lundi, février 15, 2010

Club Med Sestriere, Italy

Sestriere Village viewed from above and afar

is a posh ski resort located 17km from France and an hour and a half by car from Torino. Together with the Italian villages of Pragelato, Claviere, Sauze d'Oulx, Cesana Torinese and San Sicario, and Montgenèvre in France, it makes up the Via Lattea (Milky Way) skiing area. Sestriere is connected to 146 skiable slopes, with 400 km of trails.

The main ski lift leaving the village

It regularly hosts alpine ski World Cup events and is famous for having hosted the World Ski Championships in 1997 and the main alpine skiing events during the 2006 Winter Olympic Games. Looking at the relatively new (and designer) state of most of its buildings, it is surely the site of one of the Olympic Villages.

View of the village from Club Med

Truth be told, I've never heard of Sestriere before last week. We have never skied in Italy. But last Thursday, I decided to look for a ski weekend for the family - and unfortunately everything recommended by everyone I knew was fully booked or not available for just a weekend in the busiest ski week of the season. Since I have the Club Med website as my home page, I decided to take a look at their ski resorts in Italy - and voilà that was how we found ourselves skiing and staying at Club Med Sestriere over the weekend.

Arriving at Sestriere

Baby Boy after a few cocktails (the Teenager was permanently stuck at the bar)

The kids love Club Med. The Teenager even has Club Med GOs (Gentil Organisateur) on Facebook. I unashamedly took the opportunity to remind him from time to time that if he didn't succeed in life, he could forget about paying himself holidays at Club Med since it's not for the masses. I've decided to drop the supermarket cashiers as it could get embarrassing when the kids go up to them to ask if they didn't do well at school. Oops.

Welcome to Club Med!

Sestriere is at 2035 metres. That's really high and you can imagine that there will be snow at this altitude. When you arrive at the village, you see 2 towers from afar - one white and one red. The Babies told me later that they felt like Princes and Princesses in a tower. The connecting bedrooms were comfortable and of good standing and are all situated along a carpeted spiral landing.

Parents' bedroom

I learnt that they were built by the Agnelli family (FIAT) in the 1930s. And one of them housed the Olympic team. Now they are both run by Club Med. The white tower houses most families with children, the bar, stage, Club Med boutique, the reception and the main restaurant. The red tower (you have to walk outside in the cold for about 3-5 minutes) houses rooms for couples and groups, a small restaurant, the ski rental shop, ski storage rooms, the gym, massage rooms, sauna, Turkish bath and swimming pool. And from the red tower, you walk down a flight of steps and you are almost at the main ski lifts. Quite convenient.

White tower behind

Red tower

Skis storage room

Swimming pool with partial view of the mountains outside

The beauty about Club Med is that almost everything could be done in-house. Hub complained about the cost before the trip, but said that it was good (if still expensive) value for money at the end of it. You just book, pay and turn up. We arrived, collected our room cards, ribbons for the free-flow drinks at the bar, our ski passes and then we rented our skis at the in-house ski rental shop (a little expensive, but really good-quality stuff they had) and went skiing.

Walking to the ski lifts from the red tower

When we came back, we locked up our skis, had a few drinks and snacks at the bar, then went to the sauna, Turkish bath and pool. During the week, you could also have collective gym and aquagym lessons in the morning and full-day ski lessons (for teenagers and adults) all included in the price. They also have a special club for teenagers in the week.

Terrace at Club Med

Before dinner, we had more drinks at the bar, the Teenager and the Hub had raw oysters directly imported from France and then we had a marvelous dinner buffet in a lovely dining hall with a panoramic view of the snow-covered mountains outside. The food was very good. Every evening, they have a different theme for dinner and ours was "Susa Valley". There was a good mix and choice of French and Italian food and everything was nicely done and of a good quality. The desserts were mainly French : Opéra, Paris-Brest, Méringue, Tarte aux fraises...

And yes, most of the clients were French, with pockets of Italians, English, Americans, Taiwanese...The staff (including the cleaning ladies and Chefs) all speak French. We felt really at home.

And the skiing. Fantastic. We were really lucky to have 2 beautiful sunny days to ski in. The slopes had lots of snow and are often wide. However, Sestriere is more for either beginners or good skiers because there are either the easy slopes (they start at blue) where you don't do much real skiing and can be quite boring, or the more difficult red and black ones, not to forget the Olympic runs. Though after a week, you'll probably run out of slopes to ski in and will have to ski in the other villages in the Via Lattea.

View of Sestriere village from another slope

I am not a strong skier as I tire very easily (due to bad skiing technique and no exercise the rest of the year), but I can now ski down almost any slope, I just take my time. In fact, I prefer the steep red slopes to the easier blue ones. I just need to conquer my fear (having started to learn how to ski only in my 30s) and then I'm quite fine. The Hub and the Teenager are strong and good skiers and the Babies are starting to ski very well - they go down most red slopes fast and fearlessly. Baby Boy wanted to go on the Olympic run and we had to restrain him. Soon, the rest of the family may have to ski without me or they'll get really bored always having to wait for me.

Hub and the Babies arriving at the village

The equipment in the village is quite up-to-date and the village itself is modern yet charming. I was told that the Dolomites are even more beautiful and probably even better organised. So unlike the rest of Italy.

We will try to ski at Sestriere and the rest of the Via Lattea again, though it is a bit too far from our house. The Dolomites are nearer and even nearer is Monte Cimone. In fact, the weather forecast says that it will snow there in the week and then it'll be sunny on Sunday. I think we'll ski at Cimone next Sunday.

Club Med Sestriere
Via Possetto 5
10058 Sestriere
Tel : +39 0122 799800

1 commentaire:

Pris a dit…

I hear you! My hubby has to wait for me pretty often, but I comfort myself that its only my second skiing trip. On the last day though, he said that I´m pretty much skiing at his I take that as a good sign!