The mountain resort of Alta Badia, in Italy’s South Tyrol region, laces together six small villages – Corvara, Colfosco, La Villa, San Cassiano, Badia and La Val – each with its own personality. Cosy San Cassiano has a Michelin-starred restaurant and great bakeries while, in winter, Corvara benefits from direct access to the Sellaronda (a 30km ski circuit around the Sella mountain range).
Alta Badia’s main claim to fame for ski-obsessed foodies, however, is A Taste for Skiing. Held throughout the ski season each year, the initiative involves Michelin-starred and other well-known chefs partnering-up with ski huts across the resort to create limited edition dishes at affordable prices for guests who ski between them; expect everything from pearl barley watercress risotto to braised venison shank. The aperitif served alongside them also changes each season – this year’s is the Al – Pino, made with pine and plum vinegar – as does an associated calendar of foodie events ranging from South Tyrolean wine tastings to sunrise breakfasts.
Café Ploner – best for bombolone alla crema
Whether you’re an early riser or a night owl, Café Ploner in San Cassiano (open from 6.30am until 11pm) is the place to go for cream-topped cappuccinos, slabs of apple strudel and early evening aperitifs. Snuggle up on fur-lined chairs outside, or keep toasty inside, where large wooden tables are made for sharing with fellow rosy-cheeked skiers. Admire a counter laden with pastries, but remember to order the bombolone alla crema – a puffy, light donut filled with a generous dollop of crème patisserie. Don’t want to sit in? Buy a selection to eat on the slopes later.
24 Strada Micurà de Rü, San Cassiano
Delizius – best for deli produce
While you’re in San Cassiano, stroll a few doors down from Café Ploner to Delizius, a deli stocked with packets of polenta (plain or pepped-up with porcini and speck), local cured meats (coppa, pancetta and salamella to name a few), preserves, fresh cheeses and grappa liqueurs. If you’re self-catering, buy a tub of vibrant pistachio or rich hazelnut spread for morning pancakes, and slices of countertop apple strudel dotted with sultanas and dusted with icing sugar. Or even buy a whole strudel, if you want to enjoy that crisp pastry and gently spiced apple filling for longer.
Rosa Alpina Wine Bar and Grill – best for dessert
If you can’t stretch to Michelin-starred dining at the legendary Rosa Alpina hotel, book a table at its wine bar and grill instead. You’ll get the same glamorous vibe, but a more casual dining experience. Inside, it’s smart-chic meets the slopes: parquet flooring, exposed wooden beams, teal-washed walls and a scattering of faux-fur throws. Start with a glass of sparkling arunda – a local, straw-yellow South Tyrolean wine made with chardonnay, pinot blanc and pinot noir – before tucking into crispy wood-fired pizzas (mozzarella slices are added post-cooking, and there isn’t a soggy bottom in site), or slurp freshly made pasta pomodoro flecked with salty olives. Don’t miss the wooden dessert cart at the entrance to the dining room; this comes temptingly stacked with colourful patisserie including torched lemon meringue pies, dainty raspberry tarts, and cocoa-dusted tiramisu. Unless you’re really hungry, order the latter to share.
Ütia de Bioch – best for hot chocolate
Alta Badia isn’t short on hot chocolate spots, but at Ütia de Bioch (near the Biok lift) is the place to go if you like your mug to come topped with whipped cream and, perhaps, a splash of amaretto or rum. Thick and rich, Ütia de Bioch’s hot chocolate is best enjoyed outside on a long wooden table strewn with woollen blankets. While you’re there, check out the modern wine room with its bottles of montepulciano, ploner sauvignon and sparkling arunda.
Piz Sorega – Loc. Bioch
Ütia Las Vegas – best for slopeside views
Close to the Ciampai lift, Utia Las Vegas is everything you’d expect from a slopeside refuge – sturdy wooden tables, low beams, chequered cushions and disused wooden snowploughs, with the day’s newspapers hanging from them. Order the Bombardino, a local drink rich enough to be a dessert. Sip this eggnog and brandy blend (served hot, with a frothy whipped cream head) on the balcony upstairs for the most impressive mountain views.
