ISPO (extended) 2017 — Visiting La Sportiva, Italy

Post by blogger | February 16, 2017      
Cavalese bus station is classic Italy, little cafe bar, messy vitality.

Cavalese bus station is classic Italy, little cafe bar, messy vitality. Click images to enlarge.

Italy overwhelms the senses of a culturally deprived American like me. Legendary food, street styles, mixed new and centuries old architecture. The rapid fire language, so distinctive, vaguely familiar to those of us with a smattering of Spanish. If there was any country I’d move to for a “year in Europe” it would probably be northern Italy, in a place with access to world-class mountains. I’m in such a place now.

You might remember a few years ago I rode the bus to Cavalese, Italy, for a La Sportiva “facility” visit. Well, here I am again, loving it. Six hundred year old village, next to the Dolomite just west of Cortina. Clear running trout stream (locals are always quick to remind me that “Yvon Chouindard fished here”) running through the valley known as “Val di Fiemme.” A chain of small villages along the valley floor comprise what’s easily one of the nicest real “mountain towns” I’ve visited in my varied travels. Include world HQ for one of the most authentic mountain equipment brands out there, and you’ve got a mix that’s hard to beat. I’ll get to the gear in coming blog posts. For now, a glimpse of the village.

Sportiva put me up at the posh Hotel Garni Laurino,  a renovated 17th century structure in the heart of the village.

La Sportiva put me up at the posh Hotel Garni Laurino, a renovated 17th century structure in the heart of the village.

Here I should mention that I traveled from Austria, taking the train first southerly to Bolzano, Italy, then a local and finally a bus to Cavalese. In particular, the road accessing this high valley is a thing to behold. As the bus first winds through plains and vineyards, you don’t realize that a large mountainside cliff in front of you actually hides the route. You are soon enlightened or perhaps frightened, as the (hopefully) skilled bus driver does practiced moves around switchbacks, clearing the (thankfully) present guardrail by mere inches. Not kidding, the road is blasted into a cliff. Sit in a window seat for the ultimate effect. In spots, you are literally able to look down vertical rock to the previous switchback.

Arrival on Valentine's day without my sweetheart was the only bummer, reminded by the nestling chocolates greeting me on the hotel bedding.

Arrival on Valentine’s Day without my sweetheart was the only bummer, reminded by the nestling chocolates greeting me on the hotel bedding.

Italian design touch outside the hotel.

Italian design touch outside the hotel.

In a village this old, everything at first appears very jumbled up, but the organic design sorts itself out as you walk around.

In a village this old (600+ years), everything at first appears very jumbled up, but the organic design sorts itself out as you walk around. Though you might find yourself in the same place two or three times if the sun is low and you lose your sense of direction.

Hints of the Dolomite tease you.

Hints of the Dolomite tease you.

Can I ever get away from Aspen?

Can I ever get away from Aspen?

Apologies for all my 'narrow street' shots. I was loving playing around with my camera. The buildings are not particularly tall, but the narrow streets make them feels like towers.

Apologies for all my ‘narrow street’ shots. I was loving playing around with my camera. The buildings are not particularly tall, but the narrow streets make them feels like towers.

Most of the streets are brick. Yes, this is a street.

Most of the streets are brick. Yes, this is a street.

The stucco colors seem to work together. Is there a plan, or just a culture?

The stucco colors seem to work together. Is there a plan, or just a culture?

At diner, the hearts multiply.  Tomorrow, a full blast of La Sportiva.

At dinner, the hearts multiply. Tomorrow, a full blast of La Sportiva.

Had not seen one of these in a while.

Had not seen one of these in a while.

Hard choice.

Hard choice.

As the bus climbs a cliff face.

As the bus climbs a cliff face.

Train station, Italy.

Train station, Italy.

Val di Fiemme website.


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14 Responses to “ISPO (extended) 2017 — Visiting La Sportiva, Italy”

  1. Jeremie Oates February 16th, 2017 10:10 pm

    “Culturally deprived American”! Are you saying everyone should get out of the blight in Carbondale every once in a while?

    Stick around the valley a while and I’m sure you will get all the European style socialist paradise you could ever want right here in our very own Roaring Fork. Just attend a local city counsel meeting to check out the progressive agenda. Mayor Steve in Aspen would be happy to fill you in.

    And to your question reference the one photo: No Lou, you can’t ever really get away from Aspen!

