Feb 2020 – This is sort of a part II to the childless trip I had during 2020’s winter…so yes it does seem very counter-intuitive to being a “Snowboard Dad”, but just as I wrote about in Les Houches, I’ll touch on some family friendly points from Sestriere. We didn’t know it, but we were right next to the Italian COVID-19 outbreak occurring in the Lombardy region. To an extent, we “got out” just in time as everyone’s life changed, worldwide, a few weeks later.
To introduce Sestriere and its ski area Vialattea, one really doesn’t have to do much more than Google “2006 Winter Olympics” to find out that this place has a pretty awesome modern history. The town and ski areas were host to both an Olympic Village as well as Alpine Skiing events like Super-G, downhill, etc. The city itself is situated in the Piedmont region of Italy…specifically a long valley called the Val Susa.
Sidenote on getting there: prepare to hate the Autostrade. If you think the DC beltway’s tolls are bad, just drive in Italy for an hour. The tunnel from the Chamonix region into the Val Susa really bummed me out after throwing down over 30 Euro just to access it.
The hotel we (dudes) stayed at was the Uappala Sestriere: a large place with direct access across a road to one of the primary lift areas to get your day started. The hotel’s layout was a bit odd as was its bar; however, as a family you’ll score major points with Uappala since they have a kid’s club that operates all week. Idiotically, I never went and asked what the fees were for supervision; however, it’s a large hotel with a lot of stuff for your kids to do…that I was able to confirm. I’d trust my kids would be well entertained, there.
The hotel cost was about 200USD per night at peak season. At first glance, that probably sounds pricey; however, this was in the peak of Alpine ski season so I didn’t think it was all that bad. I’d personally recommend it. If the drive wasn’t so far, I’d go back every winter. One cool aspect of Uappala was that it’s either a part of or right next to the 2006 Olympic village.
The ski area of Via Lattea is absolutely enormous and connected by a lot of “long range” lifts. There are over 400 kilometers of slopes (250-ish miles). We were only there for two days and we probably only touched 20% of the pistes. The first thing I noticed was the ridiculous amount of kids’ school courses that were being taught. There was basically an army of kids out on the slopes with instructors that were speaking anything from Italian, English, Russian, and others in between. Again, I hadn’t yet conjured up the idea for this blog when I was in Sestriere, so I didn’t bother getting costs for kids (sorry).
It does look like an extraordinarily kid-friendly place, though. I did spot some magic carpets and Tellerlifts around Sestriere, in between my beers, so there’s definitely room to train your little one without breaking the bank.
What I did manage to ascertain for any families was the amazingly reasonable costs for an adult to go crazy on the slopes. I probably made mention of this in my Italy page, but I have never, anywhere in the world, seen prices as reasonable as Vialattea. Click here for an idea of the costs of this amazingly affordable location; however, just know that you can snowboard here for an entire week for the price of two days in Breckenridge, Colorado.
The views at the peaks of Vialattea are pretty amazing. If you are willing to make the trip, you can gain some pretty serious altitude with the longer range lifts. There really are a ton of off-slope areas you can explore (see below image) with a lot of untouched powder areas. Better to pursue if the winter has been good to the area: not like during our trip when the winter had been pure crap.
Interesting note: Vialattea is the only place I’ve ever run into Welsh people. They were some of the friendliest folks I’ve ever met.
Speaking of powder, I was passing through the trees (see above) with my buddy ATGorham (also see above). He’s a pretty classy and skilled skier and I got to see something pretty special: him hitting a hidden patch of ice which ripped his binding clean off his ski which then sent him tumbling pretty hilariously down the powder. His other ski deftly glided into a stream which forced me to un-bind and jump into freezing water to get it back (he’s lucky to have me for a friend). I then got to watch him ski, skillfully I might add, about a half kilometer to the base lift on a single ski. He then spent the rest of the day looking for a repair shop while I happily found a large amount of beer to enhance my laughing. I relished the opportunity since I rarely get the chance. È la vita.
Hahahahahahhahahahha!!!!!!! You good???-Me enjoying life at ATGORHAM’S expense
Bonus points for Sestriere’s Olympic history: when boarding from Mt. Fraiteve (2701meters) all the way down to Sansicario, you have the chance to pass and see the 2006 bobsled track. It’s a cool venue further adding to the Olympic flair that was the 2006 Torino Olympics. Warning: unless it’s been a good winter, you’ll probably be scraping some rocks getting down there.
The bottom line: Sestriere is a really cool and recently-historic place as far as snow-culture goes. I didn’t enjoy the 40-ish Euro toll tunnel I paid to get there, and the nightlife seemed a little dead; however, basically anywhere you stay is going to have direct access to the slopes. Based on the battalion of children that I saw on the slopes, I’d say this place is a solid bet to put your kids on the snow. I’m not exactly a connoisseur of Sestriere hotels, but if you want a place that can surely keep your kids busy during the days they’re not on the slopes , Hotel Uappala is a surefire choice.
The value at Via Lattea simply cannot be beaten. The slopes are endless and there’s a ton of terrain to explore for a price that is just insanely reasonable. This could very well be one of the best deals slope-wise you can find in the Alps. Go give it a try. If the winter has been decent, there is no way you will come away unsatisfied. If you actually take kids…unlike me…be sure to let me know how it went.
If there’s anything you feel is missing or if you’ve got any questions, drop a comment below! I’ll get back to you!
Bis zum näschtes mal!the snowboard dad in europe