Seiser Alm (Italian: Alpe di Siusi, Ladin: Mont Sëuc) is the largest alpine plateau in Europe in the South Tyrolean Dolomites in Italy with a size of 57 km². At an altitude of 970 meters, it is one of the largest closed high plateaus in the Alps. The area, which has been intensively developed for tourists, is a great place to take long walks and bike rides in the summer and to go skiing and snowboarding in winter.
The Dolomites are a mountain range that is part of the southern Alps. They are spread over the regions of Veneto (Italian: Regione del Veneto) and Trentino-Alto Adige in north-east Italy. Nestled amongst these mountains is the Seiser Alm alpine plateau which includes a relatively flat but undulating region with many pastures and hiking trails. The area is popular in the summer for hiking and mountain climbing activities, and in the winter, for skiing and snowboarding. The area is tri-lingual. German and Italian are spoken through most of the area, with Ladin dominating in some areas. This article uses the German names of places, providing alternative names where known.
Around and on the plateau are many small towns that serve the many tourists as base camps from where they can explore the surrounding hills. Among these are:
- Compatsch (Italian: Compaccio) is the main town of Seiser Alm. During the day, visitors can get to it from only from Seis on the Schlern because the access road to the Seiser Alm is closed to the private passenger traffic from 09:00 to 17:00. The 4,300-meter-long Seiser Alm cable car, which takes one up 800 meters and requires 15 minutes for the trip, will get you into town from Seis. Alternatively, you can also take the bus line 10 "Seiser Alm Express" (Seis am Schlern—Kastelruth—Compatsch) or, alternatively take the "Alpe di Siusi" loop which is connected by bus line 179 (Seis am Schlern—Kastelruth—Compatsch — Saltria).
- Saltria is at the end of the road across the Alpe di Siusi. In this small town, where there are also hotels and pensions, you can also find the valley stations of two cableways and the bus loop of the buses. If you want to go to Saltria, you have to take the bus line 11 "Almbus" (Compatsch—Ritsch—Saltria) in Compatsch, or you can take the bus line 179 (Seis am Schlern—Kastelruth—Compatsch—Saltria).
- Kastelruth (Italian: Castelrotto) is a little outside the Seiser Alm area, but is bigger than Compatsch, and given the frequent bus-services to Compatsch, serves as a very convenient base camp for exploring the area.
- Sankt Ulrich (Italian: Ortisei, Ladin: Urtijëi) is a little outside the Seiser Alm area on the northern side. There is a cable car from the town that takes you directly into the Seiser Alm area.
In the early decades of the 20th century, the slopes of the Seiser Alm began to be an important destination for the first winter sports enthusiasts. In the summer of 1934, the opening of the Ortisei-Alpe di Siusi cableway allowed the vast plateau to be reached other than by foot. Frequent travellers to this Alpine region soon increased considerably. In January 1938 the first ski facility was inaugurated. After the Second World War the number of ski slopes grew a lot more.
The plateau is surrounded by many mountain peaks. These are largely composed of dolomitic limestone - from which the region draws its name. Some of the rock cliffs rise more than 1,500 m and are among the highest limestone walls found anywhere in the world. Since 2009, parts of the Dolomites have been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Langkofel (Italian: Sassolungo, Ladin: Saslonch) (3,181 m) - The main summit of the Langkofel massif is quite famous among mountain climbers. It was first climbed on August 13, 1869 by Paul Grohmann (1838-1908). The relatively long standard path leads through the southwest wall to the summit connecting ridge (II) and over it to the summit (III). By the cable car, hikers come to the Langkofelscharte (2681 m); (Ladin Utia de Dantersasc, Italian Rifugio Vicenza), which lies at an altitude of 2253 meters at the junction of the Plattkofelkars and the Langkofelkar and serves as a base for hiking and climbing in the Langkofelgruppe (Langkofel massif). On the summit of the Langkofel itself, there is a bivouac shelter (Langkofelhütte) that acts as an temporary camp for emergencies.
