Winter vacations in the Dolomites

The limestone Dolomites have things upside down. They’re too steep to hold snow, so the snow settles below, and the peaks are not snow-capped but resolutely rocky.
What’s the best thing about the Dolomites in winter? I’m tempted to say it’s a hot bombardino (my favourite mountain tipple: egg liquor, brandy and whipped cream, served very hot). But the actual answer is probably found somewhere on its silent plateaus.

In summer, these are alpine meadows. In winter, they are muffled by several feet of snow, which piles up on the mountain rifugios and creates fantastic conditions for snowshoeing and cross country skiing.

Despite the influx of downhill skiers to the Dolomiti Superski area, winter is actually the off-season for lots of areas in the Dolomites. Most of it is inaccessible from November to May due to the snow. Areas like the Friulian Dolomites Natural Park are left as icy wildernesses and famous beauty spots that are crowded in summer – Lake Braies, or the area around Tre Cime di Lavaredo – become relatively peaceful.

It means that if you’re clever about where you go, and who you travel with, it’s perfectly possible to have room to roam in a little-visited part of the region.

Are the Dolomites at saturation point?

There is a version of winter in the Dolomites that graces the pages of Vogue. Cortina d’Ampezzo – a town where you can buy a down jacket from Moncler, a shirt from Gucci or a Louis Vuitton holdall simply by strolling down its central Corso Italia – is an epicenter of downhill skiing and has won multiple bids to host the Winter Olympics. It’s a busy upmarket area and this has come with a price.

Bad news hit downhill skiers in the Dolomites in early 2023. About 90 percent of the ski slopes were using artificial snow, annually consuming approximately the same amount of water as a city of one million people – twice the population of the entire South Tyrol region. At the start of 2023, Italy was using more artificial snow than anywhere else in Europe – which exacerbates water shortages in the summer.

Dolomiti Superski has 12 resorts and over 1,200km of slopes. Further expansion is planned for the 2026 Winter Olympics, when Cortina d’Ampezzo in the Dolomites is co-hosting alongside Milan.

The effects of climate change are visible at altitude: Marmolada, the biggest glacier, on the region’s biggest mountain, has shrunk by 80 percent in the last few decades. There are 14 fewer glaciers in the area than there were in 1900.

Winter vacations in the Dolomites must diversify to cope with a changing climate. And you can help, by finding a vacation that doesn’t need to be snow-sure to be splendid.

Alternative winter vacations in the Dolomites

Snowshoeing, winter walking, and cross country skiing have the advantage that you can often do them straight from your hotel, and you don’t have to stop to queue for a lift back up the mountain.

You’ll reach peaceful areas, such as Fanes-Senes-Braies Natural Park: a land of alpine foxes, ibex and goats. Bring your hiking boots, so you can go hiking if there’s not enough snow; this is the Dolomites, and the scenery doesn’t melt when the snow does.
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Dolomites or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

Things to do in the Dolomites in winter

A lower impact on the mountains doesn’t mean those beautiful views will have any less of an impact on you.

Crack cross country skiing

Tricky to master, incredibly fun to try, and ultimately more laid-back than downhill, cross country skiing is a classic sport in the Dolomites. There are kilometres of trails to try, groomed by a “tracksetter” who creates two grooves for your two skis to follow. Learning ‘classic’ style (skiing the groove) is easier than learning to ‘skate’, but if you’re used to slightly wider downhill skis, cross country skis will feel perilously narrow either way. But falling over is part of the fun!

Go snowshoeing in fresh powder

Cross country skiing vacations generally follow pre-made routes, rather than breaking a new trail. On snowshoes, though, stepping out into virgin snow is the aim. You’re free to go out, self guided, to immerse yourself in the silence, or go with a guide to follow the forest trails and old military tracks. Busy spots like Lake Braies become transformed by the snow; try the route along the lake’s western shoreline.

Pull on your hiking boots for a winter hike

Walking is quicker and easier than snowshoeing, so if there’s less snow on your trip, then you can cover longer distances and will find the going less tiring. There are fantastic winter walking trails all over the Dolomites, but especially in St Zyprian. Take a metal water bottle, rather than a plastic camelback – the latter tends to freeze in cold weather.

Snap the alpenglow on a photography tour

The light is often at its best in the Dolomites in winter, when the sun is lower in the sky for longer. It results in ‘alpenglow’, or enrosadira, when the pale mountains blush pink at sunrise and sunset. They’ll be a repeat subject on a Dolomites winter photography vacation. And the rifugios – mountain huts on walking trails, usually at high altitude – aren’t just for walkers. If you want to take the perfect picture, you might use one to shelter whilst you wait out a perfect sunset.

Warm up with Tyrolean cuisine

Wintry conditions and a hard day’s skiing are your carte blanche for feasting on mountain fare. South Tyrol is well-known for fantastic specialities – often grown organically. There’s spatzle and carpaccio and ravioli, then kaiserschmarrn – shredded pancake topped with berries – for dessert. Consume strangolapreti (‘priest stranglers’) with caution; according to folklore, these gnocchi, topped with brown butter and sage, can stick in the throat of unsuspecting clergy.

Cosy up in locally run hotels

Hotels can act as the social hub of the village when much of the rest of town is closed. Small family-run hotels can struggle to fill their rooms in winter, as they cannot accommodate large tour groups. Choosing to stay in these local hotels over the winter season can help them stay open year-round and provide income to people in the area who might choose to keep their restaurants and other businesses open too.


The Alps are getting less snow sure. Sometimes our partners report bad snow, particularly in early January, but it varies each year. The mountains are generally quieter in the week and busier at the weekend when local skiers come up to join you. You need a good level of fitness for cross country skiing. If you’re into Pilates or yoga, great: it can help you with balance when you’re on your skis. Learning to cross country ski is a fun challenge. On the other hand, if you can walk, you can almost certainly snowshoe. The Dolomites are around 150km from Verona, 165km from Venice, and 175km from Innsbruck by road; under three hours’ drive from them all. If you’re looking at arriving by train, Verona, Venice and Innsbruck are all on high-speed rail networks.
Written by Eloise Barker
Photo credits: [Page banner: Hendrik Morkel] [Intro: Patrick Mueller] [Things to do: Lucas Chizzali] [Snap the alpenglow on a photography tour: Ales Krivec]