Review: Christmas at the Hotel Du Col in Sestriere, Italy
PUBLISHED: 20:34 29 September 2017 | UPDATED: 20:52 29 September 2017
Christmas is largely over-rated. There I have said it. Why would you want to fight over a parking space in Tesco when you could have the slopes to yourself in Sestriere?
I am not really a fan of turkey, I despise the excess consumerism and I hate the over-indulgence of not only December 25 but the whole build up to it.
So last year, while everyone else was wrapping last-minute presents or fighting over the last light-up Christmas tree jumper in Primark, we were headed for the Italian ski resort of Sestriere
We were greeted by unprecedented snow fall which guaranteed us a white Christmas. The slopes glistened in the early afternoon sun and, being the first week of the season, they were fairly quiet, even on Christmas Day.
So alluring were the slopes that on Christmas morning my step-daughter shunned her scaled-back pile of gifts and instead asked if it was time to go skiing.
The resort is part of the Milky Way ski area. From Sestriere you can ski to neighbouring Claviere; the lively Sauze D’oulx and even nip over the border to Montgenvre.
Sounds perfect, doesn’t it?
But there was a snag, this time around I was leaving the skiing to the other members of my family while I was grounded in the resort thanks to my burgeoning baby bump.
It was heart-wrenching seeing such perfect conditions and not being able to board but I looked at it as an opportunity to uncover the hidden delights of this quiet Alpine village.
Sestriere offers a host of restaurant, cafes and shops plus a municipal swimming pool, several spas and there is even an ice rink (that was out-of-bounds too).
The pool is a 10 to 15 minute walk from the Hotel Du Col where we were staying, and is basic but clean, and offers swim-through access to the outside pool. Entry is just a few Euros.
From the hotel, which is at the heart of the resort, you can meander along the greens to the lower area where the ski schools meet and where the former Olympic village apartments are.
It is worth noting, if you have first-time skiers the trip down can be a challenge and leave them exhausted before they have start their lessons. And coming back is even worse - a hotel in the lower part of the resort would definitely work better for younger families.
More competent skiers can glide out of the hotel and zoom down to the first lift to take them straight up into the mountains, and then ski back to the garage door.
I made it my mission to walk down and back at least once a day, sometimes opting for the windy roads back rather than tackling the green runs in reverse, and some days went up past the hotel to take in the unspoilt mountain views beyond the ski area, stopping occasionally to sample the delicacy that is Italian hot chocolate.
The rooms at the Hotel Du Col had been refurbished over the summer and were pristine, airy and spacious with a touch of Alpine charm. We had a mountain view and more than enough space to hang wet ski gear in our triple room.
Breakfast and dinner were buffet-style and food was certainly plentiful, if a little mass-produced.
In the evenings there was something to suit all palettes from bog-standard pizza, nuggets, fries and simple salads to more exotic vegetable medleys, a slow-roasted joint of meat ceremoniously carved by the chef each night (they had turkey on Christmas night for those afraid of missing out) and a selection of those all-important carbs.
Dinner is served from 7pm and even our eight-year-old found it a struggle eating that bit later than she would at home.
The attentive waiters, however, make a fuss of all the children and spotting our nightly battle to encourage her to eat, they offered to cook anything she wanted and even made fresh pasta for her. Service you cannot fault.
Wine and soft drinks are served with the meal but choice is limited so if you are sticking with the lime and soda, take one with you from the bar.
Dessert time was something of a fanfare, with a procession of kitchen staff carrying their offerings to the top of the buffet table while guests literally rushed to join the queue.
For reference, afternoon tea is also included in the package but it failed to impress and we preferred to save space for dessert.
You can ski back to the hotel and just outside the back door is a great sledging and play area.
On Christmas afternoon a mass snow ball fight was organised (I think my husband may have been responsible) and the scene was like something from a cheesy American movie with new friends teaming up to build arsenals of ammunition before launching their assaults on the enemy.
It was the antithesis to everything I hate about a traditional British Christmas and proved that kids don’t need half a toy shop to keep them busy – a fresh dusting of snow and a bum board will do.
• Fancy Christmas in Italy? Crystal Ski Holidays (020 8610 3123) offers a week’s half board at the four-star Hotel Du Col in Sestriere from £679 per person (based on two sharing) including flights from Gatwick to Turin and transfers (price given is for departure on April 8, 2018). Direct flights available from all major UK airports.