Courmayeur vs. Chamonix, Which is Best For Your Next Ski Trip?
Italy or France? The Mont-Blanc area is an incredibly picturesque location to visit. However, would you prefer your next skiing vacation to be in Courmayeur on the Italian side or Chamonix on the French side of Mont-Blanc, or Monte Bianco, as the Italians say?
Courmayeur is a much smaller village; great for intermediate and advanced skiers but with limited beginner terrain. Chamonix is a larger ski area with several resorts to choose from, offering terrain for beginners to experts. Both areas have legendary extreme skiing around Mont-Blanc.
About Courmayeur Ski Resort
Skiing at Courmayeur
Located in the Aosta Valley in Italy, on the southern side of Mont-Blanc, Courmayeur Ski Resort is a great location for a winter skiing vacation. Getting to the start of the Courmayeur Ski area requires you to first take one of three lifts to get to the base of the resort.
You can take a cable car from Courmayeur itself, a gondola from Dolonne, or a cable car from Val Veny just down the road. The ski area itself has a lot of great terrain for intermediate and advanced skiers but limited beginner terrain.
For advanced skiers, although there is a lot of skiable terrain within the resort, there are also some extreme off-piste routes on Monte Bianco (known as Mont-Blanc in French). This area is no joke, the terrain on Monte Bianco massif is for true experts only with numerous hazards to contend with such as avalanche risk, crevasses, and more.
There are ski schools for all levels of skiers, from beginners to people who want to improve their abilities. You can hire ski rental gear down in the village of Courmayeur or if it is more convenient you can hire gear from Plan Chécrouit on the mountain.
With the Courmayeur ski area, there are restaurants and food options all over the mountain as well as down in the village. Monte Bianco, or Mont-Blanc, is the highest peak in Italy, and has a cable car called Skyway that takes you up this beautiful mountain to see amazing views of Italy and France.
Skyway Monte Bianco has a variety of experiences on the mountain. These range from activities such as an alpine cinema to wine tastings and even a permanent precious jewels exhibition.
There are a variety of accommodation options within Courmayeur village as well as other surrounding villages. Accommodation is often available at the base of each of the lifts that ascend out of the resort.
At the center of Courmayeur village you can pick up the cable car that will take you up to the ski area. So depending on how close your accommodation is to the cable car you will have fast access to the runs.
More accommodation is available at Dolonne, where there are a few guesthouses and a hotel near the gondola. While Entreves & La Palud services the base of the Skyway Monte Bianco as well as the Val Veny cable car.
It’s always worth checking out the resort map to see where the lifts begin and where these small villages are in relation to one another. This really helps to orientate yourself around the resort.
Courmayeur Transportation/Getting There
The closest gateway airports to reach Courmayeur are Milan or Geneva. If you are traveling from within Europe, you can also fly to Turin. If you are flying into one of these airports, there are bus and train options available.
Driving to Courmayeur is also a great option and very easy to navigate. All major airports provide rental car services but are sure when you book that the car has snow tires and snow chains, as these are often obligatory in winter.
About Chamonix Ski Resort
Chamonix, or Chamonix Mont-Blanc, is located in the French alps, close to the border with Italy and Switzerland. Within the Chamonix area, there are five fantastic ski resorts to choose from: Grands Montets, Les Houches, Le Tour/Balme, La Flegere, and Le Brevent.
Skiing at Chamonix
As the oldest ski area in France, Chamonix is known for its legendary skiing and incredible mountain adventures. There is more than 170 km of piste to ski within 11 ski areas (the five main resorts previously mentioned as well as an additional six smaller local areas).
With a network of over 60 lifts, Chamonix has a huge area to ski and snowboard both on and off-piste. However, these lifts are not all interconnected.
The ability ranges from beginner slopes to extreme skiing. The area is near the highest mountain in Western Europe, Mont Blanc, which is 4,810 m high. This area is a crazy playground for extreme winter sports skiers and snowboarders from many countries and tends to attract purists and genuine enthusiasts.
In addition to skiing within the ski resorts, Chamonix has a famous ski route, Vallée Blanche. Touring across an expansive glacier and descending through incredible Alpine scenery will offer some unforgettable views.
If you are new to ski touring or haven’t been skiing in the Vallee Blanche area before, it is vital to hire a guide to take you through this route. It is full of crevasses, changing glaciers, avalanches, and other hazards.
There is a variety of restaurants and cuisine styles to choose from. Whether you are looking to taste the local cuisine or grab a quick snack in between runs, there is plenty of options to choose from.
Accommodation for the Chamonix ski area can be found in the town of Chamonix itself or in nearby villages. Chamonix has varied accommodation, from hostels to 5-star luxury hotels or chalets. If you stay in Chamonix, the ski areas aren’t interconnected, so you will need to catch a local shuttle bus to ride between them or use your car.
Other neighboring villages that you may consider where you can access Chamonix via a bus or train, depending on the village, include Le Tour, Les Houches, Les Bossons, Les Praz, Vallorcine, and Argentiere.
Chamonix Transportation/Getting There
Located in the French Alps, the gateway airports for Chamonix are Geneva and Lyon St Exupéry. Chamonix is a popular location , so there are a wide variety of transport options for getting there.
From the airport, hiring a rental car or taking a private transfer to Chamonix are both options. However, public transport options such as a bus or train are also possible too.
Transferring from Geneva, there is a direct bus from Geneva airport to Chamonix that takes approximately 2 h 10 min. The train takes closer to 3 h, depending on your luck with connections, as you often need to make multiple changes.
If you are coming from Paris, the two main options would be to drive (approximately 6 hours) or take the train. The length of the train journey depends on which connections you have to make. However, the high speed TGV system in France can take you all the way to Chamonix.
Once you get to Chamonix, you may be wondering how easy it is to transfer between the outlying resorts. Within the Chamonix Valley, there is a free bus for anyone who has a lift pass, guest card, and residents, making it very easy to get around.
It’s not the fastest bus service however and you may waste valuable time waiting at stops. Some prefer to hire a car as even the furthest resort is only about 15 minutes drive. There is plenty of free parking at each of the resorts but they do get busy at peak season.
There are also a few train lines that run from Les Houches to Vallorcine.
Which Resort Should You Choose?
Both locations will provide you with a different ski vacation experience. In general, Chamonix is bigger, busier, and has more terrain, whereas Courmayeur is a little smaller and has less terrain but you do get to stay in Italy.
Courmayeur is just one ski resort with access to the Monte Bianco area for expert skiers, which can make for some incredible skiing experiences. Chamonix is always a lot busier, but with multiple ski resorts and areas to choose from, you won’t have a problem finding new terrain to ski during your stay.
Can You Ski Between Chamonix and Courmayeur?
No, you can’t ski between Chamonix and Courmayeur.
Can You Drive Between Chamonix and Courmayeur?
Yes! Chamonix and Courmayeur are connected through the Mont Blanc tunnel, which connects France and Italy. This tunnel is 11.6 km long and will require you to pay a toll. There is a bus service between the two towns operated by Italian company SAVDA, which takes 45 mins.