Having lost its bad-boy image, this affordable, exciting resort is just what the recession doctor prescribed. Count the pennies and the skiing bonanza will look after itself
Sauze d'Oulx is a mixture of medieval cobbled streets and the mundane modern; the old rustic town snugly blends in with the contemporary hotels, restaurants and bars. The resort caters for the budget conscious skier with a great selection of two and three star hotels some offering breakfast only, enabling you to enjoy some of the towns under-rated restaurants or inspired pub grub.
It is a vibrant, lively resort with excellent facilities and mountains waiting to be explored and tested. This is an intermediates' playground, offering a helter-skelter of skiing fun. Located at a very reasonable altitude, the slopes are seldom devoid of good snow conditions, lift queues are few and far between and it has direct access to the great resort of Sestriere with its wonderful, testing and exhilarating World Championship runs.
The Milky Way is a vast expanse of glorious runs comprising predominately of reds, some that can test the most competent intermediate among us. With 88 lifts and 400km of perfect runs at its disposal, you are guaranteed an awesome skiing experience only equalled by energising nightlife back in Sauze.
On our first visit the friendly Inghams representative (www.inghams.co.uk/ski-holidays) kindly showed us some of what the mountain would throw at us. And as you push off on to a wide red on the quiet empty upper slopes, it isn’t long before it narrows into tree lined avenues of excitement and adrenalin rushes, sharp bends opening up into the testing moguls, knees crunching, arms digging, breath deepening and then again relaxing as you once more pick up speed, carving into more wonderful wide reds. Worming through groups of hesitant skiers at the top of the more concerning piste. Picking up more acceleration down a short sharp piste you must cross a small plateau, pulling your parallels tighter, your body lower. Speed being of the essence, you are once again caressed by the close proximity of more fir trees, the cowering shade delivering shivers throughout your body. Short sharp bends require some neat and precise navigation as you hug the inside curves; sweetly. Cruising to within metres of diners, as they tuck into hot ravioli and sweet, spiced mulled wine on the sun terraces. Surging on to the last stretch of red and blue piste, forcing the last ounce of speed from your body and skis. This has been Clotes; skiing none stop, refusing to pause for breath as you do battle with friends and foe, impossible to visualise the sheer satisfaction that tingles your frozen extremities, as you cover the 7km run in what seems a couple of minutes; sheer unadulterated magic.
Take the Rocce Nere ski lift from Sportina to the Monte Triplex and enjoy the vast open spaces and countless red runs. Bask in the glorious sunshine that bathes these slopes with wonderful winter warmth and ski till your hearts content on virually empty pistes. The Moncrons can also be accessed from here and is a must for the more experienced and daring skier.
Weather permitting, ride the cable car to nearby resort of Sestriere. Do it as early in the morning as possible, so you can enjoy a full day in the resort taking in the Kandahar on Mount Motta; an exciting, challenging World Championship run for all budding extreme speed junkies.
The three star Hotel Sauze (www.inghams.co.uk/ski-holidays/hotels/item91300/hotel-sauze/) was to be our accommodation, ideally located 30 metres from the slopes and only steps away from the town's nightlife. The rooms are comfortable and basic, the facilities sparse, but the staff were pleasant and helpful. We were on half board arrangements and the food was plentiful, tasty and well presented. As all of our party were experienced skiers we could take advantage of the Clotes ski lift that was only 200 metres from the hotel. Beginners and novices would have to take the ski bus or walk to the Sportina lift.
At mid station is the Sportina plateau, a large open area where you will find the ski school, music pulsating restaurants and provides the ideal rendezvous point. Several runs snake into and out of the area including the novice's trail that meanders down the mountain from top station.
An excellent and challenging black drops off Sportina down to Jovenceaux, a small outcrop of Sauze, with a good selection of small hotels including the two star Edelweiss Hotel.(www.skiline.co.uk/hotel_edelweiss_a8267.asp?CurrentPage=1) This residence has a two man chair to Sportina in its back garden (very convenient). We stayed here also on one of our visits. It is a very homely and compact hotel offering half board, simple small rooms with breakfast and evening meals that sadly, although tasty, were lacking in quantity. The owners Betty and Bruno are great hosts and Bruno will drop you the 1km up into Sauze in his minibus. It is very affordable and comfortable and is worth a visit.
Another inexpensive and cheerful residence is the three star Hotel Assietta, ideally located in one of the town’s piazzas. The rooms here too are basic, but are clean and presentable. The bar and terrace of the small hotel attracts a vibrant après crowd ready to dance and relax into the evening. It offers breakfast only and is ideal for those who would like all the action at their fingertips.
The Grand Hotel La Torre is a 4 star hotel that is situated that little bit further from the slopes, but offers excellent facilities. The rooms are large and spacious with great views. The food is plentiful and wholesome; just what is required after a hard days skiing. The jacuzzi, sauna, gym etc; are at also your disposal in the hotels well-being centre.
Bars and restaurants
I would happily recommend Paddy McGintys Pub, (Via Clotes 18) for some après drinks. It is 100 metres from the slopes in the town centre and serves up first rate meals, snacks and well travelled pints of Guinness. It is lively, has a great atmosphere and prices are very affordable.
Enjoy a fabulous a la carte meal at very reasonable prices at Del Falco’s (Via Asieitta 20) in the old town. It is a very popular eatery that is complimented by great atmosphere and friendly staff.
Or if it’s pizza that you fancy, fresh from the wood burning oven, then try La Griglia’s (Via Colle Bourget 24). Not only is it renowned for their pizzas and hospitality but offers a great selection of Italian delights from their full menu.
If I were to pick one bar that rocked my boat for the ultimate night out it has to be Vagabondi’s (Piazza Reggimento degli Alpini 27/28). Laid back, at times; most times laid forward, great crowd, live Italian/English music and because it is located in the main town square within walking distance from just about everywhere. It is a big hit with local Italians also, but they have to pay an entrance fee, whereas we tourist get in; gratis.
If 2am is still a bit on the early side for calling it a night, then head for Schuss or Banditos, Sauze’s two nightclubs, guaranteed to keep you dancing into the twilight hours.
If you are intending on booking flights, hotels, etc; independently, then you may be in line for free airport/resort transfer. The company, Flexible Breaks, (www.flexiblebreaks.com) offer free resort transfer from Turin and Chambery airports on selected flights operated by (www.ryanair.com) and (www.britishairways.com) from 13 UK airports, Dublin and Brussels. This is a potential saving of 70 euros pp, an excellent saving on your overall holiday.