mandatory to have a head flashlight with you.
If you are more athletic and want to eat without guilt, I recommend hiking to reach the lodge. Walking on the snow could be quite tiring (I recommend the use of crampons), but it will allow you to do a survey of the slope, increasing your chances of winning the podium in the sled descent. We will soon translate a deep article on this topic.(1) Sledging at Malga Federa. (2) Sleds parked waiting. (3) A group of friends with sleds.
A walk in Corso Italia
Corso Italia is the beating heart of Cortina d'Ampezzo and the meeting point for guests and residents. In addition to hosting the trendiest stores and clubs, Corso Italia is the housing of many public buildings of historical interest. To learn more about the subject we invite you to read our article on the most interesting buildings in Corso Italia.
If you don't want to read the article, try to see at least the Parish Church of Cortina and the nearby former town hall, headquarters of the tourist office. Don't forget to go to the Cooperativa of Cortina, or to do some shopping in one of the many stores in the center, or simply look at the windows and to the different artwork exhibited in the art galleries along the Corso. If after all this shopping you need a break to replenish your fluids, you can refresh yourself in one of the many bars and restaurants that crowd Corso Italia.
During the Christmas vacations in Cortina it's possible to meet some famous people. In this case I recommend you to be polite and discreet, they are on vacation and want to relax too.(1) The bell tower in winter. (2) The campanile of Cortina in winter. (3) Shopping at the Cooperativa of Cortina.
A bit of a party
The mountains are vacation, and vacation is also having fun. Once put down the skis do not let fatigue win. There is a natural remedy to avoid this problem, it's called Aperitiv. Some doctors also recommend some specific recipes, such as the Vin Brulè or the Spritz Aperol. The first is warm red wine with spices, it really warms the heart in the cold days, the second is a north italy typical pre-dinner light cocktail. And if the weather forecast for tomorrow is not the best? In that case, you won't have to get up too early, so you might consider extending the fun to the entire night.
There are different locations to have fun if you want to have some revelry. However, we advise you to avoid drinking too much if you are at high altitudes. Among "mountain people" it's well known that the change of altitude is dangerous: going down in altitude makes the drunkenness rise. Of course, remember to drink responsibly if you have to drive: if you're late, call a cab. If you need some suggestions on where to hangout in Cortina, you can read this page.(1) The Aperol spritz, italian aperitiv. (2) Gin Tonic, mountain cocktail. (3) Red wine, strictly from the Veneto region.
The original idea for this page was to write a single article for all the year. To avoid making the page too long, however, we decided to divide it into different parts. Here you've read what to do in Cortina in winter, but do not forget to also readwhat to do in Cortina in summer and what to do in the surroundings of Cortina, where we describe the activities for which it's necessary to have a means of transport, such as a car or the bus.
Hoping you liked the page on things to in winter in Cortina d'Ampezzo, before saying goodbye, we would suggest you to read all the articles we wrote about Cortina d'Ampezzo by clicking here.
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