Travel: Snow Good
Adrenalin, Alpine Adventure and Après – ParentFolk visits Courmayeur Mont Blanc and finds the ultimate family-friendly ski destination
Words by Pippa Goulden
I’m a ski junkie. There, I said it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a bit of sun lounger action and we’ve had fabulous family holidays in warmer climes, but, for me, there’s nothing like a shot of mountain air and some piste action to blow away the cobwebs and revive the soul. I love nothing more than a fun morning ski followed by a delicious lunch then a pootle on the slopes to après. But what happens when you have kids in tow? How do you make family ski holidays work? We visit Courmayeur Mont Blanc to find out.
Perhaps less well known than some of the bigger French and Swiss resorts, Courmayeur Mont Blanc is a great choice for families. It’s a picture-perfect resort, set around an ancient village and the locals have worked hard to preserve the traditional feel of the town. The main high street is pedestrianised and apart from the obvious snow sports, there’s lots for families to do in town. There’s also the incredible SkyWay, a brand new state-of-the-art gondola that takes you up to 3622m and gives the most stunning panoramic views of the mountains, and the jewel in the crown, Mont Blanc itself.
On The Mountain
If it’s Winter Sports you’re after, then Courmayeur Mont Blanc certainly ticks that box. It’s home to over 100km of on and off-piste skiing and boarding, offering a mix suitable for all levels. There’s some lovely wide slopes as well as more challenging options for the better skiers and boarders, plus three ‘baby’ slopes for absolute beginners – both young and old. There are two main ski schools and our guide Claude from Scuola di sci Monte Bianco was an alpine legend. He believes children can start skiing once they are confident to walk up and down stairs by themselves and the ski school takes children from three years old.
It’s not just skiing that’s on offer, mountain enthusiasts can try skating, fat biking, hiking, snow shoeing, climbing and more. Courmayeur Mont Blanc is also a great option for families where not everyone wants to hit the slopes. The mountains are easily accessible for non-skiers to meet up for delicious lunches or to enjoy an Aperol Spritz at Après at the Super-G Ski bar. With a separate kids’ space on the lower ground floor and an open-air dance floor and DJ this a great place to end the day on the mountain.
Courmayeur Mont Blanc also offers lots to do if the conditions aren’t right for skiing or you just fancy an afternoon off the slopes. There’s some serious shopping to be done in town at the boutiques, plus heavenly spas such as the Hotel Gran Baita where there’s a gorgeous indoor/ outdoor pool and the most divine treatments.
Kids will absolutely love the Mountain Sports Centre which offers a climbing wall, ice rink, indoor tennis courts and football pitch plus a games room with ping pong, table football and other entertainment. There’s also a kids’ club based at the centre where children can be looked after if you want a bit of grown-up time and a childcare option if you have younger children who can’t ski.
A Taste of Italy
Courmayeur Mont Blanc is a true Italian resort and the weekend option for many a Milan resident, giving it a chic but friendly feel. Being Italy, children are welcomed with open arms whether it’s in restaurants, hotels and even on the dance floor at Super G. Not surprisingly, the food is great for kids and adults alike. Every restaurant will offer children’s dishes such as fresh pasta and tomato sauce or chicken Milanese and there’s lots of pizzerias dotted around the town and on the slopes. Or do as the Italian kids do and order off the main menu – from Italian cured meats, the most delicious fondues with Fontina cheese (much less heavy that its Swiss counterpart), Italian steaks and traditional Astoria dishes, there’s something for every taste and budget. In fact, we were pleasantly surprised at the cost of some of the dishes on both the mountain and in town.
For a real treat and something that the kids will love, head back up the mountain after dark for dinner. You can take the cable car and be met by a Ski Doo which will whizz you up to your mountain restaurant of choice. The cable car runs until midnight so there’s no time pressure to get back down the mountain.
Courmayeur Mont Blanc offers accommodation to suit every budget. From self-catering apartments to quality three star hotels (where you’re not going to feel self-conscious about having lively children), to five star hotels such as the luxurious Hotel Massif, which has inter-connecting rooms, a brilliant kids club and babysitting service. They don’t offer the catered chalet service in Courmayeur Mont Blanc but you can hire private chalets and choose to stay either in town or on the slopes.
Apart from its good looks, its delightful slopes and its delicious food, perhaps one of the most special things about Courmayeur Mont Blanc is the people and the warm welcome you receive at every turn. There’s an absolutely magic in the resort and its run by people who are fiercely proud of their region and want you to love it as much as they do. Courmayeur Mont Blanc is a true gem of a ski resort and I, for one, cannot wait to return with a husband and two kids in tow.
- Le Massif – a luxurious 5* ski hotel with a spa, incredible restaurant, lodge on the slopes and kids club
- Hotel Gran Baita – a traditional 3* family-friendly hotel with spa
- La Chaumière – traditional mountain restaurant offering nighttime ski-doo service.
- Chateau Branlant – picture perfect mountain restaurant serving traditional dishes
- Mont Frety – for the perfect Italian pizzas in town
- Buffet Alpino – delicious Italian lunch at 2173m via the SkyWay
The Mont Blanc Skyway
Your head will be firmly in the clouds with a trip on the Skyway Mont Blanc, a new state-of-the-art cable car that takes you all the way up to 3466m. This feat of engineering and architecture is well worth a trip during your stay in Courmayeur Mont Blanc.
This futuristic attraction is great for both parents and kids – it feels like you’re travelling in a spaceship as the cabins rotate as you ascend to give you a 360 degree panorama of the peaks of Mont Blanc. Once you reach the summit you will find a viewing platform where you can see for miles (on a good day!), crystal room, café and even Europe’s highest book shop. It’s also worth stopping at the Intermediate station, which includes a delicious restaurant, Buffet Alpino, a museum and a winery, Cave Mont Blanc, where you can taste the delicious local wines.
Book tickets at www.montebianco.com