Courmayeur’s Vallé Blanche: skiing on the roof of Europe

There are plenty of good reasons to take the highway from Milan and drive to posh Courmayeur: wonderful views on the Mont Blanc, great sky slopes, good food, the charming main pedestrianized street, fantastic spas, well, everything you may expect from one of the most reputed Italian sky resorts.

But, whether you are a free ride fanatic or just a natural beauties enthusiast, there’s one thing you shouldn’t miss in Courmayeur: taking a ride down the world famous off-piste skirun of the Vallée Blanche.

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The Vallée Blanche is an incredibly beautiful 24 Km descent in the heart of the Mont Blanc Massif, from the Glaciers of the Colle del Gigante into the Valley of Chamonix across the “Mer de Glace” (“Sea of Ice”,  alps largest glacier). The descent begins at New Torino Hut, at 3375 mt above sea level and ends in Chamonix 1037 mt, a truly unforgettable experience between granite peaks, crevasses and ice tunnels .

From a technical point of view, the descent is not particularly difficult, and can be considered as a ski hike more than a real free ride itinerary. It is about 4 to 5 hours from Rifugio Torino to Chamonix on skis, depending on how much time is spent taking photos, having a picnic lunch and sunbathing at 4.000 mt. Experienced guide are available (and strongly recommended!) to lead you while sliding down the glacier. The Vallée Blanche descent is possible from Christmas to the beginning of May. During January and February snow and weather conditions are generally excellent along the whole descent.

Said so, even if skiing is not your cup of tea, you can still get your cable way and do all the glacier crossing to the Aiguille du Midi and then to Chamonix, a fantastic journey on Europe’s highest mountain!

In any case, your journey will begin in La Palud, a hamlet 7 Km from Courmayeur, just before the Mont Blanc tunnel, where you will get your cable car to Rifugio Torino.

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Mont Blanc cable car reaches ancient Torino Hut in 15 minutes from La Palud. Once arrived, climb on the terrace, to experience all the beauty of Mont Blanc mountains and Glaciers.

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Notice the “Dente del Gigante” the Giant’s Tooth, an incredible tower of rock reaching over 4000 meters.

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Actually, the Italy-France border is just below your feet, and the Vallée Blanche descent is in France territory.

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From the terrace, following the cables, you can spot the Aiguille du Midi on the French side, surely the world’s most dramatic lift station at 3,850m above sea level.

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Our “dream ski team” is ready to begin the Vallée Blanche descent!

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Up in the crisp, the cable car cabins appear ridiculously small in the dark blue, jagged skyline,

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After the first half hour, the slope gets  steeper and we pick our way through house-sized blocks of brilliant blue ice.

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We follow our experiences guide to avoid following in a hidden crevasse.

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The landscape is gorgeous, and you feel like an ant in such a gigantic landscape.

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Half way down the slope, with our guide.

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After a while, the valley flattens, and you could start looking for a secluded rock for  a unique high mountains picnic lunch.

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The last kilometers are rather flat, and you may need some hard pushing to get to the end.

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Because of the Global Warming, the Mer de Glace glacier has lost a considerable amount of ice during the last decades (and it keeps melting fast, unfortunately). You can notice the marks left by the glacier on the rock walls on the two sides of the valley.

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Getting to the small railway that leads to Chamonix (where the shuttle to Courmayeur is waiting for you) implies some sweaty hiking and a taking a short cable car.

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Once in Courmayeur, just look for a nice café in via Roma to celebrate your adventure with a well deserved drink, then spend your evening relaxing in one of the outside hot pools of Prést Didier SPA, enjoying their unique view on the Mont Blanc.

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