Bella Italia! A day in Courmayeur comes very highly recommended by me. Drive for half an hour, right through the centre of Mont Blanc and come out the other side into the beautiful Italian Val d’Aosta. The town centre is gorgeous, and the skiing excellent.
Skiing and snowboarding
It has a great mix of pistes with lovely tree runs, wide motorways and more challenging terrain at the top of the charmingly retro Youla/Arp cable car. If you’d like to do some off-piste it’s well worth getting a guide for the day as these cable cars access some truly epic bowl areas (they can be very dangerous so don’t try them without a guide)
The other huge plus for Courmayeur is that the food is really wonderful, the coffee is fantastic, and it’s all much more reasonably priced than Chamonix. If you’re going to pick one day for a long lunch, make it here, and then finish off with Bombardinos (an explosive combination of espresso and eggnog liqueur) to get you back on your feet to waddle to the chairlift.
Maison Vieille at the top of the lift of the same name is the classic place for a long lunch, and the atmosphere and gusto of this place are really wonderful. Non-skiers are allowed to ride the lift so they can come and join you. La Chiecco is a bit more upmarket and also a really good choice.
It’s best to book in advance or drop in early in the day to reserve either of these two. But I’ve never yet had bad food in Courmayeur, so you could probably pick anywhere you like the look of. The Christiania at the midstation does nice pizzas too.
Alas the free buffet at Bar Roma is no more, and I hear the place to go for apres is now the Guide’s Cafe.
It’s well worth spending some time in the town, with its charming stone streets full of lovely shops, restaurants and bars. Non-skiers could happily spend a day here, or at the excellent nearby spa complex of Pre St Didier.
Getting there, and when to go
Due to the massive mountains between the two towns, the weather is often the opposite on each side, so white-out days in Chamonix often find Courmayeur sunny and clear. Check the webcams and weather forecasts to plan your visit.
The Mont Blanc Unlimited pass includes Courmayeur and a free shuttle bus to get there and back, though you must book this in advance as it often fills up.
The pass also entitles you to discounted Mont Blanc Tunnel fees of 22 EUR – currently full price is 43 EUR but check the site for latest fees and to check it’s open. You have to pick up a voucher at the Montenvers train station as you leave Chamonix to take advantage of this. NB if you are in a car, only one person needs to have this pass to get the discount.