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Downhill Dining: These Mountain Huts Redefine Perfect Ski Conditions in Italy’s Dolomites

By Michelle Heimerman

Mar 11, 2022

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Skiers break for lunch at Club Moritzino, one of the few mountain huts known for seafood. If you stay long enough, the DJ starts spinning, and the deck turns into a dance party.

All photos by Michelle Heimerman

Skiers break for lunch at Club Moritzino, one of the few mountain huts known for seafood. If you stay long enough, the DJ starts spinning, and the deck turns into a dance party.

Skiing in Italy’s Dolomites is just as much about the food and wine as it is about the slopes and snow.

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Rustic wood-paneled walls are covered with old snapshots of skiers, world leaders, and signed letters on Ferrari letterhead. Disco balls and chandeliers hang from wooden beams; chairs are draped with fur blankets. Meanwhile, a formal dining room dressed in white linens begins to get crowded with skiers in bright boots and neon snowpants—pops of color against the white-out conditions outside. In a few hours, nearly a foot of snow has fallen, with no signs of letting up. 

This looks like pasta, but it's squid flattened and shaped into tagliatelle with an amatriciana sauce, created by Michelin-starred chef Marco Martini at Club Moritzino.

It’s noon at Club Moritzino in Alta Badia in the Italian Dolomites, and at 6,689 feet above sea level, lobster with scallops and truffle is served as a chef prepares a whole fish tableside. The Italians aren’t seeking refuge because of bad weather (they claim there’s no such thing). It’s simply the Italian way of skiing—to make time for a proper meal in between runs. It includes warming up with Bombardinos, an egg liqueur with espresso and whipped cream, in between impeccably groomed runs and stopping into rifugios, or mountain huts, for bread dumplings with speck ham and views of the towering peaks. Eight of those huts also host Michelin-starred chefs from across Italy who create unique dishes each season for skiers to enjoy.

Raviolo filled with goat cheese, fish marinated in passion fruit, and caviar is one of the popular lunch dishes at Club Moritzino.

Alta Badia, part of Italy’s Dolomiti Superski area in South Tyrol, is made up of six villages—San Cassiano, Corvara, Colfosco, La Villa, La Val, and Badia—and is known as a top alpine culinary destination. Formerly part of the Austro-Hungarian County of Tyrol, the region is still referred to as Ladinia, and the Ladin language and traditions continue today. Family-run huts built across the mountains have been providing skiers and hikers with warm, traditional meals for several generations. In recent years, such new initiatives as “A Taste for Skiing” continue to evolve the downhill dining scene. Each season, eight huts partner with Michelin-starred chefs to create a dish that focuses on innovation and tradition, highlighting local ingredients in addition to a sustainable approach by reducing waste. In two days, we ski our way through three villages and visit seven different huts to experience the best of high altitude dining. 

On a quieter side of the mountain, skiers relax outside Rifugio Santa Croce, a traditional, family-run rifugio that has been operating for several generations.

Bombardinos are popular drinks on the mountain. At Pralongia, chef Davide Caranchini creates a filet of venison marinated in whiskey, Jerusalem artichokes, cranberry sauce, and dark chocolate.

Day 1: Blue skies and a D.I.Y. tasting menu

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Our morning starts before sunrise. The snowmobile is running and ready at the mountain base in San Cassiano. A smiling Ulli Crazzolara leaps off the seat and says, “Hallo! Guten Morgen! German? Italian? Oh English! OK, excellent!” And we’re off. Ulli whips the snowmobile up the mountainside as we leave dawn behind. At 6,000 feet the sunlight begins to cover the mountains, and the sky behind the towering rock formations turns a pale golden pinkish blue. The first stop is Rifugio Las Vegas, a mountain hut run by Ulli that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with a few overnight rooms available. Inside the warmth of the cabin, morning newspapers hang from wooden rods. A rusted “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign is on the wall next to a vintage Vegas postcard and a Rolling Stones ticket stub. The previous owner of the hut once had friends visit from Vegas, and the name just stuck. 

Ulli Crazzolara, the owner of Rifugio Las Vegas, spends his afternoon shoveling the deck as the snow continues to fall.
Risotto with woodland mushrooms, mountain cheese, crunchy speck, and lagrein reduction, created by chef Riccardo Agostini, is served at Ütia Lé.

We finish our locally made yogurt, berries, and espresso, and head out onto untouched trails warmed by the sun. With 53 ski lifts and 42 mountain huts peppered across 130 kilometers of trails, there are endless combinations of skiing to chair-lifting to skiing to gondola-taking as a way to try as many meals and drinks as possible. 

Markus Valentini, owner of Ütia de Bioch, enjoys a glass of red before the lunch crowd arrives.

