Chicken Wings!

Making the run  | photo courtesy Adler HotelSome 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.


Ski Trek Villabassa 2010 | Photo courtesy ©Mike RogersHEY! Hold your horses there, Bode Miller. Before you go blasting down the hill for El Pollo Loco, let me explain.

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.

Ski Trek 2013 graphic | ©Tom Palladio ImagesOMG. I can’t wait. It’s VILLABASSA OR BUST!, January 12-19. Yodel-le-he-hoo!

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.

Ski Trek on the SlopesAlong with being pampered at la tavola, there’s loads of skiing — downhill, x-country and snowboarding — as the Trek makes it way around a circuit of five ski areas during the week.

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….”

Sledding competition | San Candido, ItalyNothing 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!)

Apres-ski with Pear Williams | ©Tom Palladio ImagesThese 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

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  1. Tom, have a safe time. Should you eventually need a cast, here’s what I’d scribble: “Hey Old Man, you shoulda act your age.“ Cheers!

  2. Loved this post, Dad! Wish I could come. Maybe next year! Have fun eating those chicken wings and knocking back the grappa!

  3. This looks like tremendous fun and I can tell just how excited you are for this trip. It sounds fantastic, fun, adventurous and exhausting all at the same time. Enjoy the snow for me Conejo Blanco with Chicken wings.

  4. What a great post – you have me excited and looking forward to it and I wasn’t even invited. What a fun tradition.

  5. Another year of fun mixed with snow, and sprinkled with grappa. Looking forward to tackling the hill that beat me last year.

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