The Bus to Cavalese — La Sportiva Visit Part 1

Post by blogger | February 3, 2015      
In the Dolomite, visiting La Sportiva.  The mountains here are  some of the most beautiful in the world.  The rock colors alone will stun you. Eliminate the colors and you still get bug eyed at the shapes and sizes.

In the Dolomite, visiting La Sportiva. The mountains here are some of the most beautiful in the world. The rock colors alone will stun you. Eliminate the colors and you still get bug eyed at the shapes and sizes. You’ll long for your rock climbing shoes, but you’ll also see ski touring options everywhere with the gigantic jagged aretes of the Dolomite towers as a backdrop.

Here in the Val di Fiemme, I had the best seafood risotto of my life. In fact, I’m now seeking out the risotto on every menu I can get my hands on. Funny how foreign travel can be a royal privilege or a royal pain in the rear. You depend on so many things, the kindness of local friends, or strangers, weather, trains — and how good the cook is.

In the case of food I’m pretty comfortable eating just about anything when in travel mode, but I’ve developed a complex about train travel after a few “epic” experiences involving ski bags and station bathrooms, so for the last few of my journeys on the rails I’ve managed to leave the ski bag behind. Night and day (it’s hard to fit a double ski bag in a bathroom stall).

With only my computer daypack and small roller, I got on a local bus in Austria at just after 8:00 am — here I am in Cavalese, Italy at just after noon. The Barthel family in Austria got me clear on which trains, and a friendly Italian bus driver speaking perfect English completed the connections. My trusty Garmin 60 played a part as well, when the bus driver asked me which of the five possible stops I needed for the hotel.

I probably could have done it with a paper map, but I find the Garmin to be way less stressful during these work trips. Time is limited for sleuthing out street names and asking for directions you get in a language you don’t understand, though that can be fun.

My digs for a few days in Italy, Valle Fiemme, hotel is the building visible peaking out at the end of the stree, Hotel Garni Laurino.

My digs for a few days in Italy, Valle Fiemme is nestled against the Dolomite, hotel is the building visible peaking out at the end of the street, Hotel Garni Laurino. Check out the beautiful colors on that building to the right, normal stuff for Italy.

Only glitch was I almost didn’t get on the first train in Austria, fooled by the tendency in Europe to define travel by what villages the route encounters, rather than road numbers or train numbers. The numbers are there, but when you’re in a hurry and don’t know where to look, you tend to focus on the names — and the departure times. You don’t see the name of where you’re going, the train is slightly early, you hesitate, with a hissing sound the train doors close and it smoothly accelerates out of the station as you stand there on the platform, awed by your own stupidity. At least you now have time for a leisurely lunch at that cafe you spotted down the street.

So, today the missed train didn’t happen (it has) and here I am at Hotel Garni Laurino nestled next to the Dolomite Mountains, home range of La Sportiva.

Time for Italian FOOD,  my favorite part is the antipasto.

Time for Italian FOOD, my favorite part is the antipasto. Literally meaning “before the meal” I love this stage of the feed because I’m still hungry and it’s gluten free. As in many other parts of Europe, and the US, you’ll find a major emphasis on locally raised and grown victuals. The tasty items on this plate were all made a few miles from this apre-ski location.

After situating my bags in the room, I’m sitting in a small hotel 4-table bistro no bigger then our bedroom at home, having a nice Italian espresso, preparing to join the Sportiva folks for dinner. Which leads me to a thought. Do any of you European readers have a problem with the nearly endless presence of pop music, often 80s hair bands or such, that is piped into seemingly every corner of the universe over here? I find it strange, and can’t get used to it. Yes, we have some of that going on in the U.S., but not to this extent. For example, back home I can step into any of numerous coffee shops and not have a speaker pumping Thriller into my left lobe. And yes, I’ve found some locals that don’t like it either — unless it’s John Denver or perhaps “Rock and Roll All Nite.” Come to think of it, I’m noticing quite a few people walk around with headsets in, could they be tired of Kiss as well?

Hotel Garni Laurino is old, apparently a few hundred years so according to this lettering on the ceiling of my room. Makes me wonder what I'd see if I could time travel back.

Hotel Garni Laurino is old, apparently a few hundred years so according to this lettering on the ceiling of my room. Makes me wonder what I’d see if I could time travel back.

I enjoy the contrast in architecture between your average North American living space, and what you often find here in the alpine villages. I’m used to big rooms, with lots of windows. That’s how Lisa and I like to design our living spaces, acres of glass. The repeating theme here is small rooms, minimal windows set into incredibly thick walls (R-100, anyone?). I’ve come to like the cozy feel of such spaces, often enhanced by a tile stove radiating warmth. If I designed something myself I’d probably still go for the window wall, but perhaps include a few nooks where one could feel cozy.

