Courmayeur ski resort is one of Europe's great Alpine resorts, set in the impressively scenic upper end of north-west Italy's historic Aosta Valley, and centred on a charming old village full of character, with a local ski area best suited to leisurely intermediates.
Nestled at the foot of Monte Bianco (Mont Blanc), Courmayeur is a traditional Italian resort with bags of character, and surrounded by spectacular mountain scenery. The centre of the village is car-free with plenty of shops, restaurants and bars, and a lively après-ski scene. Like Chamonix, on the French side of Mont Blanc, Courmayeur is so much more than simply a ski resort - it's one of Europe's classic mountain towns, and receives many more visitors who are there for the sightseeing, the hiking and the mountaineering than it ever does skiers and snowboarders.
There is a compact local ski area, accessible by cable car directly from town and fine for leisurely intermediates, but the main attraction for more serious snowsports enthusiasts is the lift-served access to the epic off-piste terrain in the surrounding Mont Blanc group of the Graian Alps.
Courmayeur is also an excellent base for keen intermediates on self-drive holidays: all of the ski resorts of the Aosta Valley are within easy reach from the UK by car, because one of the main arteries connecting France to Italy runs right under Mont Blanc. For this reason, it's also easy to hop in a rental car and ride for a day or two in Chamonix if you visit, too.
Courmayeur - Ski Map & Pistes:
Courmayeur's compact local Checrouit-Val Veny ski area of 100km is draped over a long ridge behind the handsomely rugged crag of Mont Chetif immediately to the west of the town, and is directly accessible by cable car from the south-central quarter of Courmayeur, or by gondola from the adjacent village suburb of Dolonne. Both lift terminals are served by a regular ski-bus service, plus many of the local hotels operate shuttle-bus services for their guests.
Additional access to the slopes is provided by a cable car based at Entreves, just a short drive away near the southern mouth of the Mont Blanc Tunnel.
Most of the runs are on straightforward open terrain above the tree line in the Checrouit sector, linked with the north-west facing forested slopes of the steeper Val Veny sector that offers spectacular views of Monte Bianco (Mont Blanc) and its glaciers. There are no home-run pistes to Courmayeur itself, but there is a good long red run down to the gondola base station at Dolonne.
There are beginners' areas at the top of the main access lifts in both sectors, plus one at valley level in Dolonne. Novices can progress out into both sectors, but the majority of the slopes are best suited to intermediates.
Courmayeur - Off-Piste, Backcountry & Ski Touring:
The prime attraction for advanced visitors here is the opportunity to explore some of Europe's finest off-piste routes in the surrounding valley. Both the lift access and the tour accessed terrain here is incredible, and unlike in Chamonix, because you're on the Italian side of the border, heliskiing is also an option. That said, unless you've got enough moolah to spend every day of your trip in a heli, we'd recommend grabbing the Mont Blanc Unlimited lift pass. This allows you to head over to the French side whenever you need, so you can rip a few turns in Chamonix and Argentiere too.
The biggest draw on the Courmayeur side lies at the hamlet of La Palud near Entreves: a cable car rises from here to the Punta Helbronner, giving access to some serious big-mountain off-piste terrain, including the famous Vallée Blanche descent to Chamonix. With the opening of the Skyway Monte Bianco cable car, the link to Chamonix is not only quicker but also pretty spectacular.
Needless to say, all off-piste routes should only be tackled accompanied by a qualified local guide - much of the terrain here is glacial, and littered with crevasses.
Courmayeur - Restaurants, Bars & The Town:
Courmayeur is a popular weekend retreat for the well-heeled of Geneva, Turin and Milan, and it caters for its upmarket visitors very well: the partly pedestrianised town centre has many smart shops, stylish café-bars, and quality restaurants. Overall, the town has a lovely civilised ambiance, especially on mild weekend evenings when locals and visitors alike come out to stroll along the Via Roma and its surrounding streets. The quieter older quarters of Dolonne are particularly charming, with narrow cobbled streets and ancient traditional buildings.
Dolonne is also the location of Courmayeur's modern multi-sports leisure centre, which has a fitness suite, indoor climbing walls, squash and tennis courts, golf training facilities, plus ice skating and curling rinks. Other attractions nearby include the fabulous thermal spa at Pre-Saint-Didier.
Après ski in Courmayeur is also very civilised and again focused on the central quarters of the town, where some of the café-bars and lounge-bars offer proper Italian aperitivi - complimentary canapés with drinks. The Caffe della Posta is among our favourites.
Later on, the nightlife continues is similarly civilised, although there are a few 'livelier' late-opening venues featuring live music, plus a couple of nightclubs that are busiest at the weekends - the trendy Shatush club out at nearby Entreves is arguably the best local late-night venue, and provides a courtesy bus to and from Courmayeur.
Courmayeur - Ski Hire: