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 😉 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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