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Bardonecchia is a traditional border town in the sunny Susa Valley of Italy's Piedmont region. Near to the French border, on the Italian side of the Frejus Tunnel, Bardonecchia has grown from a typical mountain town into a cosmopolitan 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.

Mountain

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.

Families

There are currently no comprehensive childcare facilities in Bardonecchia, however children from the age of five have special classes in the local ski school.

Eating Out

Bardonecchia has a wealth of mountain restaurants, an important priority in Italy. Long lunches are almost too tempting to resist especially when you add a high balcony with stunning views. Bardonecchia has been an important mountain town since Roman times so has a colourful history and loads of character. There is an old quarter with cobbled streets, ancient church, and lots of cafes including one of Italy's most famous creperies.

Apres

Excellent choice of restaurants serving delicious pasta dishes and local specialities. Nightlife in the local bars is friendly and relaxed becoming more lively at the weekends.

Boarding

There's plenty of long, wide cruising runs on Colomion and Melezet while if you're into steeps and bumps then Jafferau is the area to head for. A new 130m long Olympic Pipe opened for the 2006 Turin Olympics. The Olympic Snowpark has 14 rails, a box, 12 jumps and two boardercross courses. There's also a beginners area with kicker, big air and DJ music.

// HIGHLIGHTS //
Vertical drop
1377m
Ski area
100
Resort height
1300m
Airport
Turin
Train station
Bardonecchia
beginner
40%
intermediate
50%
expert
10%