Pragelato ski resort
At first glance, despite some stunning scenery, Pragelato ski resort seems a fairly standard, traditional Italian mountain village with a mid-sized ski area, just like several hundred others across the country. But Pragelato has a handful of aces up its sleeve that the others don't possess; and that's why it's been attracting skiers and boarders from far and wide for decades.
Firstly, a modern cable car was built linking the fairly limited local ski area to one of the world's biggest ski resorts, the Via Lattea (Milky Way), with its 400km (250 miles) of linked pistes stretching over the French border to Montgenèvre.
Then, there is the fact that Pragelato, which was a major venue during the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics, has tapped into attracting weekend skiers from the local Turin/Piedmont catchment area, and has moved more upmarket as a result.
Add luxurious accommodation such as the new Club Med Pragelato Vialattea into the mix, and it's easy to justify its popularity. In fact, with all the facilities and high service standards for which Club Med is famous, for many guests Club Med Pragelato is Pragelato – most never really finding the need to leave the development.
Pragelato is a small village next to Val Troncea National Park in Italy's northwestern Piedmont region. The settlement has more than 20 surrounding hamlets and is 60km (37 miles) west of Turin, close to the French border.
PragelatoResort Elevation: 1535m
Top Elevation: 2700m
Base Elevation: 1535m
On the slopes
There are two very different experiences in Pragelato ski resort, based on whether skiers and boarders stay within the local area or explore the Via Lattea. But the ski season generally runs from mid-December to mid-April in both areas.
The local area has 50km (31 miles) of runs, but there are fairly limited options for intermediate or advanced skiers who can arguably do everything on piste within a day. That said, there's a healthy 1,050m (3,444ft) of vertical beginning at a relatively snowsure 1,535m (5,036ft) above sea level; and Pragelato does have the reputation as a hidden gem for guided off-piste skiing when powder conditions are good.
The second option is to make use of the gondola to access the various resorts of the Via Lattea, one of the world's biggest ski areas, with its hundreds of kilometres of predominantly intermediate terrain. The Via Lattea pass does not cover the lifts in the separate Pragelato area, so visitors must choose one or the other, or buy a combination of passes.
Freestylers will need to head in to the Via Lattea to access the terrain parks in Sansicario, Sauze d'Oulx and Sestriere.
Unsurprisingly, given its selection as the site for ski jumping and Nordic events at the 2006 Winter Olympics, facilities for these sports are excellent. Among the 30km (18 miles) of cross-country tracks is the 10km-long (6 miles) Olympic route, while there's also a dedicated cross-country ski school for beginners. Pragelato also offers Italy's best ski jumping facilities, with five hills.