The light spot at the end of the tunnel grew larger as we completed the last 7 Miles from France into Italy. The Mont Blanc tunnel from Chamonix to Courmayeur saved us from a long drive around the highest mountains of the Alps. The sunset view over the Aosta valley was breathtaking, but we had only deep powder in mind. My son Stefan joined me to ski some of the most scenic areas in Europe, including France’s largest glacier, the Mer de Glace, the sea of ice.
Courmayeur is a quaint town at the end of the Aosta valley, a family oriented ski resort. But it is also a magnet for free riders from around the world. We were not disappointed! More than two feet of powder had just fallen the night before we got there and all we had to do was follow the guys with the long fat skis and avalanche packs to the top of the ski area, where two tiny metal gondolas brought you up to the edge of the sky, like sardines packed for their final delivery.
Huge bowls on either side beckoned with steep descents, we chose left at first, then right on our second trip to the top. Well equipped with our own avalanche gear, transceiver, shovel, probe and airbag we dove into the deep powder and the ravines, Stefan always charging ahead. At the end of the day two tired but happy snow warriors ended up at the restaurant where we came out of the forest, only to find a suckling pig roasting on an open fire. A couple of beers and some pork made us the happiest people alive!
On the second day we continued our quest to find unchartered territory. It had gotten warmer and we had to work harder. A long descent at the boundary of the resort with the snow getting stickier by the minute at the bottom was our last hurrah for the day.
The grand finale on day three was the guided tour through the Vallée Blanche from the Punta Helbronner down to Chamonix, on the Mer de Glace. Two cable cars with revolving cabins take you up to a spectacular 11,358 ft, with views across the glacier to the Aiguille du Midi, a sharp needle close to the highest mountain of the Alps, the Mont Blanc, or Monte Bianco, its peak shared by France and Italy. The “White Mountain” stands 1272 ft taller than Mount Whitney, the highest mountain of the continental USA, at 15,777 ft.
Our charming and seasoned mountain guide Mario Ogliengo provided our small international group with transceivers and climbing harnesses. These are especially important, because they provide the means for rescuers to pull you out of a crevasse if necessary. Crevasses are an ever present danger on glaciers, one can never be too careful.
The 20 km (13 mi) long tour provided us with amazing scenery, a bit of powder, and a day of feeling transported to another world. Dive with us into the abyss of rock and ice.