COURMAYEUR gets into my list of favourite resorts on rather curious grounds. Its everyday ski area is far from compelling: small, inconveniently detached from the village, narrow in its appeal (not much of the skiing is easy, and not much of it is difficult). The area also contains serious hazards; there are steep slopes beside pistes that cut across the hillside.

But for those with a leisurely approach to skiing the area has the attraction of abundant and jolly mountain restaurants, and there are three special aspects to the skiing. The first is long, beautiful off-piste runs (when conditions are right), from the tiny cable-car to Cresta d'Arp. The second is the presence of Mont Blanc; its famously long and scenic Vallee Blanche glacier run is usually associated with Chamonix, but is skiable, with a less scary start, from the Italian side; and the shorter but steeper Toula glacier is another excellent outing. The third is heli-skiing, something that is not very widely available in the Alps; half a day of going off-piste by helicopter makes an exciting high-point for a skiing trip.

The village is less affected by the Mont Blanc tunnel traffic than you might expect. The night-life suits grown-ups as well as youth, with sofas and open fires in some of the bars, and restaurants to suit gourmets as well as gourmands.

CHRIS GILL'S VERDICT: Courmayeur is a resort to visit at short notice, when you are confident that some or all of the special forms of skiing are going to be available and worth doing. For a routine holiday booked well in advance, it mainly suits intermediates who are happy on steepish but shortish blues and reds.

(Photograph omitted)