Number 17 is the Staunies Nord on Mount Cristallo
While in Italy for the World Skimo Championships in 2006, I was able to spend some time in the Dolomites skiing my favorite type of terrain…splitter couloirs. There are endless options for the steep skier and I would travel all the way back to ski one line I missed…The Val Scura, or “Dark Valley” of Sassongher. I tried a few times to make it work…with and without a guide, but the timing just wasn’t right.
We did ski some fun stuff while we were there though, like the Joel Canal and one day we road some lifts out of Cortina and skied around until we found the chair that accesses the Canal Staundies Nord. This is a moderate couloir of about 40 degrees with a cruxy section of maybe 50 degrees when filled in well. The cool thing about it though is that the run is nearly 1500m or 5000′ long and north facing.
Though not open all the time, some of the old two person chairs (never mind the multitudes of trams) take you to some pretty cool spots that access amazing terrain. We had talked to Max of Casa Tua (a local legend and Peak Performance athlete) about this line and he clued us in on when the chair might be opening. Our timing was impeccable and we were the first one on the lift that morning. It seemed as though not everyone was allowed on the lift either. We had to mention to the attendant that we were skiing the couloir, but it really came out as a jumbled mess cuz my Italian sucks.
Rad views down to the Fonda Valley
It was amazing to be riding a chairlift in such amazing terrain and I though about what it would be like if the Tetons where sprinkled with a few lifts. Though it sounds nice, things just wouldn’t be the same and I guess I like things how they are at home. So we arrived at the top station and walked about 10′ to a railing that kept sightseers from falling down the mountain. The view down to the valley was amazing and you could see that the couloir doglegged to the right. It was pretty wind scoured at the top and a tricky entrance over some rocks and railroad ties that supported the lift building, kept our senses in check. I was the first one in and waited for the others to creep into the Staunies.
Jeannie and I stuck together for most of the descent while Cary and Amy followed behind. Unfortunately I don’t have many pictures of the terrain below the top of the couloir cuz it was before my blogesphere days and I was more concerned with keeping an eye on the others. As usual in skiing couloirs, the snow varied from wind scoured hardpack, to slough piles, to virgin powder, but luckily there was no breakable crust which IMHO is the worst.
Let the turns begin
We continued down to the valley and had about a 10 minute pole to the road where we hitched a ride to the nearest bus station back to Cortina. Jeannie and I decided to ride the lifts for a bit and make some more turns. Max had talked about a line that would take us directly down to Casa Tua, but the Polizia busted us as I was just getting really to sidestep into the entrance. The Polizia where very tough while we were there, I guess due to snow conditions (which to me didn’t seem too hazardous) and I even got slapped with a fine skiing some terrain that I guess was roped off. But of course I didn’t see it that way.