Sunday, March 14, 2010

Courmayeur; The Facts About the Resort

Is Courmayeur a new area for you. Well, here is what a reporter from Britain's "Telegraph" newspaper thinks of the place.

Courmayeur is a traditional old Italian mountaineering village that has retained much of its character. Pila, La Thuile and Chamonix are an easy drive or bus ride and Cervinia is reachable.

• Charming old village, with car-free centre and stylish shops and bars
• Stunning views of Mont Blanc
• Access to the famous Vallée Blanche run to Chamonix (day trips there are possible by road, too)
• Heli-skiing available
• Comprehensive snowmaking
• Some good mountain restaurants
• Relatively small area, with mainly short runs; high-mileage piste-bashers should stay away
• Lack of nursery slopes and easy runs for confidence-building
• No tough pistes
• No pistes back to the village, only to Dolonne (where you catch a bus)
• Crowded at weekends
Attractive and sophisticated
The village has a charming traffic-free centre of attractive shops, cobbled streets and well-preserved buildings. An Alpine museum and a statue of a long-dead mountain rescue hero add to the historical feel.
The centre has a great evening atmosphere, focused around the Via Roma.
As the lifts close, people pile into the many bars, some of which are very civilised. Others wander in and out of the many small shops, which include lots of smart clothes shops, nice delis and a good bookshop.
At weekends people-watching is part of the scene, when the fur coats of the Milanese and Torinese take over
Buses to the lifts
You cannot ski back to the village itself. But a huge cable car on the southern edge will take you to and from Plan Checrouit, at the heart of the slopes.A gondola from Dolonne (a few minutes’ bus ride away) offers a popular alternative way up and you can ski back there. Both the cable car and the gondola are bus-served, and while parking at the cable car is very limited, there’s a big car park at Dolonne. Many hotels run shuttles to and from Dolonne.
Drivers can also go to Entrèves, up the valley, where there is a large car park at the cable car. Most people leave skis or boards and boots in lockers up the mountain or at the lift base. Buses, infrequent but timetabled (though a 2009 visitor could not get a timetable to take away), go to La Palud, just beyond Entrèves, for the Monte Bianco cable car to Punta Helbronner (for Vallée Blanche). Taxis are easily arranged for evening excursions to valley restaurants.
Mont Blanc rules
The high glacial slopes of Mont Blanc’s massif overlook Courmayeur’s slopes. The views from the high points at Cresta d’Arp and Cresta Youla are stunning.
Good for most of the season
Courmayeur’s slopes are not high – mostly between 1700m and 2250m.
Those above Val Veny face north or north-west, so they keep their snow well, but the Plan Checrouit side is too sunny for comfort in late season.
There is snowmaking on most main runs, including the red run to Dolonne in the valley.
So good coverage in early and mid-season is virtually assured – we’ve been there in a snow drought and enjoyed decent skiing entirely on man-made snow.
Good reports
The Monte Bianco ski school gets good reviews: ‘the best instructor for ages – possibly ever’.
There is a thriving guides’ association ready to help you explore the area’s off-piste; it has produced a helpful booklet showing the main possibilities.
The Courmayeur school has ‘a more snowboardy and young funky image’.
Some facilities
There are children’s playgrounds at Dolonne and Val Veny and a nursery at Plan Checrouit.

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