15 Strada Piz Sorega, San Cassiano
Restaurant Da La Vedla – best for a Hugo aperitif
After a long day swooshing down the slopes, stop off a Restaurant Da La Vedla in San Cassiano for the signature Alta Badia aperitif, the Hugo. A refreshing spritz, made with prosecco, elderflower and mint, enjoy it alongside wood-fired pizzas complete with crispy bases and anchovies, speck or hot peppers. There’s covered seating that looks over a charming street market selling mulled wine, hot apple pancakes and loaves of freshly baked bread, or sit at the bar on a high red stool and see if you can spot the resident dog, who lounges in the corner watching all the comings and goings.
Piz Boè Alpine Lounge – best for hearty alpine dining
Take the Boè bubble lift from Corvara up to Piz Boè Alpine for hearty alpine dishes and sweeping mountain views. There are two options when you arrive: a formal à la carte menu served in a smart dining room, or a choice of gnocchi, pasta and polenta (a favourite with the locals) in a self-serve canteen-style area. Settle down next to the bar’s roaring fire with a glass of organic fruit juice (pineapple, peach or pear) in hand, or if you want the best seat in the house, bag a black leather booth for views through floor-to-ceiling windows. If it’s on the menu, order the smooth polenta topped with bouncy mushrooms and nuggets of blue cheese that melt into the grain, creating a comforting puddle. Or a simple plate of silky spaghetti tossed in tomato sauce is another good shout. There’s a pop-up Aperol bar just outside the restaurant, so grab a spritz and sip it from the comfort of a deckchair in the snow.
Agriturismo Ciablun – best for traditional Ladin dishes
For a true taste of the region take a taxi higher up the mountains until you reach Agriturismo Ciablun, a farm/restaurant/apartment that serves a traditional Ladin (an ancient local culture native to the Dolomite Mountains) dinner. There are picnic tables outside (a picturesque place to eat in the summer months), but step inside for rustic comfort, with stone walls and flickering candles. Start with a bowl of nourishing barley, vegetable and lardon broth, with a side of panicia cun tutra (flaky pastry circles filled with spinach and ricotta), the Ladin version of a samosa. Other must-orders include fluffy dumplings with a cheesy coating, and deep-fried pastry coils topped with elderberry jam. Grappa is the thing to drink, with an array of flavours to sample – sweet blueberry and grassy hay were our top picks. Check out the selection of homemade fruit syrups and jellies, made using ingredients grown on the farm, for great gift ideas.
Pizzeria Fornella – best for pizza
It’s hungry work skiing the Sellaronda, so finish with a well-deserved pizza in Corvara. Open seven days a week with two sittings (12-2.30pm and 6-11pm), friendly Pizzeria Fornella offers generous portions of pasta (be it bowls of rich venison ragu or spaghetti carbonara) and pizzas (crispy bases and portions large enough to take half home for later). With an extensive menu, it’s ideal for families with children in tow. But it’s no bookings, so get there early if you want to be sure of a table.
NaturHotel Miraval – best place to stay
Doubles from £165 per night, check availability at booking.com
Perched in the village of La Villa is NaturHotel Miraval, a family-run, 12-bedroom hotel with seven self-catering apartments. Natural wood and cool stone are the main materials you’ll find in the bedrooms, with pops of colour adding a touch of warmth. Book ground-floor Sompunt if you’re after a private terrace and garden (even better in the summer months, where flowers fill the lush meadows), or Dolomites Tyrolian Stube for a spacious sitting area and private balcony. No matter which room you book, you’ll wake up to striking mountain views. The buffet-style breakfast includes local jams, chunks of cheese and freshly baked cakes, while an ever-changing four-course dinner menu features regional ravioli and dumpling dishes. After a day of activities, soak up some time in the spa, relaxing in the Finnish sauna, aroma steam bath, or outdoor movie theatre.
For more information, visit altabadia.org
Words and photographs by Ellie Edwards, January 2020