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Ski Blog

Club Med's New Milky Way

clock 16th April 2012 | comment1 Comments

Club Med, the popular all-inclusive ski specialists are returning to the Milky Way for 2012/13. Club Med Pragelato will be their first hotel in the Milky Way for two years after they relinquished their Sestriere property two years ago.

Pragelato may not seem as obvious a resort to enjoy the delightful 400km of skiing the Milky Way, or Via Lattea in Italian, offers, but when you see the resort you'll quickly see why Club Med have taken residence there.

Club Med Pragelato Via Lattea

The resort of Pragelato was built for the 2006 Winter Olympic games in Turin, with the job of hosting the ski jump and the cross country skiing. After the Olympics left the village, the Milky Way was left with a charming, purpose build resort surrounded by trees and in a naturally preserved site — note to the French, it is possibly to built charming resorts, they don't have to look like Val Thorens!

The Club Med hotel is more akin to their summer programme then their winter offerings, with the resort being built in the style of a chalet-filled village, as opposed to one or two large hotels. The complex was previously managed by another company, but Club Med have taken over and are currently redecorating and upgrading the resort to bring it up to their 4* standards.

This resort looks like it could be the ideal hotel for a romantic getaway, a family ski trip, or hitting up the Milky Way in style with some friends, for a chilled, yet awesome holiday. Club Med Pragelato will boast three restaurants, including La Trattoria — serving up local Italian cuisine — La Taverna— with its Savoyard fare and charm — and the hotel's main restaurant — boasting the usual array of fab food available in Club Med's renowned buffet.

For lunches there are also three mountain restaurants to visit, meaning you can take advantage of the huge ski area, yet still enjoy Club Med's hospitality. Chalet Mollino over in Sauze d'Oulx is exclusively for Club Med guests and can seat up to 300 during peak season, which is amazing considering the resort only has 234 rooms! If you are skiing a little further afield, or prefer more intimate lunches there is a restaurant seating around 30-50 people in Sansicario and another similar sized restaurant across the border into the French resort of Montgenèvre.

The hotel also boasts a decent modern spa, which is one of the very few additional costs, along with a couple of bars — including a chilled out lounge bar if you don't fancy the French entertainment.

The Milky Way

The Milky Way, or Via Lattea, is one of the most underrated ski areas in the Alps. The huge area boasts a whopping 400km of skiing across two countries, with the majority of easily accessed slopes being in Italy, with the French resorts of Claviere and Montgenèvre a few lifts and a morning of skiing away.

Cruisy blues and confidence building reds are the order of the day, with the most difficult skiing being at the top of Sestriere and over in Montgenèvre. There is tree-lined skiing everywhere, which both helps keep the snow in great condition and offers protection on white-out days, making for great all round skiing. There are a few snowparks and a border cross, if you are that way inclined too.

If you fancy skiing Claviere and Montgenèvre from the Club Med Pragelato, then it's a full day out on the mountain, hence the restaurant. It will take a good hour and a half to two hours each way for a good level skier, so make sure you leave early to make the most of it and give yourself enough time to get back! There is also night skiing in Sestriere to enjoy, with Club Med offering buses from the hotel to the slopes on the relevant evenings.

Milky Way Piste Map
Click to see full screen map.

Sestriere's longest piste: 9km
Sauze d'Oulx's longest piste: 5km
Montgenèvre's longest piste: 7km
Claviere's longest piste: 6km

All-in-all the Milky Way is a fantastic intermediate resort, a great place to build confidence, enjoy a few cruisy runs on the mountain and to enjoy some Italian sunshine and great mountain food. My idea of heaven! The hotel is the best value 4* resort in the Club Med brochure and with its brand new facilities and tree-lined mountain charm it will be popular with couples, families and relaxed skiers alike, looking for affordable luxury and not a typical French resort.



Driving Miss Peisey

clock 21st March 2012 | comment0 Comments

Ever thought about driving to the Alps for your next ski trip, or are you a regular of the trip from Surrey to the Savoie?

If you are indeed planning a skiing road trip then it's definitely worth taking some time-out to make sure you are up to date with the latest local laws, to avoid an untimely fine on your way to the mountains. But how many of you are aware of the intricacies of French law while travelling along their toll booth-filled roads?


