Courmayeur is a stylish and fashionable ski resort on the Italian side of Mont Blanc. The village oozes charm, with old churches, cobbled streets, incredible restaurants and spectacular views. Being located only just over an hour’s drive from Geneva Airport, however, it’s limited network of pistes make it really only viable as a short break destination. Mile hungry carvers will certainly want more after two or three days.
If you do plan to be in the region for a week or longer, we would recommend checking out La Thuile (only 20 minutes away by ski bus) as well as Chamonix (30 mins) and Pila (40 mins) (the latter two require you to have a car/ private transport to get there as there are no direct ski buses).
Whilst the small number of pistes offer wonderful skiing, Courmayeur is all about its powder and off piste, which is always best (and safest) when accompanied by a guide.
The most famous off piste run, arguably, in the world, is the 24km long Vallée Blanche which goes all the way from Courmayeur to Chamonix. This is accessed from an entirely different part of the mountain, Punta Helbronner (3,466m) which is reached via the new Skyway lift near Entreves.
As well as the Vallee Blanche, and again, with a guide, there are some epic 2,000m descents on both the French and Italian sides, including crossing the renowned Toula Glacier. The long itineraries heading off to Zerotta, Dolonne, Pre St Didier and even La Thuile from the top of the main skiing area at Cresta d’Arp at 2755m are also fantastic in good conditions.
You don’t however need to be an expert skier to enjoy Courmayeur – skiing is only part of the experience. The resort is scattered with gorgeous mountain restaurants and cafes and bars and the resort certainly generates a buzz after skiing and on weekends. There is also some fairly serious shopping on offer for those looking for some retail therapy.
December – April
Grand Hotel Royal e Golf, CourmayeurFacilitiesSleep CapacityThis...
Hotel Pavillon, CourmayeurFacilitiesSleep CapacityThis...
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Grand Hotel, CourmayeurFacilitiesSleep CapacityThis accomodation...
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Hotel Cresta et Duc, CourmayeurFacilitiesSleep...
Courmayeur has nursery slopes up the mountain at Plan Chécrouit and Pre de Pascal (above Entrèves). The two main ski schools are Italian, with most instructors speaking reasonable English. However, with few obvious confidence-building runs to progress to, this is not a resort where the skiing lends itself to beginners.
Most of Courmayeur’s piste network is of at least an intermediate standard. The more cautious intermediates will enjoy the gentle blues through the trees on the Val Veny side of the area, as well as the open runs below the high Bertolini chair. Stronger intermediates will relish the reds and the easy-ish blacks. Runs on the Val Veny side generally offer the greater challenge. For an exhilarating descent, check out the run from Cresta Youla all the way down to Dolonne – it drops 1400m vertically and is thigh burningly long.
There are four short black runs on the Val Veny side of the mountain, which are sometimes mogulled. These should not pose too much of a challenge to experts but are certainly worth skiing/boarding. However, experts will most likely not be on the piste as the real appeal lies off-piste. There are numerous routes, both in and around the main ski area and on the shoulder of Mont Blanc. Some of the most classic off-piste routes start at Cresta d’Arp and descend around 1500m to the valley floor.
Freeriding here is pretty damn good, with some great terrain. If it’s powder and off-piste riding you want, then Courmayeur is not the mega outlet like its close French neighbour (Chamonix), but there is some fantastic pow to be found from the top of Cresta D’Arp. The pistes are good places to learn but can get busy on weekends and can be quite steep.
The local scenery is simply stunning with spectacular mountain peaks and pleasant wooded valleys. The Courmayeur ski area offers a good range of pisted runs, easily accessible off-piste itineraries, heli-skiing, fabulous cross-country ski routes, pleasant walking and a wide range of sporting and other leisure activities.
Cross-Country Skiing in Courmayeur
The cross country skiing is found in the Val Ferret, which is easily accessible by bus from central Courmayeur. The trails are easy to follow and well groomed, and the scenery is outstanding. Equipment can be hired and lessons booked, close to the entrance to the pistes.
Ice Skating in Courmayeur
There is a large ice skating rink in the sports centre in Dolonne.
The Monte Bianco Cable Cars
On a clear day it is well worth taking the three stage ride in the cable car from La Palud up to Punta Helbronner (3,462m). The views of the mountains and surrounding area from the top are quite breathtaking. Europe’s highest botanic garden is to be found part of the way up, but needless to say there is not much to see during the winter months!
Shopping in Courmayeur
Shopping comes high on the list of non-skiing activities in Courmayeur. Shops are varied and interesting with plenty of high quality clothing, sportswear and equipment shops alongside more traditional antique shops, jewellers, galleries, delicatessen and other specialist food stores.
Swimming, Sauna & Spa Facilities in Courmayeur
Many of the hotels have saunas and spa areas that are open to the paying public, one of the best being the spa at Le Grand Chalet Apartments. The Hotel Gran Baita also has a small swimming pool which is open to the public.
There is a large public swimming pool in neighbouring Pre San Didier and the thermal baths in Pre St Didier offer a wide range of indoor and outdoor spa pools and treatments in superb surroundings, with views towards Mont Blanc. Hotels will arrange for transportation.
Unfortunately the local nursery slopes in Kitzbühel are slightly limited and despite the best snowmaking efforts, the snow quality can suffer. There are similar areas in all of the villages in the valley but the same issue persists. Higher up however there is a decent gentle zone on the Kitzbüheler Horn, where there is also good progression on to longer blues. Elsewhere, Pengelstein is probably the best bet for gentle blues within the main ski area.
There’s a huge array of runs for intermediates in the resort, but some of the
slopes can get crowded – especially on the Hahnenkamm. Despite the modest
altitude, you can notch up some serious vertical on the Pengelstein sector by
skiing down to Skirast and also on the Kitzbüheler Horn. Take the 3S across
towards Pass Thurn for the quietest slopes, including the highest piste in the
resort at the aptly named Zweitausender.
View the live snow report for Courmayeur here
Children’s Play Areas
The fun park in Dolonne offers a playground and other facilities for children, including a bouncy castle. Snow tubing and tobogganing are also available!Many Italian resorts don’t offer childcare for very small children, as traditionally in Italy, non-skiing family members often travel their skier family member.
However in Courmayeur, help is at hand – is one of the exceptions to the rule. Kinderheim (+39 0165 842477) at Plan Checrouit cares for children from newborn up to 12 years of age, with an alternative pick-up and drop-off point at the foot of the cable-car.
Both the ski schools in Courmayeur give lessons to children from four years old.
Grand Hotel Royal e Golf
Hotel Cresta et Duc
From Italy: Courmayeur can be easily reached from the principal roads and motorways; take the SS 26 road through the Valle d’Aosta or the A5 Torino-Aosta-Courmayeur motorway (the motorway exit is just a few hundred metres from the town)
If you’re arriving from France, Switzerland or northern Europe, you are advised to take the Mont Blanc Tunnel or the Great St. Bernard Tunnel. In summer, the Great St. Bernard and Little St. Bernard mountain passes are also open.The nearest airports are Turin Caselle(1h), Milan Malpensa/Linate(2h30) and Geneva international (1h)
The towns and villages of Courmayeur are served by a public bus company, which also runs connecting services in the Mont Blanc valley and to Aosta, Chamonix and the main towns and cities of northern Italy.