Friday, July 23, 2010

Courmayeur, Italy

Make a list of Italy's upscale ski resorts and Courmayeur will surely rank near the top. Location has something to do with it as Courmayeur lies nestled next to Mt. Blanc. At 15,782 feet, Mt. Blanc or Mt. Blanco in Italian, is the highest mountain in the Alps. Courmayeur is a beautiful place but, I'm not a happy camper. Why? For the past several weeks most of Europe has been experiencing hot, hot weather weather (mid 90's) with no relief in sight. So, I figure high up in the mountains it'll be much cooler. Not so, as you can see in the second photo the temperature reads 31 degrees Centigrade which converts to 92 degrees Fahrenheit!

Temperature reading at ski lift.
This roads leads to the Mt. Blanc Tunnel

Courmayeur's main shopping street is car-free.

More of shopping street.

View of Courmayeur from other side of valley.

Checking out chalets on the outskirts of town

View from above town.

A glacier is up the canyon

New ski lift.

If one were to start in the ski resort of Courmayeur, Italy and dig a tunnel directly through Mt. Blanc one would pop out on the other side into the famous ski resort town of Chamonix, France. Hey wait a minute! that's already been done and it's called the Mt. Blanc Tunnel. Built in the 1960's the Mt. Blanc Tunnel is a major transport route for freight through the Alps. Back in 1999 there was a horrific fire in the tunnel caused by a tractor-trailer truck catching fire. Over 39 people were killed and the tunnel was closed three years for repairs. I mention all this because bicycles are prohibited so my bike and I are hopping on a bus for the ride.
The tunnel is seven and a half miles long and very narrow with one lane in each direction. The fire changed the ways things are now done; every truck is inspected before being allowed to enter the tunnel plus, vehicles are required to maintain a distance of 150 feet between each other. About midway through I look up at the tunnel roof and it's still scorched black from the fire. Jeez, that's not something comforting to see--why didn't the powers-that-be have it covered or painted over?
I've been to Chamonix several times before and like previous visits it's absolutely bursting with energy and people. Courmayeur was like a ghost town compared to Chamonix. Why is that? Chamonix is action central with hang gliding, rock climbing, hiking, mountaineering, off-road biking, camping, golf and so forth taking place. Only snapped a few photos this time since you've received plenty of pictures from previous visits.

My favorite partisserie in Chamonix is right around this corner.

Main shopping streets in Chamonix are pedestrian-only (no cars!)

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