WEL­COME BACK WIN­TER!

The win­ter sports sea­son kicks off in Piedmont on 7 De­cem­ber, the per­fect time to dis­cover the alpine re­sorts that have made this re­gion one of Italy’s most at­trac­tive des­ti­na­tions.

Where Turin - - CONTENTS - By Gi­u­lia Minero

Dis­cover the alpine re­sorts that have made Piedmont one of Italy’s most at­trac­tive des­ti­na­tions.

Some of the high­est peaks in Europe, snow, un­spoilt land­scapes and breath­tak­ing views. A com­bi­na­tion that makes Piedmont the per­fect re­gion for a win­ter hol­i­day. This doesn’t just ap­ply to Turin, where in be­tween a cul­tural break or a mo­ment’s shop­ping you can in­dulge in a re­ju­ve­nat­ing break with a cup of hot choco­late, but also the string of ski vil­lages lo­cated only a two-hour drive from the city. As the name of the re­gion sug­gests (‘Piedmont’, ‘at the foot of the moun­tains’), the area’s al­lure and win­ter at­trac­tions are in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked to its moun­tains.

THE ‘VIA LATTEA’, A PAR­ADISE OF WIN­TER SPORTS

When vis­it­ing Piedmont, you can’t think about its moun­tains with­out im­me­di­ately re­flect­ing on the ‘ Via Lattea’ (or ‘Milky Way’), the largest ski area in western Italy that ex­tends from Sauze d’Oulx (Sal­ice d’Ulzio in Ital­ian) to the French town of Mont­genèvre. This in­cludes the towns of Sestriere, San Si­cario, Clav­ière, Ce­sana Tori­nese and Prage­lato, as far as the neigh­bour­ing French bor­der. A favourite hang­out of the Tori­nese for a week­end ded­i­cated to sport and re­lax­ation, a charm­ing out-of-town des­ti­na­tion for tourists who want to spend a few days in the open air ei­ther be­fore or af­ter vis­it­ing Turin, and a par­adise for win­ter sports, this must-visit area of­fers world-class fa­cil­i­ties. Th­ese in­clude more than 400km of slopes ded­i­cated to the most di­verse sports in­clud­ing Alpine ski­ing, freestyle ski­ing, Skele­ton, Nordic ski­ing, Bob­sleigh, sleigh­ing and Biathlon. How­ever, the turn­ing point came when the city played host to the 2006 Win­ter Olympics. As a re­sult of the win­ter games, this area of the Alps, now known as the ‘ Olympic Val­leys’, be­came one of the most sought-af­ter tourist des­ti­na­tions in the world, renowned for its of­fer of en­ter­tain­ment and ac­tiv­i­ties.

So how do you choose where to spend the week­end? It’s sim­ple, and based on the motto ‘tell me what sport you love and I’ll tell you which des­ti­na­tion best suits your needs’. This is a de­tail that should not be un­der­es­ti­mated by those who are par­a­lyzed by choice. Multi-re­sort or sea­son ski passes al­low you to move freely from one re­sort in the area to an­other with­out pay­ing ad­di­tional fees (www.vialat­tea.it).

Th­ese in­clude Prage­lato, where two ded­i­cated slopes al­low peo­ple of all ages and abil­ity lev­els to in­dulge in sleigh­ing and Bob­sleigh­ing, semi-flat ar­eas like Clav­ière, where you can try your hand at cross- coun­try ski­ing or snow­shoe­ing, val­leys boast­ing the area’s steep­est ski slopes – from Ce­sana, lo­cated at an al­ti­tude of 1,350 me­ters, to Cima Motta in Sestriere (2,800 me­ters). The lat­ter are a de­light for ex­pert skiers and snow­board­ers in search of an adren­a­line-filled ex­pe­ri­ence. The area’s gen­tle slopes also make it an ideal des­ti­na­tion for those who have de­cided to em­bark on their snow chris­ten­ing. Each re­sort of­fers top-notch schools spe­cial­iz­ing in ski­ing, snow­board­ing, sleigh­ing, bob­sleigh­ing and freestyle les­sons with qual­i­fied in­struc­tors and con­fi­dence­boost­ing slopes of­fer­ing begin­ners a safe, gen­tle in­tro­duc­tion to snow sports.

When it comes to a great ski week­end, hav­ing the right gear is key. If you don’t have your own equip­ment, you can ei­ther pur­chase it from one of the nu­mer­ous sports shops lin­ing the main streets of each town, or hire it on-site for one or two days. There’s also good news for ice-skat­ing en­thu­si­asts. In the shadow of the high tow­ers dom­i­nat­ing the sky­line of Sestriere, de­vel­oped in the 1930s by FIAT founder Gianni Agnelli as a hol­i­day re­sort for FIAT’s fac­tory work­ers, you can skate from dawn till dusk at the Emanuele Nasi Ice Sta­dium ( T: 335 8181982). Af­ter an ac­tive day on the slopes, in­dulge in a mo­ment’s re­lax­ation at one of the lo­cal Spas. Al­most all ho­tels have jacuzzis, in­door swim­ming pools, saunas and Turk­ish baths that com­bine the ben­e­fi­cial ef­fects of hy­drother­apy with a re­lax­ing Alpine am­bi­ence. One such ex­am­ple is the Ho­tel la Torre in Sauze d’Oulx, which of­fers out­side guests the op­tion of ac­cess­ing its Spa area, where they can en­joy mas­sages and ad hoc treat­ments (www.grand­hotel­la­torre.it).

