Northwest of Milan and west of Aosta on the southern slopes of the Monte Bianco massif, the Courmayeur ski area has 22 runs served by 16 lifts. While the maximum possible vertical drop is 1,400m, the maximum practical vertical is more like 700m since the runs do not really lead back to town (the main tram from Courmayeur crosses a river and highway). The Courmayeur ski area is known to be much cheaper and less crowded than Chamonix, but the resorts groomed runs are not as steep or extensive. You can expect a lot of intermediate cruiser runs, even from the marked difficult runs. It is important to keep in mind that the ski tour routes shown on the resort map are ungroomed AND unmarked unlike most other Swiss and Austrian ski areas where they are at least marked. These are considered extreme off-piste. Note, the resort map shows at least one off-piste route that is legally closed. If you are game for some extreme off-piste snowboarding, you've come to the right place. There are a surprising number of lift-accessed lines not shown on the resort map that are on the printed map available from the Societa Guide Alpine in Courmayeur that has an office across from the main church (one of the oldest and most respected guide associations). Of course, if you are unfamiliar with the terrain, guides are highly recommended. Also keep in mind, that in Italy, it is now legally required to carry a beacon, shovel and probe. A harness is also required when on glaciers. There are several beacon check areas near the trams leading to extreme terrain. It is also a good idea to purchase the insurance card when you purchase the ski lift pass to cover accidents and rescue fees. From the main ski area, the off-piste ski tour options are from the top of the Arp tram at Cresta D Arp summit (2,755m). The first option is heading right from the tram exit through Arp Vielle down into Val Veny (be ready for a long hike out to Entrenves). The second option is heading left from the tram exit to the east behind Col D Arp on the way to the Dolonne base area. Off the Funivie Monte Bianco tram to Punta Helbronner (3,462m) on the Mt Blanc massif, there are several exceptional off-piste freeride routes when the snow depths permit. It is steep and sometimes treacherous, glacial terrain. The Funivie Monte Bianco tram base is located north of Courmayeur in La Paluo (the nearest Courmayeur ski area lift is the tram down to the town of Entreveves). The most popular unmarked route back to the La Paluo base is the 12km, 2,100m vertical descend of the Toula Glacier. Alternatively, the Marbree glacier and Mont Frety glaciers have couliors and gullies to explore for those in the know (i.e. guides). These routes do require some climbing from the summit. Many people take out at the Pavilion mid-station when there is low snow levels. Another option from the Punta Helbronner is descending west down to the Vallee Blanche over 19km with 2,000m of vertical to Montenvers above Chamonix. This option traverses several glaciers with crevasses and seracs. There are regular buses returning to Courmayeur about every 90 minutes from the Chamonix train station. When you have exhausted the lift-accessed freeriding options, there are also many heli-snowboarding peaks that can be explored from Courmayeur. Consider attempting Colle de la Lex Blanche, Aiguille de L Aigle, Aiguille des Glaciers, Mont Fortin, Col des Pyramides, or last but not least Piton des Italiens. After a hard morning on the slopes, there are over 20 places for lunch on the mountain. A big part of the Courmayeur experience is enjoying its well known mountain dining. Try Masion Vieille, Chiecco and Chateau Branlant. If you are looking for a good apres ski, try cafe Roma and then Bar Delle Guides near the church. For nightlife, check out the American Bar, The Red Lion or Poppys Pub. To reach Courmayeur by air, you will want to fly into Milan or Turin. From either, take the train to Aosta. Across the street from the Aosta train station, there is an easy hourly bus for 3€ that takes about an hour to reach Courmayeur along a scenic route past many castles. To reach this area by car from Milan, head west on Route A4 and then follow Route A5 northwest into Courmayeur. To reach the ski area from Chamonix, there is regular bus service from the Chamonix train station to the bus station in Courmayeur about every 90 minutes. If you are driving, pass through the Tunnel Del Monte Bianco an consider parting immediately at the Entreves tram base parking area. Bonus Tip: There is a free ski bus to the nearby La Thuile ski area, which is part of Espace San Bernardo interconnecting with La Rosiere ski domaine in France.Overall, Courmayeur is the 1st most popular snowboard & freeride destination of all 43 snowboarding resorts in Italy.