Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Sauze D'Oulx January 2014 - Great Skiing!!

Sauze D’Oulx

Why this resort should be on every intermediate skiers list! I, along with my daughter have just returned from what is quite simply the best skiing holiday ever (5th – 12th Jan 2014).  We had such a good time I thought I’d share the experience with you.

Henrietta & I at the end of one of the most amazing skiing weeks ever!

OK, I’ll admit I’m biased because we had a full week of good weather. The mornings often started slightly overcast but no later than lunchtime we had sunshine and blue skies. It was only on our last day that we woke to thick cloud; rather than take the day off we still ventured out only to find that the Sauze was in a temperature inversion (cold air trapped under a layer of warmer air at a higher altitude) – by the time we were on our second lift we were up above the cloud and in sunshine!!

Wide tree lined pistes - not a soul to be seen

Why I think Sauze D’Oulx is so good (Pronounced 'Sau-zee doo):                                                                                        

         Extensive skiing area – over 400km; now that’s a lot to get through in 7 days but its possible if you’re committed or just like a challenge. Home of the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics.

      Virtually ski-in ski-out if you choose the right accommodation (more on that later).

      Very short transfer from Turin Airport. About an hour by car or one hour twenty by coach. This makes it ideal for a short weekend break as well. Easyjet fly from London for less than £80 return if you book sufficiently far ahead.

        Good choice of mountain restaurants that aren’t totally unbearable. That’s not to say they’re cheap. It still going to cost you anywhere from €6.50 upwards for a coke and a cheese and ham toasted sandwich. A coffee is from €1.50. Our most expensive lunch was €22 for the two of us.

Lunch stop - no beer insight

Fairly cheap Après-ski if you restrict your drinking to ‘Happy Hour’, which is generally between 4 and 6.00pm.

  The Italians are positively friendly unlike some of our Gallic friends across the border in France who seem to think they are doing us a favour by letting us ski in their country!

   English is widely spoken though as always it pays to learn a couple of phrases.

The one dull morning (temperature inversion) -
see how close the hotel is to the slopes.
Literally ski to within 50m of the Hotel Sauze
at the end of the day

What’s not quite so good:

            It’s not the highest of ski resorts. The town is at roughly 1400m and the skiing goes up to around       2800m depending upon exactly where you are on the Via Lattea (the 400km interlinked Milky Way). We spent an anxious fortnight before we went praying for snow – thankfully it did; almost a metre just before we arrived.

      There’s not much to Sauze if you’re a non skier.

      Some say the piste map is poor. Bearing in mind the extensive area I think it does a pretty good job. We never got lost or picked the wrong piste off a lift. Quick plug – If you think your map reading is poor come on one of my navigation courses!! ).


We travelled with Crystal Ski holidays purely as they seemed to offer the best value and I booked 7 weeks before we travelled. This was my eighth skiing holiday and my daughters fourth.

A week’s half board at the Hotel Sauze (see later) cost us £369 each from Bristol airport including coach transfers to and from the resort. We didn’t need to use any of the services offered by the reps in country so can’t comment on what they are like. This was only another £30 more than going to Bulgaria, which had been on my list, as I wanted to keep the costs down. (It’s a sad reflection on today’s education system when I jokingly told my daughter we were going to Bulgaria: she replied ‘great but where is Bulgaria!’).

The six day lift pass was €180 euros each (we deliberately chose not to ski on the afternoon we arrived due to the limited time and what seemed like a high €25 for a couple of hours skiing!). This was a €10 euro saving as early January is considered to be the low season. As a certain supermarket says ‘every little helps’ – that’s almost an extra 3 pints at Happy Hour.

On the lift up to the top of Claviere

We booked our ski hire independently online beforehand. Following a bit of research on the web we booked though which turned out to be excellent. Including helmets and ‘premium’ standard skis (well it made us feel better even if our skiing isn’t up to it!) cost €103.50 each. We also paid an additional €10 each for insurance at the Clotes Ski Centre  (Paulo Chalp is the owner) to cover against accidental damage or theft of our skis. Why, especially as I’m normally one to save every penny possible? Well frankly it seemed such a paltry sum for what it offered: no need to worry about having them pinched at a lunch stop, no paper work to fill in, no police reports to get and €10 was less than the £50 excess on our winter insurance policy. OK so they were insured twice but I was happy to run with that (wasn’t so happy on loosing out on 3 pints of beer though!). I would recommend booking through which was very straightforward and everything was on their system when we arrived (even James who runs the site - how amazing was that!!).

Ski insurance and parking for a week at Bristol airport cost us £57.  So a weeks skiing at a conversion rate of 1.2 euros to the pound cost us £633 each. The only extras were lunches and a few beer tokens for Happy Hour (honestly!).

Ski Areas

From Sauze you can either get to the Sportinia area either by a direct lift straight from the eastern side of the town or as we did take a couple of lifts up from Clotes. To our minds this was nicer than fighting for second-hand air in one of the free resort shuttle buses.

A great run to warm up on first thing in the morning  is run 11.  Another great run and one of the longest is Gran Pista (another red) that comes off run 11 just below Sportinia.

Now back to those ‘button’ lifts I mentioned earlier on. We found the area to the west of the resort and served by 3 button lifts (lifts 1,2, &3) to always be the quietest area of Sauze (run numbers 35-40ish). You can even ski straight back down to Clotes at the very end of the day from the top in complete solitude.