CHALET DE CHARME, FOR LOVERS OF TASTE

Thanks to its stun­ning scenery, ex­quis­ite cui­sine and bur­geon­ing cul­tural scene, it is not sur­pris­ing that the re­gion of Piedmont was named one of the Ital­ian re­gions best-loved by in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors in 2018 by ‘Lonely Planet’, one of the world’s big­gest guide book pub­lish­ers. One of the rea­sons for its suc­cess is its wealth of lo­cal gas­tro­nomic of­fer­ings, a great way to recharge your bat­ter­ies be­tween

one down­hill run and an­other, or as an ‘après ski’ treat at the end of the day. Lovers of good food in search of a break – or even a few days’ re­treat – in a charm­ing lo­ca­tion at the edge of a wood that can only be ac­cessed on skis or a snow­mo­bile will find what they’re look­ing for at Chalet Il Capri­corno. This 4-star ho­tel re­sem­bling a moun­tain chalet, di­rectly over­look­ing the slopes of Sauze d’Oulx, has only eight rooms, and a gourmet menu fea­tur­ing a com­bi­na­tion of lo­cal flavours and sea­sonal in­gre­di­ents, served in a wel­com­ing stone and wood set­ting (www.chaletil­capri­corno.it). In ski re­sorts, a cock­tail, known as an ‘après ski’, is a great way to re­lax and toast your day on the pistes. A favourite haunt of lo­cals and vis­i­tors in search of a re­lax­ing break af­ter a long day’s ski­ing is Chalet Rag­gio di Sole. Lo­cated in the area of Sestriere’s am­phithe­atre, it’s a great place to en­joy a plat­ter of char­cu­terie and lo­cal cheeses ac­com­pa­nied by a good glass of wine (of­fi­cial Face­book: @rag­giodi.sole­ses­triere). Al­ways in Sestriere, Last Tango, one of the town’s old­est res­tau­rants, de­lights din­ers’ palates both at lunch and din­ner with a se­lec­tion of Alpine spe­cial­ties, in­clud­ing cured wild game like Deer Bre­saola, Lamb Speck, Goose salami, Wild Boar Ham with Caramelized Onions or tra­di­tional hot dishes, that can be savoured in the lo­cale’s warm, cozy sur­round­ings en­hanced by an in­door fire­place (www.last­tango.it).

Les Icles is an in­ti­mate fam­ily-run restau­rant, lo­cated in Ce­sana Tori­nese, which of­fers din­ers hearty home-cooked cui­sine com­pris­ing freshly sourced sea­sonal veg­eta­bles, Piedmont Fas­sona beef dishes, and home­made pasta and desserts made with or­ganic flour. An ab­so­lute must for food­ies in search of authen­tic old-world Pied­mon­tese flavours (www.lesi­cles.it).

JUST A LIT­TLE FUR­THER ON...

Win­ter sports en­thu­si­asts who have a few days to spare and are keen to ex­plore the area out­side the con­fines of Turin should head to the bor­der be­tween Piedmont and the Valle d’Aosta, in the spec­tac­u­lar Alpine set­ting of the Parco del Gran Par­adiso.

This pro­tected area is an ideal des­ti­na­tion for na­ture lovers, of­fer­ing an enor­mous va­ri­ety of plants, flow­ers and moun­tain fauna. Here, Alpine Ibex, roe deer and mar­mots wan­der around undis­turbed, al­low­ing vis­i­tors to view them close-up, while walk­ing through the park or climb­ing its rock faces. Other op­tions also in­clude a visit to the el­e­gant town of Cour­mayeur, in the re­gion of Valle d’Aosta. This is a favourite des­ti­na­tion for win­ter sports, lux­ury shop­ping, top-notch cui­sine, and the nearby Pré-Saint- Di­dier Spa and well­ness cen­tre (www.qc­terme.com/pre-saint-di­dier). The area was re­cently en­hanced by sev­eral new fa­cil­i­ties, in­clud­ing the amaz­ing Sky­way Monte Bianco cable car, a feat of Ital­ian en­gi­neer­ing that en­ables vis­i­tors to as­cend to the Hel­bron­ner Peak (3,466 m), a breath­tak­ing spot lo­cated on the sum­mit of Mont Blanc, whose panoramic ter­race of­fers vis­i­tors a spec­tac­u­lar 360-de­gree view of the sur­round­ing Alps (www.mon­te­bianco.com).

Gi­u­lia Minero Life­style & News Ed­i­tor Where ® Italia

Chalet Il Capri­corno

Cour­mayeur

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