Finn Gillespie in Turin heaven

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Italian skiing? Turin Heaven!

Sauze d’Oulx in the Alpine ‘Milkyway’ makes for a perfect slice of ‘La Dolce Vita’ in a Winter holiday

Sunday, October 7th, 2012

FUN ON THE RUN: Finn Gillepsie takes to the slopes in the resort of Sauze D’Oulx

THIS is the home of good food and the good life (la dolce vita), I thought as I stood on the balcony and took in the Italian Alpine views. But what’s the skiing like? I was in the ski resort of Sauze D’Oulx in the province of Turin, and my friend Timmy and I were contemplating the following day’s skiing, the first of six action-packed days on the slopes.

We’d arrived at the 4-star Grand Hotel Besson after the one-and-a-half-hour journey from Turin airport, slightly weary and very hungry. The hotel and spa, as the name would suggest, is owned by a Mr Giuliano Besson, who skied for Italy back in the Seventies.

So everything for the winter sports enthusiast is catered for, from a ski room for storing your gear, to a soothing spa area for recuperating after a strenuous day up the mountain, to a complimentary shuttle taxi service to take you to the bottom of the main ski lifts.

Our stomachs were telling us we needed food, and fast. So we headed to the large dining area, where a friendly waiter went through the menu with us.There were the usual classic Italian meat, fish and pasta dishes to choose from, plus a few specialties from down south, as the chef, we were told, was Sicilian.

Lunch consumed, bags unpacked and informed about all the essential resort info by our Crystal ski rep,Timmy had a hankering for a glass or two of wine to help while away the afternoon before getting an early night ahead of our first day skiing. Sauze is a charming and rustic place dating back to the pre-Roman age, with ski rental shops, lively bars and restaurants nestled among historic buildings.

The town has long been a winter sports favourite for the British, with a massive influx of visitors from Blighty and quite a few English-owned businesses thriving in the Italian town. But don’t let that put you off. Sauze is not exactly Ibiza in the snow and while it’s not difficult to find a bustling bar with a party atmosphere at pretty much any time, there’s also more relaxed and soothing nightlife to be enjoyed thanks to the wide selection of Italian bars, restaurants and shops.

This makes for a ski holiday destination where trendy teens and twenty-somethings can holiday and après-ski happily alongside couples and families seeking a more placid evening experience. Rather than head for the après-ski bars, we opted for Caffe della Seggiovia, a lovely little laid-back place with a wide selection of wines and friendly and informative staff.

For a livelier atmosphere, there’s always Paddy McGinty’s ‘Irish bar’. It’s a well-run place with more of a pub feel, where dancing on the tables in your ski-boots wouldn’t attract a second glance from your fellow punters. But if you, like me, are a little over the whole ‘Irish bar’ thing, McGinty’s is surrounded by similar bars without the Irish theme but with just as much craic.

Fed and watered, we headed to the nearby sports shop to collect our rental gear, before heading back to the hotel, where another fine meal awaited. We’d forgotten we were here on a half-board basis. Oh well, when in Italy…

Sauze D’Oulx lies in the ‘Via Lattea’, or Milky Way, an alpine ski area linking five villages by lifts and runs, with 400km of piste reaching from Italy in to France and the beautiful village of Montgenevre. The following morning we were among the first up the mountain, eager to get in as much skiing and snowboarding (Timmy opts for the trendier of the two pursuits) as possible during our holiday.

We were in a winter paradise despite the relative lack of snow as we arrived at the top of the Sportina lift which, along with the Clotes lift, is the gateway from Sauze to the vast ski area above and beyond the village. The snow machines and piste bashers had been hard at work overnight, so we were presented with pristine pistes as we explored the myriad of runs in the area, comprising 57 blue, 109 red and 36 black.

With so much mountain to play with, both ‘boarder Timmy and skier Finn were kept occupied,Timmy being particularly happy with the terrain parks – in Claviere, Sauze D’Oulx and Montgenevre – and me being perfectly content with Timmy making a tit of himself on the jumps as the locals showed how to get serious air in style.

The highlight of the week’s skiing was a day trip to France and the gorgeous resort of Montgenevre.You can ski all the way there but we chose a day trip by bus, which departs early in the morning and returns after the last ski lift, giving you a full day to enjoy the huge variety of runs, from wide open, fast blues and reds, to twisty trails through the forest, to sweeping pistes above the tree-line.

The Milky Way lift pass covers all areas on the Italian side Via Lattea, plus one day skiing on the French side of the border, in Montgenevre. At this stage we’ve had to admit that we’re no spring chickens, so after each day’s exertion we chose to have just the one beer in the après ski venues before heading for the hotel’s Wellness Centre to sooth away the aches and pains of our ageing bones and muscles.

Essential Sauze Info

FINN travelled to Sauze D’Oulx with Crystal Ski. Crystal Ski Plus Packages, seven nights from €529, includes flights, transfers, accommodation, ski/board hire and lift passes (book before November 30, 2012). Crystal Ski also offer First Time Ski Packs at €359, or Area Pass & Skis at €311.

Finn stayed at the 4* Grand Besson Hotel in Sauze D’Oulx, where packages start at €819, including flights and accommodation for 7 nights (Jan departures).

Crystal Ski is Ireland’s leading ski tour operator, part TUI Travel, the biggest holiday company in Europe. The company has 28 years’ experience of delivering ski holidays in some of the world’s best resorts, and offer a huge selection of accommodation and resorts to suit all budgets, group sizes and tastes.