The Aosta Valley is the smallest autonomous region in Italy but boasts many of Italy’s, and indeed the Alps, highest peaks. Throughout the valley there are over 800km of marked pistes and 150 ski lifts, mostly spread amongst the resorts of Courmayeur, La Thuile, Pila, Champlouc and Gressoney. Marked by Mont Blanc at the western end and stretching to the Monterosa in the east, the Aosta Valley is also home to the Italian flanks of the Alps most famous peak – the iconic Matterhorn and one of the valleys best known resorts – Cervinia.The resorts form the base of several distinct ski areas, La Thuile, Courmayeur Mont-Blanc, the Monterosa, Alagna in Piemonte, of course, Cervinia which now includes the entire Zermatt ski area linked at high altitude across the glacier. Although not all lift linked, one pass now buys you access to all these slopes, along with an extraordinary quantity, quality and variety of off-piste terrain.
The historic mountain town of Courmayeur is one of the world’s top ski resorts. It sits on the Italian side of Mont Blanc, western Europe’s highest mountain, which it shares with Chamonix over on the French side. The scenery all around you here is spectacular, with fourteen 4,000m plus mountain peaks above and Courmayeur is a very atmospheric resort where ancient buildings huddle around cobbled streets so that the whole place oozes traditional charm.The resort offers skiing for all standards, including famous runs such as the resort’s World Cup Downhill and the International, a 6km (4 miles) run which drops 1,000m (approximately 3,300 feet) as it descends. Many runs are covered by snowmaking and the resort has a very good snow record.Serious skiers are likely to head for the more limited lift network of Mont Blanc, which serves steeper, more spectacular trail and links over to Chamonix which, along with Argentière further up the Chamonix Valley, is included on the Courmayeur lift pass.Beginners have wide open slopes to gain confidence on, with tuition from the Mont Blanc Ski School, founded in 1936 and one of Italy’s oldest and most prestigious. Intermediates are the most spoilt having both the wide open spaces and testing routes above Courmayeur and the ability to tackle the incredible runs that are unique to Mont Blanc.