Thursday, February 24, 2011

Perfect Day on the Via Lattea

Nothing does away the midwinter blahs for me like a day out skiing. After having lived and worked in the heart of ski country and the ski industry of Colorado for many years, I have not lost my passion for crisp blue skies, pristine snowfall, the crunch of boots on the snow and the wind in your face while hurtling down the slopes. Even though I don't get to go as regularly as I once did, my passion is undimmed. Perhaps that has sharpened my appreciation and made it all so much more enchanting when I  find myself  on the slopes skiing with someone I love, reveling in spring like conditions in February.
I'm more of a "don't let the weather stop you" kind of a skier, who can enjoy the various conditions for what they are, from many years of living and skiing in them. Fabrizio, however, prefers the sun on his face, a mere headband if he must and no clouds in the sky, when we satisfy our need for speed on the slopes. I can't say I mind either. Recently we enjoyed one of those  completely perfect days. We had just the right balance of crunch to the snow and yet soft enough to carve a turn like pulling your knife through butter at that just right spreading consistency. So it was, when we made our way up to the Via Lattea or Milky Way and skied the day away.
Fabrizio on top of the World Cup Down hill run
The Via Lattea (MIlky Way) is made up of 8 individual ski resorts comprising the largest inter connected ski area in Europe. The Montgenevre area is in France, so you can start in one country and end up in another for lunch. We, however, were not quite that ambitious that day. Our day began in Sestriere which crowns both tops of our Chisone and parallel Susa valley.  Even though Sestriere was in the shadow in the early morning, it was mild enough to be quite pleasant ski conditions. 
First light coming over to Sestriere
Ater a few runs, we decided to head for where the sun was already warming the slopes and to keep our faces to the sun otherwise it might just get a bit too warm making the snow slushy as it does in the spring. Luckily it maintained those perfect conditions all day, sun, warmth and slick snow. We decided to make a large loop including Sansicario and Sauze D'Oulx before beating a path back to Sestriere for a late lunch.  We made our way across the road and up and over to Sansicario on the gondola where we were greeted with quite the cluster of people on the top where 2 gondolas meet.
Cable car up and over to Sansicario from Sestriere
It didn't take long to lose the crowd on the wide open slopes that would be very encouraging for the more timid skiers and those with the whole family along. Fabrizio told me that Sansicario was built in the 1970's as a family resort with an eye towards the Fiat factories and it's workers and their families. It was very pleasant and warm, so much that we began to peel off layers. 
Wide open ski pistes in Sansicario
 I love all the cool cabins and mountain huts there are to stop in, although once we get going skiing, it's hard to want to stop too much.
Lunch stop in Sansicario
We were skiing like we had been skiing every day this season, but my legs eventually told me other wise, so we opted to take our lunch break at La Tana della Volpe. We made a small foray into Sauze d"Oulx before heading back over to the top of what was the Men's 2006 Olympic and Sestriere's annual World Cup downhill run and having some lunch and catching up with our friend Massimo, a local Pragelato man who has gone to great efforts and personal expense to transform and maaintain this former cable car house into a warm and welcoming hotel high in the alps. 
La Tana della Volpe
What a great stop this is, always. The view is spectacular, the interior charming and cozy, the welcome warm and the food delicious. Typical Italian mountain hut fare at its best. 
Cozy interior of La Tana della Volpe lunch stop

We opted for the oh so traditional polenta, sausage and cheese fonduta. Not only was it filling it was wonderful. To have good quality ingredients in a mountain hut that isn't so easy to get the products up to it is a feat and commitment to excellence that I heartily applaud. They make their food from scratch daily as well as their foccacia that they turn into hearty sandwiches. Of course you can find a selection of excellent traditional meats and cheeses, and naturally, pasta dishes to boot. If you want to continue the fun after hours, it is a hotel as well that will blow you away when you awaken in the morning to the stunning panoramic views this alpine hotel affords the lucky few who discover this treasure. I can't say enough about what a special place La Tana delle Volpe (the fox's lair) would be to stay at for a few days. Do note that you do have to be able to ski to stay there. 


There are many reasons to stay and play in the Via Lattea, €34 all day ticket to 6 of the 8 ski areas would be one reason of many. There are other deals on multiple and half days too.  I do enjoy telling you about them, my dear reader, and most of all,  I love the adventure of discovering them too. So thank you for reading along and spurring me on. You might consider visiting our part of the Italian alps. Make your ski or summer hiking holiday part of  a variety of stays. If you don't want to ski everyday, come and stay with us at Bella Baita B&B, and we'll take you to the market in Pinerolo and show you around and teach you how to make something with what we find or point you in the direction of self guided day trips to a small castle or imposing monastery for example. There is something here for just about everyone. We'll do our best to make sure you make the most of your time and won't be disappointed. 
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