Sitting at 2035 meters, Sestriere is located about an hour from the city of Turin. It is located between two valleys, Susa and Chisone, and is a part of the 249 miles long Via Lattea, which is known as the “Milky Way” ski area.
Giovanni Agnelli developed the town in the 1930s for the specific use as a ski resort. His design of the town is lacking in charm, but the town serves its purpose as one of the best locations for skiing.
The resort boasts 249 miles or 400 km of runs located on north-west facing slopes. The lifts being connected to the Milky Way gives skiers access to over 310 miles of skiing. Few other places in Europe can claim to be better for skiing and snowboarding.
Not only great for skiing, but also a gastronomic delight, Sestriere is the place to go for a great time of skiing, food and fun.
Ski Area Map and Description
The “Milky Way” is a 249 miles long ski area that is a connection of resorts in the Piedmont area. The Italian towns of Sestriere, Sauze d’Ouix, Sansicario, Claviere, Cesana and the French Montegenevre make up this area. Combined they give skiers 249 miles of runs with 210 trails. The runs provide skiers with incredible views of the area, on one lift pass.
The skiing is great with almost 75% of the runs being at the intermediate and expert levels. There is on and off-pist skiing. One should note that some of the runs are not clearly marked and during slow times, such as in the middle of the week, not all the lift are open.
Lifts and Tickets
The Milky Way has 90 lifts che servono tutta l’area: 48 drag lifts, 1 one-person chair, 2 three-person chairs, 13 two-person chairs, 12 quads, 11 high speed quads, and 3 telecabins for 6 people.
The only Sestriere has 1 six-person gondola, 7 chair lifts, and 12 drag lifts. The system is not super modern and is not as fast as other resorts in the area but the lift system is being improved for the Olympics.
There is no cut-off on the amount of lift tickets sold and on weekends, the lines can get pretty long if there are crowds. During the week, the lines are better and then slopes are not crowded due to the amount of runs available.
One-day Milky Way passes will cost about $30. Six-day passes are $175. But there are many other options such as half-day, 15 day, and resort-only passes. The Sestriere-only one-day pass cost $26, but one is recommended to get the Milky Way pass to take advantage of all the run available.
Children under eight can ski for free when accompanied by a paying adult. Seniors over 60 and children under 12 are eligible for discounted passes. Passes more than six days require a photo.
The six-day pass also makes the holder eligible for discounts to the Grand Galaxy Ski Pass system located in France. The system is close by and includes the resorts of Serre Chevalier, Les Deux Alpes, Puy St. Vincent and Alpe D’Huez.
In the entire Milky Way, about 72 miles or 116 km are blue-coded for beginner skiers. Though novices may ski the harder slopes, the lower ones located under the tree line will make it easier for new skiers in a snow storm to get their bearings. The problem is that this area is also the first to suffer from lack of snow.
Sestriere has runs and a beginner area called Manovia, but because of the weekend’s crow it is not the best place for one to learn to ski.
The Milky Way contains 124 miles or 200 km of runs for the intermediate skiers. This means that red-coded slopes make up 50% of the skiing. These intermediate slopes are the links for the whole area, so people at this level or above will get the most out of the slopes.
The slopes go to the top meaning that one can enjoy great views even if they do not ski at the expert level. The best intermediate run is the Number One because it has great views and is a challenging run.
With 52 miles or 84 km, the black-coded slopes make up the last 21% of the runs. There are specialized slopes for every expert skier such as the mogul runs. Though there are not any manmade jumps, natural jumps can be found off the slopes. There are many racing runs for expert skiers, such as Sises, which is a slope designed for the giant slalom, or Kandahar which was designed for downhill racing.
Even though Sestriere is often the host of many important sport events, and upcoming Olympic Alpine competitions, visitors will be only spectators because the racing trails used for events are not open to the public.
Children can ski the Manovia area which is designed for beginners. The three ski schools can provide lessons. Lift tickets cost less for children form eight to twelve while kids under eight ski for free when an adult buys a lift ticket. Rentals are also discounted for children.