Run 11 - great for getting your legs going first thing in the morning

Well worth going over to, in fact we chose to ski there for two days. The only time we had to queue and I’m talking less than five minutes was on our final Saturday morning as we got caught up in ski school. Best areas were the very tops and the Borgata slopes. There’s also a lovely tree lined blue run down to Pragelato. Worth doing if only for the scenery and the cable car back up.

Lovely wide open pistes high up with an Olympic black run together with gentle tree lined runs. We had a great day over here.

Probably our least successful day if only because there aren’t a great number of runs. It’s very beautiful and has a totally different atmosphere to Sauze or Sestriere so still to my mind worth visiting. We just ended up back in Sauze in the late afternoon hitting the slopes around the button lifts!

You need to catch a chair (or two) down from Claviere to Cesana
Not a problem though and great views

One of the appeals of skiing the Via Lattea (Milky Way) is that you can ski over to Montgenevre in France and use your lift pass there for a day. Now the reps will try to sell you a day trip via coach transport for €23 each (now that’s a serious 8 pints of beer each – my daughter has asked me to point out at this stage that she doesn’t drink beer!). The plus side is you will get more skiing over there but where’s the sense of a challenge if you’re spoon-fed everything. We like a challenge especially if it means getting value for money!

People say you’re always clock watching and to a degree that’s true. However I though it would be useful to give some timings so you can decide for yourself whether you want to ski over (I would recommend it).

OK Dad which way? The Black run, of course!!

Apologies this paragraph is rather dull!! We got on the first lift out of Clotes at 9.00am and where over in Montgenerve by 11.00am. This was getting off each lift and skiing straight down to the connecting one. For the return we were at the bottom of lift 95 at 2.20, at the top of the Colletto Verde at 2.32pm and then skied the black down to lift 41 – 2.47pm (don’t worry there’s also a red that cuts out the steepest section). The lift up took 10 minutes to the top of Colle Bercia. It then took an hour to get back over to M.Fraiteve above Sauze via Sansicario(3.57pm). From there you can actually ski back to Sauze but there will be some pushing uphill just to get around the shoulder just below the top of lift 10. Alternatively just make sure you get down to the bottom of lift 10 by 4.15pm. We did!!

The top run for us in Montgenevre was Soureou, a red from the French/Itlaian border – take lift 95 up. You get a tremendous sense of being high in the mountains and of isolation. If I had to name just one run from the whole trip I think it would have to be this one. Perhaps we were just very lucky with the weather and the conditions. Don’t worry there are plenty of others!


We stayed at The Hotel Sauze and on Tripadvisor I've gave the hotel five stars as for what it is, it offers a real personal touch way beyond its 3 star grading (think UK 2 star).

As this was part of a Crystal Ski package so I can't comment on the cost however all of the previous Tripadvisor reports are right. Firstly all of the staff are excellent and go out of their way to make your stay comfortable. Nothing appears to be too much trouble and they'll even teach you a bit of Italian. (In fact compared to many stays in France all of the Italians we met were friendly and actually seem pleased to see you and want you to have a good time). Their English is also excellent so don't let that put you off should you want to ring the hotel directly. Its hard to believe how hard they work.

The food was also excellent with plenty of it. There's a comprehensive breakfast buffet (eggs cooked to order) as well as what is effectively a four course evening meal as there is a help yourself buffet before your first course. There is a choice of three dishes per course which you need to choose the night before, which given the small budget they must operate on is quite understandable and really not a chore.

The view from our  balcony

The rooms. Perfectly adequate. My daughter and I had a twin room (originally made up a double but very speedily sorted out once pointed out - we are talking less than 15 minutes). The ensuite shower was clean with plenty of hot water, in fact too hot at times. How often have you been to a hotel where you've had to turn the hot down after a days skiing - not many I suspect.  Downside  - yes the walls are thin but you'll only hear other people if you actively want to listen out for them. If you think this will bother you take earplugs. I did but never actually felt the need to use them.

The bar. At reception there is a small bar and whilst lacking in après ski atmosphere, they do offer the cheapest drinks in town. They also provide tea and cake for when you get off the mountain. Oh did I mention the free wifi.

Finally the location - it is literally less than 50m from the bottom of the slopes at Clotes and that's as far as you'll need to walk as there is a travelator (walking carpet) to take you up towards the first lift which you can then ski across to (See second from top photo)

Après Ski

I think every bar has a happy hour and we tried a couple (oh , OK then three in all). Most have a loyalty card to try and encourage you to go back (or should that be ‘stay’).

A very quick resume as everyone has a different idea about what they are looking for.

Ghost (beneath Clotes lift).  Quite like an English pub. Good atmosphere.

Paddy Mcgintys (surprisingly as Irish bar!). Again good atmosphere, reasonably priced food. Music.

Mira Bar. More like a wine bar, good selection of nibbles on the bar from around 5.30pm.  Mountain sports shown on the large TV’s and free wifi (which is why we spent most of our time here). Oh and they do the most amazing crepes.

Well, kept the ugliest bloke photo until the end,
otherwise you may not have read this far!!

As you can tell we really enjoyed the hotel and the skiing.

Well I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my rather rambling blog and hopefully its given you a bit of inside info about the resort and the area.

Would I go again? – you bet. I may even take my wife next time!!!!