  2. Lou Dawson 2 February 16th, 2017 11:12 pm

    Well, it was interesting yesterday watching the Austrian border police profile the crowd on the platform, pick out a group, and put them back on the Italian train, after they’d bought tickets for Austria. Treating borders more like Canada does… Seems like it’s all a mix of the good and bad when it comes to what country is the nicest. As for culture, just joking, I love my home and especially the 1980s pop music we created, that music that nearly every place I go here is playing on their ambient sound system. Don’t Stop Believin! Lou

  3. Jernej February 17th, 2017 2:13 am

    Most EU governments got a bit paranoid when it comes to south to north (road/rail) border crossings since 2015. Technically Schengen rules of free travel still apply, however in practice expect to be stopped and ID checked. Nobody cares who goes south but going the other way can be a problem. The waiting time obviously depends on the overall popularity of the crossing and on some minor, local “one tiny shack” border posts you mostly just get waived through by someone playing games or watching TV all day (if they even bother to make eye contact).

    This was clearly demonstrated while driving to Norway last winter when we had to wait in lines of various lengths on the Austrian, German, Danish and Swedish borders. For some reason Norwegians didn’t care 🙂 Going back, there wasn’t a single border check, business as usual.

    Their level of diligence depends on the season though. During various mass migrations (school holidays and the like), they are much more annoying. This weekend in particular might be a nightmare for those going back north from the Alps. For obvious reasons they also like to check inside vans.

  4. Wookie1974 February 18th, 2017 6:28 am

    All this border control crap is just a show. I do it every weekend – well, not really, here’s why:

    As you say, going south is no problem. No checks and there never have been. Going north, you’re not getting checked either UNLESS – you have Italian or East Euro plates, OR you are in a bus from Italy, or a lorry.
    That sucks for them, but the traffic hits everyone at the border with Austria at Ebbs, or at the Brenner with Italy.
    So – you just go around. There is a route to Germany at the Aachensee that goes more or less direct from the Zillertal to Bad Tölz. Its minutes away from the border crossing at Ebbs on the Autobahn, but of course, the rabid, right-wing leaning population of central Germany doesn’t know that. They get to see the long lines at the Autobahn and feel like their country is doing something to keep all those brown-skinned people out.
    Meanwhile – the border station at the Aachensee is not even manned. The windows were busted out ten years ago and the building is slowly starting to collapse. Anyone who knows the area goes through there. And this includes lorrys and vans from Italy.

    As you can tell – I’ve got some opinions about this – but beyond that, its just a dumb hassle for everyone who lives near these borders, and I don’t think the purpose is to really stem the tide. I think its to make a show of stemming the tide. (a tide that doesn’t exist except in the propaganda of the right)

  5. Pete H February 18th, 2017 9:45 am

    Wow, snowpack is looking thin there. A few years ago we had a ski trip planned for the Italy but ended up going to ski in France because the Dolomites had too much snow!

  6. Kristian February 18th, 2017 6:42 pm

    Wookie1974, curious to know how many third world immigrants and births in Germany for last year 2016? And what are the upper number limits that would still be workable?

  7. Lou Dawson 2 February 19th, 2017 12:15 am

    Some numbers here for Germany, interesting.

  8. Bruno Schull February 19th, 2017 12:30 am

    Hi Kristian,

    Holy thread drift! Then again, Lou keeps bringing up politics. It’s like poking a sleeping giant! (Keep it up Lou, it’s interesting!)

    A quick Google search turned up this article:

    It does not give a precise number, and it does not talk about sustainability for the future, but there are indirect answers to your questions. 1) The fertility rate in Germany is rising after a long period of decline, 2) This rise is partly, but not entirely, explained by immigration, and 3) This rise is viewed by most as a positive trend (although I can assure you that the mere suggestion of foreign births stokes the fires and stirs the hearts of the nationalistic right wing extremists).

    It’s interesting to note that despite the rise the average fertility rate, it is still below the replacement fertility rate–the population of Germany is still declining and aging. This is a general problem of developed countries, the classic examples being Japan, Germany, Switzerland, and so on; their populations are contracting and aging, and it creates fundamental economic problems, such as the fact that there are not enough young people working to sustain the pensions of the older generation which is living longer. There are two obvious solutions; increase fertility (progressive family incentives, tax breaks, help with child care, and so forth) or increase immigration. Both of these options are generally opposed by conservatives. They don’t like the first option because it costs money, represents an entry of government policy into private lives, and because it promotes the modern idea of dynamic households with two working parents,and so threatens outdated views of gender roles, and so forth. They don’t like the second option because encouraging immigration changes the cultural fabric of the country.

    Behind Germany’s welcoming policy toward immigrants over the last few years I think there were several factors, including a wish to atone for sins of the past century and present themselves as a generous, compassionate and welcoming state, as well as the simple need for workers, for labor, for people to support the economy. Yes, immigrants require investment in the short term, but in the long term, they build the country.

    Of course, this is a problem faced not only by Germany, but by Europe in general. I think it is the big question for Europe (in addition to whether of not Europe will survive at all). What will Europe look like in thirty years? What color will people’s skin be? What languages will they speak? What religions will they practice? What will it mean, culturally, socially, to be German, French, Italian, and so forth? Big questions with no clear answers. Lots of struggles ahead.

    In any case, perhaps in twenty years, when you ride the cable car to the top of the Zugspitze in Germany, perhaps you will hear the young freeride skiers (and German citizens) speaking Arabic, Turkish, Italian, Spanish (I don’t actually know if you can ski the Zugspitze but I think my point is clear).

    By the way, I don’t want to be a pedantic ass (I’m a teacher, forgive me), and we all understand what you mean, but the terms “First World” and “Third World” have generally fallen out of favor, because they represent a historical artifact of the Cold War, and because that’s not the way the world is arranged in terms of development anymore; there is no longer and Us (rich) and a Them (poor). The biggest group globally is the middle. It makes more sense to talk generally about development; high development countries, medium development, low development, and so on. For more information about this see the amazing videos from the late, great, Hans Rosling, one of my personal heroes.

    May you all be blessed with Fresh powder end endless Zuppa Romana!


  9. ratatouille February 19th, 2017 3:20 am

    +1 for Hans Rosling. His talks about gapminder ( ) are a must see for anyone with even a slight interest in visualization of complex datasets — especially demographic data.

  10. Kristian February 19th, 2017 6:32 am

    Thanks everyone.

  11. Al February 21st, 2017 4:17 pm

    Only one thing wrong w importing people or trying to get them to produce more kids. It’s the ultimate ponzu scheme. We live on a finite, over populated planet. Every country should be reducing their population to a sustainable level. Almost all are well beyond that level now. Want to fix global warming and live on a planet that may be able to support humans and other creatures ? The only, sure fire, long term solution is fewer humans. Nothing we do beyond that will have a lasting effect.

  12. Kristian February 21st, 2017 8:24 pm

    I agree with Al. Would be nice to see real sustainable stabilizing development and employment in developing countries instead of predatory debt, predatory privatization, predatory war, corruption, and resulting mass migrations of refugees.

  13. Wookie1974 March 2nd, 2017 1:18 pm

    Hi Kristian – I don’t know what the numbers are – but its significant that in my home city of Munich – 20% of the population in not German. Its higher here, in a prosperous city, than in most places though. There is virtually no discussion of western immigration though – all of the political discussions are driven by muslim and slavic migrations. There are probably good reasons for that – but, and this is an opinion, most of the ones I hear are fairly base calls to racism.
    How many would be feasable? I would say: all of them! The problem is not where babies parents come from, but rather the social, economic and cultural stresses that we see in current society due to their presence.
    My kids are German. Born here, never knew anything else, and don’t fall out of the norms in any way. (except they ski better than most) For kids with brown skin – this is often not the case. There are lots of reasons for that, some of them lie with the families they belong to, but it would be dishonest to say that none of it has to do with the way our society deals with them and the opportunities they miss.
    Europe has, generally, a problem – we need more people, but the German (or English, or whatever) idea of Germaness is tied so strongly to “blood and soil” that it is nearly impossible for a German to imagine a brown-skinned man named Ahmed as a German. Even my own children (who are indistinquishable from other German kids,) are called the American kids by their teachers in school. (Neither of them speaks english very well BTW.)
    In a mobile society – the fact is that sooner or later, we will all be from somewhere else, and we have to find a way to make that OK, and if Germanness is going to survive, its got to find a way to integrate all these people and get them wearing birkenstocks with socks.

  14. Kristian March 3rd, 2017 8:57 am

    Wookie1974, thanks for your excellent response. Of course these problems exists around the world. Just last week, South Africa had large protests against immigrants taking their jobs.

    And even after multiple generations, there are still difficulties and discrimination – Turks in Germany, Chinese in Asia countries, Blacks and Latins in America, Shia in Sunni countries, Sunni in Shia countries, Kyle in South Park, and so on.

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