Photo: Evodriver.fr

To help you prepare for a week on the slopes and to ensure your spending money is reserved for lift passes, local cheese and an après ski beer or two — as opposed to lining the pockets of the French motorway police — here are a few things to make sure you pack:

Your Personal Breakdown Kit: You are probably already aware that driving regulations in France require every vehicle to carry a warning triangle and reflective jacket in case of an emergency. However daft you might feel getting your bright yellow jacket out on the hard shoulder, a fine will feel much worse.

Snow Chains: Again, this may seem obvious, but cars driving on snow-covered roads must have snow chains fitted where roads signs to such effect are in place. On busy transfer days in the snow, the police will often be sat at the bottom of mountain roads, from Avoriaz to Val d'Isere, making sure everyone has snow chains before letting you go any further. There is also a 50 km/h (31 mph) speed limit when snow chains are in use — not that you'd want to drive any quicker then that with bits of metal wrapped around your tyres!

Breathalysers: Yes, breathalysers. As of 1st July 2012 all drivers of any motor vehicle will be required to carry a disposable breathalyser in their vehicle. Failure to do so will result in a fine. As you may need to use one, it's recommended to stick two of them in your glove box for safe keeping. The breathalyser has to be certified by the French authorities showing an 'NF' number and they usually last for 12 months before going out of date.

Radar & Speed Camera Detectors: Though radar detectors are still legal in the UK, as of 3rd January 2012 they have been outlawed in France. Anyone caught with a radar speed camera detector can be fined up to €1500 on the spot and their device will be taken away immediately — this includes satnavs that show the locations of speed cameras. According to the AA's guide on the matter, you should be able to disable this function from your device and if you contact the manufacturer there may be a software update that removes the locations of speed cameras in France. Either that, or leave the satnav at home and rely on your trusty old maps.

Speeding: Speed limits in France are affected by both where you are, what you are driving and the weather. Standard speed limits for cars are easily seen with road signs, but during high-winds, rain and snow these all drop. For example, the speed limit on the motorway is 130km/h, which is reduced to 110 km/h in the rain. Note: Holders of EU driving licence — if caught driving more than 40 km/h above the speed limit — will have their licence confiscated on the spot by the police. For more info on speed limits in France, take a look at the AA's France Touring Tips.

Tolls: As you are probably aware, the French motorways and duel-carriageways are all tolled in France. The advantage is no road tax, the disadvantage is the need to stop and pay the fees every so often. You can now purchase the Liber-t toll tag, which allows you to effectively jump the queue buy using the automated tolls, as opposed to paying each time. The set-up cost is around €40, of which €20 is a refundable deposit. If you are on a long journey, to say Val d'Isere, the €20 cost will easily be worth the savings in time and the possible fuel costs caused by sitting in queues when the traffic is busy. I know us Brits love to queue, but there nothing wrong with joining the quicker, more organised and efficient queue — in fact, that is the British way to queue. These can be purchased on the Sanef Tolling website, where more information on the costs and how they work can be found.

Driving to France can be a great way of travelling to your skiing holiday, whether on a cheeky weekend away or for a full-blown family holiday. Just make sure the experience makes your holiday easier, as opposed to a hassle. Remember, French police will take no encouraging to fine you, so be prepared.



Festival Season Hits the Slopes

clock 2nd March 2012 | comment1 Comments

If you have been fortunate to ski or board this season — lucky you! The snow conditions are still superb in both Europe and America, with plenty more powder to come. It is the time of year where we enter the ski festival season — here are just a few ideas for March & April

Firstly Austria, Mayrhofen from March 26-31 has the superb Altitude festival, if you fancy a bit of comedy on your ski trip with the likes of Jimmy Carr, Ed Byrne, Frankie Boyle, Kevin Bridges & Phil Jupitus on the guest list.

On the Music front for jazz fans in France, from March 18-25 in Avoriaz the Jazz Up Festival is kicking off, with Tigran Hamasyan who won 1st Prize at the Montreux Jazz Festival recently.

Switzerland will offer the Caprices festival in Crans Montana, where amongst the acts performing here are are Charlie Winston, Sean Paul & The Earth Wind & Fire Experience from April 11-14.

These are just a few ideas — there is plenty of choice out there if you fancy a ski trip and want to enjoy a festival at the same time.

This season has surpassed all expectations, so what are you waiting for come and join the party!



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