A week spent in Sestriere skiing with the Marymount girls (and Mr Elden) got me thinking as to what features make a ski resort a good option for you and your mixed ability group, here are my thoughts…
Clunk, clack, crack, clack, clok, clack, clack, CLICK… “That’s it! Toe in first, then STAMP down hard and straight with your heel!” Familiar sounds to anybody who has accompanied a beginner ski group on their first day as they collectively attempts to click unpliant and uncomfortable plastic boots into the accommodating bindings of the skis that will transform those clunky boots into gravitational gliding devices and that, by the end of the week, will have given them the freedom of the mountain. That last part may sound like hyperbole to you, and it is, but it is undeniable that progressing from a beginner to an intermediate skier in the space of a week is one of the more tangible manifestations of freedom that we can experience in our city and town bound modern lives. I watched the students progress from these apprehensive early steps, to pass over their heads on the third morning on a chair lift, watching them snake down the mountain following their instructor, Lele, each face with a Cheshire cat grin plastered upon it. One girl, Inder, even overcame her fear of heights to ride the chair lift for the rest of the week! The best thing about Sestriere is that, being at an altitude of 2,000 metres already, the above scenario is as common a sight in early April as it is at February half term. The snow sure nature of resorts at this altitude means that your beginner group will have access to snow that is as good on the lower slopes as it is in the more advanced areas.
The intermediate group, as expected, did not experience a scene like the one described above on their first day. They were off like a shot to the Borgata area, led by the indefatigable and ever smiling Martina from the Scuola Sci Internazionale. The term Intermediate covers a wide-range of abilities and can be the hardest group to cater for. The difference between an intermediate fresh out of the beginner group and one ready to make the jump to advanced can sometimes be wide indeed. The great thing about intermediates and Sestriere is that the variety of slopes on offer mean that you can head out for a tough morning of steep reds and leave the afternoon for some nice sweeping tree-lined blues, ensuring that none of your intermediates arrives home either too exhausted or disappointed with their day’s skiing. The Marymount girls were emblematic of this group dynamic and each and everyone one of them had a great experience out on the mountain on all six days. When the powder arrived like a blanket of icing sugar on the fourth day, the intermediates were off piste and into the good stuff without hesitation. Buried above the waist and watching just their shoulders and helmets meander down the piste was like watching something from a Nick Park animation: funny, enjoyable and leaving me scratching my head as to how they actually achieved it… It is this variety of terrain and conditions that makes Sestriere so perfect for your intermediates.
400 kilometres of piste. Can you ski all of this in a week? No. Can your advanced skiers give it a good go and have the best week skiing whilst they do? Absolutely! Sestriere’s position in the vast Milky Way ski area allows advanced groups absolute freedom to ski all over Sestriere, San Sicario and Sauze d’Oulx. The Marymount advanced group took full advantage of this and pushed their instructor, who they endearingly nicknamed Eggsy from the Kingsman Secret Service, to the absolute limit, both physically and mentally! I think it’s safe to say that he would have rarely experienced an advanced group with so much verve before; this, in effect, is the point I’m getting to: if your group is advanced and enthusiastic then they will literally (and not in the figurative sense) go far in Sestriere. Kilometres, powder, off piste, moguls and snow parks, you name it, Sestriere has got it.