Sestriere is a fabulous ski resort in the Italian Alps, on the Milky Way circuit. It was purpose built for skiers of all abilities
My family and I have skied all over Europe and have our own special favourites, but this year we tried Sestriere for the first time. It was brilliant, and, with our ages ranging from 16 to 55, we found something challenging for each of us. Sun, snow, perfect powder, well-groomed pistes and plenty of variation on the slopes – including several 2006 Olympics-runs - combined to fulfil our need to ski! For those taking young children, there is a kids snow park and a very well run children’s ski school.
Where to stay
Being Christmas, we decided to opt for 4-star accommodation and selected the Cristallo hotel. The newly-built Cristallo enjoys an exceptional location right by the ski lifts and ski school, and only a minute from the main shopping street. Initially disappointed not to get a room with balcony (despite the brochure pictures, all balconied floors are private apartments), we were pleased with the quality and comfort in the rooms. Each had en suite, mini-bar (expensive), satellite TV, phone and safe, as well as excellent furnishings and superb maid service. There is a small fitness suite, sauna, steam room and Jacuzzi all at no cost. I found the evening meals slightly ‘over-engineered’ but there was good choice and plenty of it. Breakfast was the usual continental buffet, but the staff were pleased to cook to order. Restaurant service was always superb. The Cristallo has a comfortable if somewhat reserved bar, and they serve complimentary afternoon tea and cakes every day. Best of all, the main ski lift is directly across the road. We’d stay here again, definitely.
The Milky Way lift pass covers the resorts of Sestriere, Sauze D’Oulx, Pragelato, Claviere, Sansicario, Cesana and the French resort of Mont Genevre, so you will not be bored! You can only ski in France for one day though, and any repeat visits must be paid separately. At 179 euros for a six day pass, it is not cheap but the range and variation is well worth it. We tried the three Olympic runs in Sestriere first. Access by chairlift from the town centre is quick and easy, and the runs exhilarating. The long cable car from Sestriere gives direct access to Sauze and a day’s skiing there. Mont Genevre is a bus ride away, but again offers a full day’s fun there.
There are enough Blue runs for newbies, although the resort better suits intermediates/experts. Sestriere has lots of good, tree-lined red runs, but the real fun runs are from the top of M. Motta, including the Olympic Downhill route Black 31. These slopes have an excellent snow record all winter, as well as glorious sunshine. Ski school starts opposite the Cristallo and runs half a day for six days.
If you love skiing, you will love Sestriere. With typical Italian exuberance and hospitality, superb snow-sure conditions and excellent piste grooming, it is hard to beat. Despite a lot of button lifts, transiting the pistes is quick and efficient, with good signage and sufficient watering holes. There are restrictions (enforced by lift pass confiscation) to off-piste skiing, because of avalanche danger, but guides are available for the more adventurous. Oh – and boarders will love it as well! There is an extensive board park in the bowl opposite the town centre, as well as above Sauze, at Sansicario, and three at Mont Genevre.
The après ski
Pinkys Bar in the main square does a good range of fresh-cooked pizzas and pastas, as well as beers and wines. Ski boots are allowed and a there is a very lively, friendly atmosphere. It is just five minutes' walk from the slopes. They do charge a 3.50 euros service charge for diners though, adding significantly to a group lunch. On the piazza above the ski school assembly point is a parade of shops, restaurants and pizzerias. They are all good, with lunch for five coming in at about 50 Euros including drinks. I also recommend the Du Col bar, Irish Igloo bar, Tabata’s night club, après ski drinks at Bar Sestriere, the Brahms pub for Irish beer and the Osteria Barabba wine bar. But be warned – even soft drinks start at around 3 euros and house wine from 8 euros per bottle.
The resort has an ice rink and offers cross country and heli-skiing. I advise you shop around locally for equipment hire, as the obvious one - Rent and Go – is not always the cheapest (www.rentandgo.it ). We found the inclusive package from Nielson was cheaper. The transfer from Turin is around 1hr 45mins by coach.
All in all, definitely a resort we would return to but maybe only when the recession ends!