Skiing and Snowboarding Destinations in Courmayeur, Italy
Courmayeur, Italy Ski HolidaysCredit: Flickr image by Leo Seta http://www.flickr.com/photos/uncle-leo/
Courmayeur stands at the front of the Aosta valley, ten minutes from the southern end of the Mont Blanc tunnel. As opposed to Chamonix, at the opposite end, it is sunny and cheerful, a recommended destination for the urban escapists who swarm up from Turin and Milan during the weekend. The medieval town is a maze of narrow alleys and flights of steps, all of them leading into the pedestrianised Via Roma. Look up and you are confronted by Mont Blanc's tangled icefalls; look around and you see men and women in matching furs strolling along cobbled streets. For those who like their winter sports with sophistication and a sense of history, there is no better place.
Courmayeur's primary ski region suffers from an insurmountable problem in the form of the river that separates it from the town. The mid-station at Plan Checrouit is efficiently accessed by the enormous Courmayeur cable-car, but most people take it back down once more at the end of the day instead of tackling the piste to the neighbouring village of Dolonne, which often results in a half-hour wait for the bus back to town.
The slopes that spread out above Plan Checrouit are moderately narrow and super crowded at peak times. Improving intermediates are well served by a network of predominantly red cruisers, but novices will discover the going tough when they graduate from the single nursery slope. In a resort where red is the new black, there is virtually nowhere to go for challenging piste-bashers, but powderhounds have great prospects either in the trees or on three classic runs from Cresta d'Arp - the Arp Vieille to Val Veny, the deserted valley to Dolonne or Pre St Didier or the Youla gorge to the resort of La Thuile.
Another hardcore choice is the three-stage cable-car from La Palud, above the village of Entreves, up to Punta Helbronner at 3,470m, which offers access to the celebrated Vallee Blanche run on the Chamonix side or the splendidly challenging serac run down the Toula glacier, which begins with a rope swing down an ice drop-off. And that's just the start.
Courmayeur is rightly proud of its mountain restaurants, which rank among the best in the Alps. Best of all is Maison Vieille. In a basic mountain hut, they serve dishes of home-made pasta, lamb shank and game to a clientele that comes back day after day - and year after year. Choices include Zerotta, where the suntrap terrace faces Mont Blanc, and La Grolla, suggested for its mushroom risotto.Credit: Flickr photo by Leo Seta http://www.flickr.com/photos/uncle-leo/
Although there is no terrain park in Courmayeur, the dedicated Snowboard School extends group lessons for all levels.
The Forum Sports Centre in Dolonne is perfect for all athletes, having tennis, squash, ice-skating and swimming, plus a creche. You could also join the passageata and shop till you drop on the Via Roma.
The Aosta valley food chain is highly recommended in Courmayeur. Most meals begin with pork-led antipasti -usually ham and salami - followed by pasta and a meat dish, often steak or game. The market-leaders are Pierre Alexis and Cadran Solaire. The more casual Mont Frety has equally great food at lower prices. If you don't wish to choose, go for the full monty at La Maison de Filippo in Entreves, where €40 gets you 36 dishes.
A class of its own, Bar Roma, is an off-the-wall, crowded haven with sofas, open fires and period furniture, let alone a great free early-evening tapas buffet. The surprise is that anyone leaves to go to dinner. Popular options on the Via Roma include the traditional Caffe Posta and the American Bar, both famous for their cocktails.
Cresta Et Duc is an elegant hotel preferred by skiers for a memorable ski holiday in the Alps. Guests will can choose from the hotel's 44 luxurious and comfortable rooms, as well as the on-site facilities. Renovated in 2009, the hotel offers guests a lobby with 24-hour reception, a hotel safe, currency exchange facilities, a cloakroom, lift access, a games room, TV lounge, children's playground, a bar, and restaurant. Conference facilities with WLAN Internet Access are available.
Another of Courmayeur's attractions is its family-run hotels. Finest of all is the three-star Bouton d'Or, where the Casale Brunets make you wish you could stay eternally. The Royal & Golf is princely and well positioned on the Via Roma, while the three-star Auberge de la Maison in Entreves is extremely recommended for its ambience and panoramic views.
Walser Hotel is another family vacation place. This small and characteristic family hotel offers a spacious and inviting dining room, where guests can relish the traditional cuisine of the Aosta Valley and the country’s national dishes. Facilities provided to guests at the 22-room ski hotel include a private car park and garage, a ping pong area, ski storage, a 24-hour reception and lift access. A bar, TV lounge and game room are also available.