Young, enthusiastic, third generation. That describes the team at La Sportiva, thinking up their climbing and ski gear products for the future. They know weight is key, colors should be Italian, and ski tours should be common. That’s why product designer-tester Sandro De Zolt could take the day off and host yours truly on a little jaunt up and down a Dolomite satellite peak — while wearing bright green sunglasses and sporting polka dot ski poles. I’d requested a “moderate tour with a view.” Sandro did not disappoint, and he did bring some test gear (thought I’d add that, to be sure his boss is happy.)
While the usual Euro approach included a flatland trail (I’d also requested NO CABLE), I welcomed the warmup. Trees blocked the view for a while, but we soon broke out into a beautiful vista of the Pale de San Martino, one of the classic Dolomite pinnacle formations you might see on postcards.
Gear made the approach easier. Per current trends I sported a set of 100% mohair skins (Kohla, branded by La Sportiva) that felt slick and glidy. When you’ve got some flat walking to do, only perfect nordic wax is better than goat fur. (I should mention that these Kohla skins had their regular style ultra-sticky glue rather than the “Vacuum” product we’ve found to be unacceptable at colder temperatures.)
Along the way, we passed a sobering memorial to a group of 17 to 20-year-olds who had died in a tunnel collapse while building the hydro power dam in the valley below. Things can have a cost beyond money. Seeing this sort of stuff on a ski tour need not bring the day down, but it’s sobering. I like to remember guys like that by paying more attention than I perhaps otherwise would. Attention to the glory of the day, and also attention to safety issues.
The climb was about 3,000 vert. A section of steep endless switchbacks through alders gave honor to you Northwest U.S. skiers, though these were trees you could sort of ski through rather than on top of. The small summit probably doesn’t even register on any core Dolomite ski mountaineers radar, but I found it plenty intimidating when I shook hands with Sandro over an El Capitan scale wall. Steeper skiing off the summit was hacked up by others, with some hard snow and soft chop. So I did some side slipping while Sandro aced it in three turns. Better to be careful then take a tumble. In the Dolomite you never know when a 3,000 foot cliff is just around the corner.
By early afternoon we were at a table eating an antipasto of local cheese and prosciutto, enhanced by a small bowl of giardiniera (pickled vegetables) and a crisp local lager. I passed on the grappa dispenser, but noticed it was getting well used. This was my fourth time skiing in the Dolomite–I’d like to make it 40 more. Again, quite possibly the most beautiful mountains in the world, and if not number one, for sure the most accessible in the pagent.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.