Top Lift: 2823m
Ski area: 400km of piste
Adult lift pass: 125-180€ for six days
In a Nutshell
The former party capital of the Alps has now transformed into a pleasant family resort. It has, arguably, the best piste skiing in Italy and some excellent eating opportunities both on and off the mountain.
Essential advice for the perfect trip
Some 30 years ago Sauze d’Oulx had the reputation as a Magaluf on ice, with its pub crawls more popular than skiing. By 3pm daily the streets were sticky with lager and its hardcore British lads and ladettes never made it onto the piste before noon, if at all.
But Sauze has long since cleaned up its act and somehow transformed itself into the charming Italian mountain village that it once was and now is again. Sure, you can still go clubbing, but the primary reason for coming here is for the skiing – 400km of rolling pistes that link to Sansicario, Sestriere, Montgenevre and the rest of the Milky Way. The pleasant family resort has arguably the best piste skiing in Italy and some excellent eating opportunities both on and off the mountain
Sauze d’Oulx was the venue for the freestyle competitions during the Turin 2006 Winter Olympics, which meant that the roads and much of the area’s infrastructure were improved. The excellent access road means that it now takes one hour door-to-door from Turin airport to the resort.
Sauze’s slopes – even in high season – are never impossibly over-crowded. You’ll queue for a maximum of ten minutes at the hub access points, but will then find yourself on blissfully empty pistes once you are the out of the main resort and headed towards the smaller and lesser-known villages.
Sauze is definitely not the best place for to learn to ski and it’s a complete no-no for families with babies and small children. Ski school classes begin at five years old and there is neither creche nor kindergarten on offer here.
You won’t find better value for money anywhere else in the Alps
Sauze’s main attraction is the prices. This is the polar opposite of places like Val d’Isere and Courchevel. Consequently, choosing where to eat is tricky – purely because there is so much choice and everything is such good value. On average you’ll pay 6.50€ for a pizza big enough for two, 5€ for half a litre of local wine, 1.20€ for coffee. When it comes to apres-ski the most expensive cocktails are 4€. The resort has a good mix of bars and restaurants. The newer part of town has the more affordable pubs and bars, contrasting with the Old Town’s wine bars and gourmet restaurants.
As a leftover from the bad old days of the ’70s and ’80s, British-style pubs do still exist and as soon as you finish skiing and hit the main piazza, you can’t avoid the touting for business cries in the piazza by bar staff – offering deals such as four beers and a Red Bull for 10€. Happy hours are rife. However, this doesn’t appear to attract the flanks of hooded youths it might, and the bars are populated by all ages.
Non-ski activities range from boar-spotting to shopping
The apres-ski menu ranges from bar tours to snowmobiling and a torchlight descent. Snowshoe excursions take place among the woods, where you can spot deer – but watch out for wild boar.
The major British tour operators here offer trips to watch Juventus, Inter Milan and AC Milan football matches in nearby Turin. The shops are surprisingly good for such a relatively small resort, and there’s a weekly market selling a wide range of local products. Sauze’s first music festival was held in 2012.
The choice is limited when it comes to finding somewhere to stay that is anything more than a pretty basic three-star. Sauze doesn’t have any rental chalets, the apartments are pretty basic and the hotels are a mixed lot. Consider staying B&B at one of the baita (converted cowsheds) or in a simple hotel. With restaurants this good it seems a crime to be stuck on hotel half board all week.
So easy to get to, you could come here for a weekend break
One of the best things about Sauze is the ease of access. It’s exactly one hour’s drive from Turin airport, making this a great resort for short breaks. You can also get here overnight by Eurostar, followed by a sleeper to Modane, then the local train to Oulx, and a connecting bus to Sauze. The fact that it’s on the border with France (at Montgenevre) makes for an interesting duo-cultural visit.