The grappa fox filled with wood barell aged goodness, this store sells all local.

The grappa fox filled with wood barrel aged goodness, this store sells all local.

Another thing I like, somewhat pervasive in the alpine regions, is interior woodwork done with “blond” unstained wood that appears to have a transparent sealer to prevent darkening by oxidation and make it easy to clean. This hotel also appears to have quite a bit of un-sealed wood that’s being allowed to darken. But I could be fooled. Making new construction look aged is an art around here. Overall effect is a cozy comfortable “warm wood” feeling to the rooms.

Overall impression in this part of Italy is that of contrasts. You see more run-down buildings than in prosperous countries to the north and west. Yet you also see beautiful architecture. The high faces of ancient buildings tower over narrow sidewalks and streets, which here in town are paved with bricks instead of asphalt, making one wonder if perhaps a some of those pavers date back to Roman times. The building colors are more interesting as well, instead of the common white it’s not uncommon to see entire stucco homes painted bright shades of yellow or pink, perhaps with green shutters. Some buildings are intentionally mutted or perhaps faded by the sun, resulting in pleasant pastels. If you wanted a color pallet for a web design project, for example, all you’d have to do is take a walk with a camera. Beyond the villages, you climb peaks where you find tunnels and other works from the World Wars, contrasting the dark side of humanity to grandeur above. And you notice that Italians use 35 hand gestures per spoken word, compared to our boring 1.5 when speaking English. The variety of cultures on this planet never ceases to fascinate.

Myself and Luca Mich, La Sportiva's marketing & communication guy who's their main person for their internet presence. We spoke  quite a bit about how  internet users have segmented out somewhat when it comes to participatory things, such as blog commenting vs.forums.

A day or so later (after a ski tour) I visited La Sportiva’s nearby HQ, more on that later. For now, the obligatory Italian espresso photo. This is myself and Luca Mich, La Sportiva’s marketing & communication guy who’s their main person for their internet presence. We spoke quite a bit about how internet users have segmented out somewhat when it comes to participatory things, such as blog commenting vs.forums.

More about that bus ride. I got off the train at Ora/Auer in the huge low-altitude valley that brings you down south from Brenner Pass. The bus heads easterly from Ora. It’s a one-hour journey to Cavalese, winding several thousand meters elevation, glimpses of the Dolomite tempting at nearly every turn on a classic European mountain road cut improbably into a thousand vertical feet of cliffs. You think any minute you’ll see an Aston Martin drifting the curves, a wrist out the window casually flicking a Morland cigarette. James Bond off to another ski day. I’ve heard he now uses an avalanche airbag.

More local meats and cheeses.

More local meats and cheeses.

Val di Fiemme website.


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17 Responses to “The Bus to Cavalese — La Sportiva Visit Part 1”

  1. Erik Erikson February 3rd, 2015 2:24 pm

    Lou, me (European) could easily and very happily live without the “endless presence of pop music, often 80s hair bands or such” – though in a funny way I like especially hair metal since I was around 16 at it´s peak and it reminds me of my “glorious” youth.. 😉

  2. Scott Nelson February 3rd, 2015 7:50 pm

    That’s one part of the world I dream of visiting someday. Thanks for sharing.

  3. biggb February 3rd, 2015 8:37 pm

    i’m super jealous

  4. Justin February 3rd, 2015 9:00 pm

    Great post Lou, you captured my impressions of the region(s) from an American perspective perfectly. Indeed, miss your train trying to negotiate the wonderfully well organized transportation system, rush back to the immaculate WC just in time to realize you’re out of 50 cent coins to unlock the door, avert crisis, and settle into a fantastic, beautiful, quaint restaurant for a fabulous meal while terrible american pop music beats endlessly in the background. Why? A land of contrasts indeed. But all humor aside, what a wonderful time it is over there. May the pilgrimages to the homeland of ski touring (and the posts) never end!

  5. Lou Dawson 2 February 4th, 2015 12:35 am

    Justin, you said it better than me. Lou

  6. Erik Erikson February 4th, 2015 2:25 am

    I definitly like to read the posts on wildsnow about the (for me) far away adventures in South America, Japan and so on.
    But even more I like Lous really well written posts about touring, mountains and culture close to my home. It really gives you a fresh view on where you live and what you can do there, when you see it through “foreign eyes”. Me it makes kind of humble (dont know if this is the right word) and thankfull that I can live where I live, have those mountains and old culture around me and so on.
    It is a little similar to the experience you can have when you go a beginners tour with a motivated and enthusiastic beginner to the sport. Then also, suddenly your shittiest afterwork-easy-tour, seen through his or her eyes gets great again and you feel “hey, aint it great that I can do this, have all the mountains around me, was given the opportunitys to develop the necessary skills and knowledge, am still healthy and fit” and so on,..
    Keep posting your Euro-storys, Lou, cant get enough of them though or, better said, especially because I live there myself

  7. rhd February 4th, 2015 2:34 am

    I never get sick of euro music. Or mullets.

