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.
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