For the experienced off-piste skier, Chamonix needs little introduction. The area hosts some of the greatest skiing in Europe. The use of touring equipment enables us to go the extra mile from the lift stations to gain the longest routes on the best snow. The main focus of the course is to ski the classic routes however we also offer instruction in the essential techniques of ski-touring coupled with avalanche awareness.
During this week you will ski some of the most famous tours including the Col du Passon, Col du Tour Noir and Col du Belvedere. The focus is always to get away from the crowds. We will also use the Aiguille du Midi cable car to cross over to Pointe Helbronner in Italy before skiing the Vallee Blanche back down to Chamonix.
Previous touring experience is not necessary but you must be a fit and competent off-piste skier (slopes of 35 degrees) and be willing to undertake ascents of 2-3 hours.
The itinerary is based on our many years of experience of skiing in the Chamonix valley. However, this is just a selection of the many day tours available and your week will likely differ from what is listed below depending on weather and snow conditions and the recommendations of your guide.
This week will appeal to all intermediate level ski tourers looking for an exciting week in one of the Alps' best-known resorts.
Arrive in Chamonix and settle into your accommodation. We'll have a welcome meeting and briefing at 7pm to discuss the plans for the week ahead and ensure you have all the kit.
Col des Dard – Our first day is a good warm up ski tour, a steady ascent over undulating terrain leads us to the Col des Dards.
This col is situated between the Aiguille du Belvedere and the Aiguille Crochues at 2780m. With a superb 270 degree panorama across to the Aravis mountains, Mont Blanc and the Dents du Midi in Switzerland. The tour involves a 700m ascent from the top of the Index and Floria ski lifts typically taking 2-3hrs. A picnic lunch can be taken perched on the ridge line enjoying the views.
The descent route is similar to the ascent and we enjoy the long 1,330m of downhill down over the undulating terrain.
Depending on the conditions powder is often found on this route as the descent faces north and east. Later in the season you can expect some of the best spring snow available.
Col Des Autannes – Our second ski day takes us to the Le Tour ski area at the head of the Chamonix Valley. Using the lift system we have easy access to the start of the route. The tour takes us to the Col des Autannes which is a 560m skin with a short boot pack to reach the summit ridge line. Usually this will take between 2 - 2 1/2 hrs.
Once on the ridge the views across to Switzerland are spectacular. We have a number of choices for the descent. Straight down from the ridge leads us onto the small Glacier du Bron and our goal of the Trient valley. We can also traverse a short distance further and cross the ridge line to reach the Glacier des Grands and making a long arcing ski descent towards the Trient Valley. Both descents offer fantastic skiing with a 1,400m descent finishing in Trient in Switzerland. From Trient we usually catch the bus or a taxi back to Vallorcine where the lifts will link us back into the Le Tour ski area.
Le Col du Tour Noir – The day is spent ski touring in the spectacular Argentiere Glacier basin. This vast glacier carves its way down between some of the most famous peaks of the region from its head at Mont Dolent on the border with Italy and Switzerland. We begin at the Grand Montets ski area and take the 2 stage cable car to its summit at 3,300m. We ski down onto the Argentiere Glacier where we put on our skins and tour in the direction of the Argentiere Refuge. Passing the refuge we turn left and skin towards the col above the Glacier des Amethystes. The climb is around 760m of vertical and typically takes around 3hrs to complete. At the col you can see far into Switzerland to the east and behind are the famous North Faces of the Les Courtes, Les Droites and the Aiguille Vert.
The descent route follows a similar line but we can pick our way to the left of the glacier in search of the best snow. We have a long schuss down the main glacier to return to the ski area before skiing the piste to the base of the mountain.
Brèche de Bérard or 'Keyhole' – is a super day tour, lesser known than the other popular tours starting from the same place. We access the tour from the Flegere lifts and the first of our 2 climbs takes us to the Col de Crochues. a skin and boot pack of about 250m. Once at the col we have a short ski down on the other side and traverse towards the Combe d’Envers de Bérard. From here we ski tour towards the higher part of the ridge separating the combe from the Bérard Valley. A further 400m height gain takes you to the 'Key Hole' or 'Brèche de Bérard', a narrow gap in the ridge which we climb through to access the ski descent on the other side. The ascent usually takes a total of 3hrs.