- Plattkofel (Italian: Sasso Piatto, Ladin: Sasplat) (2,969 m) - The Plattkofel owes its name to its striking form of a right-angled triangle, which can best be seen from the Alpe di Siusi. The starting point for a hike to the Plattkofel can be Plattkofelhütte (Ladin: Utia de Sas Plat, Italian: Rifugio Sasso Piatto), which is located at an elevation of 2297 meters on the Fassajoch (2253 m). The two mountain huts are connected by the Oskar-Schuster-Steig (climbing route, I-II, partly secured with ropes), which leads directly over the summit.
- Rosszähne (Italian: Denti di Terrarossa) (2,653 m) - The summit of the Grosser Rosszahn (2653 m), which is in the middle of the chain, is part of the Schlerngruppe (Schlern massif) and can be reached by the Maximilian-Klettersteig (difficult, long trail with a few resting places). From the Tierser-Alpl-Hütte (2,444 m), the trail crosses the entire Rosszahnkamm and reaches the Roterdspitze, which at 2,655 meters is the highest peak of the Schlern massif. From the Roterdspitze, you can continue along a mountain trail that is part of the Via Alpina network of trails, to get to the Schlern.
- Schlern (Italian: Scilar) (2,563 m) - Despite its low altitude, the Schlern is a landmark in South Tyrol due to its characteristic shape. The summit can be climbed from the Schlernhaus (Italian: Rifugio Bolzano or Rifugio Bolzano al Monte Pez), which is at an altitude of 2,457 meters. Because you can reach the highest point of the Schlern plateau, the Petz (Italian: Monte Pez, 2,536 m), in only about 20 minutes from the Schlernhaus, the mountain hut is not used as much as a base camp for summit ascents. Instead, it is a hiking destination in its own right, unlike other major Alpine mountain huts. The easiest hiking trail over the Saltnerhütte (Saltner Schwaige) up to the Schlernhaus is a tourist trail.
- Puflatsch (Italian: Bullaccia) (2,176 m) - Because it is a good vantage point, the Puflatsch is a popular hiking destination in summer. The easiest way to climb it is from Compatsch, and it can be accessed via the Puflatschhütte (also Dibaita, Italian: Rifugio Bullaccia, 1,950 m). The Puflatschumundundung, which is a looping trail, begins with either following the road to Arnikahütte, then crossing the Gollerkreuz to reach the summit, or going on a more direct route over the Filinerkreuz. A further ascent possibility is the Schnürlsteigsteig from the hamlet Pufels. The so-called "witches' benches" can also be found in the peak area.
The highest mountain of the Dolomites is the Marmolata, with an altitude of 3,342 meters. Other famous peaks or massifs are the Three Peaks, the Sella, the Rosengarten, and the Geisler.
Flora and fauna
The chamois is quite common in the area, along with the Ibex, the Roe Deer, and other species of deer. Near bodies of water, you can find amphibians such as the fire salamander, with their characteristic black and yellow colours, and alpine newts. In drier areas, reptiles such as vipers and common European Adders can be found. Squirrels range throughout the coniferous forests, and commonly found birds include black woodpeckers, boreal owls, spotted woodpeckers, and Eurasian pygmy owls - all of which make their homes in tree hollows.
The forests of the region are famous for the Norway Spruce tree. This is not only the wood much sought after by musical instrument makers (including Stradivari), but it was the wood that built Venice and was the chief building material for the large Venetian maritime fleet that made it a major economic player in the world.
To the north, the Dolomites are sheltered from low-pressure areas and cold north winds by the alpine head crest, and the climate is a mixture of alpine high mountain weather and influences from the marine climate of the Southern Alps region. In general, the Dolomites have a continental alpine climate, meaning:
- The summers are sunny, warm and dry. Daytime temperatures reach up to 25° C (77° F) and to 20° C (68° F) in the high valleys. Because of the constant light wind in the mountains, the air is rarely "stuffy", and it cools down at night. Rain is fairly rare, but when it comes it can bring ferocious hail.
