If you’re visiting Courmayeur, making the time and saving some pennies to allow you to take a trip up the impressive Skyway Monte Bianco Cable Car is highly recommended.
The €52 ticket price may seem steep, but you’ll be treated to some truly breathtaking views of Mont Blanc and the surrounding mountain scenery.
Opened in 2015 on the Italian side of the Mont Blanc Massif mountain range, I prefer this cable car over the more famous Aiguille du Midi on the French side in Chamonix.
It tends to be much less crowded (although you should still be prepared for queues in the high season), has a rotating car to allow you to appreciate the panoramas, and I feel like there’s more to see and do, especially outside.
At the mid-station, there’s a small alpine botanical garden. You can enjoy a coffee or Spritz on a deckchair on their terrace, and there are lots of areas to get out and explore.
Some might argue that the views at the top aren’t as dramatic as those at the top of the Aiguille, but, they’re still seriously impressive and, on a good day, you can even see the Matterhorn in Switzerland.
If you aren’t a hiker, it’s a great way to be able to appreciate the views around the Valley too. The top station, Punta Helbronner, sits at 3,466 meters.
Okay, it isn’t a cheap attraction, but it truly is a one-off experience.
At certain times of the year, if you want to splash out, you can even take a smaller bubble across to the Aiguille du Midi, if you want to see the views on the Chamonix side too.
What makes the Skyway Monte Bianco Cable Car Itself So Special
The Skyway is reputed to be the most expensive cable car production in the world. This is, in part, why it costs so much to head up. If you’ve ever been in a rickety old cable car elsewhere, it’s not hard to understand why it costs so much. The cable car and surrounding constructions are state of the art, and everything feels incredibly modern and slick.
The connecting cable cars are fast, silent, smooth and they rotate 360 degrees. This means, even when it’s crowded, you can still get a good view from all angles as you ascend.
First Stop – Pavillon
At the mid-station, standing at 2,200m, you have good access to the outside areas in all seasons.
In the warmer months, you’ll be able to wander around the Saussurea alpine botanical gardens – the highest in Europe.
Don’t be expecting a lush oasis, but many of the flower species are native to the region and of special scientific interest. The garden is usually in bloom from around July to September. There are also a few interesting sculptures too.
There’s a little artificial lake with a platform that kids can drag from one side to the other. There’s also a small play area too.
On a sunny day, you might want to sit outside on the deckchairs provided on the terrace. There are a couple of restaurant options too (there’s more info about where to eat in the FAQs section I’ve created below).
In the winter, you’ll likely have the opportunity to get out and wander in the snow and take in the views of both Val Ferret and Val Veny.
There’s even a piano in the main foyer if you enjoy tinkling on the ivories. My uncle couldn’t resist having a go when he visited last summer!
In the summer, it’s also possible to walk back down to Courmayeur on the trails from the mid-station. They’re well-marked, and it shouldn’t take longer than a couple of hours.
Head up to Punta Helbronner
The top station of the cable car is 3,466m. Make sure you pick a clear day so you can appreciate the views of the grand peaks. Alongside Mont Blanc, it’s possible to spot the Matterhorn in Switzerland, Monte Rosa (the second highest peak in the Alps) and the Gran Paradiso.
Make sure you’re prepared for a drop in the temperatures at this altitude, even in the summer.
There’s also a crystal exhibition and a great-value cafe bar.
This mountain hut was built in the 1950s and is a base for climbers and high altitude tourists throughout the year.
When the Skyway Monte Bianco Cable Car was being built, the workers stayed in the Rifugio.
To get access to the Hut, there’s a lift and then a long tunnel from Punta Helbronner.
On good days you can enjoy lunch or a beer on their outdoor terrace with views over the Mont Blanc Massif. You can also watch the skiers and ice climbers coming in off the snow year-round.
You could even book an overnight stay if you wanted a really unique experience.
How Much Does the Skyway Monte Bianco Cost?
At the time of writing this article, the price for adults is €52.
If you’re visiting in the winter for skiing, depending on the type of pass you have bought, you may be able to use this to take at least one trip up the Skyway for free.
Kids under 8 go free, and there are also slightly reduced rates for family tickets.
You can get a considerably reduced rate using their early booking system. You have to book at least two weeks in advance to take advantage of this, though, and, if it turns out to be a day with poor weather conditions or visibility, it could be disappointing.
What About Parking?
There’s plenty of paid parking at the Skyway. There’s a small car park above ground and a much bigger underground parking area. Be warned – it can be rather warren-like. We have managed to get a bit lost trying to find the car twice!
It’s not too expensive, with up to 4 hours costing just €1 and up to 12 hours is €5.
I’ve never visited and not been able to get a space, but if you’re visiting in high season, and you’re concerned, there are frequent bus services from the town centre too.
Can You Walk to the Funivia from Courmayeur?
We’ve walked to the Cable Car from my house right at the top of the town before. It took us over an hour to get there. It’s an easy, relatively flat walk, and there are good pedestrian paths. It’s just that it’s a route that goes along the side of the busy main road for most of the way. Look out for the signs for the Funivia.
You do, however, walk through the picturesque, traditional and historic hamlet of Entreves towards the end of the journey.
Can I Suffer From Altitude Sickness on the Skyway Monte Bianco?
