Skiing Couloirs of the Italian Dolomites
When I first started coming to the Dolomites I kept hearing about all the couloirs. Today I really found out what they are about.
Together with Janine, Andreas Irsara, Susie Sutphin and Arnt (last name unknown…) we headed out for what Susie would later describe as, “The best day of my life!!!”.
First up was the more serious business, the Holzer Couloir (Canale Holzer). Immediately beneath the Piz Boe tram line on the Sella Group, this is a backcountry endeavor without the need for skinning. As you arrive at the entry the first thought is, “No way, nothing can go through this”.
Impossibly steep, narrow and at first blind, one only enters because there are ski tracks already in place. Then the fun begins; sustained 45-50 degrees, 5-8 meters wide maximum, and 500 meters straight to the bottom. It is a stunning line and once seen, obvious as to why it has appeared in countless extreme ski films.
Once we squirted out the bottom of the Holzer we headed straight to the tram and back to the top for the much easier Canale Joel, this one a much more modest 35-40 degrees and south facing Couloir – thus, a corn fest.
Finally, after a sizeable lunch, we descended the Dolomite’s most famous off piste ski descent, the Val Mesdi. This was my first time to ski this line and I quickly discovered why I hear about it so much. It is perfection. Being incredibly long with a fantastically narrow and steep entry, it starts off with some business but turns into a massive open canyon with thousands of feet of vertical Dolomite rock on each side. It was difficult to ski because I was continually looking around. We agreed that the style of skiing in the Mesdi must be something like what a big wave surfer feels, just riding this massive feature of what nature dishes out, and very different from the straight shot Holzer Couloir.
Once back enjoying beers on the deck of a hut, I realized Susie was right, this was one of the best days of my life as well, but somehow, here in the Dolomites, I just keep saying that same line.