- Autumn is markedly late, compared to the regions north of the Alps, and high pressure conditions are mostly quite stable, as well as mist-free and sunny.
- The winters are dry and cold, between December and March, and temperatures can go as low as -20° C (-4° F).
- Spring begins only in April or May depending on the elevation - in the valleys a bit earlier. In general, however, the skiing season is a bit shorter than in the central and northern Alps
There is no particular season for precipitation. For the Dolomites, the climate is roughly the same, with no differences between the altitude and the orientation towards the sun. In the south-west, the influence of the Adriatic with a little more clouds is noticeable. The current mountain weather for South Tyrol is published at www.provinz.bz.it.
The road from Seis on the Schlern to Compatsch is closed from 09:00 till 17:00 for private traffic. The park fee of the per vehicle in Compatsch is €15 per day. Guests who have booked accommodation at the Alpe di Siusi will receive a special permit, which can be obtained free of charge against a corresponding reservation confirmation of the hotel at the beginning of the road block. The restrictions on day time travel is for inbound traffic only; you can leave Compatsch at any time.
In winter, winter equipment (winter tires, snow chains) is compulsory; the latter are to be used in snow on the roads, which can be expected even in April. The access road of the Seiser Alm is not as well maintained as main roads, so uncleared and icy sections are to be expected.
With public transport
Seiser Alm Express
The bus number 10 "Seiser Alm Express" operates in the high season every day up to the Seiser Alm. It's route is Seis Bushof—Kastelruth Bushof—Info Point—Spitzbühl-Frommer—Compatsch. The one-way ticket costs €10, return trip €15 (as of winter 2014/2015). For dogs there is a legal muzzlebord in the buses. Timetables and further information can be found at www.seiseralm.it.
Seiser Alm Railway
The Seis-Seiser Alm cable car, or Alpe di Siusi cable car, connects Seis to Schlern with Compatsch. It runs daily 08:00-18:00 in the main season. A one-way trip costs €10, while a round-trip ticket is €15 (winter 2014/2015). Dogs must be muzzled in the cabins. Further information is available at www.seiseralm.it.
The St.Ulrich - Alpe di Siusi cable car connects St. Ulrich in Val Gardena with the northern Alpe di Siusi. It runs daily 09:00-18:00 during the main season and costs €11.20 for a one-way trip. An round-trip ride costs €16.20, or with chairlift sun €18.90. The latter is in operation during the main season from 09:00-17:00 and connects directly to the cable car. Children up to eight years of age travel free of charge accompanied by both of their parents, and for dogs, muzzles are required in the cabins (winter 2014/2015). Further information is available at www.seiseralm-seilbahn.com.
Fees and permits
Buses (public transport)
The following bus lines run through the Seiser Alm in the main and low season and are included in the CombiCard and Alpe di Siusi Card (winter prices 2014/2015):
- Linie 10 Alpe di Siusi Express: Seis am Schlern—Kastelruth—Spitzbühl—Compatsch. One-way trip €10; Return trip €15
- Linie 11 Almbus: Compatsch—Ritsch—Saltria. One-way trip €2
- Linie 12: Saltria—Monte Pana (St. Christina in Val Gardena). One-way trip €3; Return trip €5
Cable cars and chair lifts
A variety of lifts and cable cars are spread over the Alpe di Siusi. Below is a small selection:
- Seggiovia panoramic chair lift. Daily 09:00-17:00 in the winter season, and in the summer season from 08:30-18:00 (summer only until 17:00). The Panorama 6 chairlift connects Compatsch (1815 m) with the Berggasthof Panorama (2015 m) to the north of the Ladinser Mooses. Possible hiking destinations out of the mountain station can be the Laurinhütte (2021 m), the Sattler Schwaige (2080 m) or the Peterlunger Schwaige (2033 m) at the Peterlunger Lacke.
- Telecabina Florian. Daily 09:00-17:00 in the high season. The Florianlift connects as a four-seater Saltria with the Williams hut (2100 m). From here you can reach Zallinger Hütte (2037 m), Marmot Hut (2132 m) and Plattkofel Hut (2300 m) within a short time. €7 one way and €10 round trip (winter); €9.50 one way and €15 round trip (winter). Bicycles are transported for a surcharge of €2 (winter 2014/2015).
