Where: Dolomites, South Tyrol, Italy
Distance & Time: 5km there + back walk, 2.5 – 3 hours
Take: water, snacks, snow shoes, snow pants + jacket
Amenities on route: car parking at the bottom of the mountain, shuttle bus to further up the mountain. Cafe + hotel where the shuttle stops
Cost of the walk: 10 euro for return shuttle per person, 5 euro for car park, cash for hot chocolate/coffee/snacks at the cafe (if you buy food/drink there you can use the bathroom for free before you start walking – highly recommend this!)
This is a slight detour from normal on the blog as this walk took place half way around the world from where I normally walk – in Italy! And not only that, it took place on a different surface than normal – snow.
It turns out that snow hiking is actually pretty darned awesome. It feels a bit strange to begin with (all I knew was that it was basically like having tennis rackets on my feet, which may have been the case years ago but technology has increased substantially since then). You don’t have to worry about the uneven surfaces that you do with regular hiking as it’s snow! The only slight thing to worry about is staying on the path and if you do go slightly off track, how deep are you going to sink! Although in saying that, I think the deepest I went was upper calf. And the fun we had along the way! Lots of snowballs were thrown, and hundreds of photos taken.
No matter which way I turned there was a beautiful vista to take in. We had chosen the most sensational day to hike, with clear blue skies and barely any people (it helped that we hiked mid-week, I could imagine it would be slightly different on a weekend).
Our fabulous hotel in San Candido wasn’t too far away, and the car drive to get there was full of interesting things to look at. I don’t know what it is about snow but it just makes everything look magical and makes me feel amazing!
Amy’s Advice: Take the shuttle up the mountain, much easier than trying to drive and means you can spend time looking out the window at the gorgeous scenery, rather than concentrating on the road.
Once in the car park, we joined the group of people milling around waiting for the shuttle to come back down the mountain. We could have snow hiked up to the start of where we were going, but considering this was my first time, we decided it would be better to take it easy. Once everyone was on the shuttle, including humans + their pets, professional looking skiers, families, and just people out for a hike, it took us 15-20 minutes to head up the mountain.
Once at the upper car park, everyone jumped out and followed the track over a slight rise where we came to a hotel and restaurant – honestly there are buildings in just the most out of the way places here!
Even up a mountain, in the middle of nowhere, there is a church. This is Italy, after all! This wee chapel was right at the beginning of our hike – right in front of me is the signpost directing us to Strudelkopf (which by the way, is a really fun word to say out loud!)
I didn’t think I’d need the poles while walking, (I’ve been walking for 30+ years, how hard could it be?!) but they really did make things easier. Plus, it allowed me to get a guide for how deep I would sink when I went off track!
Apparently this winter was one of the best seasons they’ve had for snow in years, and it showed. Everywhere around us was untouched, occasionally we’d see ski lines, but for the most part, it was untouched, pristine snow, with the hiking trail running through it.
Our visibility was outstanding and no matter which direction we looked, there was a phenomenal vista to take in. The photos don’t do it justice.
It somehow feels easier walking in snow than it does walking on a normal dirt hiking track. If I’d done this in the height of summer I think it would have been lovely but not as stunning as it was in the middle of winter. Only one way to test that theory though – will have to come back here in summer!
In hindsight, what made the walking seem easier is that we were constantly having breaks for photo opportunities!
We couldn’t see our destination from our start point, which I think makes things better. When I can see where I’m going all I seem to focus on is how far away it still seems! There are two reasonable rises we had to walk across to get to our destination, and once we crested the second one, we had the most fabulous 360 degree view – approx 1/4 of which you can see in the photo below. It was a lot colder on the peak, so it was time to put all our layers back on.
I was stoked to find that just like in New Zealand, there was a wee book that we could sign to say we’d made it/to leave our travel intentions. Thankfully I always travel with a pen in my bag (thanks, Comms training) so we were able to leave a message for when we return here next!
The most striking thing was how there were so few people about. Admittedly, I haven’t spent a lot of time in snowy mountains, so this may be normal, but it just seemed as though we had the place to ourselves most of the time! Even at the peak there were maybe a dozen people there, and there was plenty of room for us all.
Paul’s grandmother has climbed the tallest of the 3 Zinnen. Looking at them and how sheer the cliffs are, I can’t help but be seriously impressed and wish I’d had the opportunity to meet her.
We lucked out so much with the weather – the next day the clouds rolled in and there’s no way we would have been able to get photos like these.
I need to get back here ASAP to continue exploring these mountains!
I know New Zealand is supposed to be the epitome of untouched landscapes, but the Dolomites definitely comes close when you look at images like this.
The only thing that would have made this hike better? Wildlife. But friendly, cute wildlife!
The best way to cool down while snow hiking? Have your loved one push you in the snow on the pretense of making a snow angel. You’ll cool down quickly!
Heading back down towards where we started. Could never get tired of this view.
Now that I’ve conquered snow hiking, does this mean my next step is skiing or snowboarding?
And just so you can get an idea of what snow hiking looks like, check out the above video. You feel a bit ungainly at first but soon get used to it!
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Photo credit: most of the awesome photos in this post were taken by Paul.