It’s so hard to believe it now in the 23 degrees Celsius spring Gibraltar sunshine, but this time last week, I was learning to ski in the Dolomites in Italy. What an amazing trip and what an absolutely beautiful place. In true Postcard from Gibraltar style I had to send you my very own Postcard from the Dolomites…
We left Gibraltar on a very wet Sunday lunchtime – can you just about make out the Rock through the mist and rain? We travelled by car to Malaga airport before catching a flight to Treviso airport outside Venice. We arrived after dark and then set off on a very long and winding drive up into the Italian Alps. It was all hairpin bends and thick, thick snow, the like of which I had only ever seen on Christmas cards before now.
We reached our destination at 11:30pm. All I could tell you about it then was that it was a long way from home, there was a lot of snow and it was very cold! It wasn’t until we woke up the following morning that we saw the beautiful fairytale village we were staying in, San Vigilio di Marebbe:
After breakfast, our first stop was the ski hire shop to get kitted our with all our gear before our first ski lesson. I had never skied before, I really had no desire to learn to be honest. A lot of our friends make the 3 hour drive from Gibraltar to Sierra Nevada to ski during the winter months and we have often been encouraged to go to, but the prospect didn’t really appeal. This trip came about through Mr Postcard’s work and my parents very kindly stepped in to look after the Little Postcards so we could go alone – it suddenly looked attractive!
So there we were, skis on feet, poles in hands and hearts pounding as we trepidatiously snow ploughed down a rather gentle (I can say that now ;-)) slope from the hotel to the bottom of our nearest piste.
And so it began, the first of 17 hours of ski tuition over 5 days. In for a penny, in for a pound. If we cracked it we planned to attempt Sierra Nevada en famille next winter, if not we’d give it up as a bad job.
After a few tentative slides down the nursery slope, we were bundled into a gondola and taken to the top of our first blue run ‘Miara’. This was utterly petrifying, although by the end of the week it became like an old friend. Last run of the day was down ‘Pedagà’. This felt like a black run to us novices – look you can’t even see the bottom!!
And that was it for day one. Our first ‘proper’ night began in the hotel with a particularly loud party. There were several accordions playing and one chap was banging what looked like a modified broom handle covered in cymbals on the floor. Trays of nibbles were brought round…
…then there was an almight cheer as a lady came in with a bouquet of flowers. Turned out, it was Manuela Moelgg a local sporting heroine who had just returned from her final world championship race after 18 years of competing. It felt like the whole village was celebrating.
The following morning, between breakfast and our first ski lesson of the day, Mr Postcard and I took ourselves off for a wander to see more of San Vigilio.
We had woken to a brighter, sunny morning and our surroundings were looking so pretty.
The beautiful church of San Vigilio, with its wrought iron headstones…
…and the homes and businesses with their ornately carved balconies…
Then we headed out of the village into the countryside.
How’s this for a picnic table with a view?
Ski lessons called though, so we headed back into the village with a pledge to return and see more.
This time our trips down the Miara felt slightly less daunting, although just as we were feeling at ease with our snow ploughing and turns, our instructor sent us down some ‘gentle’ bumps – gulp!
At lunch, we took a cable car further up the mountain and found the most stunning place for lunch…
Scotch broth, just the ticket!
Then it was back down the mountain for more lessons.
On Wednesday morning, we woke to almost cloudless blue skies. Perfect weather!
Look! That’s us down there, we were spied from above by a friend passing on a cable car!
This time, we got our first ever chair lift to another blue run, it was as so pretty there…
What a place, every view is like a Christmas card!
After skiing, we’d arranged to meet some friends back at the same mountain top restaurant as yesterday, Col dl’Ancona. This time we had completed our lesson before lunch so were allowed to enjoy a little après ski at lunchtime…
What a place…
Thursday saw us reach new heights, the plateau on the top of a mountain, Mount Kronplatz or Plan de Corones to be precise…
It was the site of a huge bell placed there in the year 2000 to mark the cooperation of the three communities who live around the mountain San Vigilio (where we were staying), Bruneck and Olang.
The large brass floor plaque below the bell is written in the three local languages, Latin (which is spoken in San Vigilio) as well as Italian and German.
The huge bell, which is rung at midday, is circled by a model of the surrounding mountains and markers to show the direction of significant cities including Berlin, Brussels and Milan:
This row of mountains with completely covered snowy summits is the Austrian alps…
We attempted two blue runs from this lofty location, both rather steeper than we had been used to, and I fell for the first time on a particularly steep section where I just froze in mild panic. We got down though, eventually, and were all very relieved when we got back down to the village again.
Mr P and I decided to go back out for another longer walk, on the same road as before but further this time.
It was clear that the spring melt had begun, in the two days since our last walk, we could see a marked difference in the amount of snow at the roadside.
Our walk took us up along a footpath through the trees and away from the road.
It was mostly compacted snow under foot, but at times it was decidedly slippery as the snow gave way to ice.
Wood is a big thing around here. Obviously a lot is needed as fuel to keep homes warm in the long cold winter, but also a lot is used in construction too. Wherever you look there are buildings for storing wood, or log piles heaped with snow.
We headed back out of the woods and onto the road where we came across a rather jauntily decorated house.
We had been promised a lake along this road, but all we found was a rather disappointing pond, so crossed over through the trees on the other side and past a stream.
It was here that we found an amazing cross country ski track…
It stretched for miles in each direction.
We had caught a glimpse of one skier through the trees, but apart from that one person, we were all alone. It was so peaceful.
The sun was falling lower in the sky, so we thought it best to head back to the road before it grew cold and dark.
Friday was another beautiful day, our last day of skiing and one in which I had a couple of incidents. I learned two valuable lessons about chairlifts; 1) don’t let go of your ski poles when you’re on one unless you have checked the straps are round your wrists and 2) chairlifts are best got onto in the vertical, rather than horizontal position. I shall say no more.
I did end the day on a high though, we skied two thirds of the way down this slope twice…
And I managed three times down the blue ‘Pedagà’ run without an instructor (but with an experienced friend) to finish off our morning’s skiing.
And so our ski adventure came to an end…
It was a marvelous experience, one I feel incredibly lucky to have enjoyed. I learned a new skill, met some lovely people, made new friends and got to see a truly spectacular part of the world. Oh, and I didn’t get hurt! Win, win!!
As the last rays of Friday’s sunshine set on the mountains above San Vigilio, I felt a tad melancholy that we were leaving, but also hopeful that one day we would return. Ciao until next time…
In case you are ever in San Vigilio and need ski lessons, I can heartily recommend Scuola Sci San Vigilio di Marebbe – our instructor had no end of patience!!