The very names conjure up emotions of high adventure and so when the chance to ski the Cinque Torre or (Five Towers) followed by the fabled Hidden Valley came up it was just too irresistible a chance to ignore!
Skiing our way once more over to the Pralongia Plateaux and then descending down to the village of Armentarola we were filled with both excitement and nerves in equal measure. Catching the ski-bus link-up we were driven up to the Passo Valparola at 2192m then over the pass to Passo Falzarego to catch the rather scary looking cable car up to the Refugio at Lagazuoi.
At 2778m the cable car ride is one to remember and if you didn’t already have nerves thinking about the steep slope you might have to ski back down on you certainly would now if you looked out of the window!
Views back down to the valley were epic and upon exiting the precarious cable car at the summit the winds howled and the spindrift pricked our exposed flesh.
As we caught for the first time a glimpse of the Hidden Valley route below and more worryingly the black route back down to the cable car start which we were going to attempt first in order to then ski across the valley to the Cinque Torre ski region.
I freely admit that as I dropped in for the first time amid the screeching wind and hard packed ice of the upper slope of that black run my heart skipped a beat or two! I hung in there for dear life as my technique completely deserted me at the critical moment, but survival mode and instinct luckily took over in its place, thus helping me to manage narrowly avoiding a very embarrassing and somewhat public display of how not to ski a steep icy slope.
Having managed to compose myself somewhat after the initial scare I actually began to enjoy the challenge of negotiating this vastly harder terrain than I was used to, the prize of reaching the bottom intact was worth the risk alone!
Down in one piece our little ski posse now crossed the valley to ski in the sublime scenery of an area known as the Cinque Torre, although only four actual limestone towers now exist as one collapsed several years ago, the region is still known by its original moniker.
The Cinque Torre is without doubt one of the most beautiful places you can ski in Europe or indeed the world. The scenery is literally out of this world. A tumble-down shattered landscape of rock and boulders covered as if by a tablecloth of pure white powdery snow.
You have to concentrate hard while skiing through as to avoid stacking it as your eyes are constantly drawn off route to admire the sublime scenery all around you when they should in reality be on the piste directly in front of you.
Having eventually skied out the Cinque Torre region and had a spot of lunch at the stunningly situated Rifugio Scoiattoli it was time to head for the cable car one last time and take the scary ride yet again to the summit of Lagazuoi ready to finally ski out via the fabled Hidden Valley route.
The Hidden Valley starts from just below the summit of Lagazuoii. The Fanes mountain range can be seen to the right of the run while descending and is just a majestic sight. The valley walls to the left are smaller but scattered with frozen waterfalls, one of which you ski right under. The run twists and turns for 7 km, creating a mysterious and secret ambience. Once at the bottom of the trail, you have the option of taking the horse drag, a great experience, where you hold on to ropes pulled by a pair of horses as they take you along the flat frozen river bed to the next lift.
After a week of skiing in the Dollies I still hold this day up as the stand out experience of the trip. I’ve never skied in more stunning surroundings and enjoyed my skiing more. I did stack it once during the descent in what looked a way more gnarly mash-up than it actually was and I luckily seemed to bounce straight back up again like a Space Hopper, not elegant but very fortunate and no harm done.
Having been towed out of the valley by the horses together with around forty other tired skiers hanging on behind and narrowly avoiding an unwelcome appearance on YouTube had we collapsed like dominoes I felt rather sad that it was all over and had the day been longer I would have loved to have gone back up and skied down once more. But on reflection I think having only been treated to the experience just the once it will become all the sweeter over the ensuing years.
If you have a spare week in your life and you can ski or snowboard then you owe it to yourself before you die to make it to the Dolomites, I promise you will not be disappointed!
Those all important stats for the gear junkies out there recorder using Ski Tracks on iOS
More Pics from The Dolomites Ski Adventure can be found over on Flickr and by direct feed here: http://www.fluidr.com/photos/jameshandlon/sets/72157640344946915