Ah, Kronplatz! Sounds like a big square in Berlin or Munich, or perhaps Vienna... except that it’s not.
It’s a highly regarded, but little known in the UK, Italian alpine ski area - and maybe I can help make it just a little better known...
With the style and charm of the Italians, the friendliness and efficiency of the Austrians, combined with the stunning scenery of a UNESCO World Heritage site, it sounds like a winning combination - and you can find it all in the Kronplatz ski area of the Dolomites.
The main resort town of Kronplatz/San Vigilio looks mostly Austrian, but feels very Italian – the mixture reflecting the long and complicated history of this area of the Alps, going way back to the pre-First World War Austro-Hungarian Empire and ending with Italy in charge since the end of the Second World War. But there’s a third vital ingredient at work here, helping to make these high, snowy Alpine valleys unique... Ladin.
Ladin is a remarkable language and culture that harks directly back to Roman times, and brings with it its own traditions and way of life that is embraced by just four Sud Tyrol valleys. Ladin seems to add an extra charm and spice to the area and its people, which is reflected in the warmth of the welcome, the fine wines and the genuinely delicious food.
The Italians take their food at least as seriously as they take their skiing, but more of that later – this is a ski resort, so what’s the skiing like? Well, I’m pleased to report that it’s actually pretty good, and with links to the famed Sella Ronda and the whole of the massive Dolomiti Superski, which claims to be Europe’s largest ski area with 1200 kilometres of piste, there’s more than enough for any level of skier.
The Kronplatz/Plan de Corones ski area is basically one big panettone-shaped mountain, offering some 116 kilometres of piste served by 31 swift and efficient lifts. Topped by the impressive Concordia Peace Bell, weighing 16 tonnes and rung at midday, Kronplatz is an intermediates’ paradise with most of the beautifully-groomed runs being long, cruisey reds and blues. There are a couple of long blacks that drop from top to bottom, and beginners are well catered for on the Miara ski area on the other side of the town.
But if you are a big mileage skier the delights of Kronplatz may only keep you occupied for two or three days – and this is where the links to the rest of the Dolomiti Superski area come in. An easy train link will take you from the Kronplatz pistes to Dolomiti di Sesto and a vast array of ski opportunities on the massive Dolomiti Superski area that will keep the most demanding of skiers happy.
On my brief weekend stay I actually took a minibus to Corvara to have a crack at the legendary Sella Ronda – a 42 kilometre circuit of the stunning Sella massif mountains and taking in the four Ladin valleys of Val Gardena, Alta Badia, Val di Fassa and Arabba. I was fortunate to have great snow and a glorious sunny day for the circuit, which can be done clockwise or anti-clockwise (as I did) and should take no more than five hours of fairly brisk skiing and a leisurely lunch stop. My route included a couple of friendly black runs but was mainly blues and reds and well within the scope of a reasonably fit and confident intermediate skier. If you get the chance, do the Sella Ronda – it’s great fun and the chance to tick off one of the iconic ski experiences from your list!
When the skiing’s done and it is time to relax, Kronplatz can offer a few pleasing restaurants and bars – but if you are after wild après ski you’re in the wrong place... Ischgl, Sauze d’Oulx or Val Thorens it most definitely is not! Which suited me just fine, as I like my après ski fairly quiet and sedate, and with an accent on good food – the quiet and comfortable Hotel Majerei, where I stayed, offered an excellent buffet evening meal with many dishes highlighting the region’s culinary delights.
I was also fortunate enough to enjoy a meal at the four star Hotel Emma just above the town, which boasts a wonderful six course evening menu bursting with Sud Tyrol and Ladin specialities – sweet paprika ravioli filled with Chamois meat or Val Badia suckling pig with home-made spatzle, anyone? I can vouch that both are delicious...
As I mentioned earlier, the Italians take their food seriously and this was manifest not only in the meals I sampled in the evening after the lifts had closed, but also in the many mountain hut restaurants dotted around the mountains for a suitable lunchtime break.
In addition to great food and great skiing, Kronplatz has other strings to its bow, one being that it is in the heart of a UNESCO World Heritage site – make time to visit the town’s superb museum which graphically illustrates the beauty, history and extraordinary wildlife of the area.
And while you are out skiing you now have the opportunity to visit the extraordinary Messner Mountain Museum, literally at the top of the Kronplatz mountain – the brainchild of the legendary Italian Sud Tyrol mountaineer Reinhold Messner, renowned for, among other things, making the first ascent of Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen. I had a sneak glimpse of this singular structure (mostly built inside the top of the mountain) while it was nearing completion, but what I saw was enough to convince me that the original, unconventional and controversial museum should be well worth a visit.
Kronplatz may be a little-known ski resort in the UK, but I think that is going to change over the next few years, so if you want to sample the delights of this Ladin gem, now is the time to visit. After all, great skiing, great food, spectacular scenery and environment – before everyone else finds out, what more could you want?
Jan Henderson travelled to Kronplatz with Crystal Ski Holidays.
For more information about Kronplatz and other Crystal ski resorts and holidays in Europe and North America, visit crystalski.co.uk