So One can be mistaken. Here in the Lesach Valley, in a remote part of the already quite unspoilt East Tyrol, one does not suspect such accumulations of international glamor. Outside Obertilliach, directly under a mountain with the curious name of Golzentipp, a wooden house was built and spectacularly blown up in 2015 for the James Bond film “Specter”.
Further back, just before Untertilliach, the most successful biathlete of all time, Ole Einar Björndalen, lived and trained for many years. Actually an area to retreat to, to hide in the snow.
The fact that there is still something going on here is due to the excellent snow reliability and the exceptional cross-country skiing offer. The Grenzlandloipe crosses the valley for a good 50 kilometers to the neighbors in Carinthia’s Gailtal. And outside of Obertilliach, the modern biathlon center is right on Talstrasse.
You can see many well-trained cross-country skiers rushing past, which leaves you with the impression that you are moving backwards. But there are also average skiers, and that is also due to a special offer: Trans-Dolomiti is a journey on cross-country skis from Untertilliach to South Tyrol to Sexten and on through the Höhlenstein valley to Cortina d’Ampezzo.
Either comfortably in a week or a little more sporty in four days, each with a 35-kilometer route. And always with luggage transport, organized overnight stays and a comfortable shuttle service at the end of the tour.
A professional on the trail leads through the Dolomites
Our group of five doesn’t exactly look like the Italian national cross-country team. Comfortable jackets and pants instead of skin-tight racing suits, shy looks before the start and a technique that makes you think more of walks than competitions.
It doesn’t have to be, says our guide Eugenio from Sexten. His small and sturdy stature does not make one think so much of a cross-country skiing expert. But that is precisely where one can be mistaken. Eugenio is a professional in the cross-country ski run, but on the other hand also blessed with a classic Italian passion for good food, which should also benefit the group.
The Grenzlandloipe with its uphill and downhill sections is ideal for warming up. Too much ambition soon takes merciless revenge. Running uphill on skating skis can quickly become a pain for the inexperienced. In terms of landscape, the first stage westwards to Kartitsch is pure enjoyment, as you walk through the mountain forest with various clearings and at the end with a wonderful view of the Puster Valley.
For the short stretch from Kartitsch to Sillian we take the bus due to the lack of cross-country trails. In addition, the 250 vertical meters downhill would be quite a hara-kiri action for us casual runners. The trip should be a pleasure tour, says Eugenio. And nobody contradicts him.
A cappuccino on the border with South Tyrol
Sillian is a lively border town whose main attraction is the large white factory of the South Tyrolean biscuit manufacturer Loacker. We walk past the outskirts, leaving the bleak arrangement of gas stations, dismantled freight buildings and customs houses at the old border crossing behind us and enjoying the open meadows as far as Vierschach.
At the valley station of the Drei Zinnen ski area, a few meters from the cross-country ski run, a coffee bar invites you to take a break. A cappuccino is only befitting, now that we are on the South Tyrolean side of our tour. Shortly after Vierschach we switch to the south side of rail and road and walk a good three kilometers to Innichen.
There Eugenio surprises us with an interlude. It’s around noon, the stomachs start to growl, and we’re only four kilometers from our destination for the day in Toblach.
We take the bus in San Candido, drive south through a narrow valley to Sexten and on to Bad Moos. There we climb back onto the cross-country ski trail at the Hotel “Bad Moos”, into the famous Fischlein Valley, but not without first slipping in an espresso while standing up as legal doping at the hotel bar.
Cross-country skiing with a full stomach is difficult
The trail into the Fischleintal takes us in the direction of the Drei Zinnen, but the mountain range is hidden behind the high walls of the Sesto Dolomites. We walk gently uphill through the idyllic larch forest and end up in a place that Eugenio has obviously grown fond of. The Talschlusshütte is a stately wooden structure with typical South Tyrolean rooms.
Even before arriving, Eugenio raves about the Sesto black bread noodles with goat cheese, which he always has served up here. Getting back on the trail with properly filled bellies doesn’t have much to do with being light-footed.
