Courmayeur ski resort
Courmayeur ski resort, an enchanting little mountain town of cobbled piazzas and slate roofs, offers skiing with a dash of ‘real’ Italy, as well as sensational views over the Mont Blanc massif – or Monte Bianco as it’s known on this Italian side of Western Europe’s highest mountain.
There are stylish Italian fashion boutiques, delicatessens hung with salamis and local cheese, fragrant cafés frothing with cappuccinos, and more bars and restaurants in Courmayeur than most people would believe. Between skiing and dinner, fur and Gucci-clad Milanese parade in a nightly passeggiata along pedestrianised Via Roma.
The skiing in Courmayeur is further from the centre of town than in many resorts. Buses link Courmayeur town to the cable car at Entrèves and to the gondola at Dolonne; while the giant 130-person cable car that swings from the edge of town up to Plan Checrouit is also some distance from the resort’s heart.
With plenty of sweeping blue runs, the resort is ideally suited to beginners and intermediates, however, unless ready to venture off-piste, advanced skiers may find the limited slopes unadventurous, and would perhaps be better suited to the cross-border resort of Chamonix.
Courmayeur is at the head of the Aosta Valley in the Italian Alps. It is in the lee of the 4,810m-tall (15,780ft) Mont Blanc (the highest mountain in Western Europe), and is the first village on the Italian side of the Mont Blanc tunnel.
On the slopes
Courmayeur’s skiing is contained within the Col Checrouit and Val Veny valleys and is not extensive; though there are enough red and blue runs to keep an intermediate entertained for a long weekend.
The slopes above Val Veny face north, and keep their snow well – thanks in part to snowmaking facilities throughout the pisted area. The Col Cecrouit slopes face eastwards, however, and can often be left wanting compared to the neighbouring valley. The season in the resort as a whole usually runs from mid-December until mid-April.
The few black runs and mogul fields are short, but the lure for experts is the off-piste skiing reached by cable car, including the Vallée Blanche – the world’s longest lift-served off-piste ski run. A remarkable new €110m (£80m) cable car system was opened in 2015, making transport around the slopes even more efficient and comfortable.
Beginner skiers have a few areas in which to learn, including Plan Checrouit and Pre de Pascal, but once the basics have been mastered there is limited terrain to test these acquired skills.
Freestyle skiers and boarders, meanwhile, are attracted to the 500m (1,640ft) boardercross run near the top of the Plan de la Gabba chairlift. In addition, a terrain park in the heart of the ski area features a wide variety of jumps and rails for all ability levels.
For more sedate skiing, there are 35km (22 miles) of gentle cross-country trails along the Aosta Valley floor.