Arabba is one of the most famous resorts on the Sella Ronda circuit and indeed in Italian skiing, hosting some of the country’s most challenging terrain. It’s a traditional old mountain village that has grown up on a hillside, with buildings in the Tyrolean chalet style, making it rather picturesque beneath its white spired church. Arabba is also one of the few resorts in the area that attracts serious skiers and ‘boarders as well as families, because it has some steep and exciting terrain, as well as the kilometres of intermediate cruising. The Sella is a huge mountain massif and it is possible to ski around it in a day via Corvara and Canazei.
The largest inter-linked area on the huge Dolomiti Superski lift pass, Arabba also provides lift-linked access to Alta Badia (Corvara, Colfosco, La Villa and San Cassiano); Selva, St Christina and St Ulrich and part of Val di Fassa (Canazei and Campitello). Another plus is that Arabba is close to the lifts up to the Marmolada glacier which offers excellent high-altitude skiing, as well as the stunning views, with the pink rock of the Dolomites formed into towering cliffs and spires to create some quite spectacular scenery. Arabba itself is located at the extreme end of the Alto Agordino area, with pistes leading right back to the village. Settlement here goes back many generations and on Livinallongo meadows there are the thousand-year-old ruins of Andraz Castle, a rock transformed into a fortification. Abandoned two centuries, ago it is currently being restored by the Italian State government. At 1602m it is one of the highest resorts in the region, and one of the highest traditional resorts in Italy. Its largely north facing slopes have some of the best natural snow conditions in the entire Dolomites. An Avalanches Experimental Centre, which carries out research into ways in which to minimise the dangers of avalanches, as well as warning about current dangers, is based here too.
Six lifts depart from Arabba making queues almost unheard of. A two-stage gondola and a single span cable car head up to Porta Vescovo and access both the Marmolada glacier and the 26km (17 mile) Sella Ronda circuit heading clockwise via the Passo Pordoi. The third lift, a chair, reaches Portados at the top of the treeline. The runs back down to Arabba from this sector include some steep reds and blacks. Above the village a chair and a drag serve gentler wide slopes protected by snow making. A lift accesses a run down to Passo Campolongo from where you can carry on to Alta Badia’s Corvara and San Cassiano on the anti-clockwise route around the Sella Ronda.
For beginners the nursery slopes are right by the village and thanks to snow making, the high elevation and an overall good snow record, this area is normally fully open throughout the long winter. Intermediates inevitably have the most to enjoy, with few areas in the world able to offer the wonderful sense of lift-served touring right over to Selva in Val Gardena and back. As long as you ensure you start out early and don’t leave your return too late. Both this epic journey on skis and the Sella Ronda circuit all the way round can be completed in a day by a reasonable intermediate skier on blues (mostly) and a few reds. An interesting new route, the ‘Great War Tour’ takes in places of significance to the Italian Resistance of World War One, including the beautiful natural gorge of Serrai.
Apart from the huge choice of skiing lift linked around the Sella Ronda, the Dolomiti Superski Pass covers more skiing a short bus ride away, including the 80km of terrain above neighbouring Alleghe. Experts have some of the best skiing in the Dolomites in Arabba. The north facing Porta Vescovo runs have legendary snow conditions after a good dump of snow, with a particularly challenging long black beneath the cable car. The World Cup run on the other side of the area down to La Villa is another on most good skiers’ ‘must do’ list and the trip over to Selva also gives access to the Val Gardena World Cup downhill if not closed off for training. The Marmolada glacier is another option, and off piste routes such as the famous Hidden Valley run from the top of Sella down Val Mesdi to Colfosco is not for the faint hearted. If all that’s not enough there’s always the heli-skiing offered through the ski school.
At the time of writing there is one daycare facility in Arabba accepting children aged two and older, with children aged five and over allowed to join the ski school. Children’s discounts on the Dolomiti Superski Pass have improved dramatically and now kids aged up to 9 ski for free as long as an accompanying adult buys a pass of the same duration. There’s a good 30 per-cent reduction for children aged under 18 too.
As regards wining and dining, the local cuisine is a successful mixture of Austrian and Italian specialities and Arabba’s two dozen restaurants are well known for their value and choice. The best pizzerias are the 7 Sass and the Al Tablé, which also serves a full range of Italian cuisine, as does the rustic Al Forte and the Ru de Mont. After skiing and for après ski, Arabba is not really known for its lively après and nightlife, but none-the-less Arabba has more than 20 bars – many of them parts of hotels or restaurants – to choose from. Peter’s Bar is one of the more popular whilst the Pub La Stube near the Hotel Portevescovo tends to attract most of the ‘boarding fraternity. Although there is no night club here the Sporthotel Arabba has a popular Austrian bar that opens at 9pm and stays open until late; live music is performed here regularly. The nearest late-night disco is in Corvara.
Something of a cult ‘boarding destination as it is for skiers, Arabba has it all – just about. There’s the wild and varied terrain to suit all standards including the high-altitude steep powder bowls and glacier runs above; then there are the wide sweeping cruise runs coming down through the woods with natural terrain features all around. Where Arabba may not match the complete wish list of some ‘boarders dream resorts is its lack of a thumping nightlife, but on the upside there are plenty of high value bars and places to eat and sleep, with most of the accommodation options centring around hotels and we are happy to help find your ideal spot to stay.