For those who have never seen these extraordinarily beautiful mountains before – prepare to be utterly enchanted. The Dolomites may be part of the Alps, but these towering, rugged, largely limestone monoliths that dominate the upper reaches of Trentino, Südtirol, Belluno and Veneto have the appearance of a completely different mountain range.
The extraordinary thing about them is that much of the rocky terrain that soars skywards, sometimes almost vertically (don’t worry, you normally ski round their bases, not down their sheer walls!) was, eons ago, under the sea: hence the limestone. And thanks to the reddish-purple rock of large feldspar crystals embedded in them, reflected sunlight at both first light and dusk produces a variety of shades of pink and flaming red. In Ladin – the Latin-Romansch language still very much used in some Dolomite valleys - the word for this magical effect is enrosadira.
Fundamentally the great ski resorts of the Dolomites – served by a vast array of lifts dominated by the Dolomiti Superski lift company – provide delightful skiing, plenty of sunshine and food that combines the best of Italian, South Tyrolean and Ladin cultures. There’s steep skiing if you want it (Arabba has plenty - as does Selva Gardena and Cortina), but by and large the runs are ideal for intermediates and families. If you’ve not done it before and like the idea of getting some ski miles under your belt, you’ll be keen to try the celebrated Sellaronda circular tour. You can start anywhere on the circuit and ski it in either direction. At the centre are the gigantic, craggy peaks of the Gruppo Sella. The 25 mile tour (16 miles of actual skiing) can be achieved fairly easily in a day. The tour negotiates four mountain passes: Pordoi, Sella, Gardena and Campolongo as you cruise through the picturesque towns and villages of Colfosco, Corvara and San Cassiano, and the wooded slopes of Canazei. And make sure you experience the La Longia, also known as the James Bond ski run in nearby St Christina which runs down to Ortisei.