CORTINA d' AMPEZZO, ITALY - Simply the world's most beautiful winter playground.

Nowhere is more picturesque than chic Cortina, the most up market of Italian resorts. Dramatic pink-tinged peaks rise sheerly from the top of the slopes, giving picture-postcard views from wherever you are.

Cortina's slopes are fine for its regular up market visitors from Rome and Milan, many of whom have second homes here and enjoy the strolling, shopping, people-watching and lunching as much as the odd leisurely excursion on to the slopes.

For beginners and leisurely intermediates, the splendid nursery slopes and long, easy, well-groomed runs are ideal. For keen slope-bashers, Cortina's fragmented areas can be frustrating, especially if snow is scarce and the area is fragmented even more; but the access to the Sella Ronda and other Dolomite Super ski resorts, though time consuming, is some compensation - having a car is best for exploring. For experts, there are few tough runs, and the best of those are liable to poor snow conditions and closure because they face south.

What's Great
What's Not-So-Great

+ Magnificent Dolomite scenery - perhaps the most dramatic of any winter resort

+ Marvelous nursery slopes and good long cruising runs, ideal for nervous intermediates

+ Access to the vast area covered by the Dolomite Super ski pass

+ Attractive, although rather towny, resort, with lots of up market shops

+ Good off-slope facilities

+ Remarkably uncrowded slopes

- Several separate areas of slopes, which are inconveniently spread around all sides of the resort and linked by buses

- Poor recent snow record - Expensive by Italian standards

- Gets very crowded during Italian holidays

- Very little for experts - Mobile phones and fur coats may drive you nuts