My recent ski trip to Courmayeur was my first time skiing in Italy. And it will definitely not be the last.
Previous ski trips have taken me to France, Switzerland and Austria. So I have enjoyed all that those countries have to offer by way of ski resort, from fondues on the slopes to vigorous Austrian folk music in apres ski bars. What Italy brings to the ski trip party is so much more.
First up, there’s the Italianness of the people there. The attitude and style of the Italians is something that I am obsessed with every time I visit their fabulous country. And Courmayeur is ideal for people watching, both on and off the slopes. In Courmayeur I saw one guy skiing straight down a black run while smoking a cigarette, as nonchalant as you please. And then there was the guy getting on the ski lift wearing ski jeans and a bomber jacket as his ski outfit. Yes, really, ski jeans. The label on the jeans said ‘ski’ and they were of a special design that fit over his ski boots.
Second, and more importantly, the Italian ski resorts excel when it comes to food. And in Courmayeur all the food bases were covered, from refined Michelin starred delights through to hearty mountain feasts ending in a Euro-style disco atop a mountain.
Courmayeur is a short transfer of 1.5 hours from Geneva airport, making it perfect for a long weekend ski trip from London.
Ther is no train service all the way to Courmayeur. You could take a coach, but really, if you’re going on a ski trip there is no point faffing around with bus timetables and long walks with ski gear and suitcases to your accommodation. The best way to get from Geneva to Courmayeur is a car transfer.
If you google “transfers from Geneva to Courmayeur” you will find plenty of options. We went with a private transfer with Alps2Alps for a couple of reasons. They were the cheapest option (even cheaper than shared transfers from other companies) and they also offer ski hire at very reasonable rates. The ski hire shop is on the way to Courmayeur, so the driver will stop in so you can pick up your skis and continue on to your hotel in Courmayeur, ready to hit the slopes. It was a very convenient way to do it at a relatively reasonable cost.
Courmayeur is a small resort compared to its more expansive neighbours like Chamonix and, further afield, Morzine-Les Gets, where you have more runs to choose from than you have days to spare. But this compactness makes Courmayeur perfect for a long weekend. If you plan to spend longer, you should consider hiring a car so you can make the short drive to Chamonix for day trips to experience more ski runs.
Overall, Courmayeur is a great resort for beginners and intermediates, with some interesting and challenging blues and a lot of exciting red runs. There are a few black runs for the more advanced in your group.
As I mentioned at the outset, the food in Courmayeur makes the trip all the more extra. Here are my tips and recommendations:
Dandelion, situated a short cab ride away in the small town of La Palud, serves sophisticated “cuisine de montagne,” making it the perfect place to kick off your ski trip in style. The food is typical of the Aosta region, but with a modern twist.
For a casual and warming lunch on the mountain (i.e.ski in ski out), Chez Ollier is just what you need. Pasta and pizza, authentically done. It does get busy though, so aim to get their for early lunch or a late, more leisurely lunch.
Petit Royal, the Michelin starred restaurant at the five star Hotel Royal e Golf in the centre of Courmayeur town is elegant dining in a refreshingly modern setting. The tasting menu options are based on different concepts (mountain, sea, the colour orange), and each dish is so meticulously presented they’re almost too good to eat. One thing to note: the prices are only displayed on the menus that they give to the men at your table, so if you’re splitting the bill, you’ll need to share. I guess that still happens in 2019.
From refined elegance to raucous fun, you have to go for dinner at Maison Vieille. It is an experience you’ll remember for a very long time. First off, you take the Courmayeur gondola from Courmayeur town to the top. You will be greeted by the friendly staff of Maison Vieille with a short glass of prosecco. From there you jump on the back of a ski mobile and you are whisked away to the top of the mountain. The ski mobile has to be the most adrenalin inducing ride to dinner I’ve ever had. So. Much. Fun. At the top, you are yet again greeted with a prosecco to enjoy around the fire before adjourning inside for dinner.
The dinner is simple mountain fare, local meat and vegetables, so fresh and flavourful. But it’s only after dinner is done that the evening begins, with euro disco tunes blaring, disco lights and dancing on the tables. It was only the lure of the ski mobile ride back down the mountain that got me out of there.
Book ahead though, it’s a popular evening!
Finally, for the best pesto pasta I’ve ever had, in a gorgeously rustic and just a little bit romantic setting, Al Camin was one of my favourites. Perfect for dinner with close friends or someone special.
The best apres in Courmayeur is found at Super G at the top of the Dolonne lift and the Courmayeur gondola. Champagne, pumping tunes, apres vibe, what more do you need?!
Courmayeur town is compact but has enough going on to make it interesting to mooch around in. The Main Street runs through the middle and is home to high fashion and independent boutiques, antique and interior stores, as well as riotous bars and cosy restaurants. My pick of the high street was Caffe della Posta. It’s the oldest cafe in Courmayeur and it’s where locals head for their Sunday morning coffee or early evening aperitivo. There’s the most charming traditional cafe in the front, and at the back is the most beautifully old-school bar for cocktails.
Overall, Courmayeur is the perfect resort for a long weekend skiing (or a week long trip if you have a car). I’ll be back, if not for the skiing, for the pasta! For my Morzine guide see here.