One ski run and chairlift away, Ütia de Bioch, a classic cabin with a sunny snow-covered terrace, prepares for a busy day. Ütia is the Ladin word for mountain hut. Rows of colorful striped chairs await ski-goggled sunbathers as if this were a bright white beach with mountain views. A family from the Netherlands is the first to settle on the terrace, at a table backed with rows of empty wine bottles and Pendleton-style blankets. For those looking to sample a “Taste for Skiing” dish, the kitchen prepares chef Simone Cantafio’s lasagna with celeriac puff pastry and venison ragout, grated egg yolk, and crispy turnip flakes. However, Bioch’s own homemade assorted dumplings (chanterelles, cheese, spinach) on melted butter is worth trying as well. It’s early, but not too early for a glass of wine, and owner Markus Valentini shares a local red, pulled from its impressive mountain-top wine cellar with hundreds of bottles. 

Linguine with lemon, mussels, fish roe, and crunchy bread from Agerola is one of the many traditional lunch options served at Ütia de Bioch.

Just one trail and one lift away is Pralongiá Rifugio Alpino, although to work up an appetite we add in a few more runs. Built in 1932, it’s the oldest and highest hut in the area and is third-generation run. On the terrace, known as the amphitheater of the Dolomites because of its views, a cluster of older women in bright ski jackets sip their Bombardinos. Chef Davide Caranchini, another “Taste of Skiing” participant, created a filet of venison marinated in whiskey, with Jerusalem artichokes, cranberry sauce, and dark chocolate. From Pralongiá’s family, a traditional Ladin-style barley soup with tutres, fried pastries filled with spinach, and a delightfully light olive gnocchi with shrimp is served. Nearby, a crew from Belgium takes a break, passing around grappa glasses decorated with tiny Ladin flags. The three horizontal stripes represent green for Ladinia’s forests, white for the snow-covered peaks, and blue for the sky. 

The dining room at Pralongiá is quiet as everyone packs the outdoor terrace for sunshine, views, and morning grappa.
At Pralongiá, a traditional Ladin-style barley soup with turtra, fried pastries filled with spinach, is served.

Day 2: Fresh powder and local wines

The next day, an incoming snowstorm hides the sun, but we stay warm with wine thanks to another initiative, Sommelier on the Slopes. Guests can ski for an afternoon accompanied by a ski instructor and sommelier with breaks to sample some of South Tyrol’s finest wines. We’re back at Rifugio Las Vegas for our second tasting. Ulli comes over to say hello with a warm smile and shoulder embrace that feels like we’ve run into an old friend. He’s been up since 4 a.m. to watch the Italians in the downhill Olympic races. (Sofia Goggia won silver for women’s downhill, and Nadia Delago won bronze. In 2026, they’ll have a chance for gold in their own backyard. Italy will host the Winter Games in Milano-Cortina in the Dolomite Mountain region.) It’s hard to imagine alpine skiers racing at speeds of 95 mph, carving around gates as fast as humanly possible while we’re taking it slow after eating too much beef carpaccio with a glass of sparkling rosé. 

As part of the Sommelier on the Slopes initiative, Stefan Ploner pours a local sparkling rosé for an afternoon tasting.
Rifugio Santa Croce is known for its Kaiserschmarrn.

A couple of chairlifts and gondola away, above the village of Badia, is an even quieter area. At the end of the lift, a painted wooden sign directs you through an uphill forest path opening to a massive rock formation and church. Inside skiers stop at the altar, their boots clapping against the stone floor echoing. Next to the church is Rifugio Santa Croce, known for its Kaiserschmarrn (a sweet egg pancake dusted with powdered sugar) and a side of applesauce and jam. The church bells ring every 15 minutes as a few skiers wait for the sunset.

On your way to visit Santa Croce, about halfway up the mountain you can stop at Ütia Lé for lunch.

Inside the rifugio, past an old rotary telephone booth filled with snow shovels, sits Erwin Irsara. Now 75, he used to ring the church’s bells and still helps his daughter work the grounds. Above him are portraits on the wall of his father and his father’s father. He smiles playfully and laughs easily. He makes you realize that skiing in the Dolomites is most certainly not a race. That life the Italian way is not a race either. He pours a round of pine grappa, raises his glass, and in Ladin: “Viva!” 

Erwin enjoying his pine grappa inside Rifugio Santa Croce.

Know Before You Go 

You don’t need to be an expert skier to enjoy an alpine meal on the slopes. All of the runs are either coded blue for easy or red for intermediate and are clearly labeled with trail numbers so you won’t get lost. Most of the mountain huts are within a couple kilometers of one another, so it’s very manageable to visit three to five in one day.

If you don’t ski at all, you can visit some of the huts, such as Club Moritzino, by purchasing a round-trip gondola ride. However, it’s best experienced by skiing.

Getting there: The closest international airports are Venice (three-hour drive) and Milan (five-hour drive), and a car rental with four-wheel drive is recommended.

Where to stay: Gran Ander in Badia is a charming and affordable family-run hotel. The chairlift is only a few minutes drive, and a shuttle runs regularly for easy transfers. If you’re looking to splurge, Rosa Alpina in San Cassiano, an Aman partner hotel, has its own restaurant with three Michelin stars. And if you need a detox spa day, it’s worth the 90-minute drive northwest to Forestis for a night or two.

>>Next: The World’s Most Luxurious “Hut-to-Hut” Hikes

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