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Here is a recap of
Ultimate Destinations' escorted group ski trip for seniors and
over 50's* to Val di
Fassa in the Dolomites (plus 2 nights in Venice) in Italy, March 4th to 14th,
* There were also some 40-year
olds in the group - one of their mothers was on the trip.
by Ed Pollock - Ultimate Destinations' Tour Escort & Organizer
(Click to photos at bottom of the page)
|We would have liked more
fresh snow on the trip. Fortunately, more than 90% of the marked runs in Val di Fassa have excellent snowmaking coverage and are groomed every night, so the
skiing was excellent with sunshine every day and perfect temperatures - cold
provide perfect ski conditions - not so cold to make it
uncomfortable and not too warm to turn the snow into slush later in the
afternoon. Comments like "the
conditions were way better than anyone would ever expect with so little fresh
snow" described both ski conditions and the ski
Toronto, Friday March 4th, 2005: All but one of the group of 23 persons met
for the first time at the airport in
Toronto, Friday afternoon March 4th, 2005.
Eight of this group had flown in from Ottawa and the rest were
from the Toronto/Hamilton area. They were met at the airport by Ed Pollock, who
had made all the arrangements for the trip and was also the tour escort.
The remaining member of the group flew from Syracuse to New York and then to
Toronto/Milan Flight: Although the flight had been booked as an
Alitalia flight, it was one of those mixed-up flights that was "code-shared"
with Air Canada on an Air Canada aircraft. This meant that unfortunately,
although all the seats had originally been pre-booked so the group would all be
together, Air Canada cancelled all the pre-booked seating arrangements and
combined two of their flights into one on a different type of aircraft. So
the group was scattered all over the aircraft with even husbands and wives not
sitting together. This was not the first time this happened with Air Canada nor
was it the last.
Milan, Saturday morning March 5th: When the group from Toronto arrived in Milan
Saturday morning, March 5, 2005 they joined up with the remaining member of the
group who had flown from Syracuse New York. The average age of the group was
over 60, with three in
their 40's, nine in their 50's, 8 in their 60's and 3 over 70.
The group were met in Milan by an
English-speaking local guide who escorted the group to the bus and
relayed instructions to the driver. Although there were enough seats on the bus for the
ski group, it did not have enough room for all the luggage, which naturally included skis, boots, ski clothing
etc. So to accommodate the
ski group, the bus also had a trailer. (You often see ski
charter buses in Europe pulling trailers).
We stopped at one of rest stops on the
expressway just outside of Verona, about half
way to the hotel, where the group found out about the way service is done at the
rest stops in Italy.
Everyone was pleasantly surprised at the
excellent selection of things to eat,
from soup to sandwiches to snacks to full meals and of course deserts. But
having to decide what they were going to have, then having to go to the cashier
and pay for it in advance, then returning to the
counter to place the order and then finally receiving it, was a bit confusing,
although the whole process did not
take very long.
On the drive from Milan to the Moena, there
was almost no snow to be seen until we almost reached the hotel. The
group was understandably nervous about having travelled so far and were afraid the skiing might not be great. There was some snow in Moena, but not a lot. But when we got to the ski area, all the runs were open
and had been impeccably groomed overnight so the skiing left nothing to be
Moena, Val di Fassa, Saturday evening
March 4th: It was getting dark when we arrived at the 3-Star
Rosengarten in Moena, Val di
Fassa a beautiful small Ladin town, ideally
situated in the centre of Val di
Fassa with Vigo di Fassa, Pozza di Fassa and Canazei a few km north and Cavalese
a few km south. The hotel is named after a nearby mountain range which, like
many of the locations in the area has two names, one Italian and the other
Austrian, accommodating the historical backgound of the area.
Our late afternoon arrival at the hotel was not a problem since dinner
in most if not all the hotels in the Alps is not served until later than
it is in
North America. At the Catinaccio dinner started at 7:30. This gave everyone time to
settle into their rooms and some to look after their ski rentals and for Ed, the
group escort to pick up the ski passes before dinner.
