The sounds of the Dolomites in winter
The music of the woods, when they are covered in snow
When the blanket of snow enshrouds the peaks and slopes and tourists throng the ski slopes, silence reigns in the Dolomites. This is the time to listen.
In winter, the sounds of the Dolomites are the calls of the bird species that do not migrate south: the harsh chirping of the snowfinch, which lives in large groups at high altitudes throughout the year, the hoarse cry of the male ptarmigan that is practised for many months for the mating season, the high-pitched cry of the eagle, which at the end winter performs aerial courtship displays to strengthen the bond between the pair.
But also in the small towns at the bottom of the valley there are distinctive winter noises. When you walk along the silent streets, noises include the scraping sound of snowplough blades on the road, which laboriously move the snow, the thudding sound of a hatchet that splits the logs of wood for the fireplace, the cadenced thumping of an old watermill, the rhythmic ticking of drops that slowly drip out of a fountain.
Yes, because in winter even water changes: a slow, lazy lapping replaces summer’s thundering sound of the stream that winds down the valley, while an unreal silence replaces the roaring waterfalls. The smaller brooks entirely dry up or ice over, while bigger ones never “sleep”, thanks to their fast currents that do not allow water to be transformed into ice.
Lakes suffer the same fate: at high altitudes they become silent, thick slabs, although they continue to flow, also in bubbling stretches, on the valley floor. Snow however, besides colouring winter white, also affects the sounds we hear in this season: the soft thud of snow falling off branches in the woods, the dramatic roar when it avalanches down slopes...
However, perhaps the gentlest sound of winter in the Dolomites is the cadenced creaking of our footsteps that sink into the snow, broken by our panting for breath at this altitude during a morning walk. The rest is silence.