I had heard from many that the Pusteria and the adjacent valleys offer wonderful trails for cross-country skiing. So I started getting to know the area, beginning from Casies valley, which gave me an unforgettable day.
Cross-country skiing: Casies valley (Gseiser Tal), South Tyrol
It was not easy to choose in which valley and which itinerary to start exploring the cross-country trails of this area.... Too many trails that were marked out to me, and which promised enchanting scenery....
In the end, staying in Bruneck, I decided to start from the nearby Casies Valley (Gseiser Tal, in German), about 30 minutes by car from the main city. So, I took the SS49 national road in the direction of Dobbiaco/San Candido (Toblach/Innichen), I passed the Anterselva valley (which also promises memorable cross-country skiing days, and which I intend to visit shortly), and I reached Monguelfo, from where the cross-country trails of the Casies valley begin. Having in mind to get to Santa Maddalena, at the bottom of the valley, I didn't start from Monguelfo, but I continued by car entering the valley for a while. And it was immediately a show.
The East - West orientation of the beginning of Casies valley means that the valley floor, in the first part, remains in the shade, and is therefore rather cold (keep it in mind, if you want to start skiing from Monguelfo; in addition, consider a nice initial ascent). The landscape was intact, as if it had snowed the day before, with the trees still loaded with snow, and a beautiful white blanket on the ground. I passed the spectacular Castel Welsperg, the turn for Tesido, and I parked in a clearing on the right side of the road (see my map below), where I saw other skiers, and where there is a clear explanatory sign of the cross-country trails of the valley (see my full slidegallery). In fact, the track runs alongside the parking lot.
In hindsight, it probably would have been better to start skiing a little further on. In fact, it is not enough to have heard that Casies valley is an excellent destination for cross-country skiing. But it is necessary to have other detailed information, such as those provided in this article (on logistics, the length and difficulty of the trails, on the rental and waxing centers), to better enjoy the day of skiing.
However, I put on my skis, which had been properly waxed the day before in Bruneck, and began my skiing trip, not before buying the day ticket online. The first part of the route was climatically very cold ...., but immediately exciting ....
The trail starts out quietly, with a straight stretch with a very slight slope, which gets into the valley, running along the river. I was immediately impressed by the high level of maintenance of the track, prepared very well, probably the night before. The skis, well waxed, flowed in an exciting way .... I skied for the first km in a fairytale landscape, with the trees and the shrubs branches crystallized by an exceptional frost. In this stretch, my hands felt a bit cold, perhaps also due to gloves that turned out to be not warm enough. However, be aware that in this section, around 10.30 in the morning, at the end of January, the temperature in the shade was close to minus 10!
Then, after passing the first farmsteads and reaching the first group of houses after about 3.3 km from the start, the valley opened up; it begins to be oriented North - South, and so it is kissed and warmed by the sun. At this point, we reached a logistically important area, where perhaps I would have done better to start my day of skiing. Here, in fact, near the "Binta" Pub/Restaurant, there is also "Sport Taschler Gsies", a shop that rents and waxes skis. Here, you also have a large parking area where you can leave your car. The area is well exposed to the sun, from mid-morning, and is suitable both for beginners to try cross-country skiing and for accompanying persons who want to relax in the sun while sipping something on the terrace of the bar. At this point, an employee checked my ticket (buying it online, I spent 12 euros instead of 15 - 2023 prices). Given how well the tracks are maintained, it's money well deserved.
I then continued my pleasant skiing, having finally warmed up well.
After 6.5 km from the start, I therefore reached a fork: both the right-hand route, which crosses the river on a small bridge, and the left-hand one, lead towards San Martino and Santa Maddalena. I took the one on the left, which, however, I was unable to complete, as, after about 2 km, other skiers and I found ourselves in front of a sign indicating "closed track" (perhaps for maintenance). It would have been more appropriate to know that at the previous fork...
However, with a short and fun off-piste skiing, me and others guys reached the other track, and continued along the route. After having skied up to here almost with no difference in altitude, after 10 km from the start, I finally encountered a real and long ascent, which with some wide and wise hairpin bends gains altitude to get to San Martino. Going up, from an elevated position, you can admire a beautiful view of the Casies valley, to the South. A bench halfway up allows you to rest and enjoy the view in the sun.
At the end of the climb, and almost at the gates of San Martino, I met a first tempting sign... : "dish for cross-country skiers". Well, this is an added value of skiing, along this track. The restaurants/bars of various hotels offer refreshment points, for unforgettable stops. At first, I resisted and moved on....
Another two km, and, therefore, I reached the beautiful church of San Martino, with the typical South Tyrolean bell tower, with a pointed red roof. Here, a sign signaled me another 4 km, before arriving at Santa Maddalena, and another tempting sign still seduced with the indication "dish for cross-country skiers". And this time I couldn't resist! I stopped for lunch in the sun at the "Kahnwirt Bar & Gasthof", where some very kind girls brought me a nice and refreshing Weissbeer and frankfurters (wurstel) with roasted potatoes. Ski days are also made up of these things. I decided to stop both for hunger and for the accumulated tiredness (12 km from the start so far), and because I promised myself to enjoy the last km of the Val Casies track, on another occasion, when more rested. Moreover, a nice skier like me who was having lunch at Kahnwirt's confirmed to me that to reach Santa Maddalena (1400 meters above sea level) from San Martino (1250 m), you have to climb another 150 meters, with a series of final hairpin bends. And this must be kept in mind.
To tell the truth, while I was having lunch I also hypothesized continuing skiing up to Santa Maddalena, and then returning to the car by bus, free for guests of the Pusteria valley, equipped with the Holiday pass. And maybe it would have been the right choice. Or, I thought I could immediately take the bus from San Martino.
With great patience, I continued to ski, and after 21 km, near the Untersinnerhof farm, I crossed a small bridge over the river and rejoined the covered trail of the outward journey.
After a total of 24 km (a good record for me), I returned to the car tired, but definitely satisfied with the overall experience.
And here I developed a project: before and after my retirement, I want to try all the cross-country trails in Pusteria valley and the neighboring valleys. The project has just begun.
Happy skiing. Fabio Muriano
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