Destination Guide: Sestriere, Italy

As you’ll know from my snowy outfit pictures yesterday, last week I was in Sestriere, one of the Italian resorts that make up the Milky Way (or Via Lattea) ski area. I’m always on the look out for a good ski area so I thought I’d share and hopefully you guys can tell me your favourites, although I think I’d be hard pushed not to return to this one someday!

I’ve skied twice in France (Les Arcs) and more recently twice in St Anton, (Austria) better known as St Lash-ton for the apres ski, which I didn’t really take much note of until contrasted with Sestriere. Sestriere is definitely a much quieter resort but the slopes were nothing short of fabulous.

From the top: The pistes down into resort, quiet runs in Sansicario and looking back down onto Sestriere.

Both Pete and I could not believe how quiet the pistes were. Of course it helped that the snow was great, but there were times when you could be literally the only two people on a particular part of the slope. The runs are super wide and over all, I’d say the grading of the runs was on the generous side. It’s a great resort for intermediates and has plenty of off piste to challenge more advanced skiers.

My Ski instructor, Davide, our boozy lunch with Pete’s instructor too, and the view from our hotel balcony.

For the first time in years I went back to ski school. I’ve only ever had 3 mornings of lessons after a rather traumatic experience of being left behind by my instructor on my first ever trip! Thereafter, it was Pete’s job and as a result, although I can tackle the majority of slopes, it wasn’t with any great finesse or elegance! I have to say, the instructors were a world away from any others I’ve met, being very relaxed and super friendly, despite my inability to lean forwards! Pete was ridiculously lucky and was the only advanced boarder in the ski-school, so basically got his own guide for the week and spent the whole time off piste in the expert hands of Andreas. We also had one day where they charged an extra 15 euros and spent the whole day with the group taking us to a mountain restaurant for lunch, even liaising between themselves so Pete could join us!

Ah, the food! My reason for wanting to try Italy was the food, I love ski-ing, I love Italian food, and as that’s usually the main gripe in ski resorts I figured we couldn’t go wrong. Our hotel was half board so we ate a four course meal of anti-pasti, pasta, then meat or fish followed by dessert EVERY evening. The absolute highlight though? The Chocolatta – Italian hot chocolate that resembles more of a pudding it’s sooooo thick and gorgeous. I had far too many, but you only live once, right?

My only complaint about Sestriere would be the Apres Ski – it was really unusual in that there wasn’t a stream of people off the slopes at 4 hitting the bars. However, we found that if we went back to the hotel and showered first, then went out, the bars were busier, perhaps to do with the later start to the evening in general in Italy. Once we found the right places (the Napapijri cafe and Pinkys,) we stuffed our faces a little bit more with all the delicious bar snacks they put out during the happy hour. Nom Nom Nom.

We stayed at the Hotel Biancaneve, a clean but basic hotel with rather too much yellow paint in the interior for my liking. I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re looking for style or atmosphere but we ended up meeting some great people and you wouldn’t go hungry. The best local hotel is reportedly the Cristallo, directly overlooking the piste, but I also heard good things about the Du Col. We chose a bargain deal with Neilson (who were great when it came to arranging trips etc) as we plan to take more holidays than usual this year, fingers crossed and figured you spent a limited amount of time in the room on a ski holiday if you’re doing what you’re supposed to be πŸ˜‰ which was certainly true.

Top right: The olympic downhill ladies run (you could also ski the downhill mens) and me before tackling it, and a view over ‘the bowl’ in Montgnevre, France.

Ski-area wise, Sestriere hosted the Winter Olympics in 2006 producing a purpose built resort, originally created for the Fiat employees in the 1930’s. On your lift pass you can access Sauze D’Oulz, Sansicario, Cesana, Claviere and you get one day on the pass in which you can go to Montgenevre in France, just across the border. We skied all of them apart from Claviere and went on a ‘ski-away day’ on the bus to Montgenevre, as although you can ski there, there’s a lot of wasted ski time on gondolas etc and we wanted to enjoy ‘the bowl’ – a massive area of runs with great vistas.

Over all? I would definitely go back. The ski-ing couldn’t be faulted for the wide empty pistes and we were blessed with great snow and off piste conditions too. Apres ski-wise was a little quiet but when we made friends it was anything but, and the food was immense!

Have you skied in Italy and what was you experience of it? Or have you got any other great resorts to recommend?


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15 thoughts on “Destination Guide: Sestriere, Italy

  1. This looks like a lovely resort – I haven’t been skiing in a couple of years and would love to go back so I’m jealous! Best place I’ve been is Banff in Canada, amazing snow, within reach of 3 ski areas, really good aprΓ¨s ski and a nice little town with cute shops. Wish I was there now…

  2. Wow looks fantastic! We’re off to Alta Badia in the Dolomites in three weeks (just a teensy bit excited!) πŸ™‚ Its my first skiing trip to Italy, although I’ve been to the same resort before but in the summer for rock climbing. Did you find the skiing very different to France?

