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  • Dave Philbrick


Deservedly famous Sella Ronda, endless ski trails, incredible food, Otzi the Ice Man, movie-worthy masquerade balls.

This is about the most amazing vacation you could have if your kids’ school has a one-week February break like us. In that week you can ski the Italian alps in peak snow conditions, complete the Sella Ronda, see the 5,000 year old Otzi, enjoy a Carnival parade in a postcard picture Alpine town, tour Venice, and attend an extravagant masquerade ball in elaborate period costume. This vacation cannot be ‘oversold.’ It doesn’t matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done, this will be on your Best Time Of My Life list.

In terms of where to stay in the Dolomites, the two most popular places are Cortina (fancy but not so convenient for skiing) and Ortisei (more charming and conveniently located at the center of the ski region). However, there are numerous villages that have access to ski lifts that connect to the “Dolomiti Superski” area. We stayed in Ortisei and recommend it highly. The village is extremely charming to look

at with very pretty buildings, it’s laid out conveniently around a central cobblestone square, there are lots of really great stores and restaurants within the small downtown, and it’s conveniently located between two huge ski areas on either side.

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Hotel Adler is an insanely amazing place to stay, and while expensive its value is greater than its price. Adler’s location is the best in a place where that is critical for your comfort. It is directly on the public square for great views of Carnival happenings; there is a convenient ski rental shop a couple minutes’ walk away which delivers straight to the hotel ski locker room for you; the hotel’s ski room is spacious and comfortable seating and upon exit there is a 100 foot flat walkway to an outdoor escalator that takes you directly to and from the main ski lift which is a very dramatic gondola ride. Alternatively, when you exit the ski locker room you can take a short 5-10 minute walk to the opposite side of town to a lift which connects to endless more runs which are not part of the Sella Ronda system.

Adler offers swimming with a view inside or outside!

The hotel has a big indoor pool in a glass atrium that allows you to swim outside to an even bigger heated outdoor pool and large hot spa with an infinity edge, all of which enjoy breathtaking views of the Dolomites which rise up and surround the complex on all sides.

There are even pretty white geese beside the pool to visit, and it’s the only hotel with a lawn and flat grounds. Everywhere in and out of the hotel you have fantastic views of the dramatic Dolomites all around. The spa wing is absolutely over the top and worth exploring, as you have to see it to believe it – do you want a sensory deprived experience (float in a soundproof cathedral ceiling wood-paneled dark room)? A real hay sauna? A series of natural looking pools of varying temps? Included is a 5-star a la carte dinner of 4 courses at your reserved table with a waiter who gets to know you, and both the breakfast and dinner buffets

Hotel Adler Dessert Buffet

are extremely impressive - it’s like a New Year’s Eve layout every night! It took us two days to try the buffet, because we just couldn’t believe it was free and included!

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Sogno Veneziano Atelier. For the elegant period costume of your dreams, look no further than renting one of the artistic creations from the super talented, sweet, and honest Giulia Russolo at her studio Sogno Veneziano Atelier. She hosts an incredible Carnival Ball at a Renaissance-era Venetian palazzo every year, and the costume is part of the ticket cost. We went to this site.

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The Hilton Molino Stucky Venice is the ideal place to stay in Venice – directly on a grand canal for the views and breeze, next to a public water taxi stop, has a rooftop bar overlooking much of Venice and its canals, a good restaurant in its lobby, and spacious updated air-conditioned rooms with fantastic bathrooms. Its combination of modern comfort with super location for convenience in getting around can’t be beat.

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Dolomiti Superski. The skiing is absolutely endless, literally incomprehensible how far you could take lift to lift – has anyone ever tried to quantify it?! The maps shown are only PART of the ski network! Certainly, way too many connecting ski lifts for any map to be able to show them. The second map doesn’t even bother trying to show all the runs – those are just the lifts! The ‘Dolomiti Superski’ is an extensive ski area including many different towns connected by many kinds of lifts including moving sidewalks, and often involves skiing on opposite sides of the same mountain.


Depart on evening flight to Europe.


