Skiing in Courmayeur

Courmayeur has a small ski area but it offers crowd-free skiing (at least on weekdays), well-groomed pistes, stunning scenery and lovely mountain restaurants. There is also plenty of off-piste for intermediates and above.

Courmayeur Ski Area Overview

The main ski area is situated directly across the valley from the town of Courmayeur and can be roughly divided into two areas, conveniently illuminated by the path of the sun. The first area is that of Checrouit which is North East facing and gets the morning rays; the second area is Pre de Pascal / Val Veny which is North West facing and warms up in the afternoon. Several lifts take you up to the ridge which divides them, so it’s easy to ski from one to the other. There is also a separate area purely for off-piste skiers which is accessed by the Monte Bianco Skyway lift along the valley at Entreves. This does not connect with Courmayeur’s main ski area, but from its highpoint at Punta Helbronner, skiers can descend into Chamonix on the Vallee Blanche and other off-piste routes.

Although there is a red run from the main ski area back to Dolonne, most people return to Courmayeur by cable car, and there are facilities to leave ski and board equipment at the top of the lifts, which is definitely worth doing.

The Courmayeur and Dolonne ski lifts arrive in Plan Checrouit, a focal point in the Courmayeur ski area and the normal starting point for Ski School lessons. The Biancaneve Mini Club for children is also found here, along with ski school booking offices, and a choice of hire shops, restaurants and bars. The easier blue runs for beginners are accessed from Plan Checrouit.

The Val Veny cable car arrives in Pre de Pascal, which also has a ski hire shop, ski school booking office and a good bar and restaurant. From Pre de Pascal the first descent is on the long blue run towards Zerotta, which though not difficult, has a couple of steep sections.

There are moving carpet lifts for beginners in both Plan Checrouit and Pre de Pascal, though due to space limitations, the one in Plan Checrouit can only be used when accompanied by a ski instructor.

The 6-man Pra Neyron chairlift is a good place to start the days skiing, as it is close to the arrival point of the Courmayeur cable car and the Dolonne gondola. From the top choose either the pleasant blue run back to Plan Checrouit, the short easy red towards Tzaly, or descend towards Val Veny and the Zerotta chairlift on the black Diretta piste. For an easier route to the Val Veny, take the old Dzeleuna chairlift from part way down the blue Pra Neyron piste.

The old two man chairlift, the Maison Vieille, will also transport you to Tzaly, which is a popular place for beginners. At Tzaly there is a new drag lift with a lovely blue run and spectacular views of Mont Blanc. Non-skiers are allowed in both directions on the Maison Vieille chairlift and there is a fabulous restaurant/bar with indoor and outdoor tables at the top.

The Chiecco drag lift to the south of the area serves a pleasant blue run bordered by several mountain restaurants, all of which are good! The Checrouit bubble takes you onwards to the top of the Col Checrouit (2,256 m), from where you can either continue your journey up the small antique cable car to Cresta Youla (2,624 m). Like Russian dolls, there is an even smaller cable car running to the top of the Cresta d’Arp (2,763 m) which accesses a couple of off-piste itineraries and a splendid view. The Cresta Youla is only worth queuing for the views and the off-piste, as the one pisted run down is a steep but short, unremarkable red.

The intermediate red runs around Checrouit are very pleasant, wide and moderately pitched. The fast Aretu chair might only achieve 380 metres of vertical but eases the pressure on the main lift and is good for a few quick runs. Remember you’re skiing in Italy, so by now you have done more than enough to earn the right to your first mid-morning pit-stop. Fanning right from Checrouit there are a few nice runs on the Checrouit side of Monte Chetif (2,343m). For quiet slopes and excellent snow head up to the north facing Plan de la Gabba lift and the red runs to either side of it.

