Yes, we were back in Italy on another inspection visit, this time exploring the wintery realms of Bardonecchia, Sestriere, Sauze d’Oulx, Prato Nevoso and Artesina!
Working hard to get everything in ship shape for our groups – visiting our suppliers, conducting coach audits and personally inspecting the best pizzas around (a very important job, that last one) – we ticked off a lot during this visit. Safety is of the utmost importance to us, which is the whole reason behind these trips. We regularly visit and re-visit our resorts and products to ensure they tick all the necessary boxes and get the Rayburn ‘seal of approval’ – all with the sole aim of making sure they’re the right fit for our groups.
Catch up with what we got up to on our latest visit to Italy…
It’s always an early start with inspection visits, but always so worth it. With Italy on the agenda this time, three of us from the Ski and Sports Department and our very own Health and Safety Manager packed up our winter gear and fled the UK for our flight into Milan Malpensa. A lovely, quiet flight meant we could catch up on some well-needed rest in anticipation of our busy four days visiting some of our Italian ski resorts.
Fully loaded into our spacious hire car, we were off! First stop was one of our coach providers in Italy, where our Health and Safety Manager conducted a full coach company audit. After several espressos to keep us going (and help with those Italian vibes), we were off again, this time to our final destination of Bardonecchia.
Arriving to -5 degrees at resort level with plenty of snow on the roads, we checked into our piste-side accommodation for the night, Campo Smith apartments. With no time to waste (and stomachs growling), we were straight out to Pizzeria la Gran Baita on Viale della Vittoria for some cheesy, doughy goodness. Pizza? In Italy? It’s got to be done.
Bold claims were made about this place. Our Ski and Sports Tours Manager Mike rated it as one of his top 5 pizzas of all time – and he used to live in Italy! Credit to him, as they were pretty good! We finished the day with a couple of après supplier visits before a well-deserved rest.
Another early start to visit several hotels, the swimming pool, ice skating and sports hall in Bardonecchia, before piling back into the car for the short journey to Sestriere. Snow welcomed us into resort with more on the way and temperatures of -10 degrees – a real test for our winter clothes!
The refurbished Hotel Olympic was our first stop, as well as a disco venue, swimming pool and creperie all on the visit list. Always a great chance to catch up with suppliers and friends. Just a short hop around the corner and we were in Oulx for the night (just 10 minutes from Sauze d’Oulx).
A stroll through the gorgeous cobbled Old Town to Da Gianka Pizzeria, complete with vaulted brick ceilings and heavy wooden doors, gave a real traditional feel to our evening meal. Safe to say sleep was very much welcomed and needed tonight!
Some serious skiing
After a brilliant breakfast in the Oberje Dla Viere, we headed up the hill into Sauze d’Oulx. A couple of stops at Des Amis Hotel and Allemand Ski Hire in Jouvenceaux, before hotfooting it to Clataud to pick up our equipment for an afternoon skiing in the sun! With top quality equipment in one hand and two enormous slices of pizza from Pizza World in the other, we were up to Sportinia in no time where we could crack on with some serious skiing!
Great snow conditions on this bluebird day had us flying around the mountain, all the way down into San Sicario on the ladies’ downhill and super G run. We made the most of the time we had on the mountain and finished with a hot chocolate at the wood-cladded Monte Triplex, where most of our groups enjoy lunch in Sauze.
Back into town, we made some visits to pizzerias, disco venues, a games room, karaoke bar and La Terrazza hotel before the journey down to Prato Nevoso in the Maritime Alps. Thankfully, my passengers kept me well fed with Italian crocodile sweets and pocket coffee during the drive (hello sugar rush!), arriving into Prato Nevoso just in time for the end of the dinner sitting. A great beef stew with polenta, salad and a selection of delicious puddings filled us up before bed.
Prato, paperwork and pie!
An early start and a hearty breakfast of Nutella Pie (oh yes, you read right) set us up for what was going to be a chilly day on the slopes! After a breakfast meeting with our friends at the Hotel Mondole, we made our way down to the best tubing of any resort in Europe (or so our groups have said) to get all health and safety paperwork renewed for this season to ensure all of our groups continue to have great fun, assured in the knowledge that safety is of paramount importance on all of our trips.
Next it was over the road to chat all things lift pass with Simona in the lift pass office, before picking up matching team skis from Silvia and Dino at the surf shop! If you’re ever in Porto, you have to pay a cheeky visit to Dino’s snowboard museum. It’s one of the largest snowboard collections in Europe and he also has a signed photo with Shawn White from a snowboard competition held in Prato!
With a foot and a half of snow promised, we hit the slopes, exploring Artesina’s wide cruising blues, Frabosa’s tree-lined reds and the great blues and reds with packed mountain restaurants in Prato. With temperatures of -8 and blizzard conditions, we visited many of the mountain restaurants for a number of restorative hot chocolates throughout the day. In one we bumped into Francesco, the head of ski school Prato Nevoso, for a catch up before he took some kids back out into the elements! The kids in Italy are made of strong stuff.
Skis returned, it was then time to throw on the snow chains to get back down the mountain for our journey back to Milan Malpensa Airport. Our visit finished with great Flybe flight home, followed by a packed but excellent time with all our suppliers in some of our favourite resorts.