Arrive at Marco Polo Airport and meet driver for the 3.5 hour drive to Ortisei. Highly recommend Vigi Exclusive Transfer who couldn’t provide a more professional experience. The views driving up are part of the fun – starting out with Italian farms on a flat plain, then a glimpse of the white Alps in the distance, winding through the steep mountains and pretty mountain villages, and then snow, skiers and lifts around you. Check into the Adler, greeted by staff in beautiful dirndls who will provide you with your “Dolomiti Superski” lift passes. After dropping off your bags, walk the few minutes to Carlo Rental and get fitted with your ski gear. They will deliver them to the hotel ski room for you for free, so the next stop is the pharmacy across the street to pick up toothpaste and shampoo that you couldn’t include in your carry-on bag. Be introduced to your waiter for your stay and enjoy your “free” (included) fabulous dinner which consists of both an enormous buffet and a la carte options.


After a truly overwhelming breakfast bullet, shuffle to the ski room in your slippers and enjoy getting your gear on in the uncrowded, spacious room with comfortable seats. Walk out the automatic doors for a short flat walk to the escalator which will take you to the Seceda lift, and from there to endless runs from peak to peak. For lunch we recommend the atmospheric Baita Ciadinat Hutte (Slope #6 Ciampini). After returning to the hotel and donning your slippers left in the ski room, go back to your room to get ready to enjoy the heated indoor and outdoor pools and the spectacular dinner with your waiter.

Both warm and hot water outdoor choices at Adler
Enjoying Adler’s indoor jacuzzi


After the sumptuous breakfast buffet and now that you’ve had a day to warm up but while your legs are still fresh, it’s time to tackle the famous Sella Ronda! It’s a very fun challenge to ski and hop lifts, never repeating anything, to make it all the way around the Massif and back home in time. The Sella Ronda takes you all day (follow green route to go counterclockwise, or you could follow orange route to go clockwise - not the same lifts or runs), and we did it starting at 8:30 am (could have started as early as 8:00 am) and with skiing constantly – no lift lines here as there are just so, so many lifts! – and just a 30-minute break for lunch, we made it home by 3:15 pm. Don’t dawdle, because otherwise it’s a very expensive taxi ride home with skis! Enjoy another 5-star meal at your table with your waiter.

Kids and Mom in front of the Sella Ronda Massif

Sella Ronda Ski

Sella Ronda Ski


After enjoying another mind-blowing breakfast buffet, it’s time to take a break from intense days of skiing. Take a taxi to Bolzano, the capital of Val Gardena, to visit the

Otzi - Iceman

absorbing Otzi Iceman Museum and the remains of its concentration camp. It is incredible that most of Otzi’s clothes and belongings have been perfectly preserved as though made yesterday, and the amount of information they learned from him is astonishing. Both were fascinating, tragic, and moving. We recommend lunch at Restaurant Tubladel which offers excellent food in traditional Tyrolean style. If you don’t need to rest right away, finish the afternoon with a visit to Ortisei’s local folk museum. Because it will be Mardi Gras, during the day there will be music, street food, and lots of kids hanging out in ‘Halloween’ style costumes in the main square. This night is the lively Carnival parade, with marching bands and lots of people in elaborate and creative costume. It was clear the crowd knew many of the participants, as there was much calling back and forth, ringing cow bells, singing, and dancing. You will have a memorable night joining the crowd in the square

cheering them as they go by! Enjoy another fabulous meal with your waiter, who will feel like an old friend by now.

