Skiing Cortina

One of Europe's most fabled resorts, Cortina d'Ampezzo, 80 miles from Venice, is not on the radar of most American skiers. Chiara Ferragamo on why it should be.

As a former member of Italy's national ski team, Chiara Ferragamo, wife of Massimo (Salvatore Ferragamo chairman), is an expert on skiing in Italy. She was born in Belluno, a small town north of Venice in the heart of the Dolomite mountains in the Italian Alps. Chiara learned to ski at the age of three. She was competing professionally by 13. When asked to pick her favorite Italian ski resort, there was no hesitation. "Cortina d'Ampezzo in the Dolomites," she says. "It's challenging but also a lot of fun. The village is extremely beautiful and there are tons of activities and sports." Over the past hundred years, Cortina has played host to generations of budding competitors like Chiara; it has also been a destination for some of Italy's most stylish families, who come for relaxed winter vacations amid breathtaking views. Chiara returns to the resort regularly (now with husband and children in tow) and DEPARTURES asked her to list some of her favorite places to visit when she's in town.

The best trails at Cortina are the Tofana slopes on the west side of the ski resort. These are incredibly beautiful runs where I used to race in many World Cup downhill competitions while on the Italian ski team.

The most challenging is Forcella Rossa. Sometimes I am still scared doing it, and I would definitely never recommend it to anyone suffering from vertigo.

Many don't know that Cortina d'Ampezzo's valley is oval-shaped and protected on the north by a chain of tall mountains, which cut the northern winds. Even on the coldest days, it remains warm.

For summer skiing I head to Marmolada glacier, the so-called Queen of the Dolomites, which has snow year-round. The Marmolada glacier ski area is 15 miles southwest of Cortina and has two resorts, Arabba and Malga Ciapela.

My young guns have already hit the slopes. Federico, who is three, just learned to ski this past March, while six-year-old Giacomo has been skiing for a few years.

The best trails for children are the beginner slopes at Cortina. I would also recommend the Madonna di Campíglio resort, which is 35 miles southwest of Cortina and has many easy runs.

My heroes were all skiers when I was young, and my favorite was the Swede Ingemar Stenmark, who won two gold medals at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York.

I would never ski without my Tecnica ski boots. I can rent skis and poles, but I must always have my own boots!

To protect your eyes I strongly recommend that every skier wear sunglasses. The sun reflecting off the snow can destroy your eyes. When I go for fun, I wear Salvatore Ferragamo sunglasses, but when I'm skiing on more challenging mountains, I wear Briko goggles.

The best hotel is the Cristallo. Recently renovated, it has a fantastic spa with a lovely pool overlooking the valley. More child-friendly options are Hotel Ancora in the heart of Cortina and the family-run Hotel Menardi.

For a memorable evening I would recommend Ristorante Lago Ghedina, an incredible restaurant located on a lake in the middle of a forest. My next choice would be Tivoli—the food is exceptional and the view of the valley is magnificent.

To see and be seen enjoy a cocktail at the bar of Hotel de la Poste.

For an adventure I wouldn't miss a visit to the restaurant of Malga Federa. In the winter, they pick you up in a snow car and after dinner you can come back to the village in the same vehicle or ride in a sled with torches in the moonlight.

Don't leave without trying the specialty of Cortina—casunziei (ravioli filled with red beets). It's actually an Austrian dish, but then Cortina was Austrian for 400 years, until World War I.

The best shopping in the area is at La Cooperativa di Cortina, an absolute must for regional clothing. Originally it was a co-op founded in 1884 by locals who supplied goods to the valley; today it is an upscale department store.


CORTINA D'AMPEZZO RESORT At 8 Piazzetta San Francesco; 39-043/63231; www.cortina.comMARMOLADA Arabba: 39-043/679-130; Malga Ciapela: 39-043/772-1319 • MADONNA DI CAMPIGLIO At 4 Via Pradalago; 39-046/544-2000; www.campiglio.comCRISTALLO At 42 Via Menardi; 39-043/688-1111 • HOTEL ANCORA At 62 Corso Italia; 39-043/63261; www.hotelancoracortina.comHOTEL MENARDI At Via Majon; 39-043/62400; www.hotelmenardi.itRISTORANTE LAGO GHEDINA At 2 Lago Ghedina; 39-043/686-0876 • TIVOLI At 34 Via Lacedel; 39-043/686-6400 • HOTEL DE LA POSTE At 14 Piazza Roma; 39-043/64271 • MALGA FEDERA 39-043/686-1447 • LA COOPERATIVA DI CORTINA At 40 Corso Italia; 39-043/686-1245;