This lovely old village at the foot of Europe’s highest mountain, Mont Blanc, has a relatively small ski area, but compensating factors include challenging off piste, superb restaurants and lively nightlife.
The village is located just beneath the entrance to the Mont Blanc tunnel on the Italian side of the world-famous mountain. Like Chamonix, just 22km away through the tunnel on the French side of Mont Blanc, stylish Courmayeur is also one of the great snow sports and climbing communities of the Alps.
Stay on track with the essential facts from the resort below, and scroll down for our insider guide to a day on the pistes, expert ratings and advice. For further Courmayeur inspiration, see our guides to the resort’s best accommodation, restaurants and après ski.
Inside the resort
At the heart of the stylish village is the pedestrianised Via Roma, lined with smart boutiques, enticing bars, restaurants, as well as delicatessen, antique and homeware shops. Steep and narrow cobbled alleyways lead off on either side. While it’s often busy with noisy, immaculately-dressed Italians, lots of them don’t bother to hit the slopes, so even in the busiest weeks, the slopes are usually not very crowded.
Its proximity to both Geneva and Turin airports makes it a popular destination for weekenders from Britain and other countries, while wealthy Milanese and other city-based Italians arrive in their hordes on Friday afternoons in high season.
Courmayeur’s main ski area spreads out from a mid-mountain base at Plan Chécrouit, reached by cable car from the centre of town. With a top lift at 2,755m and the bottom of the slopes at 1,205m, the vertical here is pretty impressive, however there are limited pistes – 42km.
The Italian aspect of Mont Blanc – aka Monte Bianco – has an entirely different weather pattern to the French side. The quality of the snow may not always be as good, but during the winter Courmayeur gets much more sunshine than shivering Chamonix.
It’s not possible to descend to Courmayeur from Plan Chécrouit at the end of the day, only to the nearby hamlet of Dolonne; if staying in Courmayeur it’s best to download to town by cable car. The main lift runs until midnight, allowing time to soak up the sunset and enjoy après drinks first. It’s also an option to take the lift up from the town to spend the evening in a choice of mountain restaurants.
From just outside Courmayeur, in Entrèves, a spectacular two-stage cable car, the Skyway Monte Bianco, ascends all the way to Punta Helbronner, the closest point to the summit of Mont Blanc by public transport. It has 360-degree rotating glass cabins and at the top, 3,466m, a circular terrace affords some of the best panoramic views in the Alps as well as access to off-piste routes.
Food is taken seriously in Courmayeur, whether it’s huge wood-fired pizzas at Pizzeria du Tunnel or gourmet local specialities at the Petit Royal restaurant in the Hotel Royal e Golf. Eating is another prime alternative to hitting the slopes – Chiecco and Maison Vielle serve pasta and typical dishes such as ragù of wild boar with polenta and it’s all too easy to while away the entire afternoon at either. There’s also an annual Mountain Gourmet Ski Experience organised by Momentum Ski (the next one is March 22 to 24, 2024) with top chefs such as Heston Blumenthal, Tom Kerridge, Marcus Wareing and Clare Smyth in attendance.
The main lift from town runs until midnight, allowing time to soak up the sunset and enjoy après drinks or have dinner in a choice of mountain restaurants.
On the slopes
Whether you consider Courmayeur’s slopes to be good for a weekend or a whole week depends on your standard. The main ski area, reached by cable car from the town centre or from neighbouring Entrèves, and by gondola from nearby Dolonne, has a limited selection of groomed pistes – 33 totalling 42km – and 100km of off piste.
Courmayeur is fine for beginners, but there are better resorts in which to learn. There are nursery slopes with free lifts at Plan Chécrouit (plus a couple of moving carpet lifts for ski school beginners) as well as at Pré de Pascal at the top of the Entrèves cable car. The two main ski schools are Italian, with most instructors speaking reasonable English. The third one is run by British tour operator Interski, for guests on its holidays.
For strong intermediates, this is a wonderful place for a long weekend. The overall piste area is small – enough for two or three days, but hardly a whole week – and divides into two linked sectors, separated by a rock ridge. Overall, the reds are what they say they are, while the few easy blacks would be classified as challenging reds in many resorts. Runs on the Val Veny side generally offer the greater challenge. For a satisfyingly long descent, it’s a substantial 1,400m of vertical from Cresta Youla all the way down to Dolonne.
For adventurous intermediates and experts there’s a lot of fun to be had off piste if snow conditions are good – indeed, enough fun for a whole season. A couple of ungroomed itineraries from Plan Chécrouit, reached by a cable car to Cresta d’Arp at 2,755m, descend to Dolonne or across a deserted valley to the railhead at Pré St Didier. A third one snakes down the beautiful Val Veny on the far side of the ski area.
The most adventurous excitement is in the separate Mont Blanc sector on the other side of town, aimed at advanced skiers and snowboarders. Then there’s the three-stage Skyway Monte Bianco cable car, which ascends from Entrèves all the way up to Punta Helbronner, at 3,466m. Off-piste runs from here for experts to try with a mountain guide include, on the Italian side, the run down the Toula glacier, an Alpine classic. There’s also some outstanding heliskiing, with drops above the Val Veny for a descent back to Courmayeur and on the Mont Blanc glacier.
There’s a terrain park called Snow Park 26, served by the Aretu chair. It has lines for beginners, intermediates, and experts. A giant airbag is served by two kickers. The resort also has a burgeoning reputation as a centre for adaptive skiing – which allows people with disabilities to hit the slopes using bespoke equipment with specially-trained instructors, including Andrea Borney from Savoye Sport, based on the slopes at the top of the Val Veny lift.
Who should go?
Courmayeur lies less than two hours from both Turin and Geneva, making it a good choice for a weekend or short break. Foodies will also love it here. Restaurants both in town and up on the mountain are of a particularly high standard, and Courmayeur is one of the spiritual homes of the long lunch. The ski area best suits confident intermediates, and there’s also challenging off piste. Those looking to make the most of every minute both on and off the slopes will be impressed with Courmayeur’s après scene. Many of the bars lining Via Roma serve extensive complimentary antipasti alongside sparkling spritzes and local beers. What’s more the main lift from town runs until midnight, allowing time to soak up the sunset and enjoy après drinks at mid mountain.
Know before you go
- British Embassy/Consulate: Via 20 Settembre, 80a, 00187 Roma; 0039 06 4220 0001; gov.uk
- Police: dial 113
- Fire: dial 118
- Emergency services from mobile phone: dial 112
- Tourist office: See courmayeurmontblanc.it, the website for the Courmayeur Mont Blanc Tourist Board, for piste maps, weather reports, lift status, webcams, traffic details and local event listings. Pick up maps, leaflets and other information from the office on the main roundabout in the centre of Courmayeur.
- Currency: Euro
- Telephone code: from abroad, dial 00 39, then leave off the zero at the start of number.
- Time difference: +1 hour
Local laws and etiquette
- A simple ‘buon giorno’ in the morning or ‘buona sera’ in the afternoon or evening goes a long way. ‘Ciao’ is for friends, family or young people. If somebody thanks you by saying ‘grazie’, it’s polite to say ‘prego’ (you’re welcome) in return.
- Italians tip very little; 5% is ample, and it’s often enough just to round the bill up to the nearest 5 or 10 euros