Carnivale Venice

Ortisei Mardi Gras Parade


Carbonara tasted even better than it looked at Almgasthof Mont Seuc

On your last ski day walk to the lifts on the other side of the village to ski extensive and entirely new areas. At

the top of the first lift (Funivia Ortisei Alpe di Siusi) enjoy an Aperol Spritz or a truly great carbonara at Almgasthof Mont Seuc outside with a stunning view. Explore the Adler for the last time – walk through the airy fitness center that has tall glass walls looking up at the Dolomites and cross a little

bridge over a natural brook allowed to run through the building(!) You will also have to walk through some of the spa area, and a hallway displaying historical artifacts with placards in several languages. After dinner on the way back to your rooms, walk up the spa’s spiral staircase to a room with 8

Ortisei Parade brings crowds

queen waterbeds lined up against a wall looking out the large glass windows. You will enjoy the Alp view while

floating on the “waves”! The main part of the spa has a high ceiling atrium with tall bamboo in a Zen garden you walk through to get to the treatment rooms, which is a very charming ‘outdoors brought indoors’ effect. Sadly, this will be the last evening you will be exchanging “buona sera” greetings with your waiter, so enjoy the exquisite dinner and overwhelming buffet for the last time.


After an 8:00 am check out meet the same driver as before, who will drive you back to Venice and arrange for a beautiful private water taxi to pick you up on arrival. The boat will drop you off at our recommended hotel’s dock, the Hilton Molino Stucky Venice. Drop off your bags and hop the free hotel boat shuttle for a costume fitting at the Sogno Veneziano Atelier Studio. Stop for some pizza along the way for a quick lunch before the fitting. They will deliver the costume to your hotel room for free. After relaxing from such a long drive, head to the rooftop bar and enjoy the expansive view over the Grand Canal while enjoying drinks and light appetizers. Then hop the free water shuttle and wander the streets of Venice before settling on a dinner restaurant.


After sleeping in and having a late breakfast at your hotel, dress in your elaborate masquerade costumes that are surprisingly comfortable and wander the streets of Venice. You will feel like a celebrity! You will see other couples out in period costume that pose for and with tourists. Wander the streets enjoying this once-in-a-lifetime experience of being part of the gorgeous Venetian scenery. Take the free water shuttle back to your hotel and have lunch there, and be sure to take an afternoon

Outfitted with our costumes!

nap. Plan on taking at least an hour to dress and take photos before you are due at the hotel’s dock to take the masquerade ball’s limo-like private water taxi to the gala. Warning – it may not be easy to fit your hoop skirt or tall ostrich feather mask inside the low roof of the boat! But at least there will be champagne waiting for you! Venetian masquerade balls have the highest production values and are like something conjured from your fantasies or a big budget Hollywood movie. Indeed, many of the costume rental providers are hired by movie studios. For our masquerade ball with Sogno Veneziano Atelier we were delivered directly to the

stone steps of the 15th century Palazzo Contarini della Porta di Ferro, where we gawked and gaped at the other approximately 100 guests. Not a single person there was in a costume that cost less than a few thousand dollars, and some cost much more. Not just the high craftsmanship quality but the creative artistry of the costumes was astounding. There was live classical music and entertainers like acrobats, jugglers, magicians, and living statues entertaining us while we were in the theatrically lit

Table at the Masquerade Ball

palace courtyard enjoying h’ors d’ouevres. The visual extravaganza will take your breath away, and what an experience to be part of the scene. Noone takes their masks off until you sit down at your table for dinner and the show. At our table of 10 we were the only Americans – 4 were from Australia, 2 from Vienna, and 2 from Italy; everyone was very friendly and spoke in English to each other. Our show had a variety of acts, and for the final number an opera singer sang “Con Te Partiro” (made famous by Andrea Bocelli), which everyone stirringly sang together in Italian. At 10:00 pm they opened the doors to the public who arrived to take photos of us and dance to ‘80s and modern music played by a DJ. After a long day we didn’t stay much longer but hopped the free boat shuttle back to the hotel.


Check out of your hotel and take the public water taxi right from your hotel dock to Marco Polo Airport in order to catch your flight home.

Traditional-style trailside restaurant
Can’t take a bad picture skiing!

Charming Ortisei

Stunning views everywhere
Family souvenir photo of Dolomites

View from Indoor Pool

Skiing in Dolomites
Ski Sella Ronda

Setting sun on the Dolomites

Sashimi Buffet at Adler

Mussells buffet at Adler

Lunch at the Restaurant Mont Seuc

Inside Adler Spa
Adler Spa

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