Courmayeur - Val Veny: at the foot of Mont Blanc

Our Heliski routes Courmayeur - Val Veny

Skiing in front of, beneath and “inside” the Mont Blanc massif is a unique experience. Val Veny is sometimes overlooked by enthusiasts on account of Valgrisenche, which is famous worldwide for its splendid heliski descents.

Heliskiing in Val Veny, apart from being spectacular, is also very convenient, because it is accessible both from the car park of the cable car and directly from the pistes.

Most of the descents are on the Lex Blanche glacier: a large amphitheatre west of Mont Blanc, on the ridge opposite Val Veny. Drop-offs are mostly between 3000 and 3500 metres, with the exception of Piton des Italiens at 3800m, and truly allow you to immerse yourself in the Alpine environment, because you are surrounded by glaciers and utter silence. The slopes are of average difficulty, so during the run you can choose easier or trickier variants, according to your requirements. It is exposed to the south, so fresh snow doesn’t last very long; rather it tends to transform quite quickly, making the conditions easily skiable.

There is also a north-facing slope, Mont Fortin, which is often skied at the end of the day, to avoid pushing along the whole of Lake Combal to rejoin the pistes.

Val Veny offers the not insignificant bonus of letting you start from Courmayeur and take off right from the pistes, from Col Checrouit, thus bypassing the crowds of people.

The runs are longer than 1000 metres and often merge with the ski slopes, so you may continue skiing as much as you want. In late season, after mid-March with transformed snow, this valley is incredibly beautiful, easy and accessible. From time to time you can choose a different variant, based on the degree of difficulty or your tiredness.

In general, Val Veny is perfect for someone approaching the world of heliskiing for the first time.

Piton des Italiens (lower)

Starting altitude: 3800m
Difference in altitude: 1600m
Difficulty: difficult
Return: helicopter

This descent is spectacular, starting from the approach flight to the drop-off, on the hill of Des Aiguilles Grises at 3800 metres. On the glaciers of Mont Blanc in the distance, you can make out the mountaineers trekking towards the top.

The descent is demanding and requires excellent control of the skis. For safety reasons, it is better to tackle this run in late season. After an initial traverse on a fairly steep slope you start to descend the De Bionessay glacier, where the snow is often hard but the scenery is unbelievable: on your left, Mont Blanc, with glaciers, crevasses and ice formations everywhere, and in front the little Mont Blanc, with a glacier that seems to hang from the summit by a hook.

After about 400 metres, you traverse an area with rather wide crevasses; your guide will show you where to go, on the basis of the conditions, which change from year to year.

At an altitude of 2700m the run bears to the south, towards the left, and you start to ski on the Miage glacier, which is much less steep. Then the slopes broaden out and in late season the softer, often transformed, snow lets you take the curves easily, thanks also to the less demanding gradient.

Piton des Italiens is not skied a lot, and it is fantastic to enjoy it in solitude.

Mont Fortin

Starting altitude: 2700m
Difference in altitude: 1100m – 1200m
 Difficulty: average
Return: ski lift facilities

Exposed to the north, the Mont Fortin descent is connected with the ski lifts of Courmayeur, which is why it is often chosen as the last run of the day.

The drop-off is on a little crest separating the upper Val Veny from the valley of Chavannes and Breuil, from which you can see the whole La Thuile area.

The descent begins with a fairly steep but beautiful first channel, which then opens out into an easier area with some trees and a decidedly gratifying slope. There are no particular difficulties and the exposure allows you to find a little fresh snow on which you can leave the tracks of your passing.

Alternatively, from the high-altitude drop-off, you can ascend for a few minutes and ski down the long, steep wall in the centre of the large amphitheatre, if the conditions allow: it is a steep and enjoyable downhill with beautiful fresh snow.