In winter, these lifts run 09:00-17:00, with the exception of the Spitzbuehl (which runs between the P1 parking lot and the Spitzbühl mountain hut) which opens at 08:30. The gondola lifts are open 08:00-18:00. Most of the cable-cars and chair-lifts are modern and have a high seating capacity (4 and 6-seater).
Ski passes can be booked at the skipass office in Compatsch (until 14:00 during the week and until 16:00 on weekends). They are valid for the Alpe di Siusi and for the ski region Grödner Valley. Disabled persons receive a 20% discount against proof of this. For a small surcharge, a ski pass for all 12 ski regions of the Dolomites can be obtained. The offer is called Dolomiti Superski.
- The Witches' benches. The witches' benches are to be found in the summit of the Puflatsch (2176 m) and look like armchair-shaped, rock steps; From this unique rock formation one gets a beautiful view over Kastelruth and the Val Gardena valley. According to the legend (seen posted on a wooden board near the Puflatsch mountain farmhouse), the witches sit on the witches' benches as they enjoy the beautiful view. At night the Schlern witches, according to the same legend, gather together at the witches' benches, before they fly over the Seiser Alm with joyous cries, celebrating wildly.
- Franciscan Church. The Church of St. Francis (Italian: Chiesa di San Francesco, Ladin: Dlieja de San Francesch) was built in Compatsch in 2008 and consecrated to St. Francis (Francis of Assisi) on 20 September 2009. Already in the 1960s there had been plans to build a church on the Alpe di Siusi. The architect Walter Walter chose the dove as the basis for the design of the Franciscan church, since, in addition to the symbol for the Holy Spirit, it is the biblical original motif for peace and security, understanding and encounter. Thus, the outline of the church is shaped like a dove.
- Church of St. Leonard. Pfarrkirche St. Leonhard is a small listed church in Pufels, a small hamlet north of the Alpe di Siusi, which belongs administratively to Kastelruth. The first chapel of the cattle patron St. Leonhard in Pufels was built in Romanesque style no later than the 13th century. Towards the end of the fifteenth century it was gothicized and enlarged; The first mention of this church in historical records was in 1339. The Romanesque tower is still preserved, while it was expanded in 1555 and extended and baroque in 1740. In 1855 the church ship was expanded, in 1895 the tower helmet was built. Also worth seeing in Pufels is the Rosarium Uhrerhof
- Church of the Holy Cross. This is a visually striking parish church found in the nearby village of Seis am Schlern, which is to the south of Kastelruth, in the foothills of the Schlern.
In the summer
There are many hiking trails all over the Seiser Alm that span 350 km. Good starting points are Compatsch and Saltria, between which the route 11 bus (Almbus) goes back and forth. If you want to hike through places other than the open alpine pastures of the Seiser Alm, you can also find hiking trails through the woods between Saltria and Monte Pana (above Santa Cristina in Val Gardena).
- Hans & Paula Steger trail. The Hans & Paula Steger trail (trail number 30) between Compatsch and Saltria is a 4.65-km-long natural and cultural trail that is also suitable for prams. Information boards at the edge of the road describe the area and tell about the legend of the Partschott. The hike can be shortened or lengthened as desired by several bus stops at the edge of the road and further hiking trails. If there is sufficient snow cover, the trail is used in winter as a winter hiking trail; cross-country ski runs can be safely made over bridges.
- Puflatsch circular trail. The trail, also known as the Puflatschrund, has a length of about 10 km and is marked as No. 14, No. 24 and PU. It runs from Compatsch over the Arnikahütte to the Gollerkreuz. From this one walks with beautiful view past the legendary Witches' benches and the summit of the Puflatsches and on to the Filinerkreuz. After this the trail loops back southwards over the Puflatschalpe to Compatsch.
