The last time I hurtled down a snowy mountain on a pair of skis I was a carefree teenager. School ski trips to France and Austria firmly imprinted the thrill of the piste in my adventure DNA. Similarly a snowboard hasn’t graced the feet of Mr S since he left Switzerland nearly 15 years ago. Rusty. That’s the word that springs to mind. Well, it all changed in February!
Winter in Italy
We were invited by the Trentino tourist board to experience our first family skiing holiday in the mountain village of Andalo. This would be the first time for Radha and Asha and we were all thrilled for the opportunity to discover the slopes of the Paganella plateau.
Andalo, a village nestled between the peaks of the Brenta Dolomites and the pine forests of Mount Paganella is 1040 m above sea level.
Last time we revelled in the spectacular scenery of the Italian Dolomites we were on a summer hiking holiday. We couldn’t wait to go back and be reacquainted with the once lush green hills now transformed into a winter wonderland.
How to get to the Dolomites?
The magnificent Dolomites can be reached very easily, with a choice of cities to fly into the northeastern corner of Italy direct with either Easyjet or British Airways. Hire a car from either Verona, Venice or Bologna and begin a 2 – 3 hour journey. Cruise past picturesque, the odd castle, Italian villages at the base of the mountains and onto landscapes slowly turning more snowy and magical as you climb the winding roads. In contrast with the recent chaos we witnessed in the UK, you’ll find Italy is well equipped to handle vast snowfall. All the roads were clear, safe and made for a rather enjoyable ride for these avid roadtrippers.
We found the charming little mountain village of Andalo at the foot of the Brenta Dolomites perfect place for a family winter break. Families are spoilt for choice when it comes to child-friendly accommodation too.
Hotel Negritella, our home for the trip is a family run hotel for over 25 years. We loved waking up to the magnificent views of the Dolomites from out balcony.
Recently renovated we stayed in a family junior room – cosy yet perfectly adequate for a family of four. The girls’ sleeping quarters a clear winner which included the cutest wooden bunk beds.
It’s an ideal location, only a hop, skip and jump from the gondolas of the Paganella Ski area and all the local facilities. Great to have everything within easy reach when with little ones.
Hitting the Italian ski slopes
Getting kitted out was so straightforward. The ski rental shop at the foot of slopes was a few minutes walk from the hotel – Perfect!
The girls and I had our own ski instructor, the lovely Bor. We immediately took to the nursery slopes, whilst Mr S headed straight to the chairlift with his snowboard instructor. Never to be seen again – Well, until the end of our lesson.
The Paganella ski area offers 50 km of slopes for both first timers and more experienced ski and snowboard enthusiasts. Our experienced and patient ski instructor had the girls ready to leave the nursery slope after two lessons. All set to tackle a chair lift and head up the mountain – Eek!
It was incredible to watch them learn the manoeuvres so quickly and whizz down the mountain. Proud mummy moment right there!
And all this takes place with a backdrop of the spectacular jagged limestone peaks of the Dolomites. Being surrounded by magnificent views while having fun on the piste is an incredible feeling. Not many places where you can boast skiing on a UNESCO World Heritage Site – Bucket list I’d say!
A question I’ve been asked often is ‘Aren’t you cold, spending all day in the snow?’ In a word, no. As the saying goes ‘there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing’. Plus there is nothing like basking in the sun on a snowy mountain. Especially when the scenery is this jaw-dropping.
More than just skiing
In Andalo there is no shortage of winter activities to pursue as a family. If your children are not yet ski age the baby snow parks will keep them more than happy. There are a couple to choose from with fun inflatables for entertainment. We spent an afternoon at the Kids Gaggia Park, up at 1,333 metres.
Easily accessible on cable cars the fun park is equipped with treadmills and a dinghy track to slide on the snow. A little hard to decide who was having more fun, as I flung myself down the bumpy snowy track more than once.
After all the snowy excitement, you can go and relax with a book at the Biblioigloo. Yes, it’s exactly what you’re thinking – A library in an igloo structure. The very first on the Italian slopes.
If you’re a non-skier there is still lots in Andalo to keep you entertained. The Andalo Life Park is home to a huge modern sports and recreational complex full of fun activities for all ages. It includes a park, tennis courts, football pitch, a horse riding centre and rock climbing facilities.
You can aslo whizz around the ice skating rink like we did and do your best impression of Torvill and Dean. Or just fall on your bottom a lot and laugh uncontrollably like Asha did.
For pure relaxation you can indulge at the AcquaIN wellness centre with swimming pools, a gym, a beauty area offering a whole host of treatments, a solarium and sauna. Unfortunately, there wasn’t time on this schedule for pampering, but next time there will be!
An experience not to miss is the horse-drawn sleigh rides around the woodlands. Listening to the tinkering sleigh bells whilst riding through the silent woods, surrounded by glistening snow, is nothing short of magical.
Food, glorious food
One of the best things after an active session on the piste is the sight of a mountain hut – Release your skis, refuel and relax. There is certainly no shortage of gourmet mountain refuges on the Paganella plateau. We sampled a few on our trip.
Chalet Forst serves up classic Trentino cuisine, where I enjoyed a traditional mountain delight of grilled cheese and vegetables with polenta.
Rifugio La Roda offers breathtaking views across the Brenta Dolomites and over to Lake Garda on a clear day. The menu includes classic alpine dishes with an emphasis on local produce, but also fish dishes. Quite a treat at over 2000 metres above sea level!
Boarding a snowcat certainly takes the award for the most exciting way to travel to dinner. We were zipped up the mountain in the huge piste machine, usually used for grooming the snow, in the darkness as the snow fell to Rifugio La Montanara.
Where we ate our final Trentino supper along with a rather delicious wild berry dessert.
Final thoughts of winter in Italy
If anyone thinks their kids are too young to enjoy the joys of a snowy mountain holiday. I hope I’ve helped to erase some of your fears. I saw so many prams and baby slings around Andalo, even I was surprised. There really is something for everyone on the slopes whether you’re a skier, snowboarder or neither.
Our experience of skiing in the Paganella ski area was fantastic and most importantly so easy with young ones as Andalo is completely set up for family winter breaks.
Moreover compared to the better known French and Swiss resorts this region offers you fantastic value for money. Plus all the authentic pizza and pasta you can eat. What’s not to like?!
The ski season in Paganella is open until April and if you can’t squeeze it in this year I couldn’t recommend it more for next year – Get planning! More information on Visit Trentino.
You may also find my Winter La Dolce Vita in Trentino post of useful.
Watch my video diary below with the highlights from our trip
Disclaimer: We travelled as guests of the Trentino Tourist Board. All views, opinions and photos are my own and remain a trademark of the Curious Pixie.
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