In Sestriere champions both tourists can enjoy night skiing. It was Alberto Tomba who won the first night slalom in 1994, and since then almost all the slaloms (even the World Championships ones) have been run under the spotlights. This is a gorgeous course for big sporting events as well as a course of great fun for all the tourists who crowd it until late in the days when the course is open for night skiing. The run is open to the public on Wednesday night from 18.00 to 22.00 (except for those nights when special events are taking place on it). The ski pass fare is 10,00 Euro.
The lit-up run is 1.400 long and its final tract corresponds to the Giovanni Alberto Agnelli run.
Skiers that are at the intermediate or expert level used to enjoy the heli-skiing but now it isn’t allow anymore. The only option for free skiers is skiing off-pist skiing with a local guide, required because the trails are not marked and it can be dangerous.
There is an almost 6 miles loop in Sestriere for cross-country skiing and is located within walking distance of the town. The scenery is beautiful and the loop cost about $3 for a half-day and $5 for a full day of skiing. One can buy a discounted six-day pass. For a brake, one can stop at the resting huts and restaurants along the loop.
In the Milky Way there are over 20 miles of trails, in the French area too, but they are not all connected, and so one needs a car or other transportation to get from some trails to others.
Only for Snowboarding
Though until now there had been no special trails for boarders in Sestriere and the many drag lifts on the Milky Way make it difficult for boarders to get around, and especially hard for a beginner, it is still very popular with the snowboard crowd. This is due for the friendly and funny atmosphere.
There is a plan to renovate the snowpark at the Colle di Sestriere, close to the chairlift Cit Roc and the famous slope Giovanni Alberto Agnelli. It will be enlarged with a fun-box, a shack booter and a quarter-pipe.
There is a show planned with numerous competitions and exhibitions with music and excitement.
Another one is planning in the Vallone del Rio Nero, easily reachable with the lifts from Sansicario, Sestriere and Sauze d’Oulx.
People who come to Sestriere and do not want to ski will find a variety of other options from which to choose.
If you don’t want spent the day in the town, but you don’t want ski either, you can enjoy the fresh air, the hot sun and the gorgeous panoramic views in high height with the “Winter Trekking” lifts tickets. From Sestriere Borgata , by the cable-way it is possible to reach the Col Basset, which is the top of the watershed between the Val Susa and the Val Chisone. From Cesana two two-seat chair lifts can carry you first to Pariol and then to Forte, located on the sunnyside of Sansicario.
From Cesana, taking three chair-lifts, one can reach first Rafuyel, then Sagnalonga, and finally Colle Bercia, all merged in the gorgeous woods of the Monti della Luna.
Form Jouvenceaux two chair-lifts climb first to Sarnas then to Sportinia. One can also reach Sportinia by taking a comfortable and fast four-seat automatic clinching chair lift. From the centre of the village one can take a chair lift to Clotes or take the Gran Comba three-seat chair-lift to get to the slopes of Mountgenevre.
Climbers will find this area great for ice climbing, but only for experts. Natural waterfalls and towers make this area inappropriate for inexperienced climbers and one should always go with a guide. The majority of climbs can be reached first by car, then a short hike.
The ice skating rink in Sestriere is located at the base of the slopes and it is outdoors. Many people go skating and it is a popular activity after skiing. At the rink, there is a bar to buy hot drinks and snacks. Open daily and in the night time as well. Tickets cost around $7 to enter and skate rental and lessons are also available.
The snow hiking is not well organized in Sestriere, but if one wishes, he has to contact a guide.
Snowmobiling is available in Sestriere and one can go on an enclosed track or into the backcountry, but only where is allowed and with a guide. You can spend an hour or all day long.
Sestriere was built recently, and therefore does not have the style of a classic alpine ski resort.
The most interesting architectural building in the town is the tower built and designed by Agnelli
in the ‘30s. The Church of San Edoardo is also of interest, with the Via Crucis by Francesco Messina, and other works by Rubino and Assiz.
If one wants to see a charming mountain village with the characteristic mountain chalets then there are many options quite close by: the three hamlets of Borgata, Champlas du Col and Champlas Janvier, that they were the true inhabited settlements of Sestriere before it actually started as a resort.
Forte Di Fenestrelle is an old fort that is built on a hill. Its 4,000 foot staircase is lit at night for a spectacular sight. The Fort of Exilles is also close by and these places can be reached by bus.
