Sauze d’Oulx ticks three significant boxes: short transfers, lots of piste mileage and trees – great forests of them
It’s one of our favourite Italian resorts for a long weekend – a mere hour’s drive from Turin airport. So you can get an early morning flight from London and be up the mountain by early afternoon.
It’s also one of our favourite places for clocking up mileage: it’s part of the Via Lattea (aka the Milky Way), along with six other resorts, all of which share 400km of terrain varying from high, open plateaus to tree-lined runs that wriggle down into the valley (they are all linked, but be prepared for a few bottlenecks). You can nip over to Claviere or Montgenèvre for a quick dejeuner in France, before meandering back to Italy via Sestriere for a grappa.
The downside is that the area is notorious for its erratic snowfalls, though on the plus side, recent seasons have been pretty good and snowmaking has increased throughout the area in recent years. If you luck out with the snow it’s the aforementioned trees you want to head for – just make sure you’ve got your avi kit, this is Italy after all (it’s illegal to leave a groomed run unless you’re fully geared up).
As for the resort itself, it’s more like a big village rather than a town, with a car-free centre made up of twisted alleyways and stone roofs. And it’s moved away from its Ibiza-on-snow-reputation. Yes, it’s laden with good (affordable) bars, if that’s what you’re after, but those 90s ravers have long since grown up, though they still come here, but now with their families in tow. In fact, that’s part of Sauze’s attraction; holidaymakers and workers alike return year after a year. Seems that once some people get a sniff, they’re hooked. Just ask four-time seasonnaire Paul Moranda…
FIRST RUN OF THE DAY
Head to what we call the Bowl, a nice, wide area – not too steep for first thing in the morning. From Sportinia (the main area above Sauze) take the four-man to the top. Then amble down red 48 or 50 to the bottom of the two-man chair. From there you’re in a great position to explore the rest of Via Lattea, or you can take the four-man to head back to Sauze.
FOR FRESH TRACKS
The Moncrons area is always especially good after a dump, and it’s usually quiet too, as not a lot of people know about the area and don’t like taking a drag lift to get there. But one of the main reasons people visit, and love, Sauze is all the action to be found lower down, in between the trees. You have to try it.
BEFORE YOU LEAVE SAUZE MAKE SURE YOU
Ski Red 11/29. It’s a long and lovely run, starting at the top of the Sportinia four-man as Red 11, before breaking off onto Red 29. It winds down through the trees with lots of dips and bumps to negotiate. If you fancy it, you can nip in and out of the trees before joining up with Blue 53. It’s loved by all the seasonnaires I know.
WHAT IS SAUZE’S BEST KEPT SECRET?
Sauze IS the best kept secret; if you time it right, you won’t have to queue and won’t see people for whole runs at a time. It’s a gem and I love it; it’s like home from home, but with snow. Some people like to try new resorts and get bored of skiing the same area, but talk to most of the people that come here and you’ll find that they’ve been coming for years. Some have even moved here to set up home, and I can see why.
BEST FOR MOUNTAIN BITES
I would have to say Orso Bianco in the Sportinia area, and I’m not saying this just because I work there! They have some fantastic food, anything from a burger served at the new outside grill area, to freshly-made soups and local dishes – you have to try the wild boar or the rabbit stew. They do amazing pasta dishes too – this is Italy, after all. Drink wise, try the Vin Brule (homemade mulled wine) or a Bombardino, which is a shot of coffee with Brandy and Advocaat. Other good mountain spots include Capanna Kind at Sportinia, and Cicci’s on the way down to Jouvenceaux.
FOR A SLAP-UP MEAL IN TOWN
You can’t go wrong with L’Ortiche, which is situated under Caffe Della Seggiovia in the square. The lamb shank is especially good. Or, down in the old town try Del Falco, which serves up some amazing food – just make sure you leave room for the Tiramisu.
FOR AN APRÈS-SKI TIPPLE
There are lots of bars to choose from in Sauze, and most lay on nibbles as it’s aperitivo time. Try Miravallinos, Assietta, Caffe Della Seggiovia and Il Lampiones down in the old town.
FOR LATE-NIGHT DANCING
Sauze has a buzzing nightlife with too many great late-night bars to mention, but here are a few: Paddys is always lively, Vagabondis in the main square has great live music, and New Cotton Club has a pub-like feel to it.
Pistes & Passes
Ski area: 155 miles in Sauze/Sestriere and 249 miles in the whole of the Milky Way
Lift passes: €180 for six days in Sauze/Sestriere, or €199 for the whole Milky Way network