Sestriere: Fill up on food and skiing in Italy

The Olympic rings stand proudly in the centre of Sestriere. The resort, just an hour’s drive from Turin, hosted the downhill events during the 2006 Games and was home to one of the three athletes’ villages.

That accommodation has since been turned into a hotel, while the resort’s ski lift network was upgraded and existing facilities given a makeover.

And you can also try some of the runs used for the Games as well as Women’s World Cup events.

Sestriere is a high-altitude ski resort – it’s just over 2,000m – and faces north-west so has a long season and sun right through the day.

The two hotel towers that dominate the skyline have become the symbol of the village, built in the 1930s by Fiat founder Giovanni Agnelli to provide a holiday retreat for the workers in the car factory in Turin.

Sestriere is at the heart of the 400km Via Lattea – the Milky Way – ski area that takes you to Sauze d’Oulx, Sansicario, and Claviere, and to Montgenevre in France.

It has two distinct linked areas – Monte Sises, directly overlooking the town, and Monte Motta above the linked village of Borgata to the east.

The Monte Sises area is more suited to beginners and is where you will find the nursery slopes and ski schools.

The Borgata area is more demanding with its tight, tree-lined runs that are more suited to the intermediate skier.

The Borgata lift, after a twisty run back down, leads to Rifugio Aquila Nera, the perfect stop for lunch with views over Sestriere.

It serves a great array of mountain meats and cheese, and pasta specials are between 10 and 20 euros.

The main ski areas can get crowded first thing, so head over to Sansicario on the main gondola lift for a great mix of wide, open runs and forest tracks.

The Olympic Rings in Sestriere
The Olympic Rings in Sestriere

Once at the top of the mountain, the fast and open Olympica Media black piste runs from top to bottom.

The top of the gondola is also the access point for Sauze d’Oulx bowl area with its clutch of red runs.

The runs here are a lot more friendly and fun to ride. The only downside is getting back to the gondola is via a two-person chairlift that is slow and can get crowded at the end of the day.

It is also possible to ski to Montgenevre in France but you might be wiser taking the bus as it halves the travel time and cuts out a couple of hours on chairlifts.

The biggest apres-ski party starts at 3pm at the Gargote Fashion Cafe, and there a couple of quieter bars next to the Hotel du Col – La Nostra Pagina that serves beer and pizza by the slice, and QB where you can enjoy a relaxing glass of local red.

Bar Sestriere has a happy ‘hour’ from 4pm-7pm when it’s three drinks for the price of two.

But if you prefer to be pampered after a day on the slopes then head to the Hotel Principe di Piemonte for its swimming pool and spa (charges apply).

The Hotel du Col is ideally placed – the boot room door leads straight out onto the ski area and the ski shop is a few doors down. And there is the added bonus of a pub in the basement – perfect.

The Italians love their food

Dotted across the Milky Way are rifugios – or mountain restaurants. Forget your burger and chips, these places serve proper, gourmet food.

Take the Rifugio Aquila Nera on the Borgata side. On the menu for our visit was venison stew with polenta, beef-filled tortellini and pumpkin ravioli.

Across at Sauze d’Oulx, the Ristorante Monte Triplex in Sportina – a mountain crossroads of lifts, runs and restaurants – serves up a wonderful platter of cold meats, cheese and bread.

From 3pm, the place to be is the Gargote Fashion Cafe. Before then it’s a good place to eat with bigger portions than up on the mountain – pizzas start at 7 euros, pasta at 9 euros.

The food here is more functional but filling.

The food at the Hotel Principe di Piemonte is far from functional. The set meal starts with a cold-cuts buffet – seafood, meats, salad.

The house specialty is also the region’s – sliced venison with tuna sauce.

There are three starter choices – pasta with octopus ragout, lasagne and small pasta in tomato sauce – and three main courses – veal with mushrooms, tuna and vegetable and cheese stack.

For dessert it’s back to the buffet for a selection of regional dishes.

Essential info

  • Where: Italy
  • Airports: Turin (1-2 hours)
  • Ski region:  Via Lattea (Milky Way)
  • Lift pass: 6 days 154-222 euros; children 59.50 euros
  • Linked resorts: Sauze d’Oulx, Sansicario, Claviere, Mongenèvre
  • Ski Area: 400km
  • Eating and drinking: Pint of lager 5 euros, gin and tonic 10 euros, Coke 3 euros

Fact box

  • Crystal Ski Holidays offers a week’s half board at the Hotel du Col from £641 per person including flights and transfers. Departures from all major UK regional airports available – supplement may apply. 

(Prices based on February 2017)

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