Friday, 17 December 2010

Buon Appetito

One of the joys of skiing in Italy is the opportunity to take in a long, relaxing pranzo (lunch). The slopes become deserted for an hour or two as the Italians combine their two favourite pastimes, families and eating. Bardonecchia is no exception and the restaurants on the slopes offer a great range of traditional Italian fayre to satisfy every taste.  

If you merely want to grab a sandwich then you will need to check out the selection of panini (rolls) or piadine (Italian flatbread) which you can eat cold or toasted.  Confusingly, there are three types of ham on offer, prosciutto cotto (cooked ham), prosciutto crudo or speck (cured hams).  All are delicious, especially the combination of speck and brie.  Another favourite to watch out for is scamorza affumicata (like smoked mozzarella) which is wonderful in a toasted sandwich. 

However, your Italian ski break will not be complete unless you take the plunge and go for the multiple course lunch experience. It can be quite daunting at first to discover that most Italian restaurants do not see the need for a written menu, the waiter will simply reel off a list of the dishes of the day, but armed with a modicum of food vocabulary and a bit of perseverance you will be well rewarded. 

Start with antipasti, a range of small appetising dishes before the pasta course. The region’s most famous antipasto dish, bagna cauda (vegetables dipped fondue-style into a "hot bath" of oil, anchovies, and garlic), combines both the Piemontese passion for garlic and their love of vegetables but may prove too much of an acquired taste for the average British lunch-time palate. An alternative would be to sample a range of Italian cold meats so select affettati misti (mixed slices) for a generous platter of salami, meats and pickles which is perfect to share.

Options for the pasta course will prove more familiar with spaghetti and ravioli always on the menu. A speciality to listen out for is agnolotti, pasta stuffed with beef, pork or rabbit, flavoured with sausage, parmesan cheese, eggs and herbs.

The main course gives you the opportunity to learn to love polenta, golden-yellow Italian cornmeal made from dried, ground maize.  Just as the British incorporate mashed potato into the most wholesome meals Italians heap cinghiale (wild boar), cervo (deer), salsicce (sausages) or formaggio (cheese) onto mounds of fluffy polenta. If you’ve previously been “polenta-ed out” then opt for gnocchi (small potato dumplings) or canederli similar to gnocchi but made with stale bread which are both particularly delicious served in burro e salvia (butter and sage).

Most Italian dolci are already firm favourites on British dessert menus and so need little explanation.  One that may be less familiar is bonet a chocolate creation which bears some resemblance in consistency to a spongy crème caramel.

Complete your meal with a caffè. Unless you specify otherwise you will be brought an espresso as this is caffè normale in Italy.  Order an americano (long black), macchiato (splash of milk) or caffè latte if you prefer a more dilute caffeine fix.  If you are being strictly Italian then confine your selection of a cappuccino to breakfast time although coffee customs have relaxed somewhat in recent years and this will no longer be so frowned upon.

Now replete your only problem will be contemplating an immediate return to the slopes.  So, again, follow the Italians in seeking out a sdraio (deckchair) on the nearest sun-drenched terrazza to steal a few more minutes of la dolce vita.

Friday, 10 December 2010


Hallelujah the lifts are open! From the 4th December the season in Bardonecchia officially started and we were there to check out how the resort is shaping up this year.  It’s always great after several months of “heads down” renovation of the chalet to realise that other local businesses have been similarly employed making sure that their season also gets off to a flying start.  So our pleasure at being out on the slopes again is increased by spotting the differences everyone has been making to keep Bardonecchia at the forefront of Italian skiing and especially attractive to the family market.

In recent years much effort has been put into creating fun to suit all tastes both on and off the slopes.  Above the main ski area at Campo Smith a free “ski through” animal discovery park has sprung up with life-size realistic sculptures of an array of mountain creatures such as deer, chamois, wolves, cinghiale and, oddly, polar bears and penguins! This not only provides great photo opportunities and a pleasant fifteen minute distraction from the serious business of skiing but also encourages parents to brush up on their David Attenborough impersonations as they educate their offspring in the finer points of Alpine/Arctic/Antarctic wildlife before continuing their descent with renewed enthusiasm.

