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On the other side of the Mont Blanc

Courmayeur

Courmayeur sits at the foot of the lesser known, sunny side of Mont Blanc, or Monte Bianco as Europe’s highest peak is known in Italy. But the setting is no less dramatic than that of the mountain’s French face, with spectacular glaciated crags and peaks looming over the picturesque cobbled streets of the old mountain town.
The size of the ski area is relatively modest but Courmayeur’s setting is so magnificent that even if you got bored with the skiing you could never get bored with the views, and there’s some fantastic off-piste action and heliskiing to be enjoyed on the slopes of Monte Bianco.
Courmayeur’s mountain restaurants are also very good as are those in the town, and since the resort’s lift pass covers the other ski resorts in the Aosta Valley you also have the option of day trips to the likes of La Thuile and Pila.
The resort
Courmayeur allows skiers of all abilities to enjoy skiing in one of the most spectacular settings in the Alps, and despite having only 100km of pistes they’re varied and interesting.
Off the slopes one of the town’s great attractions is its mountain heritage – there’s even an alpine museum here. The traffic-free town centre is lovely, especially when lit up and busy in the evening with people wandering along the main strip of the Via Roma and browsing the shops, bars and restaurants.
You can’t ski in or out of Courmayeur unfortunately, but there are bus services and hotel shuttles from the base of the lifts for the short journey into town, and ski gear can be left in lockers either at the base or on the mountain.
Ph. Funivie
The skiing
In terms of piste skiing Courmayeur is likely to appeal mainly to intermediates who will enjoy the interesting selection of often quite challenging red runs; options for beginners are quite limited, with the best place to start out being the top of the Entrèves cable car – unfortunately though there are relatively few easy pistes to graduate to once you’ve mastered the basics.

The ski area is laid out into two distinct zones – the Checrouit area, which catches the morning sun and is accessed from the Checrouit gondola, and the north-west facing Val Veny area, which is usually best skied in the afternoon when it is in the sun.
Ph. Archivio Courmayeur
Checrouit has a nice array of wide, open mainly red runs and is also dotted with good mountain restaurants for when you need a break. The highest accessible point for piste skiing is 2624-metre Cresta Youla – from here a series of reds and blues will take you almost 1400-metres all the way back down to the Dolonne car park just above Courmayeur.

The Val Veny area can be easily accessed from Checrouit too, or by cable car directly from Val Veny just to the north of town. Here you’ll find steeper, more challenging terrain with some great black runs such as Black 23 and Pista dell Orso mixed in amongst the reds. These take you through trees and provide marvellous views of the Monte Bianco massif.
Ph. Archivio Courmayeur
More advanced skiers shouldn’t turn their nose up at what’s on offer however, for once you’ve had enough of piste skiing there are some fine freeride options from the top of Cresta d’Arp, which at 2755 metres is reached via cable car from Cresta Youla; and, of course, there’s spectacular freeride terrain of Monte Bianco – which it goes without saying you should only tackle with a guide.

This can be reached from La Palud, a few kilometres outside town, where the Funivie Monte Bianco takes you up to 3462-metre Punta Hellbronner from where you can ski the famous Vallée Blanche down into Chamonix on the north side of the mountain. There’s a bus service back to Courmayeur at the end of your adventure.
Ph. Alessandro Belluscio
And if money is no object there’s also the option of heliskiing from the helicopter base at Val Veny, with the main areas being the glaciers on the flanks of Monte Bianco and the north facing slopes of the Fortin area of the mountain.
Off the slopes
Courmayeur always seems to have a large proportion of well-heeled non-skiing visitors – watching them strutting along the Via Roma in their furs and jewels is always good for an hour or two of amusement with a drink in hand, and you can also enjoy browsing the expensive boutiques which attract them.
A visit to the nearby ancient Roman city of Aosta is well worthwhile too, as are the thermal baths at Pre-St-Didier five kms away.
If you have non-skiers in your party they can still enjoy the magnificent mountain scenery as pedestrians are allowed to use the cable cars to Plan Checrouit and its various restaurants, as well as the lift to Punta Helbronner.
Ph. Alessandro Belluscio
EATING OUT
There’s a good choice of both mountain and resort restaurants in Courmayeur. Recommendations on the mountain include the rustic, friendly Chateau Branlant at Plan Checrout– try the scrumptious polenta with grilled Fontina cheese, a mouth-watering regional speciality that costs just €9.50. There’s also a very varied menu at the small but welcoming Chiecco also at Plan Checrouit. In town you’ll find great pizzas at the Pizzeria du Tunnel on Via Circonvallazione, whilst more upmarket dining is available at Mont Fréty on Strada Regionale.

NIGHTLIFE
Courmayeur’s nightlife is quite lively, particularly in the early evening along the picturesque pedestrianized and cobbled Via Roma, but it couldn’t be described as a party town. A popular option is Bar Roma on Via Roma, partly on account of their free buffet but also thanks to great sofas to loll about in and great cocktails (not free!) to enjoy with your buffet. Bar Americano on the same street also has a free buffet and good cocktail selection and stays open to well after midnight.
Also open until the early hours is the Covo di Courmayeur nightclub in Entrèves which has a very contemporary feel and where you can also dine. The club has a free shuttle bus to get guests back to their hotels.
Where to stay, facts and figures...
MediaHols.com publishes rentals to suit all pockets in Courmayeur, pick yours!
If a hotel is more what you are looking for, at the top end the five-star Royal e Golf is well positioned in the centre of the resort and has good facilities including a pool and sauna. The friendly, traditional Auberge de la Maison in Entrèves is a perennial favourite with visitors and offers rustic surroundings, warm cosy rooms and a good restaurant. For budget travellers and those wanting to get first tracks the one-star Hotel Christiania beside the cable car at Plan Checrouit is a great option. The rooms are simple but adequate and there’s also a restaurant in the hotel.
Ph. Eleonora Greco
Nearest airports: Geneva (1.5 hrs), Turin (2 hrs)
Nearest train station: Pré-St-Didier (5km)
Road: Courmayeur is just off the A5 at the southern end of the Mont Blanc Tunnel.

Resort elevation: 1224 metres
Top elevation: 2755 metres
Base elevation 1210 metres
Number of lifts: 18
Total runs: 100km
Snowmaking: 70%
Check our Courmayeur guide or broaden your insight to the Aosta Valley ski resorts.
Ph. Funivie
Text and pictures provided by Alf Alderson
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