Welcome to Cortina and one of the most magnificent landscapes you'll see in the ski world. A bona fide Italian supermodel of a winter resort. Traditionally for wealthy Italians, Cortina has opened up for the wider market with a measly 2 hour transfer from Venice; cheap flights throughout the winter season.
Stone church spires soar out from cascading piazzas surrounded by the towering Dolomites; great limestone towers and cliffs that are tinged pink at dawn and dusk. It feels like you're in the most exclusive of winter retreats, just mountains and snow in every direction.
The pedestrianised centre is entwined in cobbled streets and pleasant squares. Benetton's founder once quoted "Italian fashion begins in Cortina" and with every major Italian label present on the stone streets, it's not hard to see why.
To top it off, there's some serious ski pedigree in town; holding the 1953 Winter Olympics and forever popular on the World Cup skiing circuit. The FIS Alpine World Championships are to be held here in 2021. There's more to the slopes than the jaw-droppingly-beautiful scenery.
Skiing in the resort
With around 70% of the Italian visitors to Cortina not actually setting foot/ski on the slopes, the pistes are enjoyably empty. You're more likely to find a queue to the wine bars than the ski lifts. The resort's at a decent altitude and with 95% of the slopes covered by artificial snow production, piste skiing is well groomed and pretty much guaranteed all season long.
Cable cars flank either side of the town centre and split the resort into two main ski areas. There's a good mix of blue and red slopes and a smattering of more challenging runs if you're feeling adventurous. Skiing in the sun only interrupted by lazy mountainside lunches is the order of the day. There's even a dedicated slow ski area full of scenic relaxation areas so you can really let the views sink in. With a staggering 44 mountain huts/restaurants within the 120km you'll be spoilt for mountain munchies. A particular highlight (quite literally) would be up on Lagazuoi, you guessed it, awesome views and the coffee isn't bad, the runs down from here are some of the best in the area.
Whilst there may not be the raucous table dancing and euro-pop blasting of neighbouring Austrian or French resorts, the après here certainly ramps up in the high season. The cobbled streets are lined with bustling wine bars during 'aperitivo' hour and they often kick on till late. Whilst the up-till-dawn scene may not be that prevalent, there's a lot of life, fur and designer labels floating around.
Restaurants range from the humble pizzeria to Michelin-starred mountain huts so there's something for all budgets. After 11pm the discos begin, as does the posing. A very 'Italian' vibe is the only way to describe the whole place, there's nowhere quite like it. For us, it blows the likes of Courchevel 1850 and St Moritz out the water.
What we like
- Scenery, to summarise it's simply spectacular
- Fantastic progression terrain if you're getting used to your ski legs
- No crowds or queues to be found
- Attractive Italian town, think cobbled streets and classy, bustling wine bars
- The ski area is split into two main sections - but you just ski one one day and the other the next
- Every major Italian designer has a presence on the piazzas - pricey by Italian standards, but not by the French equivalent
- Some slow lifts - but with the atmosphere and views you'll be more than happy to sit back and relax