Val d’Aosta’s Courmayeur not only offers a break from the summer heat, but also the opportunity for a wide range of outdoor activities. Habitual visitor Albert Pace gives us the lowdown.

­­­An alpine resort boasting centuries of history and world wide celebrity, Courmayeur is a multi-coloured world with plenty of traditions and folklore, where every guest can spend unforgettable holidays thanks to the vast range of activities.

At an elavation of 1,224 metres above sea level, it is located at the foot of Mont Blanc, the highest point in the Alps. Mont Blanc is the most famous massif in Europe. Mountain climbing as we know it today started here.

In the heavenly summer temperature of around 25ºC during the day and 13ºC in the evening, one can indulge in various activities such as mountain trekking, rafting, mountain biking, ice skating, Alpine tennis and golf, paragliding and many others.

Rafting on the Dora Baltea river.Rafting on the Dora Baltea river.

Rafting is one of the most exciting activities available at this resort village. This activity is carried out on the Dora Baltea river, which literally runs through the Mont Blanc valley and is frequently referred to as the European Colorado. Available sports range from long, challenging rafting descents to rafting introductions and kayaking.

You do not have to worry on the ice cold water as the rafting organisers provide you with a wet suit, a life jacket and a crash helmet. Personnel is very professional and makes you feel safe and relaxed – apart from the 30-minute, scary lecture covering all eventualities. For an amazing adrenaline experience, rafting in Courmayeur is not to be missed.

But the adventure doesn’t stop with rafting – trekking can be just as exciting. The vast territory at the foot of Mont Blanc is powerfully panoramic and allows hikers to discover one of the most famous and extraordinary mountain groups in Europe. The chain of mountains includes Mont Blanc and separates the Aosta Valley from Chamonix.

The elegant village of Courmayeur has easily accessible balcony paths and great panoramic routes. Mountain lovers who live for the extreme or who simply love mountain scenery arrive from all over the world to stand before the ‘’roof of Europe’. For the more experienced mountain trekkers the Tour of Mont Blanc is a must. Walking at the foot of the high Alpine peaks, one can understand the desire for exploration that captured the immagination and made this great mountain massif a natural observatory beyond compare.

For an amazing adrenaline experience, rafting in Courmayeur is not to be missed

It is a world of incredibly high and steep rocks that have been modelled and destroyed by the strong action of ice. The landscape also boasts never-ending valleys and grassy basins rich in wild flora and fauna.

Brimming with incredible views from high mountain passes, lush valleys and highway sized glaciers, Alpine scenery does not get much better than this.

Trekking at the foot of Mont Blanc.Trekking at the foot of Mont Blanc.

As if that were not enough, the village also offers the possibility of mountain swimming at an altidude of 1,700 metres. I could not resist giving this a try – luckily, the open-air swimming pool is heated to around 28ºC. It is an indescribable feeling of pleasure to swim, sun-bathe and relax while gazing at the summit of Mont Blanc in the distance. The pool is situated on Plan Chercouit and lies just a few minutes away from the village by cable car. It is also a pleasant walk up to this location and, the second time I visit, I went by foot and took about an hour to arrive from Courmayeur.

For a more relaxed activity, the Dora Baltea River, the clear streams along the central valley and the Alpine lakes offer fishing enthusiasts various types of fishing and scenery.

During my stays there, I have spent a considerable amount of time watching people fishing. In Val Ferret one can catch some species of the Arctic char, Stelhead trout and Brook trout, all of high quality and generous dimensions.

You can’t leave Courmayeur without taking a ride on what has been dubbed the eighth wonder of the world. The upgraded cable car which links Courmayeur to Chamonix is very appropriately advertised; the New Skyway cable car was inaugurated in May 2015.

From La Pallud in Courmayeur, it offers a breathtaking landscape thanks to the 360º rotating cabins and three fantastic stations with resturants and cafeterias. Snow is guaranteed all year round where the cable car reaches the summot of Helbronner (3462 metres of altitude).

Swimming at an altitude of 1,700 metres.Swimming at an altitude of 1,700 metres.

A 45 feet diameter terrace was constructed to offer a matchless view with the over 4,000 metre peak of the western Alps only appearing to be a few metres away.

Time seems to stop and the desire to never leave the panorama is strong. This is the closest you can get to the summit of Mont Blanc without hiking or climbing. From Helbronner, then, one can proceed by cable car to Chamonix. The five kilometre journey goes across glaciers and the Mont Blanc massif to arrive at Aiguille du Midi in France.

Courmayeur is best accessed through Geneva airport, Switzerland. Alternatively, the Milan Malpensa and Linate airports and the Caselle Aeroporto di Torino in Italy are also good gateway airports, although they require longer travel by train.

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