If you’d like to spent a full day out and discover a little of Italy, you can organize a tour to Torino, the charming and ancient royal capital. You can enjoy the elegant palaces and squares, the interesting museums and the Italian style shopping.
All the big hotels has private fitness facilities, but in the center of town there is one fitness center with a spa, a solarium, massages, racket ball, bodybuilding, step and aerobic lessons. You can buy a one day entry or a package.
At the Sports Hall is there are also table tennis, five-a-side football, volleyball, basket and badminton field and a climbing wall.
The only Fitness Centre and Spa in town is the Olimpica Fitness Center. It has classes in ballet, modern, jazz, aerobics and stretching classes in addition to bodybuilding. There is a sauna, steam room, Jacuzzi, tanning beds, and massage and squash available. It is open all the day and one can get only one day pass. Some services are extra, and the spa is modern but not exclusive.
The shopping is great in Sestriere. Prices may be more expensive in this town, so be prepared.
There is plenty of variety in the shops to fit anyone’s need. Sporting good, clothing, including designer boutiques as well as souvenir and antique shops are around town. There are many handicrafts that are produced locally.
Sestriere has many apres-ski activities available. From the restaurants, cafes and bars to the nightlife. One can always find fun and excitement at night. The cuisine is especially wonderful in Sestriere will many options available.
The Cafes, the pastry shops and bakeries are fabulous in all of Italy and this is especially true in Sestriere. Do not leave without trying a cup of coffee and a pastry. Local flavors can include liquorish, anise, almond and fresh cream. Don’t forget the chocolate too, the best Italian one.
There are eight charming restaurants on the mountain that all serve Italian cuisine. The dishes are in the style regional dishes of Northern Italy.
Polenta, bagna cauda, local cheeses, and salamis as well as liquors made from herbs are some of the local specialties. One can easily find pizza and the panini, the delicious Italian sandwiches.
The nightlife is great in Sestriere and the are many pubs, bars and discothèques to party away the night.
Festivals & Events
Sporting events in Sestriere are something to see, and there are races, and lots of skiing events. These are very exciting and are usually local event, but the public may not enter the race.
The Coppa del Mondo Di Sci Alpino and many other important winter sport competitions takes place in Sestriere during the season.
Don’t forget the Winter Olympic Games are in Torino in 2006: from February 10 to the February 26, 2006 Piedmont and Italy will be the hosts of the greatest sporting event of the world.
Sestriere will host an Olympic Village and most of the alpine skiing competitions.
Location and Elevation
Sestriere is the epicentre of the Vialattea, an international skiing area consisting of 5 Piedmontese resorts, Sestriere, Sauze d’Oulx, Sansicario, Cesana, Claviere and Montgenevre in France. It offers more than 211 skiing-connected runs, for a total linear extent of 400 km There are 91 lifts that range from an altitude of 1350m in Cesana to 2800m at Mount Motta, a peak that gives a magnificent view of the surrounding mountains allowing skiers to appreciate the vastness and beauty of the area. The Vialattea, in the northern Italy, in the Piemonte county, is close to the French borders and the interesting and regal city of Torino.
Town of Sestriere: 6,676 feet or 2,035 meters
Highest Lift: 9,262 feet or 2,823 meters
Vertical Drop: 4,363 feet or 1,330 meters
The town is not at a high enough altitude to give many people a problem with altitude sickness.
Snow and Weather
Located above the tree line, the slopes face the south and are usually in the sun. Although this makes the snow melt quickly, the areas snow-makers insure that the slopes are covered.
There are many different shops from which to rent equipment in Sestriere. They will have all the equipment one needs including cross-country skis, children’s equipment, snowshoes, snowboard in addition to up-to date ski equipment.
Discounts are available to groups, families and children, and staffs speak English. There is not available insurance, so one is recommended to use a credit card. Prices can increase during holidays.
Why don’t you extend your Italian holiday…
…pass a day in marvelous Venice with its mysterious canals and its colorful Carnival, famous throughout the world. Or else travel to Milam, and walk in the shadow of the Duomo and through the shops along one of the most famous streets in the Italian fashion world.
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