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Club Holiday Sauze d'Oulx, January 2014

Reporter: Greg Jackson

Manchester Airport never sleeps. At 4am Sunday morning our check-in desks were heaving, so it took ages to get through. Little time for coffee or duty-free. The flight was on time, I think, (still not awake) but at Turin, baggage collection was slow and ski collection even slower. Then we had our orienteering skills tested with a route march to our transfer coach, which on arrival at the hotel dropped us at the coach park well below it, so an upward ramble with bags and skis.

Those who came on the Sauze trip 4 years ago may remember the hotel for its quirky design, a prominent white cylindrical tower structure, which is the accommodation block. Inside, one flight of stairs up from a normal reception and spacious lounge and bar area begins an inner spiral walkway all the way to the top of the turret, giving access to the bedrooms lining the walls. It looks a little like a cylindrical prison cell block in its simplicity. That’s a little cruel. Actually it’s a fine and practical hotel with spacious and well- appointed rooms with lots of storage. From room to bar and exit is a pleasant but extensive, spiral stroll down the walkway allowing momentum to take over. Two tiny lifts service all floors. WiFi is available on the lounge and bar level only, and a bit slow with the huge demand. Alongside the hotel in a separate building is its excellent pool, spa and fitness centre which was peacefully quiet early week, but became unbearably busy by Friday.

Unfortunately the hotel is positioned at the lower end of town so to ski involves a 10 minute walk uphill or a convenient local bus to a lower lift. There is also a minibus laid on by the hotel which was terrific but very popular. It reappeared about every 10 minutes. The Brits formed a queue and the Italians and Russians ignored it, so it was sometimes a battle to chuck skis in the boot, and claim victory for queuing and British resolve.

The food I thought was outstanding with comprehensive choices for both breakfast and dinner. In the mornings the dining hall entrance smelled like a wonderful patisserie with the aroma of freshly baked pastries and croissants of various flavours. Along with my bacon egg sausage I managed an apple strudel and magnificent Italian coffee. Dinner was extensive buffet antipasti, then served 4 choice pasta/soup, 4 choice main and buffet deserts.

The Milky Way ski area is really attractive, lots of trees and picturesque pistes, dramatic panoramas and some very slow chairlifts so one can admire the views. The skiing is not demanding. All the black runs are basic reds and the reds are ‘flattering’, but all very enjoyable to ski. Avalanche risk remained high all week so although we spotted numerous opportunities to venture off-piste, it was mostly limited to the side of the pistes and under chairlifts. The snow was excellent early in the week but was getting thinner later. The whole area seemed eerily quiet during the week, but Saturday saw the entire skiing population of Turin descend onto the slopes making final return to base a real chore with massive lift queues and crowded pistes.

A week is long enough to ski the area, with the ski pass including one day’s access to the French part of the Milky Way at Montgenevre, which was a perfect 2 hours there, lunch and a ski around, then back home. Many took an organised coach there and back so had all day ‘en France’. Weather was generally sunny all week but noticeably cold on Thursday. We saw -12degrees recorded.

The return journey began at 5:45am Sunday, with minimal queues at Turin check-in and flight on time.

In all, an excellent enjoyable week. Good food, good weather and good skiing. Many thanks as always and well done to our hard-working organisers.

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