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.