Skiing the Milky Way

What Sestriere lacks in architectural appeal, it makes up for in skiing. It's the main resort in the ski circuit known as the Milky Way, which covers 250 miles of slopes in five resorts in both Italy and nearby France.

The 211 slopes of the Milky Way -- or Via Lattea in Italian -- are all connected and are served by 91 ski lifts, which rise from 4,430 feet up to a majestic 9,190 feet. The downhill, cross-country, freestyle and biathlon Olympic events will all be held on the Italian section of the Milky Way.

Sestriere is the highest of the Italian resorts here, sitting at 6,680 feet up. Soon after it was built in the 1930s, it began attracting a wide variety of Italians to its long runs.

Now, it's one of the few Italian resorts that offer night skiing.

When the rich Italians who frequent this resort are here, Sestriere's definitely got that chic buzz, everyone assures me. The wealthy stay at the Grand Hotel Principi di Piemonte, which was inaugurated in 1932 and recently underwent a substantial renovation for the Games. (NBC has booked almost all of the hotel's rooms for the duration of the Olympics).

The classy hotel sits on a hill outside of town and is one of the first structures you see -- even before Sestriere's signature towers -- as you drive in from Torino.

If you're looking for some history a little older than Italy's Fascist period, there are some small mountain villages nearby that date from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Two of the oldest mountain hamlets in the area are Champlas du Col and Borgata, tiny little places with a couple of streets of old brown Alpine houses. These villages look stunning perched against the mountainside in the afternoon sun.

By Daniela Deane |  January 25, 2006; 9:00 AM ET  | Category:  The Mountains
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