Set on the Italian side of Mont Blanc, Courmayeur Mont Blanc is a genteel Alpine town best known for combining epic skiing with exquisite food. However, as anybody who has visited the Alps in summer will know, mountains are not just for skiing: as the winter snow recedes, it reveals a playground of winding mountain trails, wildflower meadows, lush forests and turquoise glacial lakes brimming with opportunity for adventure, fun and wellbeing.
From adrenalin-fuelled rock climbing, canyoning, trail running and heli-biking to day hikes, trout fishing, ebiking and mountain yoga, there’s something for everyone in this spectacular pocket of the Alps. And this wouldn’t be Courmayeur without the day’s activity being shaped around a gourmet lunch or restorative drink on the panoramic sun terrace of a rustic, geranium-festooned mountain hut, or rifugio.
Steeped in mountaineering history, Courmayeur’s cobbled streets and sun-blackened timber chalets belie a distinctly progressive approach to hospitality. Home to the pioneering Skyway Monte Bianco revolving cable car, slick contemporary hotels and inventive Michelin-standard chefs, Courmayeur is also leading the way in ‘workations’. Acknowledging the current trend for working remotely, and a seemingly universal pent-up desire for travel, the town has adapted to the needs of digital nomads by creating bespoke work hubs in hotels and even on Mont Blanc itself. We can’t think of a more compelling reason to meet a deadline than the need to squeeze in a swim in Europe’s highest heated open-air pool, encircled by snow-capped peaks, before sunset. Here are six brilliant reasons to visit Courmayeur in summer.
It’s hard to beat Courmayeur Mont Blanc when it comes to hiking – the town has some of the world’s most spectacular, diverse and challenging trails on its doorstep. You can go for gentle hikes with children in tow, enlisting a couple of donkeys to help carry your picnic gear; indulge in a fontina walking tour through the wildflower-rich pastures that give the local cheese its distinctive taste; or tackle multi-day treks such as the 130-mile Tour du Mont Blanc, which takes hikers through France, Italy and Switzerland in a blaze of mountain splendour. Grab a pair of Nordic trekking poles to up the exercise ante, pick up the pace for some trail running or – for the seriously hardcore – join dedicated vertical race runners for the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc or Tor des Géants.
Courmayeur locals like to say that your bicycle chain is the only chain that can set you free. Once you’ve experienced the heady freedom that comes from exploring the high-altitude mountain trails, lush valleys, shaded forests and meandering glacial rivers of the Aosta Valley on two wheels, you’re likely to agree. You can earn your descents with a classic mountain bike, enjoy a bit of (electric) help with an ebike or even hail a chopper to airlift you into the mountains so you can focus on the downhill thrills. With a number of local rental shops and passionate mountain bike guides at your disposal, as well as plenty of mountain huts for pit stops, it’s time to get on your bike.
The Dora Baltea springs from Mont Blanc and, fed by the great peak’s glacier and melting snow, flows through the Aosta Valley on its long journey to the sea. Swollen with meltwater, the river offers superb summer rafting and kayaking opportunities for experienced and beginner paddlers alike. If paddling through rapids isn’t quite exciting enough, try canyoning – hiking, jumping, swimming and abseiling your way around the river’s gorges, canyons and waterfalls. Alternatively, if you prefer a slower pace of river life, soak up the tranquillity of the Dora di Val Ferret fishing reserve. A tributary of the Dora Baltea, the burbling river is flanked by forests and snow-topped peaks and teems with mountain trout in the summer, making it an idyllic spot for some meditative fishing.
Mountaineers and climbers have flocked to Courmayeur for centuries, their sights firmly set on Mont Blanc, western Europe’s highest mountain. It might surprise you to learn that some of the peaks surrounding Monte Bianco – to give it its Italian name – and even its summit are accessible to mere mortals (assuming strong fitness levels). With the help of Courmayeur Mont Blanc’s Alpine guides, you could bag Mont Blanc (15,774ft), scale the 11,233ft peak of Petit Mont Blanc or stand atop the Aiguille d’Entrèves (11,824ft). Aside from the big boys, there are countless smaller peaks and bouldering opportunities, in addition to several via ferrata – hiking routes equipped with fixed ladders, cables and bridges that are accessible to all those with a head for heights.
Work with a view
Book a workation in Courmayeur and office life will never be the same again. First, buy a Skyway Smart-Working Ticket, which will transform your commute into a ride up to 7,217ft above sea level aboard a rotating, floor-to-ceiling glass bubble – the Skyway Monte Bianco cable car. Once at the Pavillon mid-station, you can settle down at a number of workstations offering sweeping views over Mont Blanc and Val Vény. Forget sandwiches or leftovers for lunch and a constitutional around the block before getting back to the grindstone – in Courmayeur you’ll whizz up to 11,371ft aboard the cable car for lunch at the aptly named Bistrot Panoramic before strolling around Europe’s highest botanical gardens and returning to your mountain-view desk.
Recharge and relax
There can be few better places in which to surrender to the beauty, harmony and tranquillity of nature than Courmayeur Mont Blanc. From the soaring majesty of Mont Blanc to the delicate beauty of Alpine flowers such as the tiny black vanilla orchid, this is a place in which to take stock, recharge and relax. Indulge in meditative walking on the banks of oxygen-rich mountain streams; practise yoga in quiet pastures at the foot of Mont Blanc; boost your immune system with a forest-bathing cleanse; and earn your refreshing dip in Europe’s highest heated open-air swimming pool, set amid lush meadows at 5,577ft, by skipping the cable car and hiking up to it instead.