In the afternoon, the sun and the crowds move around to the Val Veny flank where there are some very pretty runs down through the trees both on and off the piste. The black dell’Orso piste is left ungroomed and offers an alternative, fun route down to the Peindeint and Zerotta chairlifts. The views from all over the main ski area are very dramatic: across the floor of the Val Veny rises the inspiring mass of the Mont Blanc range, stretching from Mont Blanc to the Grands Jorasses, the two giants of the range. Between these two points is a mass of off-piste terrain.

Beginner Skiing in Courmayeur

Courmayeur is one of the most inspirational beginner areas in the world, with Mont Blanc cheering you on, but the first couple of days can be difficult for beginners in Courmayeur and joining ski school is highly recommended.

Courmayeur has a number of moving carpet lifts for beginners to get started on, but due to the limited space, the one at Plan Checrouit can only be used when skiing with the ski school and accompanied by a ski Instructor.  Those in Pre de Pascal and Dolonne are less accessible but open to everyone.

The Chiecco draglift services a short blue run which is accessible from Plan Checrouit, but following on from their first moves on the carpet lifts, beginners normally take the old chairlift up to Tzaly, which has to be one of the most inspirational learning areas in the world. The Tzaly area, with its easy drag lift, is high enough to guarantee good snow, and the views of Mont Blanc are sensational.

Mont Blanc looks down inspirationally from on high, the view opens up the entire valley and if you don’t catch the bug here, you never will! The famous ‘Maison Vieille’ restaurant is situated at the top of this chairlift and at the end of the day beginners can take the lift to return to the Plan Checrouit area. Beginners who progress reasonably well will be able to try the long blue run from the Pra Neyron chairlift, and the blue Val Veny run, accessed via Pre de Pascal.

The Dolonne beginners’ area with its three good-sized moving carpet lifts is not covered by the Courmayeur ski pass and therefore requires payment of an additional charge. Though it is a good place for children to learn to ski, it may be limiting for those accompanying them! Facilities here include a good children’s play area, snow tubing and tobogganing alongside a bar which has deckchairs to rent.

Book Ski School Lessons in Courmayeur

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Intermediate Skiing in Courmayeur

The pistes in Courmayeur are perfect for intermediates, with a good combination of blues, reds and gentle blacks, both in the trees and above them in snowy bowls. But the pisted ski area is small so intermediates should also try the off-piste, including the famous, intermediate-friendly, Vallee Blanche.

Courmayeur is a great resort for mixed ability groups as there are plenty of central meeting places and mountain restaurants that most levels of skier will be able to reach.  Courmayeur, more than anywhere, is the place to take long lunches!

The Checrouit reds are all enjoyably different ways down the same flank. The high altitude red runs to either side of the Plan de la Gabba lift are very pleasant, have good snow conditions throughout the season, and tend to be quiet as well!

The runs above Zerotta offer more of a challenge, as do the lower runs down through the trees. The long, winding ‘Internazionale’ red run, is the best descent on this side of the valley.

The 6 day Courmayeur lift pass includes two days access to neighbouring Aosta Valley resorts. To add an extra dimension to your skiing, make sure you purchase a lift pass which includes days in the neighbouring Aosta Valley resorts,  and will allow you to ski La Thuile.

La Thuile is easy to visit, being just 20 minutes drive or 40 minutes away by local bus. It incorporates the French ski area of La Rosiere and has an abundance of long and varied runs for intermediates. The longest of the runs is an 11km red from the Col du Petit Saint Bernard back to La Thuile.

Strong intermediates should not miss the opportunity of skiing the Vallee Blanche, which is a once in a lifetime experience for enthusiastic, experienced skiers. The descent begins at Punta Helbronner (3,462m) and ends in Chamonix (1,037m), an off-piste descent of 24km. When you ski the Vallee Blanche from the Italian side you avoid the scary ridge walk that forms the start on the Chamonix side.

The Vallee Blanche is a breathtakingly panoramic run in the heart of the Mont Blanc massif. The Society of Mountain Guides in Courmayeur organise group excursions (between 4 and 8 people per group), and will supply all the necessary equipment.

