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A spectacular January line-up in Cortina d'Ampezzo

Visitors to the premier Italian resort of Cortina d'Ampezzo in January can share in one of the most spectacular months in the Alpine calendar, both on and off the slopes.

Visitors to the premier Italian resort of Cortina d'Ampezzo in January can share in one of the most spectacular months in the Alpine calendar, both on and off the slopes.

In the town, some of Europe's top ice sculptors will be transforming massive blocks of ice into works of art. The International Festival of Snow Sculpture has become one of the leading events of its kind in the world and sculptors will be competing keenly for the top prize.

Their fabulous creations are a massive attraction and will be on display along the Corso Italia, turning this already picturesque town into a stunning outdoor winter art gallery. The competition will run from 19 to 22 January.

Up on the mountain, one of the most eye-catching and fascinating contests of the winter will take place in the shape of the fifth annual Cortina Snowkite Contest. The resort rates this as one of the most exciting events of the winter, and it offers a great opportunity to see in thrilling, swooping action some of Europe's leading exponents of this enthralling, and still fairly new, sport. The contest, from 26 to 29 January, takes place on the slopes of Passo Giau.

World Cup racing again comes to Cortina, with the staging on the spectacular Olympia slope in the Tofane area of the Women's Downhill and Super G. The resort, which staged the Winter Olympics in 1956, has hosted World Cup women's races for 20 consecutive years. This year the meeting is from 12 to 15 January.

The Nordic Ski World Cup also comes to Cortina, on 5 and 6 January, with a leg of the FIS Tour de Ski, now in its sixth year, being staged here. And you holidaymakers don't just have to watch the racing - after the events they can get their cross-country skis on and try out this beautiful version of skiing on the very same tracks as the stars of the sport.

Still with racing, the Italian Fire Brigades championships in Downhill and Nordic skiing will be held for the first time in Cortina, from 19 to 21 January.

One of the most magical experiences can be a night-time snowshoeing excursion, with flaming torches to light the way, through the forest - with dinner of local specialities in a cosy and rustic mountain hut.

And there's a whole range of ski safaris to try. The Great War tour runs along the frontlines of battlegrounds, taking in gun emplacements emplacements and tunnels that were lived in for months on end, all built by the Italian, Austro-Hungarian and German troops who endured bitter conditions during high altitude conflict. The Five Passes Tour is a panoramic journey on skis or board around the Sella group of mountains and needs an early start from the Falzarego Pass. The route covers 26 kilometres of slopes taking in, after Falzarego, the passes of Gardena, Sella, Pordoi and Campolongo.

On 22 January, many of the major winter resorts will unite for a day dedicated to children and families - with safety the theme and involving avalanche rescue dogs. A special day on the snow with the slogan 'Explore, Enjoy, Experience' will be organised to emphasise safety in the mountains. The police and mountain rescue services will help set up and supervise fun obstacle courses, including simulated avalanche rescue exercises - and the chance to see the amazing avalanche dogs in action.

Cortina d'Ampezzo, which is the only Italian member of the prestigious European association Best of the Alps, an international quality trademark which brings together the 12 most famous and exclusive towns in the Alpine region.

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