What a great time to be traveling to Torino. Olympic-size facilities without the Olympic-size crowds (though at times I'm sure the holiday crowds may get a bit hectic...but still). Surrounded by the Alps on the north and west, Torino has winters that are cold and drythe perfect potential for powder. Last year's Winter Games saw major renovations to this city of more than 900,000 people along with superior improvements to its piste. But the cameras were aimed mostly at slopes that spill into quaint ski towns that sit just outside of Torino, such as Bardonecchia. Located in the Alta Val di Susa region at an altitude of 4,304 feet, Bardonecchia is Italy's most populated mountain getaway with 3,000 residents and ranked one of the country's top ten resorts. And with the recent Olympic madness, Italy has made transportation and lodging in Bardonecchia extremely user-friendly. This is the little Italian ski villa that will be the backdrop for your trip.
Just one hour from Torino, Bardonecchia played host to all of the snowboarding events during the 2006 Winter Games. The town sits at the base of the mountains with a valley that divides the slopes into two areas. The first area has runs sprouting from the center of town at the Campo Smith ski complex. It is comprised of Colomion, Les Arnauds, and Melezet ski areas, all of which have a good mix of terrain, and top out at 7,873 feet. Jafferau is the second areaand the highest. At 9,186 feet, most of the runs are above the tree line. Although Melezet is where you'll find riders attempting acrobatic aerials on the half pipe and flying over jumps on the snowboard cross course.
The historical capital of Bardonecchia has more than 87 miles of downhill slopes connected by 29 lifts, and snowboarders will be happy to hear the official Olympic snowboarding venue, Melezet Snowpark, will open to the public for the first time this winter. Jumps, boxes, rails, and the awesome 426-foot-long Olympic half pipe inspire those who dream of riding in the wake of gold medalists Shaun White and Hannah Teter. See what you're made of and take one of Melezet's classes offered in half pipe, parallel giant slalom, and snowboard cross.
If you'd rather steer clear of the tricks and hit the slopes instead, try the easier, more popular runs on Campo Smith and Melezet. Bardonecchia's main runs can accommodate all levels but tend to cater to the intermediate crowd with predominantly red and black trails. Jafferau offers more challenging slopes. Or hop on the new eight-man gondola and ride high above Jafferau's slopes to reach stunning views of the Alps and for long runs that eventually drop through fir trees and back into town. Lifts can get long during holidays, so be forewarned. Day passes are $40 during weekends and holidays.
For lodging right next to the slopes, Hotel Rive is located one-third of a mile from Bardonecchia. Built in 2003, it offers a fitness center, sauna and Turkish bath. Rates start at $115 for a queen-size room and continental breakfast. This hotel does not have a minimum night stay during holiday weekends, although other hotels in the area might. If you'd like to take in the local scene, stroll along the plaza where you'll find bakeries, pizzerias, shops, and a few watering holes to explore. Located at the top of one of the main chairlifts is La Grangia, a restored farmhouse that doubles as an elegant restaurant with stone walls and wooden beams cut from local forests.
To get there, you can take the train to Bardonecchia directly from Turin, Paris, Rome, or Milan. Board at the Torino Porta Nuova station (Torino-Modane line), and get off at Bardonecchia station. A local shuttle bus runs from the station to the lifts daily and is free to those with ski passes already in hand.