Advanced & Expert Skiing in Courmayeur

Courmayeur offers limited pisted challenges for advanced skiers. But the lift served off-piste from Cresta d’Arp (2755m) and Punta Helbronner (3466m) is superb, and there are great heliskiing and ski touring opportunities too. Chamonix and la Thuile are also in range.

Courmayeur’s four black runs have a few steep sections and some testing mogul fields. The Pista dell’Orso, which is not groomed, is a fun and very bumpy descent on the Val Veny side.

The main attraction of Courmayeur for advanced and expert skiers is the superb off piste and opportunities for heli-skiing, partly on the Mont Blanc itself, as the many day trippers from Chamonix will testify.

There is some excellent tree-lined powder off the side of the blue Val Veny piste as it descends to the Zerotta chairlift. Higher up in the main ski area, you can drop into Val Veny by heading skier’s left from the side of Aretu, or by descending under the Cresta Youla cable car towards Plan de la Gabba.

The other off-piste in Courmayeur ski area is mainly accessed from Cresta d’Arp (2,755m), the top of the resort, and there are dedicated itineraries far from the pistes. Either head skier’s right round the back of the main range through Arp Vielle to Val Veny, a superb, long descent with wonderful views over the south face of Mont Blanc and the Miage glacier (may involve a short walk at the end) or alternatively, reach the Col d’Arp and descend to Dolonne through the woods and a wide gorge (1,500m of vertical).

There is also a long itinerary heading South from Arp through the Youla gorge which very nearly reaches La Thuile (the final leg is by taxi). Some of Courmayeur’s lift passes include one day here and there is decent off-piste and advanced skiing in La Thuile, so it’s well worth a day trip or two. A good bus service links it with Courmayeur, so returning is not a problem.

When conditions are good on the Mont Blanc flank, the terrain here is magnificent. It is steep, sometimes treacherous, always testing and there is the added psychological edge of knowing you’re skiing on the side of the highest mountain in Western Europe. Access is via the Monte Bianco Skyway from Entreves that descends first to Pavillon then to Punta Helbronner.

There are many different routes down from Punta Helbronner (3,462m), including what is probably the most interesting downhill run in the Courmayeur area; the 7 mile (12 km) Toula Glacier. There are alternative gullies and couloirs like the appropriately named ‘Canale del Cesso’ or ‘Toilet Couloir’,  the Mont Fréty and the Marbrèe glaciers with average 40° pitches, but these should only be attempted when conditions are appropriate.

Heli-Skiing in Courmayeur

The head of the Val Veny is the main destination for heliskiing in the Courmayeur area, and drops can be made on both sides of the valley:

The glacial terrainincludes various landing points, all above 3,500m in altitude, offering descents with vertical drops of around 1,500m. The Aiguille des Glaciers (3,816m), Aiguille de la Lex Blanche (3,686m), Aiguille de Trèlatéte (3,930m) and Aiguille de l’Aigle (3,512m) departure points, offer breathtaking routes over the stunning Lex Blanche, Estelette, Bionassay and Miage glaciers. Route difficulty ranges from the easy Lex Blanche to the extremely challenging Canale Bonatti.

The non-glacial Mont Fortin area offers magnificent non-glacial terrain on slopes facing Monte Bianco. There are various peaks of around 2,700m, among which Mont Fortin (2,758m) is the most famous offering rare views over the south west face of Monte Bianco. All the descents in this area are north facing and after a good fall of snow the powder is perfect. Though all descents start in steep gullies, they soon lead on to more gentle terrain, and return eventually to Val Veny and the Zerotta chairlift.

Heli-skiing is available through Heliski Courmayeur Mont Blanc in Entreves or the Courmayeur Society of Mountain Guides. Avalanche and mountain safety equipment including an avalanche beacon, spade and probes, and a harness (when on glaciers) is essential when skiing off-piste.  Avalanche beacons can be checked at Col Checrouit, Pre de Pascal and Pavillon (Mont Blanc cable car).