    If you’re looking for great resorts the 3 valleys is amazing – HUGE runs and so much to go at you’ll not have to do the same run twice all week. Also Tignes / Val d’Isere is fab skiing, although Tignes feels a bit purpose built and ‘concrete jungle’. And Kitzbuehel in Austria is a beautiful town, although a bit lower down so the snow wasnt so good.

    You’ve got me very excited about the food too now – no apologies needed for eating lots when you’re skiing all day!

  3. Hey Guys…

    Megan – definitely different to France, the whole vibe is much more the relaxed, the pistes were empty and that French ‘je ne sais quoi’ (Erm, slightly abrupt, shall we say) tone is absent! It’s at 2000 meters too, 2700 at the top of the Gondola, so brilliant snow – notably different to St Anton, although we were there after a great dump and earlier in the season.

    Tracy – I really want to try Canada/USA, possibly next year, dependent on who may or may not come with us. Definitely before Bambinos! Was there a lot of bus-ing around though, I like ski-in ski-out ideally, although this one wasn’t.


    • Hi Rebecca, yeah we were based in Banff town and you had to get the bus to each of the resorts. The journey time varies from half an hour to an hour depending on which one you go to. The biggest ski area, Sunshine Village, has ski-in ski-out though (I think), but you have to get a gondola up to that one so you wouldn’t be able to go elsewhere at night. It is worth putting up with the buses though! πŸ™‚

  4. Can’t believe nobody’s mentioned Cairngorm… πŸ˜‰

    Having been skiing for nearly 25 years (god that makes me sound really old) and been lucky enough to ski in all sorts of places, from huge French super-resorts to the tiniest backwaters in the southern Italian alps, I have come to the decision that, for me, the best ski holidays come from venturing off the beaten piste, so to speak. Moena in the Dolomites, Limone in Piemonte, Westendorf in Austria, hidden gems like the amazing Espace Diamant in France where we were this year – it’s like millionaire skiing on a mini budget. Wide open pistes with not a person in sight, no queues at the lifts, delicious local food at reasonable(ish) prices. I just love it. The trade off, like others have said, is often the apres ski, but frankly after a long day on the piste all I want to do is get into my moon boots, find a cosy pizza place and crack open a bottle of wine. Yes, I am essentially middle aged.

    There are just so many amazing, amazing places in the alps with spectacular skiing, but British people often go to the same old resorts – Meribel, Val d’Isere, Les Deux Alpes, yawn. It’s so easy to fly to Geneva, Munich, Grenoble, pick up a cheap rental car and head off somewhere that only the locals know about. People wouldn’t think twice about doing that in the summer, so why not the winter?

    • Hey Kirsty, don’t diss Cairngorm πŸ™‚ I’ve had some fantastic days ski-ing in Scotland and there’s nothing like a bit of heather ski-ing for an interesting day out! Then again, don’t even get me started on the joys of dry ski slopes…!!

      • Oh I’m totally with you on that one, I first learned to ski in Cairngorm and I absolutely love it… but I’m not sure I’d describe it as a “great resort”! You’re right though, there’s nothing like a bit of heather-hopping. If you can ski in Scotland, you can ski anywhere. Fact.

        • Ha, that’s exactly what I told my other half when he started to learn to ski!

          If you can ski here, you can ski anywhere. I think he threw his poles at me!!

  5. I’ll be honest and fess up to being the complete opposite to Kirsty in terms of the resorts I head to, but I think that’s the great thing about ski-ing, there’s something out there for everyone. I’m lucky that most of my friends are skiers or boarders, so around 20 of us make an annual pilgramage abroad. We generally do the predictable resorts (Val, Meribel, Tignes, Deux Alpes) as they have enough slopes to keep the varying abilitys of the group happy, plus they have plenty of apres ski.

    The other great thing about the big resorts is the infrastructure tends to be a lot better than the smaller resorts with lots of investment in speedy lifts etc. Maybe it’s the time we go (late january or early March), but we’ve never had any trouble with crowded slopes or lifts.

    So… all time favourite resort… Val D’Isere… I know it’s predictable, but we’re heading back there for the 3rd time in a few weeks and I can’t wait. The slopes are amazing and the ski area is so vast I still havent explored it all. The town has the right mix of cute restaurants and lively bars, and then theres the Folie Douce (you tube it… trust me, you’re never too old for a bit of dancing in ski boots!)

  6. Oh I really wanted to go skiing this year but my other half had knee surgery in October so that won’t happen. We went to Γ…re in Sweden last February and it was incredible. We had beautiful snow and sunny days. I still feel like a beginner and feel best in the blue and green slopes but Γ…re is perfect because they have a great variety and everything is so accessible. I put my skiis on outside our cabin door, and then skied down the hill to the lift. Never had to walk anywhere.

  7. Wow Rebecca it looks incredible, you’ve got me super excited for my first adult ski holiday with 3 of my closest, girliest friends. We’re headed to Courchevel. No idea what to expect…it worries me that on your first lesson you got left behind. Eeek! That’s like that movie Open Water…except without the sharks. And with snow. Traumatic indeed. Love your red ski jacket, where’s it from? You looked very chic. x

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