Dominated by the snowy peaks of Mont Blanc (Monte Bianco to the Italians), the northern reaches of Valle d’Aosta are spectacular and very popular. The most sensational views are from the cable cars that glide and swoop across the mountain to Chamonix in France. The trip is expensive (€55 return, €46 one way), even if you take a bus back to Italy through the 11km-long Mont Blanc tunnel, and the service is often suspended because of bad weather.
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COURMAYEUR (wcourmayeur.com) is the smartest and most popular of Valle d’Aosta’s ski resorts – the skiing is good and the scenery is magnificent. There are two ski schools here: Monte Bianco Ski and Snowboard School (wscuolascimontebianco.com) and the Snowboard and Ski School Courmayeur (wscuolascicourmayeur.it). If you’ve come to hike or take the cable cars across to Chamonix, the most convenient place to stay is LA PALUD, 5km outside Courmayeur (wsavda.it).
The cable car runs from La Palud to Punta Helbronner all year round, but continues to Chamonix only between July and September. There are between ten and twelve departures a day, depending on the time of year, roughly hourly starting at 8.30am – although regularity depends on the weather. Set out early since it’s usually cloudy by midday. Even if it’s blazing hot in the valley, the temperature plunges to near freezing at the top, so come prepared.
There are good walks along the two valleys at the foot of the Mont Blanc glaciers, both of which have seasonal campsites accessible by bus from Courmayeur. In Val Ferret you can walk from Frebouze over Monte de la Saxe, with some incredible views of Mont Blanc en route.