Never go alone! - February Dolomites trip

Looking back
It's mid-February and there's not much left to eat in the Swiss Alps. The craving starts to make itself felt, the mouth is pasty, a few spasms appear and the eyes widen. Usually, in such cases, we turn on the notifications and all our senses are put on maximum alert, watching out for the slightest precipitation to drop its much-desired snowflakes within a 200-kilometer radius of our home.

 Arnaud Cottet, Nicolas Gendre, Alex Amiguet, Vincent Fournier

A major disturbance has just reached the southern Alps, with the most active front in the Dolomites region. It's decided, we're off to San Martino di Castrozza, a resort that's familiar to me since I've already spent several weeks there for a film project in 2018. I immediately fell in love with the area and promised myself I'd go back. When the time came, I contacted my friends Vincent, Alex and Nico, and they all agreed. Andiamo.

San Martino di Castrozza
While the Dolomites are best known for the posh resorts of Val Gardena and Cortina, this small resort in the southern Dolomites offers several advantages:
1. There's Eric, a mountain guide friend and excellent skier, who is delighted to swap his American soldiers for Swiss skiers for a few days. The GIs have been stationed in Vicenza since the end of the Second World War, and take advantage of their location in Italy to train in "alpine techniques", i.e. skiing dream mountains with a midday pizza break. "Drop cliffs, not bombs".

Eric Girardini, Travignolo couloir,  Palle di San martino

2. There's Carla and her Hotel Regina 4****, which has established itself as the freeriders' HQ. From Simone Morro to Messner, a myriad of stars have stayed here, and alpine artworks and illustrations from the last century decorate the lobby. My attention is drawn to a poster of the Club Alpino Italiano. On it is a reminder of the mountaineer's code of conduct; I read it and retain the phrase "NEVER GO ALONE: INDICATE YOUR GOAL". Like a premonition.

Never go alone. Secours en montagne. Hotel Regina Romantika San Martino

3. This small massif of the Pale di San Martino is pierced by numerous couloirs, and is somewhat removed from the major Italian resorts. Che tranquillità. These various couloirs and ski itineraries are often interspersed with abseils and end in wild valley bottoms, which also limits the number of skiers.

Nicolas Gendre, Cime Vezzana

La Pale di San Martino sounds like an Italian culinary speciality, but it's simply a high plateau, reached by a gondola on the side of the mountain: La Rosetta.

From this plateau at an altitude of 2,500 m, we can access the various couloirs and valleys from their summits. And that's exactly what we did:

Travignolo couloir with Eric Girardini, Arnaud Cottet, Vincent Fournier, Alex Amiguet, Nicolas Gendre


Tramadol e Trento DOC
We're on day three and the conditions are fantastic. The lunar relief makes this place unique. After two superb first runs, we descend into a valley, the snow is light and the sun is playing hide-and-seek behind the Dolomites peaks. We're alone in the world, and it's exactly for this kind of magical moment that I ski. I want to capture this moment, and I'm about to take out my cam... STOP! An inert body to my right. Traces of blood thirty metres upstream. In a split second, everything changes. I rush to the man - he's still alive. I try to call for help, but there's no signal. Nico and Alex head back up to the pass in search of phone coverage: it will take minimum an hour. While Vincent looks after our survivor, I go and get some blankets from the bivouac downstream. As aspiring guide and aspiring doctor, Vincent has a dose - thank God not of aspi-venom - but of tramadol in his first-aid kit. Clearly, the product takes effect quickly, and the guy feels as if he's still skiing, asking how many more turns until we arrive. An hour later, the helicopter takes off with the miraculous man of the day on board.

We arrive at the hotel at night, the Trento DOC never better and the polenta never tastier. We enjoy the last two days skiing these magnificent mountains together.

Helicopter flying out with the lucky guy from Val di Strut

Il miracoloso
We would later learn that il miracoloso had two broken vertebrae, which is a real miracle after a 200-meter fall. The guy literally fell out of the sky. To tell the truth, so did we.

We also learnt that we were the first of the season to ski this valley. When I think that we hesitated for a long time between this route and another, I think that sometimes life doesn't hold out much.

Nicolas Gendre posing with his Moiry Black Flash Electric.

Nicolas Gendre wearing our Moiry Black with the Flash Electric Zeiss lenses (cat. 4)

Practical information
At the end of this season, conditions in the Dolomites are exceptional. If you feel like it, don't hesitate to pay a visit to Carla and her fantastic hotel, and contact Eric Giradini for guidance - we highly recommend it!

A very happy end of season to you all.

PS 1: never go alone
PS 2: a satellite phone in the mountains can still be useful, even in 2024.

 Eric Girardini Hotel Regina Romantika

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