In 2022, the New York Times listed Courmayeur as a place to see at least once in a lifetime, decreeing its entry among the most exclusive ski resorts in the world. The distinction is not just for being at the foot of Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Europe, but for the champagne uncorked on its slopes, the luxury hotels, and the new generation of entrepreneurs who have made it “the place to be”. Search it on Spotify to understand how.
Tremila metri sboccio il Cristal sul dessert
Portatemi da bere (la la la la la)
Balliamo sulla neve (la la la la la)
Courmayeur – Dj Matrix, Carolina Marquez, Ludwig (2020)
Courmayeur is today one of the most famous tourist destinations in the world, and yet, it’s not for the mountains. The small shepherds’ village first became famous thanks to the discovery of a thermal spring in nearby Pré-Saint-Didier. It was 1752 when the first tourists arrived to drink the medicinal waters, thus discovering the beauty of Mont Blanc: 4,810 meters still to be climbed. These were the years of the birth of mountaineering, in fact, it was here that Italy’s first company of alpine guides was born. Frequented by the royal family and members of the nobility and upper middle class, Courmayeur preserves in the historic center architectural traces of a glorious past. After the inauguration of the Mont Blanc tunnel in 1965, a multitude of hotels and second homes sprung up like mushrooms, along with the arrival of mass tourism. Predictably, this village of 2,700 inhabitants shares with other mountain tourist destinations the usual problems of managing flows, environmental impacts, landscape consumption, and diversity of services… problems easily solved by the village’s favorite weekend clientele, the Milanese who affectionately renamed the village: Courma, thus giving it a new identity.
Vado a Courma, con la cumpa
Con la cumpa
Vado a Courma
Courmayeur – Myss Keta (2017)
A short cable car ride from the city center finds Plan Chécrouit, where in 2013 a Milanese entrepreneur took over an old ski lodge; nothing has been the same since. At Super G there’s dancing and drinking, like being in Ibiza, but 2,000 meters up. Forget beers and spritzes, in Courma they saber bubbly now, so much so that in town the first Italian “champagne-livery” shop opened, Champagne a porter, complete with retail sweaters stamped with the words “champagne” and “mountains” (not to be missed must-haves). Knowing how to ski is unnecessary, as hundreds of people go up by cable car or, better yet, arrive directly from Milan purposely to make a night of it. This is the secret to the rebirth of Courmayeur: the emergence of a new local folklore by making the mountain a destination beyond just sport. During the summer with hikes, but also by combining selfie experiences such as a day in heated pools surrounded by snow at QCTerme di Pré-Saint-Didier. Or a 3,466 meter climb on the new Skyway Monte Bianco cable car towards “the lowest point of the sky”, which includes a bistro, a panoramic terrace, a bookshop, a botanical garden, and a museum.
Un Tik Tok sulla Skyway
Vodka ghiaccio e lemonade
The Rhythm Of The Night (In Maserati A Courmayeur) – Party Boomers, Paolo Ortelli feat. LDSF (2022)
If on one hand Courmayeur is building its future from the comings and goings of groups of kids, couples, and entrepreneurs in Maseratis, on the other it is also rewriting the concept of understated luxury. The mega hotels seem to belong to another era of a somewhat affluent mass tourism while travelers increasingly seek immersive “experiences”. Open fireplaces are preferred to hot tubs, traditional cuisine to international, and instead of suites, the privacy of chalets in which to breathe, live, and feel the mountain. The two most iconic places where to experience an authentic alpine dimension? They were built from scratch: the Auberge de la Maison hotel is just 25 years old and yet an icon of local hospitality. Au Coeur de Neige is an Alpine-style village, less than 20 years old, built with local stone and wood, perfectly integrated into the landscape, but completely “fake”. Small chalets are scattered throughout a large garden along with a central structure where the few rooms, restaurant, spa and swimming pool are housed. Private apartments sleep up to 12, the lit fireplaces providing a breath of mountain charm. Guests can cook home or as always, have breakfast, lunch and dinner delivered. A visionary project, at the time derided rather than opposed, that today is an upscale tourist destination – something that literally never existed. VIPs come here and, although the average stay in the city is less than two nights, there are those who stay for weeks or buy their own cabin outright. It’s not all just about luxury though, because it takes just a ten minute walk to reach a quiet hamlet where two thirty-year-olds manage Maison La Saxe, a delightful (and affordable) bed & breakfast in an eighteenth-century house. Featuring room service breakfast, a bedroom in the former kitchen with the original fireplace intact, and a top floor “suite” with views of the surrounding rooftops and smoking chimneys.
