Alps Ski Trip – Courmayeur, Chamonix, Cervinia/Zermatt

by Katherine Longhi on January 18, 2013

Happy New Year everyone!  How are you keeping with your New Year’s resolutions?  Fallen off the bandwagon yet?! My New Year’s resolution is simply to live life to the fullest and have fun.  Simple and straightforward or a cop out of New Year’s traditions?  Well, we’ll see.

Over Christmas break I started to put my resolution to the test.  First stop – Courmayeur, Italy.  The skiing was terrific and we stayed in a fantastic 2-star hotel called Hotel Aigle.  This 10 room pensione is one of my best culinary experiences.  They cooked us 4 course gluten-free meals every night.  And I’m not talking about substituting salad for bread but we had the exact same menu as all the other gluten-eating guests only without gluten.  Amazing!

Gluten-free ricotta stuffed ravioli courtesy of Hotel Aigle, Courmayeur, Italy

Courmayeur is on the border of France right next to the entrance to the Mont Blanc tunnel (which by the way totally freaks me out).  They had a scary fire in the tunnel back in 1999 which claimed 38 lives.  This is probably why today the tunnel is a really slick operation and there are loads of safety precautions ranging from how they time the entries of vehicles to the safety announcements that come over your car radio.

Time to hit the slopes! Sunrise view from Hotel Aigle

Anyways if you want to take a nice day trip from Courmayeur and ski in Chamonix (which is at least twice as big) you’re going to have to swallow your fear, fork out 51.60 euros (67 US or 43GBP at the time of writing), and just go for it.  (Don’t forget to bring your passport either in case they check.  Out of 4 trips through the tunnel we weren’t checked a single time but you never know!)

Sunny day skiing in Chamonix

I’ll be honest.  Skiing in Chamonix really pissed me off.  We parked Italian-style (illegally) near Les Praz and skied the Domaine Brévent-Flégère.  It took us a half hour to buy ski passes and an hour to queue up for the first gondola (which is the gateway gondola, no other way up.)  Any who you can imagine how annoying it is to wait an hour and a half to start your ski day.  So here’s a tip: buy your ski pass in advance and arrive no later than 9am to get your first gondola.  For big skiers Chamonix is a dream. It’s probably the largest ski resort that I’ve ever been to (and I’ve been to Bormio, Madonna di Campiglio, Livigno, and Les Deux Alpes).  There are 4 different “domaines” that you can ski.  They are not interconnected so you have to take your pick for the day.  However if you spend a whole week in Chamonix you’ll have more than enough to keep you busy.

Cervinia/Zermatt ski resorts almost all closed

Second ski fail of the trip – Breuil-Cervinia/Zermatt.  The novelty here for me (besides the famous Matterhorn glacier) is that you can (in theory) ski from one country to another.  You can park in Breuil-Cervinia and take the lifts up on the Italian side and ski down to Zermatt in Switzerland (or vice versa).  That is unless you (after having driven over an hour from Courmayeur) arrive in Breuil-Cervinia to learn that hardly any lifts are open.  Then you take a risk and decide to make the most of it only to learn after one ski run that of what little was open when you bought your ski pass, only half that remains.  Best part of the day?  A delicious 2 hour lunch in the charming Ristorante Bar La Bricole (book as soon as you arrive for lunch).

Mandatory to keep in your car in France - alcohol tests!

Our best ski experience by far was the 3 days we spent skiing in Courmayeur.  The snow was great, everything was open, the queues were manageable.  Plus it has a cute little centro with lots of nice bars for an après-ski aperativo.  Not to be missed is the Fiaccolata dei Maestri where all of the ski instructors light giant torches and ski down the mountain in the dark.  It’s quite a sight to be seen.

Doesn't look promising

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Caroline August 11, 2014 at 2:29 am

Hi Katherine! I stumbled upon your blog via a google search hoping to get some insight on Courmayeur vs. Cerevinia. I know this is an older post.. But glad I found it! I’m planning a family ski trip in late November and we are between the two. Sounds like its safe to say Courmayeur has your vote. Do you know why the lifts were closed in Cerevinia? Wind? I’d love to hear if you have any more to share on these locations, or even others :)

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Katherine Longhi August 11, 2014 at 11:20 am

The lifts were closed in Cervinia because of inclement weather. Because I spent so little time there (versus the 4 I spent in Courmayeur) it’s hard to really compare them. Whichever you pick though, it will be great. Plus you can do a day trip from one to the either. In general, you can’t lose skiing in Italy! Hope that helps! K

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