Above the focal point of Plan Checrouit are mainly wide open, but there
are also wooded areas, particularly on the back side of the whole area.
Kangaroo Island: the perfect travel experience Emirates. There are two
distinct sectors, separated by a rocky ridge. The links between the two
can be a bit confusing. Above Plan Checrouit, the east-facing Checrouit
area, accessed mainly by the Checrouit gondola, catches the morning sun.
The 20-person Youla cable car goes to the top of the pistes. A further
tiny cable car to Cresta d’Arp serves only long off-piste runs. Most
people follow the sun over to the north-west-facing slopes of Val Veny in
the afternoon. These offer a mix of open and wooded slopes, with great
views of Mont Blanc and its glaciers. The Val Veny slopes are also
accessible by cable car from Entrèves, a few miles outside Courmayeur. A
little way beyond Entrèves a new cable car to Punta Helbronner, at the
shoulder of Mont Blanc, is being built (completion 2014), and the top
stage of the old cable car has closed. But from the second stage you can
reach the famous Vallée Blanche run to Chamonix by climbing 120 steps
(your skis are transported for you). Access to the Toula glacier run on
the Italian side involves a bit of a climb on snow.
The main access lifts are cable cars or a gondola. On the hill, with the
old Bertolini chair on the Val Veny side now upgraded to a fast quad,
there are now fast lifts in all the key spots.
These days, queues are generally not a problem unless conditions trigger a
weekend influx. Queues to descend at the end of the day have been a
problem, especially if the run to Dolonne is closed, but evening opening
of the cable car should have put paid to that. On the back of the hill,
Zerotta is a real bottleneck – we’ve waited 15 minutes here in March. It’s
worth waiting until late afternoon to ride the Youla cable car.
New and improved
A new park opened last season, served by the Aretù chairlift. It has a
line of rails for beginners and children, another for intermediates and a
line of kickers. There is also an airbag served by two differently-sized
Off-piste is the challenge
Courmayeur has few challenging pistes. The black runs on the Val Veny side
are not severe, but moguls are allowed to develop. If you’re lucky enough
to find fresh powder, you can have fantastic fun among the trees.
Classic off-piste runs go from Cresta d’Arp, at the top of the lift
network, in three directions: a clockwise loop via Arp Vieille to Val
Veny, with close-up views of the Miage glacier; east down a deserted
valley to Dolonne or Pré-St-Didier; or south through the Youla gorge to La
Balme, near La Thuile.
A day trip to Chamonix is appealing, especially as some classic runs on
Mont Blanc start from the French side.
There are also heli-drops, including a wonderful 20km run from the Ruitor
glacier that ends near Ste-Foy in France – you take a taxi from there to
La Rosière, ride the lifts back up from there and descend to La Thuile
(then take another taxi back).
Good reds, but limited extent
It’s an intermediate’s mountain, for sure, laced with interestingly
varied, genuine red runs. But it is small; the avid piste-basher will ski
it in a day. There are a few good long runs – it’s 700m vertical from Col
Checrouit to Zerotta, and an impressive 1400m vertical from Cresta Youla
to Dolonne. On the steeper Val Veny side of the ridge there are challenges
to be found – while the reds and blues cut across the mountain, a row of
easy blacks go down more directly.
For the timid intermediate, on the other hand, the area is short of
confidence-building blue runs. There is basically one long blue on each
side of the ridge; that on the Val Veny side is better for the
challenge-averse. Many of the reds, particularly up around Col Checrouit,
and down to Plan Checrouit, do have the merit that they are generally
wide, which helps a lot.
You can learn to ski here. To get to the free beginner lifts (at Plan
Checrouit, on the ridge above that and at the top of the Entrèves cable
car. There is also a space in Dolonne for begginners.