Daniel Pountney

Get to the chopper

Daniel Pountney
Get to the chopper

I HAVE got to get better at skiing.

It's got to be done because since I left Courmayeur a few weeks ago I've learned that what I thought was an excellent little resort for intermediates like myself is actually an awesome destination for advanced skiers too.

And I want to go back and make the most of the place.

I loved the little Italian town just a few minutes out of the Mont Blanc tunnel and had a great time on its snow but I imagined those with a good 20 years of parallel turning under their belts might be better served by Chamonix on the French side of the tunnel.

Not necessarily, according to Amin Momen who runs Momentum Ski, providers of bespoke trips in the region.

First off, there's the Valle Blanche.

"It's a 17km run down the glacier from Courmayeur to Chamonix," he said.
"Good intermediates can do it and the scenery is beautiful."

Towards the end of another week of lessons I reckon I'll be ready for that and it sounds like an incredible day. Going up and down the piste all day is fun but this is something to be achieved and I can't resist a sporting challenge.

It's going to be some time before I'm ready for the Toula glacier though. This one's for advanced people only.

"It is pretty daunting but a great day for expert skiers," Amin says.

Toula Glacier skiing footage from YouTube


Courmayeur's also great if you want to explore lesser-skied paths.

Heli-ski is more associated with mountains in the US and Canada than in Europe and not only is it bloody expensive, it's limiting if your friend group is of mixed abilities.

"If you want to heli-ski you're often staying in a lodge in the middle of nowhere," Amin explains.
"That means everyone in your group has to have the same level of ability."

In Courmayeur, though, the chopper takes off from the town which means you can get dropped off, carve your own path down through virgin snow and meet your lesser-able pals on the piste for lunch. 

And because it's only a short hop for the helicopter back and forth from base, you're looking at about 250 Euros a person. Bargain, especially when you think a 12-minute sightseeing flight over London costs £150.

OK, I'm aware I'm starting to sound like an advertisement here so here's the other side of the coin. Beautiful, Courmayeur is, but lively it isn't.

In a bar one night during my trip I bumped into the ski instructor that had been shepherding me around the slopes all day.

"Fancy seeing you here," I said.

"It's not that surprising," she said. "If I wasn't in this bar I'd have only been in the other one."

So while Chamonix down the road is full of clubs bursting with semi-naked Scandinavian girls, Courmayeur is a quieter affair.

Where you go, then, should depend on the level of apres-ski you prefer. Not, as I previously thought, the quality of the skiing.