Article by: Carlotta Cortese
Every self-respecting cyclist knows the Dolomites.
In fact, the sharp profiles and the wonderful colors of the “Pale Mountains” are now known even to those who don’t go there because of their sporting passion.
But, the cyclist knows the Dolomites from a road perspective: he follows those strips of asphalt winding in the middle of the pastures and under magnificent walls and knows every roughness and every pebble.
A slow and, therefore, privileged perspective.
Even the skier knows the Dolomites well: it’s easy to abandon oneself to the perfection of perfectly snow-covered slopes, capillary and fast lifts, top services and, of course, some of the unique mountain views in the world. Skiing in the Dolomites is, to say the least, dispersive: you can easily leave in the morning and return in the evening without repeating the same track. And on the other hand, this is easily done even on your own bike.
I’ve always been destroyed by the winter “expeditions” around here: the efficiency of the chairlifts takes you back to the top so quickly that you don’t even have time to recover from the descent.
A few days ago, when I turned on the TV, I saw the Dolomites again: a view of the beautiful Val Badia and then the Gran Risa, a white snake in the middle of the woods, in the blue shade that guarantees marble snow: it’s the male World Cup Giant Slalom, which has been taking place here for about thirty years, and this tour is dominated by the usual monsters’ performance of the champion Marcel Hirscher.
A few days later it was the turn of the women, for the first time protagonists on the legendary Saslong until last year prerogative of male colleagues. In the shadow of the Sassolungo, which gives its name to the slope, the little snow around it did not ruin the show, which was indeed very ready, thanks to the powerful snowfall that began weeks ago also in Val Gardena.
How strange to see these places in winter dress: the cold roads, the asphalt streaked with salt: the bike is a distant dream for some time yet. And yet it is precisely among these snow-covered passes that the “Maratona Dles Dolomites” will pass in about seven months. On July 7th, 2019, the 33rd edition of this long and successful event will start from Corvara.
Now the spotlight is on the race tracks, and on the snow that is slow to arrive. But here it is rare for appointments to skip: the programmed snow has produced millions of square meters of snow, allowing not only the races but also the opening of more than 50% of the slopes, including the famous tour of the Sella mount (the Sellaronda).
But how was this acceleration, this tourist development, this infrastructural efficiency possible?
The tourist development around here has been relatively fast, but has benefited from a base placed at least a century ago. Here the mountain, once closed, without outlets, condemned by the difficult natural conditions to humble and tiring lives, has found its way in an almost daring way: after the first imperial works, it was the military genius who decreed its development. We needed connections, roads: as far as we could. Then trenches, barbed wire and cableways were needed, as far as we had never thought of getting there. The front shifted to the peaks and the crode.
From there, many years later and in time of peace, the otherwise crazy idea of pulling steel cables to the top of Sass Pordoi, or of bringing a panoramic terrace to the top of Lagazuoi, could be born; but Lagazuoi, that beautiful looming wall that welcomes us upon arrival on the Falzarego and Valparola passes, no longer has anything natural: it is a maze of tunnels, shelters, terraces open in the rock. We will never know what that wall was like, because its original shape was destroyed by the mines war of 1916.
Roads that arrive, roads that go: this is well known by the cyclist, who suffers on those climbs, surrounded by beauty. The Dolomite roads are a web, they are perfect and sometimes daring connections between valleys otherwise destined for isolation. Military and commercial connections and, finally, tourist connections. What would those areas look like today, without the historical past that once tormented them, erasing their nature and forcing the culture, the human work, the machines, the transport and war machines? And bringing up thousands of soldiers from all over Italy, the first tourists unaware of being so, doomed to death, forced to hate those mountains so beautiful.
You can’t know it: you can just pedal and enjoy the sinuous descents of Gardena and Pordoi, ringing four, five or six steps in a hundred km.
The little miracle of the Dolomite roads, which make them so versatile and fun for those who love two wheels.
In the same way you can replicate the Sellaronda with skis on your feet, grinding miles thanks to the perfect connections between the lifts.
That’s how the Dolomites work, “Superski” as the name of its area mentions. A perfect machine where summer and winter are in skilful continuity.
In June we will be ready in the saddle. While waiting, you can always enjoy the snow: the show does not change.