Some of the tastiest barbecued chicken wings you’ll ever find outside the U-S-of-A are prepared to perfection daily in a small, rustic hut halfway down a challenging black-marked ski run on the slopes of Monte Elmo high up in the Dolomites of northern Italy.
Chicken wings? Italy? ARE…YOU…CRAZY? No. Well, yes, if you consider the only way there and back is via that treacherous pista nera, which my ski bum friends have dubbed the “Chicken Wings” run.
Since I returned to Italy permanently just over six years ago, I’ve managed to set aside one week almost every January to reunite with about 40-50 of my closest friends.
We’re an avalanche of Italians, Yanks and Canucks, and we act like one, too, as we literally take over the Hotel Adler in Villabassa, in the Val Pusteria area of the Trentino-Alto Adige.
Our base of operation gets even better when you factor in that the Austrian border city of Lienz is only 60 km (36 mi) away, and that world-famous Cortina d’Ampezzo, site of the 1956 Olympic Winter Games, is just on the other side of those glistening snowcapped peaks that we marvel at all day long.
This week-long getaway to the slopes is known here in Italy as a settimana bianca (white week), but my ski buddies/revelers from both sides of The Pond have branded our annual “pilgrimage” to the Dolomites as Ski Trek Villabassa. And, this year’s Trek will be the 23rd edition.
Ski Trek Villabassa is a fun-filled 168-hours highlighted by mouthwatering gourmet dining straight out of Hotel Adler’s resident chef and proprietor Helene Markart’s cookbook, The Magic of Dolomites Cuisine.
There’s competitive sledding (a la the chariot race scene from Ben Hur), a torchlight ski run and a moonlit sled run, end-of-the-week officially sanctioned and timed ski and sled races, lots of après-ski merriment (wink-wink), swimming in the heated indoor pool (CANNONBALL!), maybe another pro hockey game at nearby Brunico, and, of course, the countless re-telling of tall tales from Ski Treks past that will only grow taller as the week moves along. “Hey, remember that time….”
Nothing gets lost in translation during Ski Trek as there is an abundance of United Nations-like simultaneous translators in our huge group that can order drinks in English, Italian, French and German (Ein Weizenbier, bitte!)
These Nicole Kidman wannabes work the floor (and the slopes) ensuring the Yanks are understood by the Canucks (actually, just add a HEY at the end of any sentence and you can easily get by), the Yanks and Canucks are understood by the Italians, and vice versa.
I’m really looking forward to this year’s Trek and plan to file some dispatches during the week, as time and après-ski permit, with a complete wrap-up or a series of shorts upon my return. Who knows, I might even get to sneak into the kitchen with the camera and see firsthand how Chef Helene works her magic.
Let the countdown begin towards Ski Trek Villabassa 2013. The U.N. should be so lucky.
©The Palladian Traveler