We visited the Dolomites from our base in Selva di Val Gardena (a.k.a. Wolkenstein), Italy. Our hotel (Garni Hotel la Bercia) was wonderful and I would definitely recommend this as a very nice place to stay.
There is a local bus service (#350) that runs until 7:26PM from the Bolzano train station to Selva. It stops at three very nice skiing towns: Ortisei, Santa Christina, and Selva di Val Gardena. The stop in Selva is right next to the main gondola (#29 to Ciampinoi). This is certainly a doable option if you want to avoid renting a car or paying for a pricey cab.
We were coming from the Venice airport and we found that the trains don’t run that often to Bolzano. In fact, there were only two on the day of our arrival, the first departed before our plane arrived, and the second arrived at Bolzano after the last bus. So check your connections!
We decided to rent a car via HolidayAutos ($150 for a week). They hooked us up with Locauto. There are tons of horror stories about Locauto on the internet. Our rental went smooth, probably because we got lucky with a brand new car and because I made the attendant come out and inspect our car for damages before signing when we returned the car.
I suggest calling your credit card company and see what coverage they offer and what they suggest to do when renting and returning the car. For us, MasterCard said to refuse extra insurance, search for damage when picking up the car (check spare tire, windshield cracks under wipers, chipped paint around the tires, etc.), take pictures of any damage on the car, make sure the rental company documents the damages and gives you a copy, take pictures when returning the car, and make the attendant check in your car and give you a copy of the damages noted upon return.
Driving from Venice via the Autostrade (toll highway) is pretty easy up to Bolzano. After that, driving to Selva di Val Gardena from Bolzano is via a twisty mountain road. If you have an under-powered rental like ours, just stop every once in a while to let the locals pass and to let that scary burning engine smell dissipate. Just make sure you don’t stop on an icy patch or you will have a tough time getting started up the hill again (from experience).
The Sella Ronda is the name of a series of lifts and ski runs that take you around a big mountain group and through four major valleys – each with many towns. You can easily make it around once in a day – but twice would be pushing it. There are actually two parts to the Sella Ronda: Green and Orange. One takes you clockwise around the mountain group and the other counter-clockwise. Our first two days of skiing were doing both directions of the Sella Ronda – so we never repeated the same slope or lift in two solid days of skiing. Simply awesome. The next two days we explored various valleys. Our favorite easy long run is called La Longia which goes from the peak called Seceda (2518m) to the town of Ortisei (a.k.a. St. Ulrich) (1236m). By the way, the towns here all have two names: Italian and German. I would recommend staying in a town near the Sella Ronda.
There are many ski rental places so that should not be a problem. Ask for a discount card from the hotel for 10% off. They also gave us a ski-pass discount card, but that may be because we were there before Christmas.
We found some nice restaurants in Selva, though not a lot. Two of our dinners were just some take-out pizza from the place right by the cross-walk. Speaking of food, we also ate one lunch on the slopes at Café Annatal which is 3/4 of the way down the La Longia ski run (you can’t miss it). This is an excellent place to stop, with very fast service and good prices.
In summary, this place is huge. It is not like Vail or Copper Mountain because you are not forced to come back to the main lodge. All runs do not lead back home! In fact, if you are not careful, you could end up with a very expensive cab ride back to your hotel – if the mountain passes are open. Also unlike Colorado, the elevations here are very low. For example, the bases in Colorado are around 9000ft, and here they are about half that. That means less (if any) chance of altitude sickness. For one last comparison, the runs here are wider than those in Zermatt Switzerland.
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.