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2005 Italy Ski Trip

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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, 2005. 
* 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 enough to 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 areas.
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 Milan.  
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 desired.
Moena, Val di Fassa, Saturday evening March 4th: It was getting dark when we arrived at the 3-Star Superior Hotel Catinaccio 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.

Alpe 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 smaller ski areas. 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 some days.

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, the 4-Star Laguna Palace 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 complimentary dinner 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 afternoon and 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. 

Trip Photos: (Click on the thumbnail photos to enlarge)

2005 Pollock photos: 1 Moena from hotel room balcony. 2 Dinner at Catinaccio Rosengarten. 3 Drinks at Hotel Gran Principe bar in Venice. 4 Taking water taxi to Venice. 5 Pension Calcina in Venice (centre of picture) where two of group stayed. 

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 Canal. 


2005 Nicholson 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.


2005 Heckman photos: 1 Arabba counter-clockwise from Sella Ronda. 2 Marmolada 3342m in the distance. 3 Arabba clockwise from Sella Ronda. 4 Old church at Passo San Pellegrino. 5 San Pellegrino aprés ski - Ed, Erica (back to camera), Sharon Parker, Mike Richardson, Sonny Eve, Pat Manion. 6 Doge's Palace in Venice.


2005 Cufone/Okom photos: (ignore dates on pictures, camera date was not reset.) 

1 Sandy Chenard, Mike Richardson, Mary-Ann Zeppetello, Sonny Eve, Rita MacDonald, Mario Cufone, Susan Okom. 2 Moena ice sculpture. 3 Canal on arrival in Venice. 4 Susan Okom, Ed Pollock, St Mark's square. 5 St Mark's square from St Mark's Cathedral.

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Moved to 386 Park Road North, Grimsby Beach Ontario, Canada L3M 2P6 ~ e-mail: info@sailski.com
  ( On Lake Ontario, between Hamilton and Niagara, about an hour or less drive from Toronto,  Mississauga, Burlington, Brampton or Milton)
Cel Phone: (905) 330-2251 (Ed Pollock may answer, not a voice mail box).
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Last modified:10/27/12.