Weekend a Courmayeur
Sto sognando Courmayeur
Oggi è giovedì e domani a Courmayeur
Courmayeur – Myss Keta (2017)
City life is concentrated along the very central Via Roma, dotted with high fashion boutiques and accessories shops selling Swarovski dog trinkets or sporting goods. Stables and sheds have been replaced with small mountain chalets with pointed roofs. On one side is the Alpine Museum which recounts the birth of mountaineering up to the present day, on the other is the mammoth Brenta Condominium, where the lights come on only during holidays. The Grand Hotel Royal towers over the city skyline with its seven floors, boasting the only starred restaurant in town, the Petit Royal. To understand the urban evolution beyond just appearances, Tor (literally, high rock) Culture leads guided tours to uncover the history behind the city’s names, buildings, and statues, providing information and rattling off curiosities helping you understand the identity of Courmayeur. There were dark years, they locals usually admit after the first drink, but they’ve passed. The courage of the first pioneers (and foreign investors) paved the way for a new generation of ideas. It’s a movement of unifying innovation from the slopes to the valley, according to the founder of La Chaumière, a restaurant a few meters from Super G, where bread and tagliatelle are made from scratch every day, at high altitude. Because between Rolex and designer clothes, quality is the real driver of change.
Milano sarà sul Montblanc
Settimana Bianca – Il Pagante (2018)
Just outside the center, behind the counter of Bar del Gigante in the Le Massif hotel, bartender Bernardo “Berny” Ferro talks about his 30-year career spent in the valley between hotels and clubs. A local institution, he represents classic good drinking, blends an impeccable Negroni, and serves legendary Bloody Marys. He taught all the other bartenders in the area, including the guys from La Bouche, the only contemporary cocktail bar in the city. La Bouche was founded by Valentina Bianco, a bartender from Vercelli who came to Courmayeur to snowboard and decided to stay. As recently as just five years ago the village was old and dated, she says, but things are changing. Serving drinks like in Milan, she mixes using local herbs and genepi (traditional herbal liqueur). In 2020, she opened Ravì just across the street, a pastry and food shop where in addition to a selection of national delicacies, there are fine wines, rotisserie, single serve meals and modern cakes. “I chose not to redo the Eighties” she says. In actuality, the evolution of Courmayeur is simply the natural process of things, and like everything, it is accelerating.
In 2020, under new management, the historic Monte Bianco Refuge was brought back to life. “A refuge for living”, according to the young family who moved there for their own YOLO project. The spartan hospitality of the sleeping quarters has been redone with a contemporary touch, pictures memorialize the mountain guides who made history, and the cuisine alternates between traditional and gourmet, while the wi-fi allows working at an altitude of 1,700 meters. Also in 2020, Cadran Solaire Trattoria opened, beautifully furnished like a chalet, serving only traditional dishes in an environment that smells of mountain, where they use floral china and pewter service sets. The new Courmayeur seems just like it used to be.
Courmayeur, what to do :
Plan Checrouit, 9 11013 Courmayeur
Via Roma, 93, 11013 Courmayeur
Allee Des Thermes, 11010 Pré-Saint-Didier
Strada Statale 26 dir, 48, 11013 Courmayeur
Via Passerin D’Entreves, 16A, 11013 Courmayeur
SS26dir, 2b, 11013 Courmayeur
Via Cardinale Berthod, 22, 11013 Courmayeur
Strada Del Villair, 2, 11013 Courmayeur
Via Roma 87 11013 Courmayeur
Escursioni gratuite, da gennaio ad aprile 2022, ogni prima domenica del mese.
Località Planchecrouit, 15, 11013 Courmayeur
Località Ermitage, 7, 11013 Courmayeur AO
Piazza Principe Tomaso, 10, 11017 Morgex AO
SR, 38, 11013 Courmayeur
Via Regionale, 12, 11013 Courmayeur
Via Regionale, 7, 11013 Courmayeur
Loc. La Fodze, 2 – Val Veny, 11013 Courmayeur
Via Roma, 122, 11013 Courmayeur
Depending on perspective, Courmayer is the last municipality before France, or the first in Italy.