For the average person, January is the time to put alcohol to one side, forget the late night kebab binges and focus our attentions on our new gym contracts, signed in faith that we would in fact step inside the place. Yeah right!
That brings us to February. Having stabilised our bank accounts, the temptation of getting out of London and letting our hair down is far too tempting to ignore.
Bring on the piste and pasta extravaganza, mix it with a little Olympic cheer and enjoy an Italian cocktail packed with enough flavour for everyone.
Turin is the host city for the XX Olympic Winter Games, which runs from the 10-26 February. This event provides the perfect opportunity to mix that last minute ski holiday with a little Italian culture and not mention the spirit of the Olympics.
Turin, the capital of the Piedmont region, itself is a city of charm, hidden behind the romantic delights of Venice, Florence and the historical adventures of Rome. Despite its close proximity to France and Switzerland, Turin is still most definitely Italian. The city has lost its significance as a political heavyweight since the unification of Italy, however, it still plays an integral role in trade and industry.
Situated alongside the River Po, Turin has everything to offer the modern traveller; architecture, museums, typical Italian shopping and not to mention it is home to the famous Juventus football club and Fiat cars. Other points of interest include the Turin Shroud, which depicts the image of a crucified man, believed
to be Jesus of Nazareth, and on a lighter note, the location for the filming of the movie, The Italian Job.
But holidays aren’t all about achieving a perfect Kodak moment, there has to be an element of fun and adventure.
The Piedmont region allows snow addicts the opportunity to make the most of their time in the mountains. With 53 different ski resorts less than two hours drive from Turin, choosing where to go, now that’s a different issue all together.
To the west of Turin, lies the Valle di Susa, chosen as an official Olympic area and includes the famous resorts of Sauze d’Oulx and Bardonecchia. The area’s beauty is not easily matched and it boasts over 1500 kilometres of runs and trails.
Sauze d’Oulx is a great resort for the accomplished skier, with 400 kilometres of runs best suited to intermediates. It has somewhat little to offer beginners and experts who could perhaps try the boarders with its big open pistes. It is a great base with which to explore and enjoy the surrounding area known as the Milky Way. Famous for its crazy nightlife and party atmosphere, it is perfect for the reveller who plans to play hard on and off the snow.
During the Olympics, the town will host the dunes skiing and ski-jumping for men and women, along with the freestyle competitions.
Bardonecchia, where the first Italian Ski Championships were held in 1909, will host one of three Olympic villages. Even though it is smaller in size compared to Sauze d’Oulx, Bardonecchia offers 85kms of piste of which 26 are covered by artificial snow-making machines. With cross-country pistes and a half-pipe it has something for all snow enthusiasts.
During the Olympics, the resort will host all snowboarding competitions including the half pipe, snowboard cross and the parallel giant slalom.
Still in the Valle di Susa, heading south from Sauze d’Oulx, one comes across Sestriere sitting on the cusp with the Valle di Chisone. The town is somewhat more fashionable and modern in comparison to most other resorts. Sitting at 2035 metres above sea level, it has four main ski slopes and offers over 400 kilometres of piste and 140 trails. One ski pass covers it all!
Once again this area does not favour the beginner, but for intermediates and experts, these slopes are perfect. For the adrenalin junkie, why not try heliskiing?
Sestriere also hosts World Cup downhill skiing and will entertain the majority of the Alpine events during Turin 2006. The rest of the downhill events will take place at Cesana-San Sicario.
Moving away from the Olympics and heading north, more famous names in Alpine history come to the fore. Mont Blanc, Western Europe’s highest peak, the Matterhorn and Monte Rosa are just a few names to entice the outdoor fanatic.
Located in the Valle d’Aosta, Courmayeur, which is situated at the foot of Mont Blanc, it is perhaps the most glamorous and famous of all Italian resorts. With this in mind, maybe a little pricier too, but the area offers all year round skiing and a buffet of outdoor activities for you to make the most of your trip.
It has 36 kilometres of ski runs, mostly groomed, along with 30 km of cross country skiing and is serviced by 23 lifts to give you easy access to the fields. This will give you the opportunity to get to know the runs for the speed demon in you.
Other resorts in the area to take a look at include Breuil-Cervinia, St Vincent, Pila and Cogne.
Getting to Turin could not be easier with Ryanair offering direct flights from London Stanstead. Travelling to the various ski fields is just as simple with trains and busses, making access to resorts the least of your concerns.
One thing is for certain, whether for fun in the snow, watching heroes in action during the XX Winter Olympiad or just enjoying the ‘vita Bella’ of Italy, you can’t go wrong in this relaxed and natural setting of Europe. Make sure to do your research as due to the Olympics, prices on travel, food, accommodation as well as interruptions to your time on the piste, can vary considerably.
For more information on the Winter Olympics, visit www.torino2006.org