“Vialattea” is the Italien name for the Milky Way, a fitting title for a ski region of this size. With a total of 400km of ski runs straddling the border between France and Italy, this monolith among ski regions truly makes up its own snowy universe. Much as the planets of a solar system orbit their star, Vialattea’s many constituant ski areas link together to provide the ingredients for endless hours of snow-related fun.
The Italian side of the region is primarily formed from the respective networks of runs surrounding the ski stations of Sestriere, Sauze d´Oulx, Sansicario and Claviere, along with the two resorts of Cesana and Pragelato. The international galaxy of ski runs is then finally completed by the Montgenèvre ski station on the French side of the border.
Vialattea’s focal point is the small, but nevertheless very well-known ski station of Sestriere, famous as one of the competition venues used during the 20th Winter Olympiad, held in Turin in 2006. Ultra-modern ski lifts are just one of the remnants of the investment that was pumped into the infrastructure of the area for this event, and continues to benefit holidaymakers to this day. The general revamp that took place across the entire region means that all of the “Milky Way’s” “solar systems” can be reached in the blink of an eye.
|Length of ski slopes||400km|
|Number of ski slopes||244|
The name given to the “small” ski area of Montgenèvre and Claviere is almost as poetic as that of Vialattea as a whole. The “Monts de la Lune”/”Monti della Luna”, or “Lunar Mountains” in English, offer a total of 60 ski runs, totalling 100km in length and spread across the ski area between the altitudes of 1350m and 2680m.
After having eventually exhausted the resources of this first so-called “small” area, guests also have the option of heading out to explore the rest of the 250 runs which make up the “Milky Way”. Skiers in the Monti della Luna ski area can access Cesana via Colle Bercia, where a blue-rated run covers the whole distance, with the additional option to switch to some sections of the challenging black-graded Olympic run by the name of “Croce”.
Once holidaymakers have reached Cesana, it is then possible for them to board a gondola cableway towards Sansicario, the perfect base from which to discover the subsidiary ski areas of “Sansicario” and “Sauze d’Oulx”. Whilst Sauze d’Oulx is home to many medium-difficulty runs, which snake across open mountainsides and through woodland at high altitude, Sansicario offers a range of exciting red-graded runs, as well as a long and challenging Olympic run.
Last but definitely not the least well-known, “Sestriere” forms the last of Vialattea’s subsidiaries. A range of easy and medium-rated runs lead down from Monte Fraiteve to the former Olympic ski station at an altitude of 2035m. From here, skiers have the choice between the red-graded runs and single Olympic run on Monte Motta, and the two Olympic runs on Monte Sises.
The return trip back to the “Lunar Mountains” of Montgenèvre is just as effortless. An 8-person gondola whisks guests from the Sestriere station on Monte Fraitevem straight to the Sansicario area. From here, it is possible to ski all the way to Pariol, the halfway station of the gondola cableway between Cesana and Sansicario. One short ride later, visitors are back in Cesana and ready to head upwards to Colle Bercia.
Colle Bercia is the starting point of a host of easy and medium-graded runs, which subsequently make their way down wooded slopes to Claviere. Just one further ski lift journey from there leaves skiers poised to make the most of the slopes around Montgenèvre. The Prarial area contains a range of easier practice runs, as well as several red-graded runs. It also provides access to the generous selection of ski runs underneath Col de Gondrans, as well as to the challenging runs of Rocher de l’Aigle.
The largest interconnected ski region in Italy is also a perennial favourite amongst those who like to go “off-piste” once in a while. Plenty of ways to leave the ski runs themselves behind are provided in all of Vialattea’s subsidiary ski areas, often including kilometre upon kilometre of undisturbed powder snow. For the ultimate “off the beaten track” experience, skiers can have themselves dropped by helicopter in completely untouched areas of the high peaks, and then enjoy some true off-piste action all the way down to 1700m.
Snowboarders and freestylers aren’t left out of the fun either of course. The huge expanse of the ski area is complimented by a total of 5 snow parks, a “boardercross” run and a half pipe. Sestriere’s snow park, situated right at the foot of the runs, stretches to a length of 250m, and is complete with its own two lifts. 3 “slopestyle” courses are to be found right by the ski station at Sansicario, whilst the “Double Black Park” at Sauze d’Oulx features a quarter-pipe, rails and kickers.
“Monti della Luna” is home to a further two snow parks. Claviere offers a freestyle zone, whilst Montgenèvre is equipped with a fun park, “boardercross” run and half pipe.
50km of cross-country trails await those who would sooner explore the Milky Way whilst being somewhat less reliant on the assistance of gravity. The majority of these routes can be found at Pragelato, the former venue for the Nordic events of the Winter Olympics, at Sestriere and at Claviere, from which a 15km trail leads away towards Montgenèvre.