Nestled at the foot of Mount Blanc, thousands of elegant Italians visit the picturesque Alpine resort of Courmayeur in Italy every year. Their intention is not to ski but to enjoy the fresh air, luxury boutiques, excellent eateries and vibrant mountain atmosphere. For some reason, however, the British seem reluctant to visit ‘ski’ resorts, unless they intend to ski.
The truth is, at a resort like Courmayeur, we’re missing out. You need only spend an afternoon sitting on the terrace of one of the resort’s pretty restaurants or cafés to see a parade of smartly-dressed Italians enjoying all the shopping and culture that Courmayeur has to offer, without the slightest intention of ever putting on skis.
From taking the Skyway to the highest point reachable on Mont Blanc and enjoying the views (not to mention the engineering!), to eating at one of its three Michelin-starred restaurants, or just exploring the pretty Alpine town – there is plenty to do here for those not wishing to ski.
The Skyway Monte Bianco
If you long to breathe in the very freshest mountain air, take in some of the most stunning mountain views in the Alps and experience the feeling of being, quite literally, on top of the world, a trip to the top of the Skyway cable car is a must.
Completed in 2015, the Skyway takes visitors as close as they can get to the summit of Mont Blanc without the need for climbing equipment. The top station of the cable car, Punta Helbronner, towers a dizzying 3,466m high, from where visitors can enjoy 360º panoramic views from the circular viewing terrace which take in the Alps’ most impressive peaks: Monte Rosa, the Matterhorn, Gran Paradiso and, of course, Mont Blanc, the highest mountain of the Alps.
The History of the Cable Car
It was as far back as the 1930s that the idea of a cable car connecting Courmayeur on the Italian side of Mont Blanc and Chamonix on the French was first discussed. But although early stations were completed during World War Two, the cables were severed by French fighter planes during the conflict.
An Italian station was opened in 1948 at Rifugio Torino, which reached a height of 3300m, but the dream was always to reach the summit at Punta Helbronner at 3,466m.
The trouble was that between the pylon at Gros Rognon and Punta Helbronner was to be built on a sea of constantly moving ice in the form of the Mont Blanc glacier, on which it was impossible to build. It was Count Lora Totino, then owner of the Società Monte Bianco, who first came up with the idea of using an aerial pylon to stretch the 3,300m.
Work on the new cable car began in April 2012 and was completed two years later in May 2015.
Skyway’s Technical Numbers
- Cabins – The Skyway has four cabins which revolve 360º during their climb to give all their passengers the benefit of the views. They include heated floors and panoramic glass windows with an anti-fog system.
- Gradient to First Station – 865.98m
- Gradient to Second Station – 1275.84m
- Cabin Capacity to First Station – 80 people
- Cabin Capacity to Second Station – 75 people
- Speed – 9m/s
Discover the Three Stations
Pontal – Join the Skyway at Pontal in Courmayeur. The space-age looking departure building includes a car park, café, ticket office and information centre.
Pavillon du Mont Fréty – Also known as the ‘heart of Skyway Monte Bianco’, Mont Fréty is a destination in itself with an elegant restaurant, cinema, conference centre, shopping area, and wine cellar. It even houses its own botanical Saussurea Alpine Garden.
Punta Helbronner – Shaped to resemble a large ice crystal, the futuristic top station at Punta Helbronner includes not just the 360º viewing terrace but also a bar and restaurant so you can really relax and enjoy the view. While you’re there, take a little time to check out the crystal museum too.
The Skyway Spa Experience
For the ultimate relaxation and wellness event try the ‘Spa and Cable Car’ package in which you will soothe your senses with a trip to the top of the cable car, before soothing your body in the thermal waters at the Pré-Saint-Didier Spa. A truly unique Alpine experience.
How to Get to Courmayeur
The closest airport to Courmayeur is Geneva, which is served by a good number of regular flights from the UK. To get from Geneva Airport to the resort takes around an hour and a half by car – the most convenient way of getting from the airport is to book a Shuttle Direct transfer online before you set off. That way you can relax knowing that your driver will be waiting for you when you arrive.
Where to Stay:
Hotel Ottoz Meublé – Oozing old world Alpine charm, the three-star Hotel Ottoz Meublé is a rustic treat in a quiet location with Mont Blanc views, close to the Skyway cable car.
Locanda La Brenva – Elegant Italian décor combinea with a friendly atmosphere and great local food served at the restaurant at Locanda La Brenva. It is set close to the Skyway base station, away from the hustle of central Courmayeur, with its own pretty garden and sauna.
Hotel Dente del Gigante – Nestled at the foot of the Mont Blanc valley, the Hotel Dente del Gigante is a traditional Alpine hotel with its own restaurant serving local food.
About Shuttle Direct:
Shuttle Direct is the leading provider of airport transfers to destinations across Europe and North Africa. Its easy-to-use online booking service is the most convenient way to arrange an airport transfer, saving you time and stress organising transport at the airport. Choose between a private car or economical shared group transfer and a driver will be waiting for you at the airport when you arrive.