Despite its proximity to Bolzano, Val Gardena's historical isolation among the turrets of Gruppo del Sella and Sassolungo has ensured the survival of many pre–mass-tourism traditions. Ladin is a majority tongue and this linguistic heritage is carefully maintained. The pretty and bustling villages are full of reminders of this distinct culture too, with folksy vernacular architecture and a profusion of woodcarving shops.
In recent times, the valley, part of Dolomiti Superski, has become an 'everyman' ski area, with the emphasis firmly on classic runs and fine powder. The valley's main trilingual towns, Ortisei (St Ulrich; population 6000, elevation 1236m), Santa Cristina (population 1900, elevation 1428m) and Selva (Wolkenstein; population 2580, elevation 1563m) all have good facilities.