Each week our ski hosts put together an itinerary that will excite our guests and offer days out that will encourage strangers to become friends as they sign up to venture out with our organisers. Certain ski days stick week after week because we cannot bring ourselves to deny such a memorable experience; the ‘hidden valley’ is just one example of such a day, a day I joined with a group for the first time and was absolutely blown away by.
The fog was clinging low to the ground but we all held up hope for a clear day as we headed up on to the Pralongia Plateau. The large group of 15, all staying in Ciasa Verena, were here on their first Dolomiti experience and had shown their enthusiasm for venturing outside of the Alta Badia area this week. As we dropped down into Armenterola, a row of taxi’s awaited passengers – without any connecting slopes this is the only way of reaching the Falzarego Pass and beyond to the famous Hidden Valley run.
Thankfully for everyone, the stunning views were not missed as the fog lifted when we reached the top of the pass. Now that the Cinque Torri was visible to point out, the group decided to head over to explore the slopes surrounding the five towers. A small cloud inversion sat hovering above Cortina which created a view I never thought could get any better, and with a line of snow shoers walking off behind the rocks, Cinque Torri had never looked so tranquil. Some of our guests took this time to sit in the Averau Rifugio to enjoy the views and the coffee, as others drifted down the empty cream-like pistes, taking advantage of the space with wide turns and technique practise.
By this point people were getting very hungry. Having enjoyed what Rifugio Averau had to offer, I suggested hanging on for Rifiguio Lagazuoi at the top of the cable car station. Snow-capped mountains as far as the eye could see and a some-what empty dining area, the original groans at a late lunch turned into a muttering of astounded, satisfied people.
The wind had picked up as we all got ready to take on the long run through the Hidden Valley. We all arranged to meet up at Rif. Scotoni three quarters of the way down and soon enough the group split so that everyone could enjoy it at their own pace.
The gentle descent meant that eyes could fixate on the towering rocks at every angle whilst being slowly engulfed by the valley. Short steep sections kept the speed and the twisting slope kept me guessing as to what was next.
Once we had all re-grouped and had a short break, everyone headed off to enjoy the last section of the run. Within minutes of gathering speed, I soon stopped in my tracks as the frozen waterfall came into view – wow. Huge chunks of ice and long sharp icicles hung from the rock face above the slope, a sight that could be easily missed for those concentrating on their skiing.
Upon reaching the end of the valley, poling was a necessity to keep moving along the rather flat ground. But what was that in the distance? Two horses, a cart and ropes long enough to pull 40 people along back to Armenterola. Whilst the snow-boarders took a luxury seat in the cart, the skiers held on tight as the horses begun the leisurely tow under the bridge and through the trees. Giggles could be heard throughout the journey and who could blame them – can you think of a better way to end such an aesthetically rich and diverse day?