The hotel has three room categories and
unlike many of the newer hotels, a number of relatively inexpensive smaller
single rooms. During the week just about everyone had a chance to enjoy
the indoor swimming pool, which was large enough for the more ambitious members
of the group to swim a few or more lengths to help keep themselves in shape.
di Lusia, Sunday March 6th: Our guides, Bruno Pederiva and Erica Bernard
were waiting for us along with our bus, which took us to a different ski area
every day. The first day we went Alpe di Lusia, the area closest to Moena, about
15 minutes drive from the hotel. Although it was Sunday and there was a local
ski racing event being held, it was not crowded and the line ups were never more
than a few minute
Bruno, who is both a certified instructor
and mountain guide, initially split the group into two evenly divided
groups, one more advanced and the other not quite as advanced, but a
number of the advanced group skiers dropped back into the other group to
be with their partners, so it ended up with fewer skiers in the advanced
group than in the less advanced. Ed, the tour escort also dropped
back to give Erica a hand keeping track of the larger group since some
skied quite a bit faster than others.
At the end of the first day of skiing, the
more adventurous skiers not only skied to the bottom of the ski area, they skied
downhill all the way on a trail that paralleled the road right down all the way
to Moena, within walking distance of the hotel. The rest of the group split into
two, one of them taking the gondola back down to the bottom of the ski area and
the other braving the human slalom gates (people) scattered along the steep run down
under the gondola.
Latemar, Monday March 7th: On the second day of skiing, the
group went to Latemar, one of the vastest ski areas made up of a number of
Arriving southward from Moena you take a long gondola ride up to Gardone, at
the start of one of the smaller ski areas. One of the many
"refuges" (which is what they call the restaurants on the mountains) is
located there. Each
"refuge" has unique traditional local
architecture and all the latest facilities, as do all the refuges in the
Dolomites. From there you take a long chair up to the middle of the area, where there is a choice
of many ski runs off in all directions. We skied down to Obereggen, at the
bottom of a run
to the west where the skiers from Bolzano (the nearest city) arrive at the area. We enjoyed lunch at one of the "refuges"
and then skied down to the top of the gondola where the one group met up with
the other one before taking the gondola down to our waiting private bus.
Arabba, Tuesday March 8th: A few of
the group decided to take a day off from skiing and wander around and do some
shopping in Moena. The rest of the group
went to Arabba, travelling part of the
way by bus and skiing the rest of the way. At the end of the day the group
enjoyed a bit of après-ski in the sunshine at the base of one of the lifts,
where we met our bus.
Sella Ronde, Wednesday March 9th: Bruno, our guide was a bit concerned that
the weather might not be as good on Thursday, when we had originally planned to
do the Sella Ronde, the famous ski around the Sella mountains.
Because it not only takes all day, its popularity attracts quite a rush of
skiers at the start of the day so we
were up a little earlier and left the hotel at 8:30 to catch the cable car at
Campitello to start
the tour. The wind was howling at the top of the cable
car, but after we skied down into the first valley on the tour and came back up
the lift farther along, the wind had abated and the rest of the day
was spent in sunshine. In actual fact, every day of skiing was in
sunshine, with a few clouds first thing in the morning on
The group split into two for the Sella
Ronde. Erica took the less adventurous group along trails lower down in the valley
so they did not get a chance to ski
down the Val Gardena downhill run. I made a note to avoid this so-called easy
route in future, because it tends to
be more tedious and a little boring. Erica's group also took an alternative
route just after Arabba to miss the steep run under the cable car. In actual
fact, this route is along a series of trails that are not technically part of
the Sella Ronde. They are very narrow, difficult and totally ungroomed. I think
the steep way is easier and a much better way to go in future.
Alpe Cermis, Thursday March 10th: Our guide took us to Alpe
Cermis, beside Cavalese, a little over a half-hour's drive from Moena. This is where,
in 1998 the American Airforce pilot,
barrel-rolling down the valley, flying too low and off course took out the
cable-car that used to be there, killing the operator and 19 skiers who were
going up in the gondola.
We almost had the whole area all to
ourselves, in spite of the wonderful weather -
brilliant sunshine, perfect temperature and impeccably groomed trails. A few
of the group
tried out some of the off-piste skiing while the others just sat around the
outside the refuge soaking up the sunshine. At the end of the day a few of us
made the mistake of going down on what was supposed to be an easy trail, instead
of the fairly steep
one. It turned out to be a very narrow trail, very long and very
boring through the trees. Again, the steep way was the better way.
Thursday evening, Elenora, our host and
owner of the hotel prepared a special dinner
followed by live entertainment and dancing.
