In the previous decade, the sunny resort of Sauze d’Oulx, Italy was nick-named ‘The Benidorm of the Alps’, after years of British package deals providing bargain boozy holidays, with a bit of skiing thrown in. I still remember working a season as a ski rep in Sauze, enthusing to my new arrivals as we walked up through the resort about the great snow conditions, and the best runs to be had, only to be told “We’ve not come here to ski, now where’s the best bar?”
In recent years, Sauze has been thrown a lifeline, in the form of major investment in the 400km Milky Way ski area in the run-up to the Turin Winter Olympics. Hotels have followed suit with renovations and several luxurious spa facilities being added. The Olympic legacy has caused a shift in the clientele visiting this favoured resort, providing an all-around richer experience for everyone.
These days, you’ll find families, couples and groups of keen skiers out on the slopes of the Milky Way. Sure, Sauze still does what it always did best – the main street is still home to beer by the pint and weekly bar crawls rounding off in Bandito’s nightclub with partying until the wee hours. But my advice is to take it easy (at least for a couple of nights ‘eh?) and drag your aching body out of bed before 9am to re-discover what skiing’s all about…
Here’s five reasons why:
1. With spring skiing conditions around the corner, become an early riser to get the best of the snow conditions before lunch. Then enjoy a sunny afternoon on the deck chairs with a beer or three at Sportinia, catching the afternoon rays.
2. Catch the first lift up to Sportinia at 9am and ski all the way across the Milky Way to France for a tartiflette lunch, before skiing all the way home for some Italian aperitivi pre-dinner.
3. A early morning run down red 11 from Sportinia and on to blue 52 to the bottom of Clotes on the freshly groomed courderoy piste will certainly blow away the cobwebs and banish any hangover. Fuel-up in Max Cafe with the best full English breakfast in town before blasting round the rest of the mountain.
4. Beat the crowds to the top of the Women’s downhill in Sansicario – it’s just two fast (and one not so fast) chairlifts to the top, and this run is always in beautiful condition. Plus, if you’re a Lindsey Vonn wannabe, it’s great fun tucking in on the final descent as you see the stadium below you, imagining the cheer of the crowds.
5. Erm, breakfast in your hotel finishes at 9.30am anyways…
If all that has whetted your appetite, there’s still time to get out to Sauze this season. I’ve become something of a fair-weather skier over the years, so for me, it’s spring skiing all the way with nice long days, sunshine, milder weather, quiet pistes and with a whole season’s worth of snow to enjoy.
And if you’re seeking a spot of ‘La Dolce Vita’ when you stop for a re-fuel, then try some of these suggestions for a more authentic Italian experience:
1. Try a calimero or a bombardino – it’s the Italians’ favoured drink on the mountain. Both are made with hot advocaat, brandy and whipped cream, with the calimero being poured on top of an expresso coffee for that extra pick-me-up.
2. If you fancy a mountain-based sundowner, then head to Cicci’s for the last run of the day. It’s tucked away on quiet red run number 12 on the way down to Jouvenceux. Afterwards, ski down at sunset past the abondoned village if the snow conditions are good. You can catch the free ski-bus from Jouvenceaux back up to Sauze until just after 6pm.
3. If you want a full-on carbohydrate hit, grab some friends and head to Sugo’s. Fresh pasta is cooked to order for your group and served in huge saucepans for you to share. It’s great fun, absolutely delicious, and really good value.
4. Mira’s bar always has a good spread of après ski snacks such as olives, pizza slices, bruschetta etc. sitting on the bar. Rub shoulders with the locals and experience après ski Italian-style, along with live music most evenings.
5. Wander down into Sauze’s old town and keep an eye open for the old open-air laundry and water fountains dating back to the 16th century. There’s also amazing frescos on the walls of the Chapel of St. Antonio. Keep on walking to find the best pizzas in Sauze. La Griglia is the only pizzeria in resort with a traditional wood-fired oven in an old-fashioned cellar and is a great find. My advice is to try the Speck and Gorgonzola…
Ci vediamo là! – See you there!
Learn more about skiing in Sauze d’Oulx
Written by Amy Fletcher, Marketing Executive for Crystal Ski. Amy has lived and worked in the Italian Alps for several seasons.
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