The advent of the animal trail has led the Skipass Office to come up with the enterprising idea of making the slopes more accessible to skiers and non-skiers alike by introducing evening Snowcat Safaris.  Everyday from 5.30pm onwards trips of one to three hours head up the mountain in a specially adapted, caterpillar tracked “Gatto delle Nevi”. Taking in the delights of the mountain sculptures the safari also offers the opportunity for you to experience a memorable dinner at one of several mountain restaurants before making the return journey back to Campo Smith. Our favourite is "Romanello" at Punta Colomion run by Aldo Romanello and his English wife, Rachel +39 335 5424747 where you are always assured a warm welcome and typical Piemonte food.
Prices range from 10 euros for children and 15 euros for adults for the Snowcat. Book your places in advance at the Skipass Office +39345 0351861 or alternatively contact us at Sempre Ski and we’ll help you make all the arrangements to ensure that your snowy safari experience is a roaring success.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

One Helluva Helmet Dilemma….

With great snowfall this week Bardonecchia’s gearing up early for another amazing season and so we have set about gearing ourselves up accordingly for the winter ahead.  However, this year we’re committing to a radical change as we’re taking the plunge and adding another “must-wear” item to our long list of accessories…the much maligned helmet. 

As a boarder, Graeme has been a convert for some time, to enjoy the thrills and spills of the Snowpark a helmet is compulsory for all who enter. See for excellent information on how to make your experience in the park enjoyable and safe for everyone concerned.  Yet for our day to day fun on the pistes wearing helmets is something we’ve continued to resist or ignore…. but no longer.

In recent years high profile incidents, notably that of actress Natasha Richardson (Liam Neeson's wife) whilst skiing in Canada in March 2009, have led many countries and ski areas to promote and encourage the use of helmets on the slopes.  Italy has long led the way in Europe with legislation in 2005 making them compulsory for children under the age of 14 and they should be automatically issued as part of your child’s ski hire.  For the fashion-conscious Italians to make such a commitment to a previously “uncool” item demonstrates how safety considerations and technology have combined to produce helmets which are now more functional, attractive, light and less restrictive than ever before.

Take time to choose the helmet which suits both your head and your pocket and seek the advice of a trained sales assistant in the same way that you would do if buying new boots. We paid a visit to our favourite local Ski Sport Dain, where they patiently brought out box upon box until we were all satisfied. Having decided upon the style we took time to ensure that our helmets fitted squarely with uniform pressure all around and once the chin straps were fully fastened they continued to feel snug and comfortable.  We opted for designs which have a removable liner and a rotary micro-adjuster at the back allowing us to achieve that perfect fit.  Remember to take your goggles along to try with your helmet or buy a pair with a swinging outrigger system joining the frame to the strap to ensure that they sit comfortably on your face.

The real upside in all this is that having solved our helmet dilemma we’ve also cracked the problem of Christmas Stocking fillers.  There’s a great range of novelty helmet covers to suit all personalities and (poor) tastes.  So if you are fortunate enough to be out and about on the slopes of Bardonecchia this season and spy a snowbunny and koala in happy partnership that could just be
the pair of us at Sempre Ski schoop-schooping on by.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Pre-season blues....waiting for the white blanket

It’s a strange time of year to be in a ski resort.  With no snow, skiers or vin chaud in sight the question has to be begged what do you do out of season? We’re quite fortunate as we have a 16-bed chalet to decorate which occupies most of our time, but when we need a break from the monotony of painting we’re learning to discover all the other attractions that Bardonecchia and the surrounding area have to offer.

        In Bardonecchia life carries on after all the snow has melted.  It is a working Italian town with an average population of 3000, which swells to almost double that on the weekends when the fur coats ship in from Turin for their weekly passeggiata (stroll).  Only one hour from Turin by car or 1hour 30mins by train, Bardonecchia is in a perfect location, far enough away from the hustle and bustle of a major city but close enough to take advantage of all it has to offer.  Turin is a hub of culture, shopping and to die for hot chocolate! During the winter season when the calf muscles are screaming for mercy Turin is the ideal break away.  Take a stroll through the many piazzas or stop for lunch along the river Po and admire the view.

