Courmayeur Travel Guide
Italy, the best of both worlds © PhotoLab XL
Located below Mont Blanc on the Italian side of the mountain in the Aosta Valley, the atmospheric holiday destination of Courmayeur is full of character with grand old buildings, narrow cobbled streets and plenty of traditional Italian village charm. The scenery is also spectacular with views towards Mont Blanc, and the resort is surrounded by fourteen mountain peaks at the junction of Italy, France and Switzerland. The village was once known as a spa town and base for climbing, but became recognised as a ski resort with the opening of the Mont Blanc Tunnel to provide easy access from Chamonix and Geneva International Airport.
By European standards the ski area in Courmayeur is small, with 63 miles (100km) of its own pistes and short but numerous runs that cater to mainly intermediate and beginner skiers and snowboarders. However, access is provided to the other resorts in the Aosta Valley, with a combined area of almost 497 miles (800km) of runs and 32 miles (51km) of cross-country trails available. Chamonix is just across the border and is lift-linked to one of the resort's ski areas, offering a wide range of skiing options and off-piste routes on both sides of the border.
Courmayeur offers skiing and boarding for all standards, but the groomed slopes are best suited for intermediates, while advanced skiers will find plenty of off-piste opportunities and high mountain ski areas. There are two main ski areas at Courmayeur. Checrouit-Val Veny, directly above the resort, is mostly suited to intermediates and beginners, although the nursery slopes lower down are limited and can be crowded. Absolute beginners can also ski at Dolonne in the village. The most famous run is the 13-mile (20km) descent of the Vallée Blanche from Helbronner Point at 11,053ft (3,369m) down to Chamonix, which is daunting and demanding, but can be undertaken by intermediate skiers and snowboarders. The skiing from Cresta Youla at 8,700ft (2,652m) is excellent, but higher up at Cresta Arp the terrain is for experts only and should be undertaken with a guide. The second ski area is Mont Blanc and is for advanced skiers and boarders; a guide should accompany skiers on the high mountain terrain and the glacier. Snow is reliable and there are widespread snowmaking facilities.
Many stylish little shops and speciality shops make shopping an elegant Italian experience for holidaymakers in Courmayeur and there are a variety of authentic Italian souvenirs and ski goods to choose from.
Like most Italian ski resorts, evenings begin with the passeggiata, a stroll down the main street before a late dinner that typically lasts late into the night. The holiday destination of Courmayeur has numerous restaurants, cafes, pizzerias and trattorias to suit all tastes and budgets, and eating out is almost as popular as time spent on the slopes. Most establishments are fairly informal and relaxed, but there are upmaket fine-dining options for more romantic and exclusive dining.
Visitors on holiday will find that the après-ski in Courmayeur is a drawn out, rather laid back affair with fire-warmed bars spilling out onto the main street. The bars are numerous, including cozy traditional pubs, lively bars with dance floors and theme nights, and stylish venues for the more fashion-forward.
There is plenty of winter and summer action to be had while on holiday in Courmayeur, but also plenty for those seeking some inactivity in beautiful surroundings, such as extensive lunches, cable car rides or soaking up the sun at high altitude swimming pools. Besides the skiing and snowboarding in winter, there is also cross-country skiing, heli-skiing and heli-boarding, snowshoeing, dog-sledding, snow biking, ice skating, paragliding and curling. A sports centre has tennis and squash courts, a fitness club and climbing wall. In summer there is hiking, parachuting, mountain biking and trout fishing available.
On weekends the waiting time for lifts can be long.