Reporter: Norma Stockford
My first ever ski holiday was at Sauze D'Oulx in 1978. A veteran skier since the 50s, my husband continued to sneak off for a ski trip or two with his brother until we wives protested. In the hope that we might be put off, the brothers decided on the most economic deal they could get. It cost the grand sum of £49 for flight and accommodation at the Fraiteve apartments. And, yes, there was no snow. We had to walk to the Clotes lift and search to find a sliver or two of snow. I still have the Super 8 Cine film of that holiday, with most of the footage of me on my bottom.
So, it was Sauze again this year and at the unearthly hour of 4 a.m. on 21st January we met at Manchester airport. It was so nice to see familiar faces again at the airport and despite a lengthy booking in procedure we were in the air for 6.50 a.m. arriving at the resort in plenty of time for some of the more enthusiastic members to get an extra day’s skiing in.
The four star Hotel La Grande Torre was a splendid tower built in 1937 for Fiat workers, with rooms built around a central cylinder with a spiral corridor and no stairs.
The bus for Sportinia stopped right outside or we could walk to the Clotes lifts.
The weather for the first few days was good - overcast but often clearing to blue skies with the occasional cloud scudding by. The bitterly cold temperature (-17⁰) meant that snow conditions were excellent everywhere and we had the choice of skiing over to Sestriere and Sansicario or staying to enjoy the lovely long runs at Sauze. There was something for everyone, especially those with the "Tom-Cat syndrome" who insisted on putting their mark on every piste!
Under Tuesday’s blue skies Neilson reps (Jake on his snowboard and Ricky on skis), took us to Col Basset and some nice reds down to the chair lift to Mont Fraiteve where we took the women's downhill to Soleil Boeuf for lunch. Making our way back to Sauze later that afternoon the visibility deteriorated and we finished the run in a white-out, so we were glad to spot the Village pub to join others for our usual après-ski drink.
We stared out on Thursday to grey skies and watched high winds whip up the snow outside the breakfast room. A weak sun peeped through at 9 a.m. but the 29km winds cut through us on the chairlifts. I began to think about those lovely warm clothes rejected in a bid to travel light, and now lying on my bed at home. So it was five layers of clothing and three pairs of gloves for our ski towards Sansicario and, after a stop for coffee to warm up, we returned to Clotes to the delightful old refuge at Ciao Pais (or Cow Pie as Ernie named it) for a warming pot of tea and delicious lunch.
We had booked a coach trip to Mont Genevre on the Friday, others took the cheaper and more adventurous option, and skied over. The intermediate group we joined with the Neilson reps was very big and it took some doing to keep up with Jake and the other snowboarders in their monotone clothing shooting off into the distance.
Saturday was again "multo vento" with 18km northerlies and the lift operator could not guarantee that the lift to Sansicario would remain open. So we had a very enjoyable last day skiing the black (Who grades these runs? It was never a black) to Jouvenceaux among the trees.
On the Sunday we dragged our cases along the icy road to the coach for 7.30. Another lengthy check in at the airport was exacerbated when we found our flight delayed for an hour. Further notices of delays until 14.15 followed because of snow at Manchester airport. Our 11.10 flight eventually took off four and a half hours late at 15.45.
After numerous checks on road conditions I decided to risk the journey home to coastal Wales. The motorways were not bad, but the higher rural roads were quite tricky. I tucked in behind a lorry carrying 'Kozi-sleep' mattresses so if all else failed, I would have a bed for the night. After a three hour journey on snowy roads I arrived home at 9.00 p.m.
I really enjoy my holidays with the Club. It is so reassuring to see so many give up their valuable holiday time to help less experienced skiers. My daughters are delighted that my skiing has improved so much, but that really is thanks to the patience of one or two Club members (and perhaps my determination to keep up!). Thanks to you all - too many to mention, and thanks to John and David for pulling off a great holiday again.
Lovely hotel, good company, pleasant staff, good snow, blue skies and I'm still enjoying the sport I never thought I would conquer 30 years ago! Can't be bad!