- * Hoch Pustertal area around Toblach and Bruneck was excellent.
* Monte Bondone further south near Trento closer to the main highway has very fun + pretty trails for a convenient daytrip.
* Comparing: Hoch Pustertal has a wide variety of cross-country skiing options, and with prettier scenery and better snow coverage than lots of other places in Europe.
* Combining cross-country with other kinds of gliding on the same day works well for us - (other gliding like backcountry skiing or lift-served
Details below. More details, and reports of some other places in Austria + Switzerland at:
This is a big valley in Südtirol, the German-speaking region in the north of northwest Italy. The Italian name of Hoch Pustertal is "Alta Pusteria", and each of the key towns has an Italian version of its German name: Toblach Italian "Dobbiaco", and Bruneck = Italian "Brunico". For lots more info see:
They say they've got more than 400km of groomed cross-country ski trails. Actually nothing close to that distance is all _connected_ -- but there are several well-connected networks, each large enough on its own for a fun day -- and the count of those networks should be enough to keep most of us busy for most days of a week.
Skaters are full citizens in Hoch Pustertal. We did not find any trails that were designated as "Classic only". Every trail we skied was groomed for skating.
I believe there's a ski bus that accesses all the larger trail networks in Hoch Pustertal, but we had a rental car (with snow tires + chains) which made it more convenient for us, and also opened a wider range of cross-country options and also backcountry touring and downhill riding+skiing.
Dürrensee area -- optional start or finish Toblach (? or Cortina ?): The trail network around the Dürrensee ("Lago di Landro") / Schluderbach / Passo Cimabanche offers views of some very spectacular mountains: Cristallo, Drei Zinnen (Tre Cime), Croda Rossa. (racers note: the Tobbiaco-Cortina course goes thru there). I dropped Sharon off at the Dürrensee lake and drove down to Toblach stadium and parked. She skied classic some by the lake, then down to Toblach.
Meanwhile I skated the more interesting of the two routes up from Toblach. Though the climb was long, most of it was so gentle that I felt like a hero going so fast up it. I gave Sharon the car keys when we met along the way (luckily she had made the same route choices as me) -- then continued past the Durrensee taking the hillier loop further southeast which took me up close to the spectacular Cristallo-scharte backcountry tour which Gi and I did last year, then down to Schluderbach, and on back down to Toblach to meet Sharon at the car. (? Another option I've heard suggested would be to try to ski all the way to Cortina and get back by taxi or bus ?)
Antholz ("Anterselva"): Trails just as much fun as I remember from last year (thanks to Ricardo's recommendation), and more sunshine made the lake and surrounding mountains prettier. This time Sharon and I did a serious backcountry skiing tour starting from the Biathlon center parking lot in the morning with lunch up at a mountain hut, then skated the excellently-designed rolling biathlon trails and Sharon classic on the lake in late afternoon. I still haven't gotten the chance to ski up to the pass ("sattel") -- like I saw some skaters and lots of (non-motorized) sledders, or ski down to the lower villages.
Gseisertal: Pleasant wide valley, with a few significant hills. We bought trail passes at the pizza restaurant / gas station. I dropped off Sharon at a higher village and parked down pizza place, then skated up. Earlier we had seen another group of classic skiers met by a (German-language) guide-service van down even lower -- so we're not the only ones who thought of doing one-way mostly-downhill ski tours -- I'd guess that similar could also be done with the ski bus.
Panorama-loipe (above Sexten + Kreuzberg pass): This tour was a strange mix: Pleasant mellow trail up high which required steep or difficult driving or hiking to get access to it on both ends. More odd was that the two big "panorama" views were at each end -- with only a few glimpses from the "loipe" connecting between then. I actually saw one skier with a second set of collapsed hiking poles attached to his backpack. Next time I'd try the ski trails around there which are easily accessible from the main road thru Sexten or Kreuzberg pass.
Pragser Wildsee: We did not ski this one -- though we intended to. Our plan was to drive up the road until we reached the winter closure gate, then ski the rest of way up to the Wildsee lake. But we kept driving and driving thru several little villages and then we were at the lake. It had not occurred to me that they would have constructed a skating-wide trail completely separate from the road. I got out and looked at the lake -- and somehow I didn't feel like driving back down and then skiing back up to it again that same afternoon. But two skaters arrived, and they looked pretty satisfied with their accomplishment.
Other things which will have to wait until next time:
- * ski the "international" trail between Sillian in Austria and Innichen in
* ski the other trails around Moos + Sexten + Kreuzberg pass +
* ski the "World Cup" trails by the Toblach ski stadium.
Monte Bondone / Viote (near Trento):
This was a delightful surprise made possible by the Net. We had been thinking about skiing places closer to the big cities and the Milano airport, and we found Monte Bondone on www.supernordicskipass.it -- a website which offers lots of info about XC ski centers in the southern regions of northeast Italy, including trail maps. The Viote trail map looked kind of interesting, so we checked the snow conditions report on www.skiinfo.it and they reported 18km open.
The overnight flight from New York arrived in Milan Malpensa at 8:00 in the morning. We drove our rental car east on the A4 to Verona, then north on the A22 to the Trento Centro exit. There were signs for "Monte Bondone" immediately off the exit. Soon we made a left turn off the SS45bis and started climbing + climbing + more + kept climbing thru a lift-served downhill ski center. Then the road reached this gentle meadow, and it was
Viote. We bought cross-country trail passes and Sharon rented Classic skis.
And the trails were so delightful with rollers and curves. With close views of three peaks of Monte Bondone. Distant views of the rock towers of the Brenta Dolomite mountain group. All trails groomed for skating. I just wanted to keep skating each loop more times. Sharon stayed out skiing so long I was afraid she'd miss returning her rental skis. Then we continued driving over down the west side of the mountain, with more views of Brenta mountains and a nice drive through the valley and back to the A22.
... Hoch Pustertal against some "correct" places in Austria:
- * skaters are full citizens in Italy (massive contrast to Ramsau, smaller contrast to Seefeld with key connector trails designated "Classic only")
* many trails around Toblach are generally North-facing (contrast to Ramsau?)
* many km are up at higher altitudes (contrast to small km very high at Ramsau?)
- * high quality fun trail designs: Antholz + Monte Bondone are comparable to La Feclaz, Les Saisies, Bessans -- but those French networks have more km fully connected.
* scenery visible from some of the XC ski trails in Hoch Pustertal (especially the Dürrensee + Cristallo) is a bit more spectacular than our favorite XC trails in France. (but for backcountry ski touring it's sort of around equal).