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Courmayeur Skiing Italy

Ski Stats

Green Runs: N/A

Blue Runs: 27%

Red Runs: 59%

Black Runs: 14%

Artificial: 70%

Cross Country: 30 km of trails

Great for intermediates, adventurous off-piste skiers and those who rate lunch and the apres ski as an equal to the skiing.

This is an ideal resort for skiers who dislike walking in ski boots with skis on their shoulders: equipment can be left overnight at slope-side deposits like the Ski-In at Plan Checrouit, at the top of the main access cable car.

Plan Checrouit is effectively the main base of Courmayeurs ski area and is reached by a large brown-and-cream cable car from a station on the outskirts of the resort. In 2006 the new eight-seater Dolonne Gondola was completed, linking the hamlet of Dolonne (where the children's Fun Park is based) with Plan Checrouit. Located at 1,706m, Plan Checrouit is a collection of ski shops, bars and restaurants. It is also the starting point for two chairlifts and a gondola (cabins designed by coachworkers Pinninfarina, more famous for their work with Alfa Romeo), which take you up into the main ski area. This comprises 15 or so lifts, including three high-speed quad chair lifts that serve mainly intermediate cruising terrain. All of the 24 pistes are rated either red or blue, except for one, which is the black-rated, but not very difficult, Competizione down to Zerotta.

The front of the ski area benefits from the sunshine in the mornings, but in the afternoons skiers can move over into the Val Veny side and ski many of the runs through the trees to be found here. This is also the sector to exploit in the case of bad visibility. Snow conditions permitting there is a wonderfully scenic - if not especially challenging - run with tremendous views of Mont Blanc, along Val Veny to Entreves on the valley floor. From here a cable car brings you back up into the main ski area again or, alternatively, you can take a bus back to Courmayeur itself.

The main piste skiing in Courmayeur only goes up as high as 2,624m and most of it is below 2,256m, so this is not an area for those obsessed with getting a long vertical drop, or for those who want to ski very early or late in the season. On the other hand, Courmayeur does benefit from an extensive, modern snow-making system. A blue run down to the valley settlement of Dolonne from where buses run back to Courmayeur, gives people an alternative route back to the resort instead of taking the cable car back across the valley from Plan Checrouit.

The principal off-piste routes in the main ski area all begin up at Cresta d'Arp (2,755m). From here you can either go round via Arp Vielle down into Val Veny, taking in fantastic views of the Miage glacier; or you can ski down the Alpe d'Arpette route to Dolonne or Pre St Didier; or you can ski though the Youla gorge to the resort of La Thuile and take a bus or taxi back home.

Other off-piste possibilities include the 17km Vallee Blanche run down towards Chamonix, which has a less intimidating start if begun on the Italian rather than the French side and which can be attempted with advanced intermediates in the company of a local guide. More experienced skiers will enjoy taking the Mont Blanc cable cars from La Palud, just a few kilometres outside Courmayeur, up to the Punta Helbronner (3,470m) and then skiing down the Italian side on the spectacular Toula glacier. This is a 2,000m vertical off-piste descent, yet it is served by lifts. For the even more adventurous the Courmayeur region offers a variety of heli-ski descents.

For a bit of variety the resorts of Pila and La Thuile (which links with La Rosiere in France) are a short drive away, while Cervinia (linked to Zermatt in Switzerland) is some 90 minutes drive away.

Mountain Restaurants

One of the best selections to be found in the alps.

Courmayeur has about as many mountain restaurants and bars as it has pistes. Gastro-skiers tend to take an aperitivo in one, lunch in another and a digestivo in a third. This can be done with minimal or even no skiing around Plan Checrouit, where many of the restaurants are grouped. Chiecco is popular with locals and regular visitors. It serves splendid anti-pasti and home-made pasta. The Christiania includes both a formal restaurant and a more casual pizzeria equipped with an excellent wood-burning pizza oven.

Just between the summits of the Pra Neyron and Maison Vieille chairlifts is the Maison Vieille restaurant, otherwise known as Giacomo's. The patron is a real mountain man and is passionate about huskies, horses and snowmobiles. Indoors there is a wood-burning stove, but this place is at its best in sunny weather when the huge terrace is packed, an open air grill is fuming away and loud music is being pumped out of the speakers.

The restaurant at Courba Dzeleuna is still referred to by some as the Australian, because about 20 years ago it was actually run by some Australians. On a clear spring day here you have wonderful views of the south-facing Brenva glacier and you can often see (and hear) ice seracs breaking off the glacier and causing big avalanches down into Val Veny. Just below this restaurant is the exclusive members-only V.I.P. club, which is packed with any leading Italian politicians, industrialists and magistrates who are not currently in prison.

Down at the afternoon sun-trap of Zerotta in Val Veny, the better of the two restaurants is Le Petit Mont Blanc, alias Livio's, on the left as you ski down. This has wonderful views of the south wall of Mont Blanc and the Aiguille Noire.

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