Review of Sella Ronda
Some observations on the circuit (for an overview I cannot better Teresa’s 2008 review). In a week’s visit (staying at Canazei) my acquaintance with parts of the circuit was skimpy, so some of my opinions below are no more than first impressions.
To ski the circuit you need a Dolomiti Superski pass (paying as you go for lifts outside your area pass might be an option, but an expensive one). The Superski is a regional pass embracing 12 different area passes: that is why there are 12 maps. Those areas are variously around a single resort (eg Cortina D’Ampezzo, not on the Ronda), slopes linking a cluster of villages, or isolated pockets of skiing at intervals along a valley. The Sella Ronda circuit itself goes through just four of those areas, whose 500km of more-or-less linked pistes makes up less than half the Dolomiti total. This 500km has been compared in passing to the Trois Vallees: I’m surprised not to have seen the Portes du Soleil circuit mentioned as the Ronda’s nearest equivalent.
The four areas forming the Ronda each have their own map but to a common layout: one side of the page is (apart from the inevitable advertising) half area pistes map, and half Dolomiti overview (roads, villages/base stations and lifts); the other side of the sheet is the Sella Ronda piste map (the same in each leaflet). I spotted some discrepancies between the local detail maps and the Ronda map, both as to piste grades and even the existence/direction of one piste (is this simply a case of the Ronda map always being a year behind?) I found the Ronda map’s level of detail quite adequate as a memory jogger and as a guide to exploration, and its blue grades where different to be more realistic than the red claimed on the piste-side markers. One area’s local detail map (Val di Fassa) differentiates those lifts on which its area pass is valid by showing others dotted, but Selva’s map shows distant lifts without distinction.
The circuit is said to be easily managed by even an early intermediate, but there are two particular problems. At Selva, the green (anti-clockwise) circuit necessarily includes the descent from Ciampinoi to Plan de Gralba, said (in connection with reaching the easy runs above the latter) to be tricky, steep, crowded and a real obstacle. The obvious run is indeed steep, so it is worth mentioning that there is an easier alternative (tricky only to get onto) by circling round the back of Ciampinoi’s building to pass underneath the gondola.
The orange (clockwise) route at Arabba is worse. An old book I’ve kept shows that, in the mid-90s, one could take a chair half-way up the mountain to get onto a blue. The chair is still there, but not the piste: now one must go all the way up Porta Vescovo, where the red you must take offers a “genuine challenge” (its long first pitch, when crowded with skiers making heavy weather of it, is not fun at all). If the Ronda’s nearest rival is the Portes du Soleil, did the resort think they should try to match (as best/worst they could) the infamous Swiss Wall at Avoriaz? (Maybe not; I’ve never seen the Wall so cannot compare it.) Go right as if heading for Arabba’s gondola midstation, and there might be an easier cut-back, but this is neither visible nor sign-posted from the top. Being there on an afternoon when clouds were closing in, I didn’t linger to investigate.
Crowds along the route will not all be doing the whole circuit, because its parts are also important links for shorter trips between neighbouring areas, or sectors within a local area, as well as being substantial runs in their own right. The lifts however are fast, and though for example the Borest (horizontal) lift at Corvara has been singled out as bad for queues, when I rode it most of its chairs were empty. On the other hand, this may just have been evidence for a possible theory that, in these parts, all queues vanish at lunchtime!
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RSimpkinuk57 22 Feb 2010