The region Three Peaks Dolomites is located in the High Puster Valley in South Tyrol. The world-renowned Three Peaks are the landmark of the Dolomites and of this area in particular. As Italy’s number one cross-country skiing destination, it offers cross-country ski trails for beginners and pros and is host to many cross-country skiing events.
My friend Mark and I are big cross-country skiing enthusiasts. Each year in winter we spend some days in one of the winter sports regions of “Cross Country Ski Holidays”. They are spread across the Alps in Austria, Germany and Italy. Since we have always wanted to visit the famous Dolomites, we decided to spend our next vacation in the region Three Peaks Dolomites in South Tyrol. First of all, because it is home to the world-renowned Three Peaks. Second, because at the same time it is also Italy’s number one cross-country skiing destination. They have a high altitude trail, night-time trails, a cross-country ski center called “Nordic Arena” and trails just for pleasure.
Alta Pusteria – Hard facts
The cross-country ski destination Three Peaks Dolomites is located in the High Puster Valley (Italian: Alta Pusteria) between Bruneck in South Tyrol and the East Tyrolean border (East Tyrol is an administrative district of the Austrian federal state Tyrol). It comprises the holiday villages Sesto (Sexten), San Candido (Innichen), Dobbiaco (Toblach), Villabassa (Niederdorf) and Braies (Prags). As its name may already have revealed to you, it is a high valley and thus is located about 1.100 meters above sea level. In the summer, the white dolomite and the green meadows and forests shape the landscape.
As this description may already suggest, this region is kind of an Eldorado for cross-country skiers. Besides stunning views and landscapes, it also offers 200 kilometers of perfectly groomed trails. Three Peaks Dolomites is also part of Dolomiti Nordic Ski, which is Europe’s largest cross-country skiing circuit and consists of 1,300 kilometers of tracks in 12 regions of the Dolomites. This means that you actually have a much wider network of tracks which you can explore. Thanks to its altitude, snow is guaranteed and the cross country ski season lasts from December until March.
Day 1: Let’s get the holidays started
Mark and I are on our way to Toblach in the High Puster Valley. I am studying the cross-country skiing map of Three Peaks Dolomites. The tracks for classic technique as well as for skating are spread and connected with each other across the entire area. There are also numerous entry points which have a good connection to public transportation. This means that there is an even larger number of trails available to us and our training sessions. How great is that?
We arrive at the Apparthotel Germania in Toblach and receive a warm welcome by the hotel staff. Since it is already late and getting dark, we go for the nearby Nordic Arena. There the tracks are lit by floodlight in the evenings. As we reach the cross-country ski center and run our first round, I am really impressed because the tracks are laid in the arena and on the roof of the building. We also speak to some other cross-country skiers. They tell us that these tracks are FIS-standardized and that annual major events like the Tour de Ski, the Pustertaler Ski-Marathon and the Cross Country Ski Race Dobbiaco – Cortina are staged here. On top of this, the arena also boasts a cross-country ski school and ski hire.
After two hours of skating and chatting we decide to return to the hotel. There we store our cross-country skiers away in the ski room and bring our wet clothes to the facility for drying sportswear. “Very comfortable”, I think. After that we decide to go to the spa and make use of the infrared sauna, steam bath, Jacuzzi and Kneipp footbath. We end the day with a delicious dinner and some first class red wine.
The next day we decide to go and try out the 60 kilometers long cross-country ski track of the Pustertaler Ski-Marathon which leads from Prags to Sexten. We start our tour in the Prags valley in Schmieden. First, it leads us to Villabassa and further to Toblach where we cross the tracks of the Nordic Arena. The Höhlensteintal leads us to the Toblacher See and to the amazing Three Peaks view-point. This is actually the only place in the valley where you can see the Three Peaks. Thanks to these stunning views we both forget how exhausting the climbs along this trail are. From here the track returns to the Nordic Arena in Toblach. But since we want to do the whole 60 kilometers of the Puster Valley Ski Marathon, we don’t stop here but go further until we reach Candido. There the trail leads along the lower part of the Haunold piste and further to Sexten. Then we reach Bad Moos where we have to turn around. All together, we have done 60 kilometers, when we reach our goal in Waldheim. Now we are exhausted but, at the same time, also proud of ourselves.
We decide to go and try the high altitude trail at the high plateau Plätzwiese. It is located 2,000 meters above sea level in the middle of the nature park Fanes-Senes-Braies. The staff at the hotel told us, that there are good chances that we could come across one or another professional cross-country skiers. Some of them use this place to prepare themselves for the Olympics or World Championships. Meeting some pros would be great, but we have chosen to go there because it is an easy track where we can just enjoy the peace and quiet around us and some of the beautiful landscape the Dolomites have to offer. The track is a 6 kilometers long circuit. Along it, we enjoy the views of so well-known Dolomites peaks as Hohe Gaisl, Monte Cristallo and Tofane.
After this beautiful run, we return to the Apparthotel Germania in good mood. Unfortunately, this is our last day of vacation, so we have to get out of our cross-country ski clothes and to pack our stuff to drive back to Zell am See. However, I already know that I have to come back to this beautiful place to visit the Dolomites once more. They are really impressive. At least now I know why they were declared World Natural Heritage by the UNESCO.
Fotos: © Thomas Grüner und Harald Wisthaler