Situated in pretty Piedmont, in the Italian Alps, Sauze d'Oulx (or ‘Susie Doo’ to its friends) is a big hit with British skiers. From here they can access 400km of linked piste known as the Via Lattea
Sauze d’Oulx is part of the vast ski circuit known as the Via Lattea or "Milky Way", which covers 400km of pistes – an area to rival the Portes du Soleil in France and Switzerland. In similar fashion, the Milky Way spans two countries – Italy and France. Sauze d’Oulx was the area used for freestyle races during the Turin 2006 Winter Olympics and much of the infrastructure was improved, thanks to €9 million-worth of Olympic money. As a result, the resort gained new runs, lifts and accommodation. Having said that, it still has more than its fair share of drag lifts. The resort has always been a big hit with the Brits, who have cultivated a very lively après ski scene here, to the extent that the resort gained a reputation for being more boisterous than lively. Thankfully, the rowdiness has been toned down by the suave Italian weekenders who come mostly from nearby Turin to ski, wine and dine rather than party.
Whatever its past reputation, this is an endearing resort with superb assets – such as the great mix of wide open runs and tree-lined scenic terrain available. Sauze d’Oulx also enjoys plenty of sunshine. Its main selling point, though, is that it has so many runs suited to the vast majority of intermediate skiers and boarders, making it an attractive option for mixed-ability groups.
Sauze d’Oulx has two distinct sides to it. On the one hand, it has a quaint, cobbled historic town centre and a pretty church dating from 1532, complete with a Romanesque bell tower; there, the ambience is authentically Italian and caters to affluent weekenders from Turin and Milan, many of whom own chalets in the woods surrounding the village. On the other hand, Sauze d’Oulx has a more modern district full of hotels and bars to accommodate the (mostly) British visitors who keep its party town atmosphere alive.
The resort has a good mix of bars and restaurants with different characters and moods, conveniently split between the two areas. The newer part of town has lots of affordable pubs and bars, contrasting with the older, more picturesque village centre with its wine bars and fine restaurants. The latter specialise in the famous Piedmont cuisine and are frequented mainly by Italian visitors – though, of course, you can take your pick and enjoy whichever of the town's dual aspects is your scene.
Sauze d'Oulx is part of the Via Lattea (Milky Way) – a huge linked ski terrain taking in the Piedmontese resorts of Claviere, Sestriere and Sansicario, the nearby service village of Cesana and the French resort of Montgenèvre. The whole area is highly suited to average intermediates, making for lots of varied skiing and fun day trips exploring new areas and runs.
Sauze d'Oulx, along with the linked resorts, provides a mighty 400km of ski runs on the Milky Way/Via Lattea circuit that runs alongside the France/Italy border. The slope runs face west and north, and are accessed by a variety of lifts from the village. One option is to take a lift up to the mid-mountain hub at Sportinia (where the nursery slopes are) to access runs in Cesana and Sestriere. Alternatively, head up to Clotes with its access to the open slopes of Pian della Rocca and the quieter, more challenging runs down from Monte Genevris.
There are plenty of tree-lined runs above Sauze d’Oulx, adding to the scenic beauty, and also plenty of wide rolling terrain above the tree line – in short, a bewildering amount of choice for intermediates. In early or late season, the slopes back down to the village rely heavily on the snow cannon for decent cover. The couple of chairs that take you further up the mountain, from Sportinia, are slow – compounded by them being only two- person chairs. You will also have to use some antiquated drag lifts to access some of the rewarding runs.
From Clotes, there is a slightly better picture. It has a faster four-person chair, some nice tree-lined scenery to enjoy on the ascent over to Pian della Rocca and some wonderful quiet descents from Monte Genevris and Monte Moncrons.
The mid-station Sportinia area is the meeting point for the ski schools. There is a wide bowl here above the village, with lots of pretty wooded runs, but the terrain is best suited to intermediate skiers. Little is on offer for timid beginners – or, at the other end of the spectrum, seasoned experts and powder hounds. Of the ski schools, try the Sportinia School (00 39 122 850218) or the Sauze Project (00 39 122 858942), where group tuition for six days costs about €140. Private lessons cost about €30 per hour.
The mountain is perfect for intermediates, with lots of long, challenging red and blue runs. Scenic blues from Belvedere and Moncrons are usually quite quiet, while the long run down to Jouvenceaux will boost the confidence of new intermediates.
There aren't too many difficult runs to stretch expert skiers – and the best black runs are a long way from the village. However, some of the off-piste runs down from Monte Fraiteve are a blast.
Three favourite runs
Though it necessitates a drag lift for access, the long, thrilling run (79) from Monte Fraiteve down to Sansicario is one of the longest and most picturesque in the whole of the Milky Way. Graded red, it is a long gentle cruise at times, but more challenging at others as you head through the trees. There are options to follow a black route as well as go off-piste. From Pta di Moncrons, accessible via drag lift from Clotes, you will find numerous red runs back down into the village. Again, there is the option of more challenging black runs to finish near the bottom, or you can choose easier blue runs. From Sportinia mid-station, head up to the highest peak – Col Basset – and enjoy the lovely long and scenic red (12) run through the trees down into Jouvenceaux.
