Italian style mountain biking.
Val Gardena is, like most of the more famous Alp regions, known for their outstanding winter sport conditions. If you mention the name Val Gardena to winter sports fanatics, there is a great chance they will directly mention: ‘Sella Ronda’. A great round-trip with over 100 km with slopes starting and ending point at the same place.
Does that mean that the Italian Dolomites and Val Gardena are all about winter sports? No way. Locals put in a lot of effort to copy the winter outdoor experience into a summer outdoor world of activity as well. This means that the Sella Ronda is also available for mountain bikers.
The Val Gardena
The name Val Gardena comes from the Ladin word Gheïrdina. This Roman language is still spoken in the region, but a translation of gheïrdina is not available. That does not mean there is a language barrier. Although the official language is Italian, German is also a common language. Especially when you are in South Tyrol (Süd Tirol in German, Alto Adige in Italian), German is spoken a lot. Next to that, nearly everyone is able to speak English.
In the valley, you will find three picturesque villages situated at a reasonably high altitude: Ortise (1.236 mt), S. Cristina (1.428 mt) and Selva (1.563 mt.). These villages are surrounded by the spectacular massive of the Dolomites up to 2.518 mt. high and the impressive landmark of the Sassa Lungo (3.181 mt).
Because of the impressive white-grey colour of the Dolomite rocks, the so-called Pale Mountains, the mountain landscape is protected as UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Val Gardena is at the south side of the Alps. One of the advantages of staying on the south side is that you are able to enjoy 300 days of sunshine on average. It is no coincidence that a major part of living is based on outdoor activities. Mountain biking plays an ever growing part in those activities.
The network of single trails and downhills is still growing, but that doesn’t mean the total amount of trails Val Gardena offers, is under average. There are already over 1.000 km of single trails. The direct connection to neighboring valleys easily multiplies this number. And for the downhill fans there are enough resources at your disposal to help you concentrate on downhill and not on climbing.
The nice temperature also helps you to enjoy outdoor life besides your activities. Dining outside in the fresh air of the Dolomites, for instance. Of course, you can enjoy the famous Italian cuisine too.
Your mountain biking in the valley
The tourist office offers you very good descriptions of all possible tours in the immediate surroundings. These descriptions include the Sella
Ronda (clockwise and anti-clockwise) and neighbours as Alpe di Siusi. All descriptions are categorized in easy, intermediate or difficult. The Val Gardena-region offers so many routes, that even if you lived there and you would go out mountain biking every weekend, there would still be enough tours to enjoy a different ride each time.
Winter sports lovers already know the joy of the big regional lift-pass “Dolomiti Super Ski”. Reason for the tourist authorities to create the so-called “Dolomiti Super Summer”. This lift pass offers you severe price reductions or a 5 out of 7-days free use pass with an easy accessibility for your mountain bike. So if you are a downhill lover, opportunities enough to make numerous downhill meters.
Of course we had to go on a mountain bike tour ourselves. To go for a big one, we chose the Sella Ronda clockwise, and as usual I feared that I hadn’t had enough hours of training. In total, the tour is approximately 57,5 kilometers in length. During this round-trip we had to conquer about 4.000 m. in altitude and takes in theory about 5½ hours of riding. The altitude meters easily can be reduced to about 800 meters. During the Sella Ronda Tour there are 5 cable car connections available. We chose to start from Selva (Wolkenstein in German) with one cable car. From there on we did the rest of the climbing ourselves.
No need to say, that although you sometimes notice that you are in a winter sport region, you are rewarded with unbelievable views, demanding climbs and thrilling downhills. Be sure to have the right gears as on one climb the steep parts almost reach 20%. This was not even the maximum percentage during the Sella Ronda Tour. There is also one downhill where the grade maximizes to almost 25%. There is no shame in going on foot for a while if you are not feeling secure enough.
In our opinion the whole “expedition” was more than fantastic. At the end we experienced the sorest legs ever but the rewards of the amazing views and scenery were absolutely worth the tiredness.
Events and accommodation
The tourist offices are doing everything to attract tourists. They, for example, organize numerous events: a climbing festival, kids weeks, wood carving events, a jazz festival, wine and dine fares and so on. For food lovers there is to mention the “Aperitif Urtijëi” in Ortise from July 17th to August 28th, where five “fine dine” restaurants serve traditional South Tyrol fare in the village’s pedestrian precinct.
For mountain bikers the HERO Bike Festival, around mid-June, might be interesting. This festival offers four days with races, events, concerts and glamour for the youngest and the adults, for amateurs and professionals. The festival ends with the Sella Ronde bike day. All the four passes are on this specific day traffic-free. As you are in one of the big traditional winter sport destinations there is abroad offer on accommodation from budget apartments and restaurants to multi star hotels with spa facilities and high culinary treatments, the traditional Italian flair included.
Three villages with total 9.500 inhabitants (approx.). Situated from 1.230 mt. (Ortise) in altitude to 2.518 mt. (mountain bike area). Over a 1.000 km of single trails, 5 major cable car connections. 73 Hotels, 7 Bed&Breakfast, numerous apartment buildings, 82 restaurants excl. restaurants on the slopes.
Distances (to Ortisei): Utrecht 1.000 km., Brussels 975 km., Paris 1.000 km., Frankfurt 630 km., Munich 250 km., Milan 310 km.