The kids want a playground, one parent wants at least a smattering of culture, while the other wants nothing more than to tick off all the mountain passes in the area. Too much to ask? Family holidays are a crash course in diplomacy, but is there an easier way to satisfy everyone? We tried a new way to solve this annual challenge with the Dolomites Bike-Weeks.
We have no shame admitting that the biggest priority in our early twenties was racking up the best times and Strava trophies. Every ride, everywhere. The more watts you put in, the more fun you get back – but it doesn’t come for free. Cycling is a time-consuming sport. But our own time has shrunk and morphed and taken on new priorities as we’ve grown up. Indeed, for some of us, the arrival of families has led to an obligatory shift and a pressing dilemma: what on earth to do on the next family holiday? Our friend Gregor knows this all too well – after the arrival of his son Anton, Gregor and his wife Adi have had to rethink those very priorities. That’s when they happened upon the Dolomites Bike-Week in Olang.
They quickly decided to spend a week in Olang during the Dolomites Bike-Weeks. When they weren’t tucking into local delicacies like Schlutzkrapfen, or ‘gramming the picture perfect mountain lakes, they split their time between the Kinderwelt and the bike park, road riding and mountain biking, relaxing and riding in a bid to tip the scales towards the ultimate #familybikebalance. They succeeded! Here are their highlights:
Dolomites Bike-Weeks – what’s it all about?
As the name suggests, the Dolomites Bike-Weeks are all about cycling. Beyond us roadies, there’s also enough to satiate everyone from recreational riders to hardcore mountain bikers. Over the course of four weeks, you’ll find daily guided rides catering for three levels in each discipline. But before you get alarmed at the thought of being unwittingly enrolled into a rigid, predetermined programme, don’t worry – choice is king here.
Do what you want, when you want – during the Dolomites Bike-Weeks you can choose exactly what you want to do
Dip in and out of the Bike-Weeks programme
The Dolomites Bike-Weeks is not your standard organised bike ride. There’s no set schedule to follow and no fixed group you have to meet. As a guest in Olang, you’ll simply be privy to a wide-ranging menu of rides that you can hop in and out of as you wish. Fancy a road ride? Go for it. Legs starting to feel the burn? Take a day off, or opt for an eMTB recovery ride. All of the organised rides are led by professional guides, and, being situated in the Dolomites, you can expect your culinary desires to be well and truly exceeded. South Tyrol’s cuisine is awash with local delicacies with great indigineous names like Schlutzkrapfen ravioli, Spinatpressknödel (spinach dumplings) and the messy, but fit-for-an-emperor Kaiserschmarrn pancake.
Olang – a destination for the whole family
Right in the middle of Val Pusteria/Pustertal, the town of Olang has around 3,000 residents and delivers all the ingredients for the ultimate family holiday. Its hotels run the gamut from budget to luxury and there’s no shortage of restaurants. The Kids World – the Kinderwelt – is a giant outdoor playground that’ll capture imaginations. What’s more, each guest gets access to free public transport across the region as well the option to attend any of the town’s events (either for free or at a heavily reduced rate) thanks to the so-called HolidayPass. You can also find time to discover South Tyrol’s lesser-known gems such as the Toblacher See/Lago di Dobbiaco which is equally as beautiful as the Instagram-famous Pragser Wildsee but far less overrun with tourists. Reaching the lake can be done in a number of ways but Gregor, Adi and Anton decided to pedal along the family-friend bike path. Once they had exhausted themselves skimming stones and eating ice cream, they returned to Olang for free on the train with their HolidayPass.
The HolidayPass doesn’t just come with a list of local opportunities, it also extends the range of what’s possible. Outbound by bike, return by train – no problem!
The Kinderwelt – a massive adventure play park
The sprawling Kinderwelt in Olang is a place that can light up any child’s eyes. Just next to a babbling mountain brook, this natural adventure play park winds its way along the stream, revealing an archipelago of diverse adventure islands as kids move through it. From the giant water park to picking a line up the climbing wall, there’s something for every taste. With their inner child rekindled, Gregor and Adi struggled to tear themselves away from the action. Fortunately Anton provided a convenient excuse to stay a bit longer.
The Kronplatz – culture, cuisine and a damn good time
The Kinderwelt is one form of adventure play park, but the Kronplatz is something else entirely. The mountain is a familiar ascent of the Giro d’Italia and pedalling up to 2,275 metres is a popular option, though you can also take the cable car. Once at the top, expect breathtaking panorama views of the surrounding peaks, like the Marmolada and Drei Zinnen.
But the excitement doesn’t end at the postcard perfect views. For mountain bikers, there are descents in three directions – towards Olang you’ve got the GASSL flow trail, which takes you down 1,125 metres of descending with unavoidably high stoke levels. Towards the south, you’ll find the Furcia trail, which offers a host of detours and diversions onto other trails too. In the north, you’ll find the Herrnsteig trail – the oldest and most well-known of Kronplatz’s downhills and one that’s continually being refined with new, trickier segments. If you haven’t got your own mountain bike, the town is packed with rental shops so you can develop a taste for going off the tarmacked path and then give the bike back to get cleaned by the experts. Win-win.
Family holidays are usually synonymous with compromises. Biking, culture or adventure? At Kronplatz the only compromise what order to do them in!
Not just a hotbed of trails, there’s no shortage of culture on the Kronplatz either. Take the Messner Mountain Museum designed by Zaha Hadid. A stunning feat of architecture perched on the mountain top. Or the new AlpINN restaurant, which ties together a laid back atmosphere with fine food. You won’t need to dress up for dinner either – this region is very au fait with sports attire. After all, it also has to deal with the neon brazenness of skiers each winter.
In the heart of the Dolomites
During the approach to Olang, the landscape outside the car window will entrance you – rocky mountain peaks, lush meadows and cascading waterfalls. But it’s only when you’re out on the bike, grinding your way up the hairpins and cresting the passes that you can truly appreciate its beauty. Even though Olang isn’t directly at the foot of any of the ‘major’ passes (a benefit with less traffic), there are many route options available. On a road ride to Lake Misurina, Gregor sat up and soaked up the view over the lake that staged the speed skating competition at the 1956 Olympics. From here, you have what is perhaps the greatest view of Drei Zinnen. The best thing about riding with a guide? Not only do they know the best viewpoints, but you’ll always have company on the climbs. As the switchbacks unfolded ahead of him on the way back to Olang, Gregor tried to memorise the postcard-perfect views ready to recount them to his family.
As you may have gathered, Olang isn’t a far-flung, remote destination where adventure is synonymous with extreme risk-taking, but fortunately, most bike-mad families aren’t looking for that. Diverse and different days usually make for a good holiday and we can confirm that Olang delivers exactly that. Dear Olang, we’ll see you again next year for more mountain passes, more post-ride chills, playpark excitement and whatever else you have in store.*
For more information head to kronplatz.com/en/valdaora-olang
*This article has been produced in collaboration with the Olang tourism association.
Did you enjoy this article? If so, we would be stoked if you decide to support us with a monthly contribution. By becoming a supporter of GRAN FONDO, you will help secure a sustainable future for high-quality cycling journalism. Click here to learn more.
Words & Photos: