Fatbiking: the best new sport in the mountains and it's not limited to down, up, across or even snow. Well worth the energy.
Saturday, 18th March
Day 1: Thrown right in...Fatbiking
Why I left it so long to try fatbiking, I don't know.
Leaving the hotel at 6.45 to catch the first gondola up the mountain, we had a sunrise breakfast watching the 'enrosadira' on the ancient coral rock of the Dolomites before kicking off what was to be a most intense day.
7am start, Sasso Longo
It is an extreme sport if ever I've tried one.
The first drop onto red piste Dantercepies was the most shaky five minutes I've had on the snow since I can remember and I had to deny myself the fear to lean forward, pick up the necessary speed to stop sliding about the piste and get on with it.
We had the solo instruction of "just hold down your right brake to lock the back wheel, and let's go!" before pointing the fat wheel of the off-road bike down the valley.
Our guide for the day was Andreas Blanker, fatbiking instructor and sommelier in nearby Ortisei.
The two wheels work completely independently.
If the back drags around and you wrench round the front to compensate, the line will slip-zag the rest of the way.
Ride with it, tease your front-wheel brake and hold firm the back - to start off, anyway.
First step - on a red piste
After the empty groomers we took to the roads of Selva and into the national reserve, Puez.
Little snow, early morning ice - slush frozen overnight - and repeated requests to go further and higher lead to us taking the fatbiking from a short experience to a whole day.
And then we got to the real sport.
The terrain: Up passes with deer jumping across our path, gravel steeps, slushy cross country flats, boggy fields and more uphill climbs.
We were out for five-and-a-half hours; Most of it felt like an uphill battle that made you want to achieve and push yourself further rather than give up.
We stopped at a locked-up hut and a pinnacle point of the men's World Cup downhill Saslong slope where, during competitions, you watch enormous jumps off a roller to clear another.
Sunbathing break in the 15° heat
Looking out at the Men's World Cup downhill piste
13° and a closed hut = sunbathing heaven, with homemade sunbeds thanks to Andreas.
We made it most of the way Alpe di Siusi, a full day fatbiking trip in Val Gardena, and covered Ciampinoi Monte Pana.
And what better setting to travel around than the Dolomites and Val Gardena?
Andreas our fatbiking guide
It is hard work and requires the same mettle as mountain biking, so if you like speed, intense sports, perhaps ski a lot but need a kick to renew your mountain energy, try it.
Hard work and scenery
Don't do a taster session; Rent bikes for a full day, get a guide (honestly wouldn't have found the trails and views without Andreas) and get stuck in.
I returned exhausted - and I thought I was in good fitness - filthy, exhilarated and raring for more of the best sport I've tried. Point.
Andreas charges €180 for a day; cheaper than a ski guide and much more work: A new challenge.
Skiing the famous circuit that covers four resorts and three provinces in the Italian Dolomites.
Sunday 19th March
Day 2: Tracing my steps back around the Sella
And after a day of fatbiking and exploring Ortisei, day two involved a more original way of discovering the Dolomites - skiing the famous Sella Ronda.
On my way to Val Gardena just a few days before, I skied by one of the famous loops around the jagged rock, the Sella, made from ancient coral.
The green route takes you anti-clockwise around the 'saddle'.
The orange circuit travels clockwise and is slightly more challenging, though the real test was to get as much done as possible before lunch with the warm temperatures making slush of the snow by 11.30am.
The Sella Ronda loop
If you're fast, three laps of the Sella can be done in a day.
The distance of one circuit is 23km and takes in four resorts: Val Gardena, Alta Badia, Arabba, Val di Fassa.
We doubled that by adding in slopes here and there.
The orange route starts in the centre of Selva. Taking the Costabella chair to the Dantercepies cable car and up to Gardena Pass, you follow the slopes to Colfosco and up to Corvara.
Arabba & the Marmolada ridge: "Regina di Dolomiti" - popular for heliskiing
One hour in, the group's average speed was 18km/hr, lifts included, and we'd travelled around 50km.
Guenther Pitscheider and the Sella, taken from Porto Vescovo, Arabba
The Sella most of the time was visible just there to travel around.
"It's why I like the Dolomites... You can actually touch the rocks as your ski around," Val Gardena Gröden Ski Resort director Günther Pitscheider said to PlanetSKI.
Early on in the day:
Busy Saturday slopes
Arabba skiing includes Porta Vescovo and a ski down to Pont de Vauz. From there, the chairlift at Fedom will take you by the Pordoi Pass.
Below and back in the Val Gardena ski area the rocky massif we started the other side of appeared: Sasso Lungo - the most confusing rock in the area as it can be seen but looks different from every angle - Cinque Dita - 'five fingers' - Grueman - after its first climber - and Sasso Piatto.
The last leg - Val Gardena in the distance
Rifugio Emilio Comici very close to the end of the Sella orange track and back in the Val Gardena ski area was where we stopped for a long, Italian and delicious lunch.
It was packed, even though late in the day, and the weather was turning colder and cloudy.
The restaurant, also known as the fish hut, needs booking and, as its nickname suggests, is great for fish.
It is brought up from a fish market in Venice three times weekly where the owner has another restaurant.
The hut is easy to reach for all levels of skier and absolutely worth it.
The food, especially the mussel and langoustine linguine, was real end-of-the-day-skiing perfection.
The starter platter
And the Saturday atmosphere kept us there for nearly three hours.
Packed with many visitors up from nearby cities, Bolzano being the closest, the Italians know how to enjoy lunch time when the weather makes skiing hard.
Grappa and children's game Crocodile Dentist...
From the Rodella - Sella Pass a gorgeous long slope leads down to Selva, where we stopped at the end of the run for packed après at La Stua.
And later on to Luislkeller for slightly more civilised drinks.
Overall, great to have a planned route to follow for a day's skiing, especially when the first few hours are crucial.
Parts of the day were 13° and as a popular spot for weekend skiers, it's best to do it the Italian way: start early and take a good, long, well deserved lunch on the mountain that leads right into the evening...