My Skimbaco moment in the mountains of Italy
Guest post by Carolyn Cruze
The air is misty and cool. It is the kind of fresh that you can only get when you’re over 4,000 feet in altitude. The colors of autumn trees dance vibrantly under the shadows of the Dolomite mountains as we climb higher, hoping to reach the place where clouds and trail meet. For my friends Charlie Tessari and Sylvia Bassini waking up to these strikingly beautiful mountains is normal. To me it is fantasy.
It’s difficult to say when is the best period of the year to be here. I love certain days in February, right after a nice snowfall, when the sunlight strikes the snow and all the flakes glitter against the blue sky but also in the summertime, the bloomings on the high meadows under the Dolomite rocks are spectacular.”
A ski instructor and certified nature guide, Charlie dedicates his life to learning more about the natural world around him so he can better educate others about the flora and fauna in the area.
Choosing a job that I liked improved the quality of my life. It gave me the main ingredients for my ideal job: outdoors, contact with people, a healthy environment, teaching and learning,”
As we climb closer and closer to the Austrian boarder, Charlie points out the old ruins from the first World War. There, Italian soldiers took shelter in caverns carved out of the mountains for two years. These men survived some of the coldest winters in Italian history. I have to see them. Despite his better judgement, I convince Charlie to cross the snow-covered cliffs and reach the ruins. Our risk is well worth the reward.
The next day we spend visiting the town. Located in the Italian region of Veneto, Sappada is made up of small aesthetically pleasing wooden cabins that date back to the mid 18th century. They are built so meticulously that they are still fully intact despite their age. In the spring and summer, there are flower competitions where families cover the outside of their Austrian inspired homes so high it is impossible to see the windows. Male figures made from hay serenade their counterparts on every balcony. The old part of the village also has several rifugios (mountain huts) that serve traditional meals for after a long day exploring the mountain. There is everything from wild fruits and mushrooms to warm soups and pasta.
During the winter, logs are piled up in uniform order to help insulate the homes and during Christmas time, the nativity houses are placed along a path toward the church. At this time many people visit Sappada or Cortina (the next town) for family skiing and snowboarding trips but if your anything like Charlie, you might just stay in the mountains for good.
“There is much more to skiing than a parallel turn. Skis are wonderful tools that help us discover the beauty of nature as well as a great opportunity to improve many aspects of life.”
According to Charlie, skiing is similar to life in that there are uphills and downhills, sacrifice and relaxation, fear and joy. Appreciating and understanding the skiing environment can greatly improve performance on the slops and make skiing even more fun.
Along with the wonderful downhill and cross-country skiing opportunities Charlie told me about, Sappada is great for snowshoeing, hiking, mountain-biking, and there are incredible valleys relatively close to the town including; Val Comelico, Val Pusteria (close to the Austrian boarder), Cortina d’Ampezzo, and the Carnia valley in the nearby region.
While getting to Sappada proved to be a little taxing (I had to take 5 trains and 2 bus rides people!), seeing everything with a local family was completely worth the trip. I would recommend that you give yourself a little extra time for travel between regional trains as there isn’t much you can do if they are late; however, if you have a quick change between regional buses informing the driver about the limitation should suffice. Returning home, my first bus driver even spoke to my second about the quick transition which was very helpful. So even if you don’t speak Italian (like me!), the generous nature of these people will be enough to help you on your journey to the mountains. You may just reach the top.
Guest post by Carolyn Cruze. Carolyn Cruze is a junior Journalism at the University of Oregon with an avid passion for writing, photography, and design. When she’s not taking photos, she enjoys sailing, music, art, and exploring the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. For more on Carolyn, check out her website: carolyncruze.com or follow her on instagram @carolyncruze.