In the shadow of Mont Blanc, the healing thermal springs are a toasty 34 degrees C (99 degrees F).
While many of my travels take me to tropical destinations and sun-drenched beaches, there is something undeniably beautiful about Europe. On my most recent trip, I chose to lose myself in the Alps, and feast my eyes on some of the most breathtaking peaks in the world. I first landed in a small town named Pré-Saint-Didier in the Aosta Valley, a legendary destination for resort tourists who want to relax and enjoy the thermal water spas. I stayed in the Hotel QCTerme Monte Bianco, which meant that the hot springs were basically right down the hall.
Not wanting to insult the locals, I was happy to follow custom and soak myself in those healing waters. Calling the experience luxurious doesn’t do it justice. Beneath the shadow of Mont Blanc, the thermal springs draw thousands of visitors each year as the natural hot water from the mountain flows in at a toasty 37 degrees C (99 degrees F). People flock to the spas for their healing qualities, able to aid those with arthritis, skin conditions, circulation issues, and even muscular disorders. The waters are rich in iron and other minerals, and while I didn’t suffer from any particular ailments, it was one of the most soothing and revitalizing experiences I’ve had in a long time.
Soaking in the waters of Mont Blanc Mountain was one thing, but my trip would not be complete without a stellar view of the White Lady, as the peak is affectionately known. For those who don’t know, Mont Blanc is the highest mountain in the Alps, and the tallest peak in Europe outside of the Caucasus Mountains in Russia. At just under 16,000 feet, it soars into the sky, dwarfing its neighbors, and earning its place as the 11th highest summit in the world.
I took the short trip to La Salle, a small village at the base of the mountain, and dropped my bags in my room at the Montblanc Village Hotel, which boasted one of the finest views of the mountain. It was simply stunning, and for the remainder of the trip, waking up with that beautiful mountain in view made the trip truly unforgettable. La Salle village itself was quaint and quiet, and I spent quite a bit of time flying my drone around, capturing the simple village life from above. I had never flown it in the snow before, despite having taken it all over the world, and I was blown away by the shots I managed to get. It’s one of the best drone videos I’ve taken yet!
I have always had a difficult relationship with skiing –something about both of my legs always wanting to move in opposite directions – but every time I find myself near the slopes, I can’t help giving it another try. Every year, I find a way to practice a bit more, and (in my opinion) I think I’m actually making progress! My research had pointed me to a deluxe ski resort named Courmayeur, and I willed myself to take another shot. Located on the Italian side of Mont Blanc, Courmayeur is attached to another beautiful town of the same name, which is packed with restaurants, bars, and skiers from all over the world. The resort sits more than 1,200 meters up the slope and offers visitors a view of fourteen 4,000+meter peaks – one of the finest spreads of mountains I’ve ever witnessed. Even if you’re not tempted by the skiing, the resort itself is a paradise, with overflowing charm, shops, cafes and plenty of places for an après-ski cocktail. There is nothing quite like the small towns of Europe, particularly those buried deep in the Alps; it is an experience of a universe set apart – an entirely different world from home.
For me, skiing in Courmayeur was impossible to refuse, however, and I spent an afternoon tumbling and laughing in one of the most scenic spots on the planet. I’m not going to be qualifying for the Olympics anytime soon, but I was pleased by how long I managed to stay on my feet! There are plenty of runs for intermediate skiers, as well as higher elevation slopes for advanced skiers, which is another reason why this resort draws so many visitors every season. There is also a new means of getting around between mountains, called the Skyway Monte Bianco, which links Courmayeur to Chamonix. Along the way, I even stopped for a meal at one of the mountainside restaurants, offering another awe-inspiring series of views.
After a long, wonderful day, with both my ego and body a bit bruised, I made my way back into the village to explore the narrow, winding streets and soak up the last bit of its Italian charm. The citizens are an incredible mix of nationalities, ranging from transplants and expats to residents who have lived there for generations. They are as welcoming to tourists and strangers as they are to their neighbors, one of the magical aspects of ski towns in the Alps.
Unfortunately, every adventure must come to an end, and after nearly 2 weeks in this marvelous part of the world, it was time to bid adieu to Mont Blanc. Yet, as I saw that tremendous peak disappear in the rear view mirror, I knew that I would see it again. Life is short, but the road is long.