It’s a simple choice, fifty-fifty. Left or right, green or orange. Ahead lies 26km of skiing heaven, the circular Sellaronda route in the Italian Dolomites.
Our starting point – the first time – is Corvara on the south-west side of the huge Sella mountain. We are taking the orange route – clockwise – the idea being to follow the sun as it rises and moves around the mountain.
The route is well sign-posted and will take around six hours to complete including breaks and stops to admire the spectacular scenery. Runs delight in having their own nicknames – Moonwalk and Kamikaze Graveyard being just two.
The first lift out of Corvara is a long bubble up through the wooded mountainside to to 2,284m.
From there, it’s a long red back down the other side. Most of the runs on the Sellaronda are reds and perfect for the intermediate skier.
The route is dominated by the huge rocky peaks of the Sella mountain, a wide mountain that is home to almost 1,000km of slopes and a dozen traditional Italian ski towns in the Dolomiti Superski area covered by a single ski pass.
Every time we take a new lift up to about 2,000m, we are greeted with a different view of the mountain.
About two-thirds of the way round the Sellaronda is the Comici Hut – probably the world’s highest seafood restaurant.
The hut is named after famous Italian climber Emilio Comici, a Dolomiti legend famous for discovering many of the region’s climbing routes.
The inside is a maze of tiny rooms that give an intimate dining experience. There are also areas to enjoy a coffee or a beer, and plenty of seats outside where there is also a BBQ.
The food is flown in daily by helicopter from Venice and famous visitors including F1 drivers Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher.
Specialties include lobster and spaghetti with crayfish. Given its spectacular location, prices aren’t extravagant with dishes priced from 12 euros.
Fed and well-rested, the final 6km are a breeze, ending with a long, wide blue run into Colfosco, Corvara’s neighbouring town.
The Sellaronda is an unforgettable ski experience but not one to take lightly. Make sure you are on the route early and be prepared for busy lifts, especially when it hits other ski areas. It’s also 26km of actual skiing but add in at least another 5km to get to and from the start.
Corvara is the perfect place to find your ski legs before tackling the Sellaronda – loads of gentle blue runs can be found above the town under the towering Sassongher mountain on the other side of the valley from the Sella.
A great run is number eight, which takes you from the high point of Pralongia all the way into the centre of Corvara, a drop of over 1,500m.
From there you can take the bubble lift to Col Alt and try the challenging, rolling red run or take a lift to the neighbouring Colfosco, another blue run heaven.
We are based at the Sporthotel Panorama above Corvara. While it’s a bit away from the action – the hotel does offer a free pick-up service until 7pm – it’s just 50m from the slopes and chairlift.
The nearest lift – number 21 – takes you to the Piz Alara, one of the many mountain ‘hut’ restaurants.
It is also possible to ski between 14 of these mountain huts, each with its own seasonal speciality prepared by a Michelin chef.
The speciality this year at Piz Arlara is a goat’s cheese ravioli with beetroot and a pork ragout – a subtle and tasty dish as far from spaghetti bolognaise as you could (although they do serve that as well).
Pasta dishes start at eight euros, so decent value for a ski area.
It is also a great place to stop for an apres-ski drink before the final descent.
If Corvara is spoilt for skiing, then it’s full to bursting with fine dining and excellent food.
The region has 23 Michelin stars and an annual food festival as the area tries to get away from the mountain stews and pasta stereotype.
The town has several bars, mostly based around the hotels, a mix of German, Italian, French and Austrian.
It’s best to start from the top of the town and work down towards Iceberg at the bottom, a lively, modern bar that specialises in gin.
The Sporthotel Panorama prides itself on good quality food and each night serves a six-course dinner. There are also specialty nights – crepes, cheese, grappa. There is also an excellent spa with swimming pool, sauna, steam room and jacuzzi, the perfect place – after the bar – to end a day’s skiing.