Resort Report: Sestriere, Italy

Hit the slopes with the Turin crowd

Dominic Earle
Sunday 07 December 2003 01:00 GMT

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Where is it?

About an hour from Turin, Sestriere sits at a snow-sure 2,000m and forms part of the giant Via Lattea (Milky Way) ski area, a joint Franco-Italian operation which stretches across 25km.

Chocolate box or concrete box?

Sestriere was developed in the 1930s by Fiat boss Giovanni Agnelli who wanted to create Italy's first purpose-built resort. Unfortunately, industrialists and ski resorts aren't the most natural bedfellows and the soulless architecture is as barren as its surroundings.

What's the snow like?

At least Agnelli got the location right. In an area where the snowfall is unreliable, the resort's height gives it an advantage over its neighbours, Sauze d'Oulx and Sansicario. The snow started falling in Sestriere in October this year.

Going up

The Milky Way lift system ranges from modern to museum piece, but Sestriere got an upgrade for the 1997 World Championships and, as the main host for the 2006 Winter Olympics alpine skiing events, things are set to improve further. But with Milan just a few hours away, beware of weekend crowds.

Coming down

The area is an intermediates' playground and with 400km of cruising territory to enjoy, don't linger over lunch. Speed freaks should head to the Kandahar run on Mount Motta. More experienced pole dancers should try the Giovanni Alberto Agnelli piste, where Alberto Tomba "la bomba" won the first World Cup night slalom in 1994. You can follow in his tracks on Wednesday nights.

Where can I leave the kids?

The Asilo Neve nursery takes children from the age of two. Alternatively, book in for a week at the Club Med towers (08453 676767; which dominates the architectural skyline and you can kiss goodbye to little bambinos from as young as four months old.

Can I get some air?

Sestriere has a decent snow-park, but for something a bit different take the gondola to Mount Fraiteve and try the Rio Nero - a 1,650m descent along a stream gully down to the road between Sauze d'Oulx and Cesana. Once you reach the tarmac, wait for a passing bus to take you back to the lifts.

How much for a lift pass?

A six-day Milky Way lift pass costs €155 (£108) for adults, with eight to 10 year-old children charged half-price. Under-eights and over-75s can ski for free.

Can I slope off?

The Olimpika Fitness Club (00 39 0122 755050) features everything you need to relax, including a sauna, jacuzzi, squash court and gym. Alternatively, if you want to unwind without breaking into a sweat, there's also an ice-rink and plenty of smart shops for a Piedmontese passegiata.

Enough exercise. Where can I eat up my euros?

The pick of the bunch is Ristorante du Gran Pere (00 39 0122 755970) in the neighbouring village of Champlas Janvier, which features regional dishes such as wild boar. Alternatively, for a slice of fast food Italian-style, tuck into tasty pizzas at L'Teit (00 39 0122 78448). If you prefer tea and toast to caffè latte, ski to Brit-dominated Sauze d'Oulx where full English breakfasts are common.

Après-ski rating

Sestriere and Sauze d'Oulx may be neighbours, but their après-ski attitudes are a million miles apart. Sauze is awash with widescreen sports and pints of Guinness; Sestriere is more reserved, with the action mainly taking place on the slopes. Nightlife only really gets animated when the Torinese and Milanese roll up. Try Pinkys for aperitifs, the Brahms Pub for a drop of the Irish and Tabata for a shimmy to some euro-beat disco.

How do I get there?

From Turin it's about 100km to Sestriere. If you're coming by train, hop off the main Rome-Paris railway line at Oulx, which is 20km away.

In the area

Fancy a bit of French cruising? Then ski over to Montgenèvre's intermediate slopes for the day. The snow here is often the best in the area but it's a bit of a trek, so leave plenty of time to get back across the border.

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