Bardonecchia is not only a small fashionable mountain town or a popular all-year-round holiday destination, but also rated in the top ten of Italy’s resorts. Skiers have been flocking to these slopes for many years, bringing with them all the razzle dazzle of the Italian ski world, indeed one of Italy’s past Kings was said to be a regular visitor to this part of the Susa Valley.
In 2006, Bardonecchia played host to all the snowboarding events during the Turin Winter Olympics, so its a great opportunity to try out that crazy boardercross course they built.
As a town, this place has been around since the time of the Romans and although a lot of what you find here is old, clapped-out and in need of immediate repair, the place can still cut the mustard with a well set-out series of mountain slopes that are connected by some twenty-nine lifts.
The 140 kilometres of marked pistes cover a series of mountain faces that are split either side of the valley floor, and take in the hamlets of Campo Smith, Melezet and Jafferau. The main runs on the slopes of Bardonecchia will suit all levels, but overall are best for intermediates. Campo Smith and Melezet are pretty evenly split between beginners and intermediates, although one thing that is common with all areas are the constant lift queues, which at weekends and over holidays can be stupidly long.
Bardonecchia is an Italian border town on the French border, in the Susa Valley of the Piedmonte region. On the Italian side of the Frejus Tunnel, Bardonecchia has grown from a typical mountain town into a cosmopolitan ski and summer holiday resort where visitors can still wander along ancient cobbled streets and enjoy the weekly market that’s been going on since medieval times. The Piedmont Valley is steeped in history and tradition, in the Middle Ages the main travellers in this area were pilgrims, soldiers, wine merchants, cattle dealers and artists en route to western Europe. Frescoes painted by travelling artists from the 15th and 16th century are well preserved in the chapels around the area – some of which can only be reached on skis in the winter. The nearby Mont Cenis Alpine Pass 2082m/6831ft was one of the great invasion routes and it was Napoleon’s troops who built the first road through the Pass in 1810. When the Frejus Tunnel was built in 1871 it was the first rock tunnel of its kind, pioneering many techniques and representing a landmark in engineering. At 13km/8 miles it is still one of the world’s longest railroad tunnels. Italy’s skiing originated in Piedmont which translates as “foot of the mountain”, and Bardonecchia was one of the country’s first ski resorts. Established in 1934, it was two Norwegian brothers, the Smiths who came here and built there first ski jump at Campo Smith (Smith’s Field) which explains how the area got its name. The area is spread over three areas; Campo Smith, Melezet and Jafferau together providing 140km of pistes. Campo Smith, in the middle is considered the main area and is fully lift linked to neighbouring Melezet. Jafferau is a five minute bus ride away and a free bus pass is provided with the lift ticket. Rated in the top ten Italian ski resorts, it is included in the Turin ski area which will be hosting the 2006 Winter Olympics.
Situated at the Italian entrance to the Frejus tunnel, this was one of the early popular Italian destinations (visitors included the last Italian king, Umberto). It is now enjoying a renaissance and hosted snowboarding events at the 2006 Winter Olympics. The rail link is also a major attraction for environmentally-conscious skiers. There are two bus-linked main ski areas – below Mt Jafferau (2807m) and a second area accessed from outside the town.
Skiing in Italy originated in the Piedmont region and Bardonecchia was one of the country’s first ski areas. It now rates as one of the top ten Italian resorts with an excellent snow record, most of its slopes are north/north-west facing so the snow tends to last longer (south-facing slopes get more sun).The skiing is spread over 3 areas – Melezet, Jafferau and Campo Smith, the main area where the base facilities are located. The resort itself is at 1312m with the skiing extending up to 2800m at the top of Jafferau and a total of 100km (63 miles) of pistes, the majority of which are intermediate.The main beginner slopes are on the lower slopes of Campo Smith and Melezet which are fully lift linked. Snow cannons ensure good snow cover both at the beginning and end of the season. These areas have a good variety of terrain ranging from wide open clearings to treelined forest trails and cruisers will find plenty to enjoy on the long, wide motorway runs. The Jafferau area is also included on the lift pass, its skiing is varied with a good mix of terrain ideally suited to those who enjoy cruising with some great open motorway runs.
For freestylers the Olympic Park at Melezet has plenty of challenges to enjoy.
There is a free skier bus service around the area which takes around five minutes from Campo Smith to Jafferau where the pistes are slightly more difficult. It has a treeless bowl with bumps and good off-piste as well as wide trails and narrower runs through the trees.