Yes. While rare, you could experience some symptoms of altitude sickness when you head up to the top station, Punta Helbronner. Especially because you make your way up to this height in super speedy time.
Altitude sickness can be seen in individuals when heading above 2,500 meters, and Punta Helbronner is considerably higher than this at 3,466 meters.
On one of my trips up the Skyway, one of my friends suffered slightly with altitude sickness. He felt a bit woozy, slightly nauseous and had a sore head. He braved it out, just went slowly, kept hydrated and gradually started to feel better.
You may also notice that you get out of breath more easily, so you might not want to charge up the flights of stairs in your enthusiasm to see the outside views!
Are Dogs Allowed up the Skyway Monte Bianco?
Like many attractions in the region, dogs are welcome. It does cost €7 though. They do have to wear a muzzle when heading up in the cable car.
Your dog will need to be relaxed wearing one, and it will need to be one that they can freely pant in (i.e. not a tight-fitting mesh muzzle), especially in the hot summer temperatures.
In fairness, you often see people-friendly dogs with the muzzle just hanging around their neck rather than being on properly, and staff seem to be generally relaxed about this.
I’ve never taken Annie up. The cable car can get very crowded and pretty hot in the summer too. For nervous or excitable dogs it may be kinder to leave them in your accommodation if this is possible.
Also, don’t forget, dogs can also suffer from altitude sickness. While it would be rare, especially at the height the cable car reaches, you should look out for signs of distress like excessive panting, lethargy, changes in behaviour, and they could even vomit.
Be prepared to head straight back down if you spot any of these signs, and make sure you offer them plenty of water to prevent dehydration.
Is the Funivia in Courmayeur a Good Attraction to Visit with Kids?
For very young kids, you’ll need to supervise them carefully up top. You might also have to carry them up the narrow stairs to the viewing platforms, particularly if it’s busy.
Some younger kids could also become bored after not too long. There aren’t many activities geared towards them. You may just have to be prepared not to get as much time up there as you may have wanted.
It’s a fantastic experience for older kids, though, and one that I would highly recommend.
When Can You Take a Trip on the Skyway Mont Blanc Cable Car?
The Skyway is open most of the year, even during the out of season months when a lot of other attractions, hotels and restaurants can be closed.
The cable car is usually closed for a few days in May and at least a couple of weeks in November. You should check their website in advance to avoid any disappointment.
Obviously, extreme weather conditions or technical problems could impact schedules too.
What Should I Wear For Going Up the Cable Car?
Even in the Summer, it can be surprising how much colder it is at the top of the Skyway compared to down in the town. So you may end up freezing if you head up in shorts and a t-shirt. You can check the Skyway website on the day you head up to get an idea of the temperatures up at Punta Helbronner.
I’ve been up and been comfortable in a vest top, shorts and a light windproof jacket. In the spring and autumn the weather can be changeable, so be prepared with layers.
In the winter, the temperatures can head well below freezing, and if there’s a strong wind too, it can be bitterly cold. Make sure you’re layered up and have gloves, scarves, hats, thermals even, and sunglasses.
While inside, the temperatures are always pleasant, but you don’t want to head out for the views and not be able to stay out longer than a few minutes because your freezing!
Packed Lunch or Restaurant?
This is totally a personal choice. I’ve seen groups of people finding a quiet spot and enjoying a little picnic out on the terraces during the summer. There are a number of places to eat though and, surprisingly, they aren’t as expensive as you might think for an attraction like this, in an expensive place like Courmayeur.
We have eaten in the cafe/restaurant up at the top station a few times now. They do toasted sandwiches for €6 and have a choice of salads and hot items too. The rich lasagne is €12 (at the time of writing this article anyway).
The food isn’t fancy, but it’s tasty, reasonably priced, and the views out the cafe windows are spectacular.
There’s also a cafe on the ground floor with a less extensive menu, but similar pricing.
At the mid-station, Pavillon, there’s a cafe, with light snacks and drinks, and there’s also a restaurant that offers a buffet-style lunch with ‘food pots’. It’s a bit more expensive and might not be to everyone’s taste, but it certainly offers something a bit different. I haven’t eaten there yet, so I can’t comment personally.
While the Skyway Monte Bianco is undoubtedly an impressive feat of engineering that brings a lot of income and business to the area, I can’t in good conscience, skirt over the fact that it isn’t without its controversies.
The construction itself was massive, and it inevitably had an impact on the immediate natural, and already fragile, alpine environment it’s built on.
The additional tourists this top attraction draws also brings added pollution and crowding to a region that is already under environmental stress.
As always, I like to remind people that, if you’re visiting the region, where possible, travel by public transport, support local shops, buy locally sourced produce, and look for accommodation that has good practices in terms of reducing their carbon footprint.
If you enjoy hiking, it’s possible to enjoy the spectacular mountain views in a less obtrusive way, and without having to negotiate the big crowds or the expense of the Skyway. Check out my article on Easy Day Hikes in Courmayeur for inspiration.
Just remember to stick to marked trails and make sure to leave no trace, to help preserve these beautiful mountain landscapes for years to come.
For up to date information on pricing, opening dates and times, and more visit the Skyway website.
Head over to my Facebook Page to see a fantastic video my friend Map and My Backpack created from our visit to the Skyway in October 2019.