Piemonte’s main, purpose-built ski areas – Claviere, Cesana, Sestriere, Sansicario, Sauze d’Oulx and Bardonecchia – are well used by British tour operators and, as hosts of the alpine events of the Winter Olympics 2006, have all had their facilities recently upgraded. They collectively constitute some 400km of interconnected runs, more than 200 in all, known as La Vialattea (The Milky Way; wvialattea.it). You can gain access from Pragelato, thanks to the cableway Pattemouche-Anfiteatro.
Sestriere was the dream resort of Fiat baron, Gianni Agnelli, who conceived it as an aristocratic mountain retreat. Nowadays, the reality is a bland resort dominated by two cylindrical towers. The mountain is impeccable: the choice for World Cup and Olympic ski races. Modern Bardonecchia – unlike the others, not directly connected to the Vialattea, and run by another company, BardonecchiaSki (wbardonecchiaski.com) – is a weekenders’ haunt, with small chalet-style hotels and over 100km of runs. Sauze d’Oulx, a little way south, is generally known as the “Benidorm of the Alps”, attracting hordes of youngsters – though it isn’t so bad that it doesn’t also attract its share of families.