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Review of the SCoM holiday to Sauze d’Oulx 2023

Reporter: Elizabeth Moore

I’ve already been several times to the Via Lattea (Milky Way) ski area — Claviere, Sauze d’Oulx (with the club in 2014), Montgenevre, and Sestriere (with the club in 2018), and I wasn’t that keen to go back to Sauze, with its cronky old lifts and crowded icy runs. However, we love the SCoM January holiday, so we go wherever we’re told. That was a good decision, because this turned out to be an excellent, great-value trip.

Our holiday began with the increasingly usual ‘get up before you’ve gone to bed’ early start, with some members starting on the apres-ski drinking as soon as they’d checked in at the airport. Gatwick flyers got to the resort mid- morning so we could kick our heels for the rest of the day until the Manchester crowd turned up just in time to watch the football. Actually it was good to have the opportunity to walk round the characterful old town and look at the frozen water fountains and the surprisingly ornate church, as well as eating pizza and dropping our skis off for servicing. It was Sunday, and the bottom part of the ski slope was full of little kids having fun on toboggans.

The Hotel Sauze was well-situated, much nearer the slopes than the Torre (where we stayed in 2014), with a short but uphill walk up to the Clotes chair lift, or a bus ride to another lift going direct up to Sportinia. The bar/lounge of the hotel was not quite big enough for our party of fifty people to socialise together, but we tried to do so every teatime, while enjoying post-skiing snacks: cheese, bits of croissants, and little triangular tramezzini sandwiches. The staff were pleasant and helpful.

For dinner we sat at two long tables in the basement dining room. Every evening there was an excellent starter buffet with lots of vegetable dishes, followed by (at long intervals) small portions of first and main courses and then dessert (except for three days when it was someone’s birthday, when sumptuous cake was served, and they turned the lights down and started ‘Happy Birthday’ music while we tried to work out whose birthday it was going to be). The food was pretty good. The only downside was that they didn’t serve free water (tap water non potabile, allegedly), but this was resolved with a few trips to the supermarket. I didn’t have the hotel Continental breakfast, but it seemed to offer lots of sweet cereals, little biscuits/crackers in packets, cheese and ham.

Our bedroom was on the third floor, and was spacious with a balcony and a large bathroom. The lighting was bright, and there were plenty of hooks, but clothes storage options were otherwise pretty minimal. Some people weren’t so lucky with their rooms, and there was some switching about.

Ski & boot storage left a bit to be desired —the boot room was accessed off the stairs down from the lobby, down an awkward little staircase (no handrail), and the boot heaters didn’t seem completely effective — we took our boots up to the room. The skis were in a separate room accessed externally. This arrangement was tricky in ski boots (steeply sloping path of partly broken-up setts), and lethal once it had been snowing. There was no handrail or anything to hold onto – not a difficult problem to solve (several solutions were suggested) but the presence of snow didn’t seem to have occurred to the management. In the end people just tiptoed into the lobby and took their boots off there.

On the first day (Monday), the snow was rather hard-packed, although there were nice runs down through the trees to Jouvenceaux which weren’t too busy. Several runs and areas were closed — not sure whether this was lack of snow or forced economies. We had a hot chocolate stop (super-thick Italian style chocolate) and then lunch at Capannina Kind at Sportinia. The run back down to the resort wasn’t the crowded icy nightmare I feared, luckily.

That evening it started snowing… and carried on the whole night and all of the next day. As a result, there was lots of lovely powder. Paul & I skied with Dave & Vanessa, Steve, Howard, Greg & Dave Shepherd, and I tried to benefit from their helpful advice, not always consistently. I was worn out after skiing harder and faster in the thick snow! Next day the sky cleared and other runs began to open; Paul & I had a lovely time on 12 Alta and a delightful little blue run track winding about across the closed black run 16. The snow was also lovely at the left-hand (on the piste map) side of the resort, and we went to charming mountain restaurant Ciao Pais for a cosy lunch.

On Thursday the links opened over to Sestriere and beyond, and most people shot off towards Montgenevre, which involves a lot of lift-riding, a bit of skiing, and plenty of jeopardy as to whether you’ll make it all the way back before the lifts close. Some people got taxis back, either by choice or necessity. I skied with Jen, Liz, Will and Rob & David over to Sestriere. Some of the runs there seemed quite steep but the snow was lovely. However, I managed to finish the day (and the skiing part of my holiday) by falling over getting off the chair lift and spraining my knee — the one that I tore the ACL of in St Christoph three years ago. Luckily I chose the right place for this, just where the piste patrollers were based, and they came to my aid immediately, and stretchered me off the mountain. So I missed the last couple of days’ skiing, during which Paul went off to Montgenevre with Andrew & Brian (who spent most of the week exhausting the powder and themselves off piste), and had a lovely morning skinning up to the ridge at Colle Bourget with Leo & Dave Shepherd. Meanwhile, I went with Debbie, who had injured her knee earlier in the week, for a delicious pizza at L’Assietta, and then with Jen, Lorraine & Val for dainty cakes at the pasticceria — more my line than skiing really.

Going home we had another very early start — had to walk (hobble in my case) down to the bus parking area in the lower part of town for 05:00, our bags having been taken down in a van. There nearly wasn’t enough room to fit all the luggage into the coach — this did seem a bit ridiculous but I suppose members of a ski club may be more likely to have their own skis than ‘normal’ holidaymakers. The Gatwick fliers got home quickly, while the unfortunate Manchester lot were delayed again, which seems to be the norm.

So, another excellent SCoM holiday! Thank you to Tony Shaw for finding such a great deal with Crystal; to Dave Shepherd for all the arrangements; and to the committee for very kindly deciding to cover the unexpected additional expense for the Gatwick fliers when the travel company reclassified our usual booking arrangement as a flight change which incurs a surcharge.

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