SAUZE D’OULX AT A GLANCE
Number of lifts 22 (Sauze d'Oulx); 80 (entire Milky Way)
(gondolas 6, chairs 41, drags 33)
Lowest lift 1,509m
Highest lift 2,840m
Lift capacity 70,900 per hour
Snow parks One
Snow cannon 1,000
Mountain restaurants 11
Resort altitude 1,509m
Number of runs (Sauze d'Oulx) 100
(blue 24, red 56, black 20)
Number of runs (Milky Way) 214
(blue 68, red 121, black 25)
Beginner pistes 25 per cent
Intermediate pistes 55 per cent
Expert pistes 20 per cent
Longest run 7km
Linked areas Sestriere, Sansicario, Cesana, Claviere, Montgenèvre (France).
Lift passes cover linked areas but do not allow for free use of town buses.
Great for intermediate skiers
Cheaper than many resorts
Lovely scenic tree-lined runs and wider rolling pistes
Charming old village centre
Great record for sunshine
Old lifts and long, steep walks to lifts from resort hotels
Not snow-sure – and at times inadequate snow-making
Not many challenging runs
If dialling from the UK, prefix all telephone numbers below with 00 39 and omit the first zero.
IL Capricorno (01212 850 273) on via Case Sparse, in the hotel at the top of Clotes piste. This Michelin-starred restaurant is the best in town – whether at lunchtime or in the evening. Renowned for chef Maria Rosa Sacchi's hand-made ravioli, it specialises in fine Italian food and is a must for visitors to Sauze d'Oulx.
Ciao Pais (0122 850 280) above the village in Clotes. Serves delicious traditional Italian dishes with beautiful views of the mountainside and a fine selection of wine.
Cappana Kind (0122 850 206) at Sportinia. A great place for breakfast, and renowned for its history – it was here that Adolfo Kind became the first skier in Italy.
Best pizza and pasta
Del Borgo (0122 850329) on Via Assieta. Good service, friendly atmosphere and great pizzas cooked on a traditional wood-burning stove.
La Marmotta (3356 757 532) on Monte Triplex. Excellent Italian specialties, pasta and pizza.
Godfather (0122 850 29) in Clotes. This popular, traditional Italian restaurant is a top place for a pizza. It also opens throughout the night to cater for partygoers as they leave the nightclubs.
La Griglia (0122 850 344) in the old town. Terrific value, delicious pizzas – and quick service.
Sauze d'Oulx is one of Italy's biggest and most lively après-ski destinations. It has everything you want, from excellent sun terraces with great views for an early drink, to relaxing wine bars, lively English and Irish pubs, late-night bars, nightclubs and restaurants that stay open until the early hours (just in case you want a bite to eat at 3am).
Best places to start the night
The Derby Bar (0122 850 176) at the edge of the village, next to Moncrons. Very relaxed with a great, warm atmosphere, sofas to sit on and good music.
Bar Assietta (0122 858 257) in the centre of town on Piazza Assietta. If the sun is still out, head to Bar Assietta's sun terrace for great views and a relaxing drink.
Best of British
Village Café/Bar (0122 858 660) on Via Miramonti, at the bottom of the last run into town. It's the biggest pub in town – and your first beer is free.
New Scotch Pub (0122 850 785) on Via Clotes. A great place for a pint.
Paddy McGinty’s (0122 850 785) Via Clotes . If you fancy a pint of Guinness, this is the place to go. Extremely popular and lively.
Best for cocktails
Moncrons (0122 858 051) at the edge of the village, next door to the Derby Bar and Hotel. This British-owned bar serves the best cocktails in town and also has regular quiz nights.
Best for live music
Vagabondi (0122 858 257) Centrally located, this place provides a lively mix of Italian and British music played live every night from 11pm.
Best late-night bar
The Cotton Club (0122 850 777) on Piazza Assietta, near Bar Assietta. This is one of the best bars in town – and certainly the liveliest. Great music played loud, friendly crowd. Gets very busy late-on.
Bandito (0122 850671) in the Miramonti square. The biggest nightclub in town, the Bandito caters for both a British and Italian crowd with regular themed nights.
Schuss (0122 850 194) on Via Clotes. Attracts a mainly British crowd, with British DJs and nightly happy hour promotions.
Hotels in Sauze d'Oulx are mainly simple two- and three-star establishments, though the newest in town is the Grand Hotel Besson – a luxurious four-star.
Best luxury hotel
Grand Hotel Besson 4* at Via del Rio 15. Just a few minutes from the centre of town, this hotel offers comfy, spacious rooms and a swimming pool.
Il Capricorno 4* at Via Case Sparse 21. This popular, friendly hotel has a warm rustic feel; spacious, clean rooms; a great slope-side location; and a very good restaurant.
Best for families
Hotel Martin 3* at Via Principale 113, Jouvenceaux. Family-run with excellent homely cooking, this hotel is conveniently located for the lifts.
Best budget hotels
Hotel Biancaneve 2* at Via Monfol 25. Central, and only a few minutes' walk from the nursery slopes and the main lift at Clotes, this friendly, family-run hotel is very popular. Rooms are clean, and it's super value.
Edelweiss Hotel 2* at Via Fraiteve 19. Another family-run hotel very close to the lifts. The Edelweiss is clean, comfortable and a good-value choice.
BA, Easyjet and Ryanair all fly to Turin, which is 80km (52 miles) from the resort.
Regular trains travel the 80km route from Porta Nuova Turin to Oulx – 5km from the village. Journey time is about 1 hr 30 minutes. See www.trenitalia.it for details.
From Turin head along the A32 Torino-Bardonecchia-Fréjus motorway. After the Oulx junction, follow the signs for Sauze D'Oulx-Jouvenceaux.
Tourist office (0122 858 009, www.montagnedoc.it), Piazza Assietta 18, Sauze D'Oulx.