        Alternatively, you can soak your tired and aching legs in Bardonecchia’s local swimming pool and wellness spa or just drink through the pain in one of the many on-slope bars.  A great Italian antidote to sore muscles is Bombardino, a hot drink made from Italian eggnog (Vov), brandy, whipped cream and with or without coffee depending on whether you need that extra kick.  
         With snow forecast in the next few days it feels like winter is on its way.  If snowfall is anything like it has been for the last few years then we’re in for another awesome season and our bar will be open with Bombardini at the ready!!!


Thursday, 28 October 2010

Alpine Living...

First posted on 27th October 2010

Six years ago we met and fell in love. Not just with each other but with life in the Alps, living and breathing skiing. The six months we spent in Switzerland was life-changing, a window into a different world which didn't revolve around working the 9-5. As anyone who has been bitten by the ski bug will tell you, you don't work seasons for the money (a pittance by the way!) but for the love of it. For the knowledge that even the world's worst hangover can be wiped out by the unadulterated and sheer thrill you get when your skis hit the snow, the feeling that everything, including you, is right where it belongs. This year we finally made our dream a reality by buying a chalet in Italy. After years of working for other ski companies we're gearing up for our very first season.
Our chalet is located in Bardonecchia, a little known resort to the English, just one hour from Turin. Down the road from its more famous neighbour Sauze d'Oulx, Bardo (as we affectionately call it) has all the facilities you could possibly need for a great ski holiday without the trappings of a purpose built ski resort. With ski runs catering for all abilities, a free shuttle bus service and plenty of opportunities for that après-ski glass of vin brulé, Bardonecchia ticks all the boxes.
As a host resort to the 2006 Winter Olympics, Bardonecchia boasts some impressive runs and an awesome snowpark with jumps, rails and half-pipe and with the 2011 Snowboard World Championships set to take place here, it's firmly staking its claim as a haven for snowboarders.
On a typical Monday to Friday you might find yourself skiing down a run with only you and your friends for company and the best thing is that there is virtually no queuing for the lifts and no pushy ski schools to elbow you out of the way! With snow already falling in resort it looks like this year will bring yet another record-breaking snowfall. And so as we gear up for the start of the season, keep checking back as we keep you up to date on the snow, the runs, the resort and the après-ski!

Monday, 11 October 2010

Hazyview? It's a downright blackout!

So our sojourn in the Kruger park is winding to its conclusion... just like the generator which supplies the electricity to Hazyview and today has plunged the region into electrical oblivion for the foreseeable future!  This is apparently a fairly regular occurrence so everyone's taking it in their stride. A quiet evening in with candles, red wine, chocolate and a pack of cards must be every honeymooner's dream (well, maybe not the cards....but in our defence the evenings are  long here and S**thead is a very addictive game!)

We have had a great three days of safaris and are completely "leoparded" out....Elusive? We think not! Have seen all the Big 5 now (lions, leopards, elephants, rhino and buffalo) we needn't have worried that early Spring is not meant to be the best time to safari. Perhaps Graeme is a natural game magnet or our guides really know their stuff, either way we will have many warm memories of South Africa to reflect upon to contrast with our long Alpine winter ahead.

Off to the hippo hide now to watch a bit more wallowing before evening sets in. Then back to our candlelit lodge for WC&S!

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

TGD (The Great Day) has passed

TGD was the greatest day. Graeme and I are now Mr & Mrs. If the rest of our lives have highs like last Friday then we will be blessed.  Thank you to the Yorkshire Dales and its incomparable beauty, thanks to The Devonshire Fell and wonderful staff and above all thanks to all our friends and family who shared the day with us and made it so special. Now we're heading off on honeymoon in the Kruger Park SA before returning to the reality of our life in Italy.

Enquiries and bookings are coming in thick and fast for the winter season so Sempre Ski looks set for a successful first Italian season.  We've just the final push of the Ski Show in October before heading out to put the finishing touches to Chalet Bianca and then the season can start....bring it on!