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Ski Touring and Snowshoeing in the Dolomites

Ski Touring and Snowshoeing in the Dolomites
12 February 2018 No comments

Cicerone began around forty years ago by publishing a guidebook to some of the best climbs in the Lake District. Over the years, the list of titles has grown, every one of them written by an expert in his or her field. The result is that every book is packed with reliable, detailed information, to take you to the some of the most beautiful corners of the world.

In this extract from the latest book to be published by Cicerone; Ski Touring and Snowshoeing in the Dolomites, James Rushforth shares one his favourite routes – the Canale Del Ghiacciaio. The extract gives you a flavour of the level of detail and advice you can expect from the book.

James www.jamesrushforth.com is an experienced and professional climber, mountaineer, skier and high-liner. He has spent much of time exploring the Italian Dolomites and is one of the leading authorities on the region.

Canale del Ghiacciaio

Start: Pordoi cablecar top station (2950m)
Finish: Corvara pistes (1600m)
Distance: 9km
Total ascent: 400m
Total descent: 1750
Grade: PD 3.2
Time: 3–4hrs
Aspect of ascent: SW
Aspect of descent: N
Map: Tabacco No 07
Equipment: Crampons, ice axe
Return to start: A ski pass is required to return to the start with ease.
Follow the Sella Ronda in either direction to return to the car park at the bottom of the Pordoi cablecar (2hrs).
Parking: Pordoi cablecar car park: 46.48817, 11.81039

Dolomites Map 1

This seldom frequented but excellent itinerary is a longer variant of the Val Mesdì and accesses the valley from the neighbouring summit of Piz Boè (3152m), the highest peak on the Sella. The route is best done in good visibility to fully enjoy the stunning views from the summit and also to assist with route finding which isn't always obvious. The ascent to the summit of Piz Boè requires mountaineering experience and the steep second half of the ascent requires an absolutely safe snowpack.


The ski tours on the Sella are accessed via the Pordoi cablecar, located equidistant between Arabba and Canazei atop the Passo Pordoi (SR48/SS48). The cablecar is most commonly accessed via the neighbouring lifts and, as all of the descents lead back to the ski pistes of the Sella Ronda, the return home is usually straightforward. Take the cablecar, which runs roughly every 15mins to the top station.

In good visibility much of the tour can be viewed from the top of the cablecar station and the way is often well tracked to the northeast.

Ski northeast and descend gently for 300 metres, following poles marking the summer path (note the funnel leading into Canale Holzer (5.1) on the left) until making a sharp turn to the right towards Rifugio Forcella Pordoi. The descent to the rifugio often gets stepped out, with large moguls and a small cornice to negotiate.

From Forcella Pordoi (which forms the start of two other popular ski tours, Forcella Pordoi (2.3) on the right which leads back to the bottom of the cablecar and Val Lasties (2.3) on the left) sidestep up on the other side of the rifugio, passing above a wooden shrine and rounding a corner to the right. Ski down to the east, keeping as much speed as possible until reaching a steeper uphill section.

Put skins on here and kick turn up the slope in front, heading northeast towards the summit of Piz Boè. Just below the top of the slope traverse to the left, following winter stakes to reach a large flat area underneath Piz Boè.

skinning up

Proceed to the base of the southwest ridge and ascend this using crampons, following the summer path marked by short sections of cable and picking the best line with occasional short detours to the left and right to avoid the steeper sections before reaching the summit of Piz Boè. The elegant peak is marred slightly by the mobile phone relay but still provides wonderful views in all directions.

Dolomites Map 2


To descend, pass between Rifugio Capanna Fassa and the mobile phone relay and traverse just under the highest point of the ridge in front for 200 metres or so until reaching a saddle (Forcella di Ciamorces). From here, drop into the valley to the right (east), negotiating a cornice which can be quite large at times.

Ski down the next steep slope to arrive just below the line of cliffs on the lefthand side. Here, traverse left directly under the cliffs for roughly 150 metres until a gap between the rock bands up on the left comes into view. Ascend this steep slope with care to reach a saddle overlooking a large open slope above Canale del Ghiacciaio.

Ski down the valley, often on beautiful snow, and pass a bottleneck between some small rock bands on the left before entering into the main couloir leading down into the Val Mesdì itself. There are now many possible lines although the best skiing is often found by repeatedly traversing up high along the slopes on the left or right side to drop back into the valley.

Towards the end of the valley the cliffs above Colfosco force the route along the streambed as it makes a slight turn to the right. Here the terrain is narrow, littered with small boulders and often well tracked, requiring a cautious descent.

Just before reaching the gentle gradient of the valley floor below, stay on the right side of the stream to descend awkwardly down to a pisted track. Follow this to the right for 500 metres (watch out for walkers and cross county skiers) until a bridge leading left over the river. Cross this and continue to the Borest lift coming up from Corvara.

Ski Touring and Snowshoeing in the Dolomites is a guidebook to winter in the Dolomites, featuring 50 ski touring and snowshoeing routes in the Italian mountain range. The graded routes, all of which take less than a day to complete, commence  bases of Cortina, Arabba, Val di Zoldo, San Martino and San Vigilio, taking in stunning scenery, quaint villages and enchanting mountain vistas.