- Friedrich-August trail. This trail, marked as No. 7A, 9 and 557, connects to the Sella Joch on about 10.5 km of Saltria. On the way you will pass the Zallinger Hütte (2037 m), the (2300 m), the Rifugio Sandro Pertini (2300 m), the Rifugio Friedrich August (2298 m) and the Rifugio Salei (2222 m). The ascent from Saltria can be shortened with the Florianlift. There is a bus stop at the Sella Joch, from where you can go down to Val Gardena.
- Witches' benches adventure trail. The trail has a circular route over a very invigorating 2 km. It begins at the Tirler Alm/Hotel Tirler and is marked by works of art on the witch Curandina and the wise owl Emma. Intermediate routes and stations of the sense trail are among other things the natural monument sulfur springs in the "Hexenwald" and the Hexenblick Puflatsch.
- Oskar-Schuster climbing trail. The trail leads from the Langkofelhütte (Italian: Rifugio Vicenza, Ladin: Utia de Dantersasc) (2253 m) up to the Plattkofel (2860 m). As medium-difficulty climb (2nd difficulty level (UIAA)), it has only a few secured sections, and is not recommended for beginners! Because of the great danger of rocking next to the usual climbing equipment, wear a protective helmet. The descent from the Plattkofel takes place via the much-traveled and easy-to-reach hiking trail no. 527, from which you can cross the Friedrich-August-Weg back to the Sella Joch.
- Maximilian Climbing Trail. This runs from the Tierser-Alpl-Hütte (Italian: Rifugio Alpe di Tires) (2444 m) over the entire Rosszahnkamm. Through short secured sections is the climbing route in the second difficulty level (UIAA). In the Roterdscharte (2435 m) there is an emergency descent to the south. The descent begins west of the Roterdspitze (2655 m) and leads back to the. This can be reached from Compatsch either via the Rosszahnscharte (2499 m) or the Dialer-Seiser Alm Hütte (2145).
Numerous gravel roads on the Alpe di Siusi are ideal for mountain biking. Possible destinations for a mountain biking tour are for example the Tierser-Alpl-Hütte (2,444 m) or the Zallinger Hütte (2037 m). Those who want to ride up the mountain to the Alpe di Siusi can do this from Kampidel in the Fasstal (via Mahlknecht), St. Christina in Val Gardena (via Monte Pana), Runggaditsch (via Pufels) and Seis am Schlern (via Frommer). All cable cars continue to transport bicycles. Tierser-Alpl-Hütte
The high plateau of the Alpe di Siusi has gradual slopes, which is why it is suitable for long-distance running. Numerous running trails span the area. Further information is available at www.seiseralm.it.
- Seiser Alm Half-Marathon. This half-marathon started in 2013 and is held every year. The 21-km stretch has 601 m of elevation gain. The number of participants is limited to 500 runners. The Seiser Alm Running Expo is part of the half marathon. The Seiser Alm is a traditional training area for the Kenyan marathon runners during the first months of the summer, which helps prepare themselves for the autumn marathons under the special altitude conditions of the Seiser Alm.
A popular starting point for paragliders, kites, and model travelers is the Spitzbühlhütte (1,980 m) at the peak station of the Spitzbühl lift. Tandem flights also start from the Berghütte, offered by Tandem Paragliding. Further information is available at www.seiser-alm-it and www.suedtirol.info.
Ski resort Alpe di Siusi
The Alpe di Siusi ski area is at an altitude of 1,060 to 2,245 m and is linked to the ski area Val Gardena, as well as Dolomiti Superski, the world's largest ski carousel with over 1,220 km of slopes. On the Alpe di Siusi there are 60 km of slopes (30 km easy, 29 km medium heavy, 1 km difficult) connected by 23 lifts (2 cable cars, 17 chair lifts, 4 ski lifts). Nightdrops always take place at the Marinzenlift Tu Th 19:00-22:00.