    The snow might be variable, the mountains huge, full of people, never far away from civilisation (if you can call euro pop civilised) but its the unique blend of all of these things that make living and touring here fantastic.

    I like North American Powder snow, but, I wouldn’t want to ski it all day, everyday 😉

  8. Lou Dawson 2 February 4th, 2015 2:41 am

    Erik, thanks, the travel writing is harder than the gear reviews, but I’ll keep trying so the encouragement is gold. Besides, all Bond sightings should be reported, especially if he is headed towards Cortina as the women there need to be warned. Lou

  9. Wookie February 4th, 2015 3:27 am

    Dunno – I’ve been here twenty years, and I can’t say I notice more pop music piped in than in the States. Maybe I’m in the wrong places.
    Living in Germany, when I get to Italy the first thing I notice is that the Espresso only costs 1 Euro, (compared to 3,50 or more just across the border) and is much much better. A tip: Stop at the rest stations on the Autobahn. They look kinda bad in Italy, but they have the best Espresso of just about anywhere because the machine is always running and everything is warm! There is a reason the Italians are always hanging out in those places!

    Have a great time, and if you do get out to tour – careful. I was there at the weekend and its tricky.

  10. Lou Dawson 2 February 4th, 2015 3:51 am

    It’s gotten really bad in the States as well, now with gigantic speakers at the ski lift station blaring out their choice of music, or what appears to be entirely random but always old stuff that’s sometimes ok in context and when chosen by the listener, but just doesn’t do anything for us while we’re out skiing. I guess I don’t like the music of my youth becoming “elevator music” but perhaps that happens to everyone (grin). Lou

  11. Pascal February 4th, 2015 6:28 am

    Nice report, Lou. As an european having visited Colorado, I went back with some new understandings.
    First of them I knew then how I am lucky to live in Europe and very near the Alps. Although there are no huge spaces here as in Colorado, but a variety of villages, cultures and countries. And a whole of mountain types.
    In Europe, skiing is not always as expensive as in the USA.
    The people in Colorado were very focussed on the european gear as for backcountry human powered ski. Which I didn’t know. The american wording one finds in Europe for having the gear sold here, is not as hyped in the USA where it is supposedly coming from. The dream of the Alps seems to be the real luxury in Colorado.
    So Lou, welcome to our small Europe, with its contradictions, contrasts and nevertheless, some music played at the wrong place in the wrong time. Your remark upon thislets me know what you are after, rather skiing than après-ski. Right ? 😉
    Thank you for a fresh view on our countries, I wish you will discover more of the surprises that await one in the Alps. May this be in France, Italy, Swiss, Austria, Germany, Slovenia.
    Be carefull for the choice of the tour you want to go for those days. The snow is somehow instable. Many avalanches thes last weeks and many lives taken. Take care.

    Ciao, salut und Servus !

  12. VT skier February 4th, 2015 8:01 am

    I’ve run for trains in Zurich Haut Banhof , Frankfurt and all stations in between.
    When your ticket is printed out, it shows the connecting trains and all important track number, and departure time. So you have to figure out in advance what track number you are on, and what track number you have to run to…in 5 minutes or less.

    Don’t leave a bag ( your skis?) on the previous train either! I haven’t done this yet, but my teenage son nearly forgot his roll-a-board in Zurich Banhof..

    If all else fails, run to the track number, then ask the exasperated conductor, who REALLY wants his train to leave on time, which car to board…
    “Bitte, St Anton?”

  13. Tom Kennedy February 4th, 2015 9:19 am

    lou, you probably needn’t worry about being gluten-free there, as they process wheat completely different than in the States.

  14. Lou Dawson 2 February 4th, 2015 9:24 am

    The worry is indeed worse than the results… I don’t worry about it, but I do pay a bit of attention to diet as it can get pretty heavy with the carbs and dairy when you’re not used to it. Lou

  15. Jernej February 5th, 2015 6:51 am

    Just a small correction… it is Val di Fiemme (not Valle Femme, which would be interesting in itself) 🙂

  16. Lou Dawson 2 February 5th, 2015 10:04 am

    Sorry about my botched Italian, I’ll fix shortly.

  17. George February 11th, 2015 5:05 pm

    Nice story Lou. My great grandfather immigrated from the small village of Varena just a mile or two up the hill from Cavalese. Beautiful place. After visiting I wonder why he ever left as he ended up in a coal town in eastern PA.

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