Editor's note: This is the first of a two-part article by Vail pro skier Chris Anthony about the trip he is leading in Italy, Austria and Slovenia.
VALBRUNA, Italy - Come late January or early February, I make my annual jump across the big pond with Marco Tonazzi and head toward Venice, Italy, where we wait for everyone that has taken the leap of faith to sign up for this amazing trip Marco and I have put together for the last few years. That being said, this is one of favorite adventures, so I have no issues talking people into coming. It's guaranteed good times.
The trip is appropriately named "The Wine and Dine Tour With a Skiing Problem." It is a journey through northwestern Italy with skiing as the main goal - but the other Italian highlights often distract or add to the adventure. We designed the trip in 2003 with the goal of taking small groups of people every year to ski and indulge in the amazing delicacies of Marco's home region in Italy.
Traveling with Marco through this part of the world is like traveling around Chicago with Michael Jordan. As a former Italian national champion, Marco is a respected figure who is an amazing host with the ability to find amazing food accompanied with wonderful beverages.
He knows the region like the back of his hand and leads a very untraditional journey through this part of Italy. I shadow the operation, and when Mother Nature permits it, I add a spice to the skiing where I can. For us, this is a discovery trip every year that adapts to the dynamics of the group and what the environment throws at us.
I have had some of my greatest days of skiing during this trip and have met some amazing people.
This year's trip has been no different. It began Jan. 29, when we picked everyone up at the airport in Venice and went speeding up the Autostrata towards Cortina D'Ampezzo.
Upon arrival at Hotel Capannina, we treated the group with a glass of Prosecco, unpacked, walked into the upscale resort of Cortina, and, unfortunately, did not find one of my favorite places open - the "Enoteca," famous for its setting and its round cheese. Next time. So we headed to dinner early and indulged in some wines from the local region (Friuli) and dinner (check my list of meals below) - all to load up to the next day's journey starting at 8:30 a.m.
On day two, under blue skies, we skied on piste in Cortina, including the same run on which Lindsey Vonn has won numerous times. If the conditions permit, the off-piste skiing can be unreal. It seems, more often than not, we have been blessed with this. However, this year is going to be mainly about staying on-piste, skiing some amazing groomers.
We stop at Rifugio Duca D'Aosta with some fun-loving Italians on the deck over looking the Dolomites. After lunch, we transferred to a different valley, where we skied till sunset, then came to rest at 7,900 feet in a rifugio at Cinque Torri. Marco ordered up a camp favorite, the bombardino. After this tasty delight, we skied back into the valley just before dark, where we had our mini-buses waiting to be driven down the narrow Italian road back into Cortina and the hotel.
With a quick stop at the hotel, the group took a breath before we put them on the move up to the ski area of Faloria. There, we had snowmobiles waiting to blast us up couple thousand meters to the Rifugio Capana Tondi, where we indulged in a feast made for kings. At midnight, with headlamps and full belliess, we skied back down into the lights of the Cortina valley on a run that had been freshly groomed so that every turn felt like heaven.
The next day would begin in a few hours. But until then, we could say day one was checked off the list.
Check out our itinerary for days two through four.