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Courmayeur: passage to Italy

18th February 2011, by Chris Gill

Courmayeur's attractive centre is the place to promenade Italian style

Courmayeur's attractive centre is the place to promenade Italian style

Mont Blanc unites them, yet Courmayeur differs in character from Chamonix. Less rugged and hardcore than its French neighbour, there is a refreshingly civilised and chic atmosphere to this pretty mountaineering village and its largely intermediate ski area.

Italians flock here on sunny weekends to see and be seen, as fond of the food as much as skiing. The resort is affectionately stylish with big scenery, a reliable snow record and fine mountain restaurants. Lower prices combined with plentiful hotels make it one of the best ski resorts for a short visit. Over 200 London business men and women agree, arriving every March for the City Ski Championships Weekend* – friendly racing, partying and networking away from the office.

Getting there

Whether you choose to fly into Geneva or Turin, the transfer time is similar: about two hours. Arriving via Turin means you can avoid the Mont Blanc tunnel and its fee, as well as enjoy a scenic approach along the Aosta Valley. Hiring a car is best, but Terravision (www.terravision.eu) runs regular daily shuttles from Turin airport for 120 euro one-way (minimum of two people travelling together).

Staying there

Downtown Courmayeur is the place to soak up the atmosphere among smart shops, cosy bars and ample hotels geared up to short stay visitors; but it’s a walk to the cable car. Alternatively, you could stay closer to the lifts out of Dolonne or Entrèves.

Momentum Ski (www.momentumski.com) is a Courmayeur specialist with over 20 years experience and can fix excellent short stays from a choice of 20+ hotels. Cresta et Duc is a good-value 4-star near the cable car, for example.

Ski Solutions (www.skisolutions.com) offers the Centrale B&B from £495 for four nights in town and the Pilier d’Angle at Entrèves – a rustic and characterful old mountain chalet with a new spa and lounge bar. Four nights, with four-course dinners starts at £565pp.

Alpine Weekends (www.alpineweekends.com), White Roc (www.whiteroc.co.uk) and Ski Weekends (www.skiweekends.com) are alternative operators with package trips. Flexiski (www.flexiski.com) arranges breaks in four hotels on request, such as the recently renovated three-star Maison Saint Jean – a small and homely property with a modern wellness centre and pool. Or the elegant 4-star Villa Novecento.

Skiing there

Intermediates not fussed about extent will find enough variety and vertical to occupy a few days. On sunny days, ski the Checrouit slopes in the mornings and Val Veny after lunch. The long descent from Cresta Youla to the valley is a fabulous 1400m not to be missed, while Val Veny provides steeper lines towards the trees. Experts might hope to catch the top Cresta d’Arp cable car open for off-piste wilderness adventures. Or squeeze in a heli-drop. And the Punta Helbronner cable car is an exciting gateway to guided excursions off Mont Blanc.

Don’t skip lunch either: work up an appetite for splendid mouthwatering meats at Chiecco (Plan Chécrouit), La Grolla or pizza at Christiania – the Italians are passionate about food and, as you’ll soon discover, Courmayeur does not fall short of decent places to dine.

Après-skiing there

More refined than raving, teatime is for posing and strolling the town centre not knocking back the booze (as such …). But the resort has a vibrant nightlife too, with cosy wine bars and suave cocktail lounges that fill up with wealthy weekenders. Best among them is the jolly Bar Roma for snacks, drinks and comfy sofas. Bar delle Guide, the American Bar and Privé are other fashionable hangouts. Hotel deals usually include good quality evening meals, but there’s a wide choice of alternatives: the Terrazza is a fine favourite for Italian food. For more of a treat, Cadran Solaire has impressed us with its smarter options. A taxi ride up the Val Ferret is La Clotze – a quiet, pleasant restaurant with gourmet or standard menu options, run by the same hosts as the Chiecco mountain hut.



  • The 2011 City Ski event takes place on 17-21 March

Links: Where to Ski and Snowboard’s independent review



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