With ski-mountaineering equipment, from Lake Combal you can climb up to Lake Miage, for a total of about 150 metres of altitude difference. The scenery is enchanting, and in spring you can see the lower part of the Brenva glacier which ends in a little lake. The route then joins the road used in summer, which leads to Zerotta. Just in time for dinner!

Aiguille de l’Aigle

Starting altitude: 3200m
Difference in altitude: 1200m
Difficulty: average
Return: helicopter

If you want to see Mont Blanc from another angle, this is the piste for you. The drop-off point offers a stupendous view: the peak stands out in front, together with all the glaciers of the western ridge, which are not always visible.

After the helicopter has dropped you off, if you have the time and inclination, there is a lovely spot 50 metres below that is perfect for relaxing, especially on sunny days. The view of Aigle is incredible: here is the start of the descent towards the heliski amphitheatre on Lex Blanche glacier. It is a gentle plateau, very distinctive right from the drop-off, but also in the upper part and in the first 400 metres of altitude difference. Then it follows a steeper slope and there are some crevasses.  It is not a trifling descent, even if it is absolutely feasible, so it is not recommended for beginners or anyone hoping for a relaxing day. In any case, many stretches are appealing precisely because of the ever-changing and unique shapes the glacier takes on in this area.

After the wall, which extends for a few hundred metres, the run joins the one starting from Aiguille de Trelatete, on Lex Blanche glacier. The last part is on broad plateaus, where other routes also join and you arrive at Lake Combal where the helicopter will pick you up.

Aiguille de Trelatete

Starting altitude: 3400m
 Difference in altitude: 1500m – 1200m
Difficulty: average (difficult if the drop-off is Upper Trélatete)
Return: helicopter

The ideal way to tackle Aiguille de Trélatete is to wait for the right conditions for you to be dropped off on the upper Aiguille, so you can ski 1500 metres down the Lex Blanche glacier.

The 360°-degree view from above allows you to admire the mountains on the French side beyond Chamonix.

The first 300 metres of altitude difference are pretty steep but very spectacular: exposed to the west, they have great hold. Then the run joins that on the Lex Blanche glacier, with its broad panettone that is fabulous to ski on.

After the plateau, the steepest part begins: again, it is very satisfying. You ski between the crevasses and then you arrive at the stretch that leads back to Lake Combal where the helicopter awaits you. The final part joins the Lex Blanche run.

Aiguille des Glaciers

Starting altitude: 3500m
Difference in altitude: 1500m
Difficulty: average – difficult
Return: helicopter

Aiguille des Glaciers is a fantastic, seemingly never-ending descent with an extremely varied panorama. You start almost in France, at the bottom of Val Veny; the drop-off offers a fabulous view of the plateau of Petite Aiguille des Glaciers.

The first part is very broad and not particularly demanding. Before veering off towards the Piramides Calcaires area there is a steep, difficult wall, exposed to the west, towards France.

To reach the hill that separates the two valleys, you have to ascend about twenty metres and you are in front of a large amphitheatre, which leads towards the Piramides area. The slopes are steep, but there is often soft snow and it is great fun, ideal for photos and videos.

Once you reach an altitude of 2500m, you have two options to choose from: skiing down to the left takes you back towards Piramides Calcaires, and you reach the area of the Elisabetta mountain refuge, having skied on a slope and a fine traverse. The final stretch leads to Lake Combal for the pick-up. There are some stretches that are exposed to the north and northwest, so even in late season you can find winter snow conditions.

The alternative is to continue descending along the steepest line, leaving Le Piramides to your left. The broad plains gradually become less steep. At the end of the slopes there is a counterslope traverse that brings you back to the large plateau in front of the Elisabetta refuge. From here you can ski down to Lake Combal or take a long detour to the right, staying at altitude and going straight towards Val Veny, without having to take the helicopter again.

Aiguille des Glaciers is a very stimulating run because it is complete: the conditions and the snow can vary between the first and the second part, guaranteeing the fun. If it is sunny, it is delightful to pack a sandwich and eat it at the Elisabetta refuge before heading back to Val Veny.

Lower Pyramides

Starting altitude: 2800m
Difference in altitude: 800m
Difficulty: easy
Return: helicopter

One of the easiest heliski runs, the lower Pyramides, in Val Veny, is exposed to the south and in late season the snow is transformed and very easy to ski on. The drop-off is not very high, at 2800 metres altitude, and under the glacier threshold (hence there is no risk of crevasses).

The helicopter lands on a saddle right in front of Pyramides Calcaires, three peaks forming a pyramid at the bottom of Val Veny. The first wall is broad and comfortably skiable. After that you can choose between two alternatives: skiing down with the Pyramides on your right on broad plateaus with varying exposures until you reach the Elisabetta refuge, where the final stretch starts, leading to the pick-up area at Lake Combal; or once you reach the Pyramides, continuing straight, leaving them on your left and arriving at a slightly steeper, satisfying slope. From here the descent continues to the plateau and on to the Elisabetta refuge.

Piramides is an easy and gratifying run, perfect for those approaching heliskiing for the first time or who are still a little nervous about it.

Aiguille lex Blanche

Starting altitude: 3200m
 Difference in altitude: 1200m
Difficulty: average
Return: helicopter

Aiguille Lex Blanche is a classic descent on the southern side of Val Veny, under Mont Blanc. The helicopter lands in a gorgeous amphitheatre from which other downhills also start (Trelatete, Aigle), which then merge in the final part.

It is of average difficulty and can be ideal for a maiden heliski experience or as the first of an expected two or three rotations during the day. The snow conditions are naturally variable: in February-March there is often a nice layer of fresh snow, perfect for powder lovers, while for those who prefer transformed snow, the best period is April-May.

It starts with a very scenic stretch on the glacier, then offers a slightly steeper slope in the central part. The last stretch leads directly to Lake Combal; the left part of the plateau, where there are small trees and boulders, offers better stability.

The panorama is outstanding, especially at the summit where you can enjoy the silence and the view of the whole Valle d’Aosta in front.

Some photos of the routes in Val Veny

Recap of Courmayeur - Val Veny Heliski trails

NameAltitude differenceGlacierDifficultyTweet judgementReturn/
Aiguille de Trélatete (Upper and Lower)
1500 m upper

1200 m lower
YESAverage (difficult if drop-off is Upper TrelateteA classic descent in a heliski amphitheatre, very spectacular and not too difficult. If you can, be brought “up high” for 200 metres of steep skiing.Lake Combal Helicopter
Aiguille de l’Aigle
1200 mYESAverageAn unforgettable panorama on the summit of Mont Blanc and a fine steep downhill with a nice stretch on the glacier; the slow keeps well so save it for later in the day.Lake Combal Helicopter
Aiguille des Glacier
1500 mYESAverage - difficultThe queen of heliski descents in Val Veny with double exposure. The wall is a tad steep but the panorama and length mean you have to try it once in your lifetime.Lake Combal Helicopter
Lower Pyramides
800 mNOEasyTo be honest, anyone seeking the thrills of heliskiing can get off here, the panorama is lovely anyhow. Ideal for trying if you don’t trust those who say you can do other runs...Lake Combal Helicopter
Aiguille de la Lex Blanche
1200 mYESAverageOne of the most popular, beautiful on the glacier, where several runs arrive. A fine central wall with two easy parts before and after. A classic for local skiers. Lake Combal Helicopter
Piton des Italiens
1600 mYESDifficultA challenging and spectacular descent, with very satisfying stretches on the glacier. Unique views: from the high-altitude drop-off to the pick-up in Miage. Recommended in late seasonMiage Glacier Helicopter
Mont Fortin
1100 m

1200 m (to Zerotta)
NOAverageThe only north-facing run, a nice gradient often with powder snow. Quite popular because it links up to ski lift facilities and you hardly have to use your poles to push.Zerotta, Courmayeur facilities
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