Just like the galaxy in the sky, the six ski resorts of the Milky Way (Via Lattea as it’s known to Italians) offer skiing and riding out of this stratosphere. All the resorts differ in size and vibe. From the peaceful cobbled streets of Sansicario to the hardcore nightlife of Sauze d’Oulx. Skiers of all ages will find a resort to suit them. Go from family-friendly to party time. You can even ski two countries in one day on the lift-linked Milky Way.
The Winter Olympics came to the Milky Way in 2006, bringing speedier lifts, which means less time queueing and more time on the slopes, plus Sestriere gained a board park that caters to all abilities.
The lift-linked ski area extends 400 kilometres and straddles the Italian-French border. The resorts are staggered at very different altitudes, from Cesana at 1350m to Sestriere at 2035m meters.
There is a Milky Way resort to suit everyone: Let’s visit some of them here.
1. Claviere: Family-friendly
Claviere (1750m) is a small resort with bundles of character. The pretty centre is a blend of old and new architecture and there are several lively bars for evening entertainment. This resort is particularly popular with Italian families. The local ski area is best for beginners and intermediates who are after a relaxed holiday. Night-skiing is also possible on the tree-lined slopes. For accommodation, try the Refuge’s Cabin or if your budget allows you the upmarket Hotel Bes & Spa to indulge in a pampering body treatment.
2. Montgenèvre: Good for snowboarders
Just over the border, Montegenvre (1850m) is the only Milky Way resort in France. As one of the smallest resorts in France, it is also one of the cheapest. This family-friendly resort has accommodation close to the pistes. The local ski area is best suited to beginners and intermediates. Snowboarders can hit the snowpark with quarter-pipes, pro-jumps, and rope tows as well as the two open bowls and freeride terrain of the Milky Way. Heli-skiing from the 3,000-metre peaks of Dormillouse, Terranera and Claus is an option for the more skilled and adventurous skiers. For accommodation, try the Hotel Le Chalet Blanc, constructed from traditional materials – timber and stone – but in a contemporary style. For dinner or dessert, try the Dell’attiquo restaurant.
3. Sansicario: Car-free centre lined with shops
Sansicario (1,700m) has an idyllic setting surrounded by woods and rolling hills. It is situated in the heart of the Milky Way, between Sauze d’Oulx and Sestriere. It is one of the most modern resorts in the Milky Way and the car-free centre has a modern monorail to transport around. The streets are lined with plenty of shops and restaurants. The local terrain is suitable for all, from its sunny beginner slopes to the technically challenging black runs, like the one from Mt. Fraiteve (2700m), which was used in the downhill races of the 2006 Winter Olympics. In the evening, go for a wine tasting in Enoteca Sansicario before dinner at the traditional Italian restaurant, Dolce Basilio, complete with live music.
4. Sauze d’Oulx: Boisterous nightlife
Sauze d’Oulx (1500m) made a name for itself as the “Benidorm of The Alps” because of its loud bars, pumping nightclubs and foam parties. Its boisterous nightlife draws the Brits and you’ll probably hear more English voices here than Italian. The nightlife here is the most raucous in the Milky Way, but having said this it’s still easy enough to find a nice quiet family-run restaurant and the old centre is lined with pretty cobbled streets. The local terrain is best suited to intermediates, with its wide, open pistes and long cruising tree-lined runs. For accommodation, we recommend Chalet Chez Nous or Hotel Monte Genevris, 200 meters from the Clotes chairlift.
5. Sestriere: High-altitude terrain
Sestriere (2,035m) is the highest resort in the Milky Way. Here experts will enjoy the north-facing terrain and plenty of steep, snowsure slopes. Sestriere has the best snow record in the Milky Way as well as the most challenging runs. Night-skiing is available on the illuminated Giovanni Alberto Agnelli run. The high-altitude ski area is very alluring, but sadly the village is lacking a little in character. Accommodation is distributed over four separate areas. We recommend Hotel Savoy Edelweiss or the Grand Hotel Sestriere with its luxury spa.
6. Cesana: Quiet, pretty village
Cesana (1350m) is a pretty, ancient village in a favourable position at the heart of the Milky Way. It can be reached in just eight minutes from Sansicario with the new eight-seater gondola. It is particularly popular with families looking for a quiet, relaxing ski destination. One of its main claims to fame is the Cesana Pariol, which was the venue for the bobsled, luge and skeleton during the 2006 Winter Olympics. Stay at Agriturismo Il Fiocco.