Sestriere ski resort
Sestriere ski resort was the world’s original purpose-built high-altitude resort, having been built by the Agnelli family that owned the Fiat car company and remained in their possession for more than 70 years.
One of Europe’s highest resorts, Sestriere was a pioneer in snowmaking facilities. This led to it building an arsenal of nearly 1,000 snow guns during the 1970s and 80s – long before most of Europe began even thinking about snowmaking. Today, the combination of altitude and this technology makes Sestriere one of the world’s most snowsure resorts.
The Italian village is the main resort on the giant Via Lattea (Milky Way) pass, which links it to near neighbour Sauze d’Oulx and to Montgenèvre in France (via Sansicario, Cesana and the border-village of Claviere). Thanks to this link, skiers based in Sestriere have access to 440km (273 miles) of lift-linked ski runs, including those around Claviere and Sauze d’Oulx, which are two of Italy’s oldest ski areas having both offered winter sports holidays for just over a century.
Sestriere’s worldwide fame has been strengthened from hosting the World Alpine Ski Championships in 1997 and alpine events in the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics.
Sestriere is made up of four villages: Sestriere Colle, Sestriere Borgata, Champlas du Col and Champlas Janvier. The resort is located in the Susa Valley within the Piedmont region of the northwestern Italian Alps, very close to the border with France.
On the slopes
As with its settlements, Sestriere’s skiing is also split in four, with the local areas of Banchetta, Fraiteve, Sises and Rio Nero each providing some good options. But there are also hundreds of kilometres of lift-linked terrain beyond, towards neighbouring Sansicario and Sauze d’Oulx, and on to Cesana, Claviere and the French resort of Montgenèvre. Skiers and boarders who venture over to France by ski or board should allow a full day and set off early to be sure to make all the connections back.
Sestriere itself lies in an area of gentle meadows, so there are excellent nursery slopes around the resort and, thanks to its altitude and snow-making, these remain open throughout the season (early December to late April). As beginners progress, easy blues can be found leading down to the Borgata area, mid-mountain above the resort.
There is plenty on offer for more accomplished skiers, particularly at the Motta area with its glut of red runs, while Sises nearer the village also has a wealth of options. Experts should not miss the Kandahar Slalom Giovanni Alberto Agnelli run, which has hosted countless Alpine Skiing World Cups as well as the slalom races run during the Winter Olympics in Turin. The Col de Sises black is also a must-ski, having been host to giant slalom races in the same Games.