“ Aosta Valley, Italy. „
Courmayeur is the heart of my snowboarding, and is where I first picked up the sport and have continued loving it for five years straight. That may well seem a bit odd to most people, that me and my family have visited the same wonderful resort for five years running but as soon as the town welcomes you through spectacular mountains (or the moment you break through the Mont Blanc tunnel) you will see why.
The resort has been family run for hundreds of years, and in the last year has taken a major upgrade with new, faster and more reliable lifts as well as new routes and pistes. You will be sure to find something for everyone on the slopes, ranging from blue through to black there are plenty of marked route as well as some excellent off piste for that snowboarder/skier looking for more. Each season a fresh snowpark is constructed in varying locations, with pistes being modified or built upon so that each year there is added variety.
Hotels and restaurants are provided at high quality, although I would definitely recommend looking in to using Ski Expectations to book your holiday, as going with a provider such as Thompson will just work out more expensive with one of the few lower rated hotels. We use www.skiexpectations.com, a single really friendly lady who has continued to get us discount with Hotel Pavillon, a four star hotel with a five star restaurant. Amazing views, really nice rooms along with roomy bar, swimming pool and spa make it heaven for when you are stepping out of your equipment.
My partner and I were in Courmayeur a few years ago for a weeks skiing in March. Having flown to Turin we went up the Val d’Aosta on a bus, quite a pretty 3-hour drive with numerous tunnels. Considering recent events on the alternative route (Mont Blanc tunnel) this is the one to opt for. We stayed in the Hotel Berthod, a nice 2 star b & b, courtesy of Thomson’s Holidays. It's a family run place that's been owned by the same people for over a hundred years, and has a nice cosy atmosphere. The rooms are traditional with private balconies and huge baths - always a big bonus when you're skiing, and there’s also a spa bath available in the basement. Thomson’s proved to be a good choice. The reps were the keenest and most fun of any of the companies we’ve skied with so far and the nights out they organised were worth the money. The village has plenty of lively pubs, such as Bar Roma which is very good at apres ski time, having big, soft old comfy sofas and chairs dotted about the place. The American Bar, which seemed distinctly un-American apart from a couple of icons, was also a good place to have a few beers. Courmayeur really comes out top when food is mentioned. Everywhere we ate was excellent and inexpensive and there are plenty of places to choose from. Pierre Alexis deserves a special mention, even though it's not easy to find you shouldn't miss out on this slightly more upmarket, but delicious eatery. It is quintessential Courmayeur. Olde worldy, up a cobbled lane and oozing alpine charm. Not to mention the huge wine list. The skiing here is a bit inconvenient, as you have to reach the mountain via a cable car, then plooch through slush to the chair lifts. There are hire shops and lockers up there though, a much better option than lugging your skis up and down everyday. When we were there you couldn't ski back to the village, but I've seen rumours on the net th
at this has been remedied. The skiing was ok, I'd only done 3 weeks over a 10 year period before we went here, so found some of it difficult (the snow was heavy and wet), however I don't think it would be too challenging for advanced skiers. There is always the lure of skiing the famous Valle Blanche on offer, a days skiing across into Chamonix, France. We had lessons with Scuola di Ski Monte Bianco, they were ok but nothing special. Their English was good, but the instruction wasn’t exactly heartfelt. There was also a fair bit of queuing here at times, it's pretty impolite compared with France and that’s putting it mildly. The resort is apparently mainly used by the Milanese, which accounts for the numerous classy boutiques, antique and gift shops in the village, and the sumptuous feasts on offer at the mountain restaurants. They were all very good both taste and valuewise, but also very busy. I'd go for a very early lunch if you want to sit on anything apart from the snow as the Italians liked to take a couple of hours over their lunch. On that note I’ll finish by saying that the best thing about Courmayeur was definitely the food, though it has numerous good points. Please make sure you don't go half board, as you'll be doing yourself an injustice.