Text The Pill Magazine, Photos Maurizio Rellini
Après-ski, strolling around, queuing to get on the cable car: these are the things that come to mind when you think of winter in the Dolomites. Here, half of the cold season’s turnover is generated during January and February. 40% of winter mountain turnover comes from the two weeks of Christmas. Now forget all that: we are experiencing a unique moment in the Dolomites, covered in metres of virgin snow, while the ski lifts are closed due to the pandemic. Chamois and deer are entering the silent villages. This unexpected winter will perhaps be the last true wild winter. At this time, the Dolomites offer a unique opportunity to enjoy outdoor experiences in unspoilt nature, in isolation, without queues at the turnstiles or cable car crowds. You slow down, gaining the summit step by step. An unimaginable winter – and hopefully unrepeatable, because alpine skiing will remain essential for the economy of mountain tourism for years to come – during which many have discovered slower and steadily growing activities such as snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and ski mountaineering.
In fact, you can’t find any more ski mountaineering equipment in the shops and even new equipment has been sold out. How are the locals coping with this situation from a social, economic and cultural point of view? Some are happy not to be “invaded” by the hundreds of tourists who usually storm the mountains during the high season. For many, the memories that will remain of this period will be opposite: on the one hand the regret of not being able to work, on the other the opportunity to enjoy such beauty, an untouched snowy landscape. In recent months we have heard a lot about ski lifts, and we have realised how entire regions of Italy are completely dependent on them for their economy.
The mountains can thrive on increasingly widespread tourism, the opposite of skiing, which moves ever higher up, and is centralised, offering a year-round tourist offer, making the most of the specific aspects of each reality. The ‘other snow’ also contributes to the Alpine economy. We can learn lessons from this dramatic situation that will help us in the future to find the right balance. When you go down one road, it doesn’t have to be the only road.