Passo San Pellegrino, Friday March 11th:
Our final day of skiing. This ski area is a little farther away from Moena
than Alpe di Lusia, but closer than Alpe Cermis. Starting off
the day we took the cable car to the top of the pass on the south side of the
valley. Again, the group split up with the less adventurous taking the low road
to Falcade, with the others skiing the continuous 9km all downhill run, which again turned out to be the better way.
The low road had its ups and downs and was far more tiring. And again I made a
note to take the whole group on the high road in future. We joined up together again at lunch time at one of the smaller refuges in the area.
In the afternoon we split up into
several groups and later met at the round tent restaurant
at the bottom, where the group enjoyed
their final and one of their best après-ski get-togethers before our bus picked
us up for the last time. When we got back to the hotel we took our skis out of
the bus, where they had been left locked up, saving us from
having to carry them in to the ski room each day. Bruno looked after returning
the rental skis for those who had been using them, so all we had to so we had to do was pack for
Venice before or after dinner.
Venice, Saturday March 12th:
After breakfast at the hotel, we were picked up by a large tour bus which had
lots of room for our skis and luggage. The driver took the expressway route to the hotel for Venice,
in Mestre, arriving about noon. Staying in Mestre solved the problem you
can have if you stay on the island of Venice and have to carry your skis and
boots as well as your ski clothing and the rest of your baggage from the bus to
your hotel. A porter looked after storage of the skis at the Laguna Palace so
all the group had to take to their room were necessities for their Venice visit. Nearly all the group stayed at the
Laguna Palace in Mestre Saturday and Sunday night. The hotel is situated
on a lagoon with direct on-the-water connection by boat to Venice, as well as by land.
The hotel included breakfasts, transfers to the
airport and complimentary water taxi transfers to and from Venice to the private landing at
the hotel Gran Principe on the Grand Canal, near the station, or right to St. Mark's Square in Venice.
On Saturday evening the group enjoyed a
at the Hotel Gran Principe, provided by
the hotel since it had been unable to accommodate the group booking
previously made to stay there. House wines were included along with a
piano player providing appropriate mood music.
Members of the group spent Saturday
evening and all day Sunday sight-seeing in Venice. Some took the twilight cruise
on a Grand Canal "Vaporetto" (ferry), when the lights were just coming on
and you can see in through the windows of the buildings that line the canal.
Some of the group used a cross-canal gondola
ferry to cross the Grand Canal. It isn't very
glamorous but only costs a Euro or so and then you can say you took a gondola
ride while you were in Venice.
Venice/Milan/Toronto or New York flights,
Monday March 14th:
Most of the group went from the hotel to the
airport on the bus transfer included in
the package and caught their plane back to North America and a few stayed in
Venice an extra day or two.
Extended Stay in Italy: Four of the group stayed several weeks
longer to travel in Italy and returned from Rome or Sicily. One couple made
their own arrangements for their extended stay and returned from Rome. Ultimate Destinations
booked hotels and car rental for the other two, who spent 2 nights in Portofino
near Genoa, 2 more nights in Florence, 3 nights in Rome, 3 nights in Salerno
near Naples, 1 night in Messina and 4 nights in Palermo (where they visited
relatives) before catching a plane in Palermo for their flights back to Canada.
(Click on the thumbnail photos to enlarge)
2005 Holdway photos:
1 Ann Holdway, John Gallagher.
2 Arrival in Venice by water taxi.
3 One of many smaller Venice canals. 4 The famous "bridge of sighs".
5 On Grand
photos: 1 Jack Zarn, Carol Nicholson, Erica Bernard (guide),Terri Heckman, John
Nicholson, John Gallagher, Jayne Woods, Ed Pollock. 2 Terri, Carol, Jayne, John Nicholson, John Chappelle. 3 Ed, Jack,
backs to camera (note buildings in valley below, between their
heads), John Nicholson . 4 Dolomite cliffs. 5 Terri
outside Hotel Catinaccio Rosengarten Moena.
2005 Polito photos:
1 Joe Polito, Mike Richardson, Sharon Parker, Mary Ann
Zeppetello, Pat Manion, Susan Okom, Rita MacDonald, Ann Holdway, Geoff Holdway,
Kirk Thompson, Jane Wandell, Sandy Chenard, Sonny Eve. 2 Erica Bernard guide, Joe
Polito. 3 Last look at the
valley. 4 Down canal arrival in Venice. 5 Venice waterfront.
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