There is so much to love about Courmayeur in Northern Italy. Whether it’s the delicious Italian food, the sunny ski area, the challenging off-piste, the charming old town or the jaw-dropping scenery, it’s hard to visit Courmayeur only once.
- The awe-inspiring views of the Mont Blanc massif
- A freeskier’s hidden gem
- Exceptional food on and off the mountain
- Wandering the gorgeous cobble-stone, car-free village streets
- The ride up the new Skyway Mont Blanc cable car is worth it, even if you take it return and don’t ski down. Better yet, get a guide and ski down the 24km Vallee Blanche run to Chamonix.
- The village is quite separate from the ski area. We would recommend having your own car.
- With only 41km of ski runs the ski area is quite small. Beginner areas are fairly limited.
- Skiing the glaciers from the Skyway is only recommended for advanced and expert skiers with a guide.
- Head to Bar Roma on the main street for après. The enormous antipasti spread is a feast (and free!).
Steeped in history, Courmayeur sits at the head of the Aosta Valley at the foot of the Mont Blanc massif. Compared to other resorts, where you admire spectacular mountains from a distance, at Courmayeur you feel like you really are in the mountains. From the ski area you can see fourteen 4000m-plus peaks.
Courmayeur is a selection of hamlets dotted throughout the valley, with one main historic central village. Cobble-stone, pedestrian friendly streets are lined with old buildings featuring endless bars and restaurants as well as high-end boutiques interspersed with mountain gear stores.
Which brings us to who Courmayeur is for, because it really is best suited to only two groups of skiers.
First and foremost, Courmayeur is popular with advanced and expert skiers who love to challenge themselves on the incredible off-piste terrain. In the past it has been host to the Freeride World Tour and is the only destination in the Mont Blanc area where you can heli-ski. Take the new Skyway cable car to whiz you to the base of Mount Blanc and from there you can choose several routes down over glaciers – over into France or back down into the Aosta Valley.
Secondly, it perfectly suits those seeking a charming and luxurious Italian mountain getaway with a bit of cruisy piste skiing on the side. There are some wonderful four-star and five-star hotels throughout the valley, excellent spas, boutique shopping and an endless number of fantastic restaurants – from mountain huts with sunny terraces to swanky restaurants in town.
If you fall into one of these groups (or both!), you’re going to love Courmayeur. If you don’t, unfortunately we’d be hesitant to recommend it.
This is not a criticism of the resort – it is simply a side effect of its small size and layout. The piste area (41km of on-piste runs) just isn’t big enough to make it a ski resort to enjoy for much more than a couple of days. There also isn’t a ton of beginner and lower intermediate terrain, and when combined with its awkward disconnect with the main village (making it tricky to get around), it is a less than an ideal destination for families.
Fortunately for Scout, we fall into both categories and simply can’t wait to get back!
Courmayeur as a ski destination is best described in two parts – the resort and the off-piste.
Courmayeur Ski Resort
Sitting across the valley from the main village, the Courmayeur ski area is divided into two sections, the Checrouit side (which connects to the village by a gondola) and the Val Veny side. It’s quite convenient the way it’s laid out because you can essentially enjoy the sun in the Checrouit side in the morning and then follow it over to the Val Veny side in the afternoon. The resort is characterized by long, fairly wide red runs that are perfect for strong intermediate skiers who love to cruise. The Val Veny side has more trees and great views of Mont Blanc. Various improvements over the years have created a solid network of fast lifts and, of course, there are terrain park features and an air bag for practising your jumps.
In the past few years Courmayeur has become famous in particular for its excellent freeriding (extreme off-piste). Not only was it a stop on the Freeride World Tour, but it has featured in several movies and in ski magazines. There are various ways to enjoy all that Courmayeur has to offer for expert skiers. Firstly, there is a small amount of fun and somewhat challenging tree skiing within the resort. But head to the tiny gondola at Col Checrouit to get to the top of the resort at Cresta d’Arp (2755m) and from there you can explore some fantastic runs, either in a long loop back down to the resort area where you can pick up the chair at Zerotta or over the other side into La Thuile. You need to know where you are going so make sure you have a guide and the necessary safety equipment. The second off-piste zone is at the northern end of the valley and is accessed by the new Skyway Mont Blanc – an engineering marvel that opened in 2015 and whizzes skiers and sightseers up 2092m in a rotating cable car. When you arrive at the top station, Punta Helbronner (3462m), you feel just steps from Mont Blanc – the roof of Europe standing at 4810m. Expert skiers can set off with all the necessary safety gear (including the most important piece of equipment – a guide) and head north to the Vallee Blanche, ending up in Chamonix, France, or take the other routes back down into the Aosta Valley, ending up back at the start of the Skyway. The third, slightly more expensive way to access the off-piste, is heli-skiing. We can only imagine how good that would be.
After reading our description of the types of people suited to Courmayeur you will understand that it wouldn’t necessarily be our first recommendation for families. Unless, of course, you fall into one of the two categories as a family.
Courmayeur has a great mix of accommodation options. There are two five-star hotels – each quite distinct in its character. Then there’s a great range of three-star and four-star hotels and lodges. From small, family-run lodges to larger boutique-style hotels, there’s definitely one to suit every taste and budget. Most are within walking distance of the pedestrian village, though few are within easy walking distance of the cable car that connects with the ski resort. There are also others scattered in the hamlets around Courmayeur, with several in the little village of Entreves. For ease of access to the ski resort we recommend having your own wheels or choosing a hotel that has a shuttle to the ski area.Search Hotels and Deals Get your
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Spas, shopping, drinking and eating are the best activities to do in Courmayeur, (apart from skiing!). The pedestrian village is lined with boutiques selling everything from €5000 cashmere coats and antiques to crampons and touring skis. The nearby Pre Saint Didier thermal spa is a must-visit. Located a few kilometres from the village, it has a variety of thermal spas (including mud baths) set in a historic building.
Of course there’s a variety of other activities in Courmayeur (showshoeing, cross-country skiing, indoor climbing, museums and more), but after all the skiing, soaking, drinking, eating and shopping you’ll do it’s unlikely you’ll have any time left for anything else.
Courmayeur is 1 hr 20 min from Geneva Airport (via the Mont Blanc Tunnel) and 1 hr 40 mins from Turin. Each of these airports has connecting coach services to Courmayeur. The nearest train station is at Pre Saint Didier (5km) which is connected by a bus service.
To get around Courmayeur you will mostly be on foot (around the village) or car. There is a public ski bus service that connects the village and hamlets with the ski area and it is free with a multiple day lift ticket.
The ski area opens at the end of November and operates until mid-April.
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