Heliski Courmayeur Mont Blanc
Tel: +39 349 5703570
Email [email protected]

Societa delle Guide Alpine di Courmayeur
Tel: +39 0165 842064
Email: [email protected]

Boarding & Freestyle in Courmayeur

Courmayeur has a snow park, boarder-friendly lifts and mostly intermediate pistes as well as masses of excellent off-piste, which is a major attraction for experienced boarders and freeriders.

The Courmayeur snow park which is in Dolonne has jumps, rail and box, but no half pipe.  The park has a 15m x 15m air mattress for landing which allows beginners and non-beginners alike to try new tricks in total security.

Most of the domain is served by boarder friendly cable cars and chair lifts.  On piste boarding is mainly intermediate and there are many alternative routes for boarders to the sides of the piste, including the excellent tree-lined powder to the side of the blue Val Veny run, as it descends to the Zerotta chairlift.

Stronger riders come for the off-piste and can try the Toula Glacier as well as the Courmayeur area off piste itineraries, accessed from the Cresta d’Arp (2,763m). Heading right from Cresta d’Arp, take the superb long run through Arp Vieille to Val Veny. The bottom stretch of this run is flattish, and you may like to carry some poles for pushing!  Alternatively, reach the Col d’Arp and descend to Dolonne through the woods and a wide gorge (1,500 m of vertical).

The Vallee Blanche is suitable for snowboarders but you are advised to carry ski poles for the flatter stretches.

Mountain Restaurants in Courmayeur

Courmayeur offers a choice of many excellent mountain restaurants and only so many days to eat in them, so it is important to choose wisely.

Courmayeur is justly famous for its mountain restaurants and eating on the mountain is one of the highlights of skiing in Courmayeur. The restaurants get busy at peak times and advance booking is recommended in the most popular of the restaurants. Most menus will include dishes based around polenta, soup, pasta, local sausages, and the local Fontina cheese, but  will also include pizza, sandwiches, salads, burgers, hot dogs and chips.

Some of the restaurant highlights on the Checrouit side include the Refuge Maison Vielle, the Christiana, Chateau Branlant, Chiecco and the Alpetta, all of which serve great food and are deservedly popular.

The Maison Vieille, has great food, a cosy Alpine ambience and stunning views of Mont Blanc from the outdoor eating area. Celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal, owner of the three Michelin star Fat Duck restaurant, has been spotted here on more than one occasion. The Christiania offers good food including pizza and pasta dishes and is in an ideal location for when ski school finishes at Plan Checrouit.

The charming Chateau Branlant and the delightful Chiecco and are both very popular choices, close to the Chiecco drag lift. The Alpetta is a new and more modern restaurant/bar, also close to the Chiecco drag lift. Advance booking for lunch is advised for these restaurants, but drop in for a hot chocolate and you will not be disappointed.

Restaurant highlights on the Val Veny side include the Pre de Pascal self-service restaurant and bar offers good food, good value and a superb location. The Petit Mont Blanc at Zerotta is also worth trying, and often has an outdoor barbeque on the go.  The Cai Uget, en route to the Val Veny, is an old style refuge with a panoramic terrace. It also provides basic accommodation.

Both the Maison Vieille and the Petit Mont Blanc organise evening meals for groups on request and will arrange for your transportation with snow mobiles and snow cats.

Alpetta Tel: +39 335 613395 / +39 339 5655688

Cai Uget Tel: +39 328 5941648

Chateau Branlant Tel: +39 0165 846584 / +39 347 8916847

Chiecco Tel: +39 338 7003035 / +39 347 2800579

Christiania Tel: +39 0165 843572 / +39 335 5422389

Petit Mont Blanc Tel: +39 0165 869066 / +39 338 3480372

Pré de Pascal Tel: +39 0165 869090

Refuge Maison Vieille Tel: +39 328 0584157 / +39 337 230979


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