Courmayeur – Gateway to Fabulous Mont Blanc

A lot of people think of Switzerland as the world’s premier skiing destination, with some sightseeing, shopping and local culture thrown in for good measure.  Well, Switzerland isn’t the only European country where you can get all of those things.  Far from it – France, Austria and Italy would all stand in line to argue the case that their landscapes are just as breathtaking, their skiing just as challenging, their shopping just as cosmopolitan, and their culture just as interesting.

Take Courmayeur, for example.  This picturesque village (with a population of less than 3,000, it would be misleading to call Courmayeur a city or even a town) is in northern Italy, in the Graian Alps.  But oh, WHAT a village!

The skiing for travelers based at Courmayeur is nothing short of terrific.  It’s every bit as good as anywhere in Switzerland, France or Austria, with world-class ski resorts (Chamonix, for example) very close by.  That’s why Courmayeur is one of Europe’s most famous ski destinations – it’s not as overrun with people as some ski resorts, but the skiing is just as good if not better.

Plus, the village is nestled in at the foot of fabulous Mont Blanc – at almost 16,000 feet (almost 5,000 meters) it’s the highest peak in the Alps, and for that matter all of Western Europe.  Can you imagine waking up in the morning and seeing it through your hotel window?  Can you see yourself walking through Courmayeur with this magnificent mountain as your constant companion, as the backdrop for everything you do?

Of course, skiing and views of Mont Blanc aren’t the only reasons people travel to Courmayeur.  A host of other winter activities are available in the area.  Among other things, you can go snowshoeing, dog-sledding (yes!) and mountain hiking.  Rental equipment is readily available.  If you go dog-sledding  trained guides will let you take command of your own mushing team!

Two of the more unusual winter activities offered at Courmayeur aren’t for the faint of heart or the out of shape:  heli-skiing and ice climbing.   Imagine the exhilarating feeling of being dropped from a chopper into an isolated spot and then finding your way back to civilization, using your skis as your only transportation.  And ice climbing – there are areas suitable for beginners as well as experienced ice climbers.  Ice climbing instructors and guides will give you as much or as little assistance as you need.

The area also offers summertime activities (hiking, rock climbing, horseback riding and so forth), but the main reason people come to Courmayeur is for its fabulous skiing and other winter activities.

Being a ski resort village, Courmayeur has plenty of hotels.  It’s also easier to get to than you might think.  Courmayeur is only slightly more than 135 miles (220 kilometers) from Milan, and not even half that distance (62 miles/100 kilometers) from Geneva, Switzerland.  And, the Mont Blanc Tunnel provides easy access to and from France.  Lyon is only 150 miles (240 kilometers) away.

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