Cortina d’Ampezzo: The Most Scenic World Cup Venue of Them All

9th January 2014 | Shauna Farnell

The best place to view the Cortina World Cup is from the Rifugio Duca D’Aosta.

The best place to view the Cortina World Cup is from the Rifugio Duca D’Aosta.

Copyright: Shauna Farnell

Of all the picturesque venues on the World Cup tour, to single out just one as the hands down, most striking, it would have to be Cortina d’Ampezzo. Tucked into the jagged, intimidating peaks of the Italian Dolomites, cobblestone streets are strewn with a combination of small, ancient churches, remnants of buildings that date back to the Holy Roman Empire, pizzerias and resort shops selling the chicest and finest in outerwear. The town is also equipped with a bustling shopping hall – La Cooperativa http://www.coopcortina.it/ - where you can find everything from the finest olive oil to a miniature cuckoo clock to a handmade ski sweater.

Pair this with the fact that the women's downhill race begins on what is easily the steepest, most harrowing start hill on the women’s tour, then takes them down a fall-a-way chute between enormous rock faces on the Tofano slope and can be watched from a sunny deck in a mid-mountain restaurant that produces some of the tastiest homemade gnocchi in the entire country… you have the makings of what is bound to be one of your most memorable ski vacations.

WHERE TO WATCH THE WORLD CUP

Having hosted the Winter Olympics in 1956, Cortina d’Ampezzo welcomed its first World Cup downhill race—a men’s event—on its notorious Olympia delle Tofane course in 1969. It has been an annual stop on the women’s speed tour since 1993. The 2014 women’s downhill is scheduled for Jan. 18 followed by the super G Jan. 19. Though she obviously won’t be racing this year, Lindsey Vonn has been the most successful racer on the Tofano course in recent years. She landed her first podium here in 2004 and has since landed seven victories.

The race finishes mid-mountain and can be reached by shuttle or, better yet, by skis via the Tofano Express lift. Daily finish area or fan tribune tickets and VIP package tickets are available. Festivities kick off in the evening of Friday, Jan. 17 with the bib draw at the beautiful outdoor Piazza Angelo Dibona, followed by a 20http://www.hoteleuropacortina.it/" target="_blank">welcome party at Hotel Europa. Saturday’s award ceremony and bib draw return to the Piazza.

If not packed into the happy revelry of the finish area, drinking complimentary Milka hot chocolate or catching cough drops from the Ricola mascot, the best place to view the races is from the Rifugio Duca D’Aosta. Refuge indeed, the entire morning on race and training days you’re likely to bump into each one of the women stars here downing a hot chocolate or cappuccino, and the Rifugio’s sunny deck gives you front row viewing of the steepest pitch at the top of the downhill course. The homemade gnocchi is some of the best you’ll find in Italy.

The women's Cortina downhill race begins on what is easily the steepest, most harrowing start hill on the women’s World Cup tour.

Copyright: Shauna Farnell

WHERE TO STAY

While star ratings can be famously fishy in Italy, several lodges in Cortina more than deserve their four stars, including the Hotel Villa Blu. Somewhat off the beaten path and very simple in terms of amenities (free access to ice skating rink, cozy restaurant, ski valet, luggage, car service and superior south-facing rooms with balconies and sweeping views of the peaks), the Villa Blu is run by family and will make you feel a part of it.

On the higher end of the four-star rating is Hotel Bellevue. Just a few steps from the town center, the Bellevue boasts one of the best restaurants in town, replete with whole fish served in salted casings and a dessert tray that will have you drooling from across the room. There is also a spa with Finnish sauna, steam and massage rooms and cozy suites equipped with oak wardrobes, thick drapes, tapestries and linens.

Hotel Bellavue

Copyright: Shauna Farnell

WHERE TO EAT

With sweeping views of the craggy peaks, Baita Pie Tofana is decorated with handcrafted antique wooden chairs and tables, a small fire and kitchen witches dangling from the ceiling. There’s a sunny deck serving the best lunch mid-ski day you’re able to find anywhere in Europe. The Baita is also a highly coveted (reserve early!) dinner spot, serving the freshest truffles and mushrooms of the season, perfectly cooked pasted, foie gras and a variety of strong red wine.

For authentic regional cuisine, including the area’s token buttery beet raviolis that have a way of disintegrating in your mouth, Ristorante Al Camin, run by creative culinary couple Fabio and Lorena Pompanin, is one of Cortina’s best kept secrets, just a short drive up the road to Passo Tre Croci.

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