Courmayeur is one of Europe’s most famous ski locations. An Italian town in the popular ski area of the Aosta Valley it sits at the foot of Mont Blanc itself. This is the highest mountain in Western Europe. Courmayeur’s mountain scenery and clean air make it a popular destination all year round but it is in winter when the town really comes alive as the visitors take to the slopes for some winter sport.
As with many ski resorts in the Aosta Valley, Courmayeur has links to other villages offering a hundred kilometres of skiing area. Known as the Courmayeur Mont Blanc Funvie the area offers sun faced descents through forests and slopes.
Ideal for both skiing and snowboarding the resort also has a snowmaking machine so that sport is guaranteed whatever the weather conditions. In the highest part of the area those who love to be free will appreciate the off piste routes with their spectacular views of Mont Blanc.
The main skiing area is on the sunny plateau of Plan Chercrouit and is the start of the network of lifts veering the mountain.
The off piste skiing here is second to none with many virgin slopes, drops and canals. Free riders are advised to hire the aid of a local guide. The Chercrouit Canals and the Crest of Youla attract visitors from all over the world.
Local advice before tackling these routes is to make sure you have the necessary equipment and to check all hazard warnings and safety instructions at the top of the route.
The mountain professionals in the area have made a list of equipment obligatory for free riders so check this out if you want to free ride, or you could find yourself disappointed.
For those looking for interesting things to do away from the slopes the town has an indoor ice rink, a sports centre with a climbing wall and cross-country skiing and snow shoe walking is available. You can also take a helicopter and heliski the more remote routes.
To get away from the winter sports altogether the village has buses that run to Chamonix and Aosta. Aosta is the home of the Arch of Augustus which dates back to 24BC when the Romans founded the town.
There are also ruins of a first century Roman theatre which are well worth a visit. The town’s most famous landmark is the Gothic Collegiata dei Santa Pietro de Orso which dates back to the 12th century.
Courmayeur itself is home of the Giardino Botanico Alpino Sausseurea, an alpine botanical garden sited at the first station on the Mont Blanc cable car. Visitors to the area in very early season may be able to take in the views from here before the snowfall closes it for most of the year.
There are fifty plus hotels in the resort. All built in traditional alpine style they range from the highly recommended Romantik Hotel Villa Nivecento with its stylish furnishings, spa and wellness centre and library to the more budget accommodations such as the two star Meuble Laurent.
A comfortable friendly little hotel the Lauren is used mainly by independent European travellers and not by the package holiday maker.
Apres Ski in Courmayeur is a lively affair. There are a couple of nightclubs dotted around the town and many wine bars although these tend to get crowded in high season and will definitely offer a few nights to be remembered.
For Apres Ski drinks try the Bar Roma or the trendier Cadran Solaire, both of which have a fine selection of Italian wine on offer. One of the most popular night time haunts in Courmayeur is the Jimmy Night Cafe. Upstairs the bar staff will mix you a cocktail and offers snacks, or, if you are still feeling energetic you can go downstairs into the disco and dance the night away to some seventies and eighties music. The American Bar is open late and offers occasional live music.
There are over fifty restaurants in Courmayeur, including a fair selection of Pizzerias. One of the most popular is the Restaurant Pizzeria Bellevue whose wood fired Pizzas are not to be missed.
The La Padella specialises in local dishes especially those made from cheese and makes mouthwatering homemade deserts. The Cresta et Duc Hotel is the place to head for if you fancy a bit of fine cuisine.
In all Courmayeur offers a good range of sport for all abilities and is certainly the place to go if you wish to finish your day in a lively, friendly, atmosphere with plenty to keep you entertained. If you are looking for a destination that can keep you on the go from dawn until dusk then this is definitely the place for you.
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