Snowpark Alpe di Siusi
The Snowpark Seiser Alm has been awarded a Snowsummit Award by ISPO and is the largest snow park in South Tyrol and the second largest snow park in Italy. With a length of 1.5 km, it is slightly off the slopes near the Laurinpiste and divided into two areas. In addition to the approximately 70 obstacles, the main attraction is a 120-m-long half-pipe.
The cross-country ski runs of the Alpe di Siusi are part of the cross-country skiing carousel Dolomiti Nordicski, the largest cross-country ski area in Europe with over 1,300 km of cross-country ski runs. On the Alpe di Siusi alone, 11 cross-country ski runs with a total length of around 80 km and are prepared in different degrees of difficulty.
On the Alpe di Siusi, 20 downhill runs are prepared for tobogganing in winter. The individual toboggan runs are Icaro-Monte Piz (1,4 km), Panorama (1,4 km), Spitzbühl (2 km), Puflatsch (2 km), Molignon (3,5 km), Zallinger (5 km), Tuffalm (2.1 km) and the Naturrodelbahn at the Völser Weiher (2.1 km).
The Blue Ribbon of the Seiser Alm
The Blue Ribbon of the Alpe di Siusi is an annual ski race in Breitensport. After the traditional race for the first time from 1947 to 1958 was carried out by the football club team 92 Schlern since the winter season 2000/2001 again. The ski race is evaluated in an alpine combination between downhill run and slalom. Further information is available at www.dasblaueband.it [dead link].
The shopping is limited. Apart from a very small grocery store on the main street in Compatsch, there is a shop for daily needs. In the winter, many restaurants and tourist-oriented shops in Compatsch close around 18:00 (in winter: snow sports items and ski or sled rentals).
- 1 Williamshütte (Italian: Rifugio Williams), Rifugio Williams, Localita' Saltria, Castelrotto. A restaurant that has one end point of the Florian chairlift right next to it.
- 2 Gostner Schwaige, ☎ . Open from June to October, and from December until the beginning of April.. Gostner Schwaige is regularly awarded 14 points by the gourmet guide "Gault Millau". All dishes are freshly prepared. The alpine hut is located at an altitude of 1900 m.
- 3 Rauchhütte, Saltria 29, 39040 Seiser Alm, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Open from June to October, and from December until the beginning of April.. The Rauchhütte in the heart of the Alpe di Siusi is near the road between Compatsch and Saltria at an altitude of 1750 m, which is why it is also easy to reach by bus.
- 4 Sanonhütte, Piz 19, 39040 Seiser Alm, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. The Sanon Hut is probably the most rustic hut on the Alpe di Siusi (1800 m). It is open from early December to Easter, and in the summer season from late May to late October.
- 1 Mahlknechthütte, Joch 28, 39040 Seiser Alm, ☎ . The Mahlknechthütte is at an altitude of 2054 m and is open from mid-May to early November, as well as from Christmas to Easter and is open for lunch to all. Dinner is by reservation only for its guests.
- 2 Zallinger Mountain Guest House (Berghaus Zallinger), ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com.
There are many agriturismo establishments in the area. These are bed and breakfasts with the added twist of being part of a functioning farm. Some of these may be close to regional bus stops, but many are reachable only by car. The accommodations will be rustic, and not as polished as a hotel experience might be. However, staying at a farm can be a great experience, and on selected days, the produce of the farm (cheeses, fruits, etc) may be directly available for purchase.
Hail storms can be ferocious. Even a simple rain storm can lead to cold, blustery conditions depending on where on the mountain you are. Check the weather forecast before setting out, and plan for weather contingencies.
- South Tyrol Mountain Rescue, I-39018 Vilpiano/Vilpian (BZ) Brauereistraße street 18, ☎ , 118, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. An all-volunteer team professionally trained for mountain rescues.
To the west (and down hill), lies Bolzano, the nearest big city. To the north, one can get to Val Gardena, or Brixen, or (even further north) Innsbruck. To the east, across mountain passes, one can travel into the Veneto region of Italy. A prominent ski town there is Cortina d'Ampezzo. However, to get to Venice, it is quicker to travel west to Bolzano, and then go south to Verona, and then east.