Fortunately, it goes out of the valley and thus almost entirely downhill to Innichen and with a left turn to Sexten. We spend the night in a hotel right next to the “Nordic Arena”, the scene of Tour-de-Ski competitions and World Cup races, where the Pustertal Marathon, a legendary popular race, starts.
The next day we run on a famous trail through the Höhlensteintal, which is much more beautiful than the name suggests. Lake Dobbiaco, a view of the Three Peaks in all its glory, then the target shot with Monte Cristallo and Tofana near Cortina d’Ampezzo.
Luxury vacationers migrated to Cortina d’Ampezzo
This trail is a real beauty. But we don’t see them for free either. A short hump after the arena, then we walk gently uphill for the first 15 kilometers. We have almost 200 meters of altitude ahead of us until we have reached half of the route at the Cimabanche Pass. The trail follows a disused railway line, forest passages alternate with open meadows.
After ten kilometers there is a mandatory stop at the Drei-Zinnen-Blick, on the left we can see the three giants in the distance. The opposite inn of the same name is good for an espresso, but nothing more.
Eugenio planned our tour perfectly. At lunchtime we are at the Cimabanche Pass, unbuckle our skis and boot into a rustic restaurant. The innkeeper, Nilo Snaider, welcomes us in the tiny dining room and has some old stories to tell about the many black and white pictures on the wall.
Up until the end of the First World War, there was a luxury hotel here, which then fell into disrepair like many other luxury hotels in the region. Luxury tourism migrated to Cortina d’Ampezzo, where it lost its luster over the years.
Culinary we don’t need luxury, we stick to local traditions, fortify ourselves with tagliatelle with porcini mushrooms and pappardelle with venison ragout. We leave the restaurant a bit clumsy and are happy that the last 15 kilometers are decently downhill.
The next morning in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Eugenio makes another excursion with us up to the Tre Croci Pass at 1,800 meters above sea level. The trail is very winding with lots of small climbs and descents.
Right next to an abandoned grand hotel, we dive into the mountain forest, experience a particularly entertaining cross-country skiing, because switching off and thinking of other things is rather inappropriate with such a route. Here we are almost alone on this sunny weekday. And only a few kilometers from Cortina d’Ampezzo. One can be mistaken.
Tips and information
Getting there: By car from Germany via the A8 motorway to the Inntal triangle, then on the A93 Inntal motorway to Kufstein-Süd and via the Felbertauern tunnel and Lienz to Untertilliach. You can take the train via Salzburg and Spittal to Sillian and continue there by bus or taxi (oebb.at).
Cross-country skiing arrangement: The Trans-Dolomiti package with 7 nights in a double room, with half board, luggage transport, transfers and cross-country ski pass costs from 725 euros per person in four-star accommodations. The short version with four nights is available from 463 euros. The tour can be booked between 7.1. and 14.3.2021, further dates are possible by arrangement depending on the snow conditions. The tour is suitable for both beginners with a little skill and advanced. The provider is Osttirol-Information in Lienz (osttirol.com).
Corona rules: A travel warning is currently in force in Tyrol, but entry from Germany is permitted without restrictions. Stricter measures to contain the coronavirus will initially apply in Austria until December 6, 2020, leisure facilities, restaurants and hotels as well as many shops will remain closed. In addition, all-day exit restrictions apply. Restrictions also currently apply in South Tyrol, overnight stays for tourists are temporarily not possible, at least until November 29, 2020. Restaurants are only allowed to open for pick-up or delivery services. Distance rules and mask requirements apply in both countries, in South Tyrol there is also a curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. Since the corona rules can change quickly, it is advisable to keep an eye on the current information from the Federal Foreign Office.
Information desk: drei-zinnen.info; osttirol.com
Participation in the trip was supported by the Drei-Zinnen-Region. You can find our standards of transparency and journalistic independence at axelspringer.de/unabhaengigkeit.