Our descent route in the Bérard Valley is a classic ski with 1,500m of descent. We usually find great snow on the way down and the rolling terrain hides some stashes of powder snow. The bottom of the valley is reasonably flat and we have to negotiate the narrower terrain next to the river by skiing and traversing on a path, often involving side-stepping up short hills and tackling some moguls and avoiding the trees. We finish in the hamlet of Le Buet right next to a hotel and bar where we can enjoy some refreshment before taking the train back to Chamonix.
Punte Croce, Aosta valley. Today we head through the Mont Blanc Tunnel into Italy. The Italian side of the massif is very spectacular with stunning views of the huge Peutery Ridge of Mont Blanc, the longest ridge in the Alps and the huge South face of the Grand Jorasses. Punta Croce is an attractive independent peak, separate from the main ski domains of the upper Aosta valley. This tour takes us into a remote and unspoiled landscape seldom visited by other skiers. Firstly we drive up to valley leading to the ski resort of La Thuile and park in the pretty hamlet of Arpy at 1700m. From Arpya an 800m (2h30) ascent leads up a beautiful valley into a high cirque with a frozen lake at its head. From here the climb continues up the eastern slopes to the summit at 2500m. From the summit fantastic north facing slopes take us back down towards Arpy. This circular tour is an unforgettable voyage through an untouched winter landscape, and is a welcome tonic from busy ski domains.
Col du Passon – for our last ski day we return to the Grands Montets ski area to access our last tour of the week. Taking the lift to the summit of the Grands Montets again we ski one of the off piste routes to reach the Argentiere Glacier. This time we cross the glacier lower down and head towards its right bank under the slopes of the Aiguille du Chardonnet and the Bec Rouge.
Here we put on our skins and ascend the 750 metres to the Col du Passon. Parts of the skin will be a little steeper and the last 150m vertical is done on foot carrying our skis on our rucksacks. We scramble up a short climb to the ridgeline usually wearing our crampons and using our hands to pull ourselves up. Once the ridge is gained you can rest and eat your lunch on the wide plateau of the Glacier du Tour. The ascent usually takes between 2.45 – 3hrs. Our descent route is via the vast Glacier du Tour a whopping 2,500m down to finish in the village of Le Tour. We can either ski the left side or the centre of the glacier for the best route. The terrain is smooth and rolling with some short, steeper sections (35 degress). Towards the bottom we approach the trees and bushes behind the village and traverse out crossing the river by bridge before ending our day at the bottom of the Le Tour ski area. We take the bus back to Chamonix.
Depart after breakfast.
The price includes 6 guided days, 7 nights HB accommodation and daily ski transfers.
The price does not include flights, airport transfers, uplift costs, lunches, drinks, 1 evening meal and equipment hire.
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This is an extensive list of the equipment you will need if you are coming on one of our Day Ski Touring trips
During the trip you will be staying most nights in comfortable chalet or hotel accommodation on a half board or B&B basis. You will just need to carry a day pack with your avalanche safety equipment and a few personal items.
On some of our trips you will stay 1 night out in a mountain hut. Huts in the Alps are comfortable but very basic with limited facilities – running cold water, European-style toilets and dormitory-style accommodation. All the huts provide ‘hut slippers’ – these days they are usually Crocs - and so you will not need to carry additional footwear. You will need to have a sleeping bag liner for any hut nights; huts provide a duvet or blankets plus a pillow for sleeping so its not necessary to carry a sleeping bag.
When choosing clothing for ski touring you want to think light, warm and versatile. During the trip weather conditions will change and you’re likely to go from warm afternoons where you’ll be carrying most of your gear in your rucksack, to icy-cold mornings when you’re wearing everything to keep warm! Getting hold of the best and lightest kit available is always worth it and most of the major brands will be able to supply a suitable kit.
This season, we’ve partnered with Ortovox to provide us with the very best safety kit and clothing. Our guides will all be decked out in the latest Ortovox jackets and trousers and will keep warm, dry and comfortable thanks to their technical wool base- and mid-layers. Our guides couldn’t recommend their kit more highly.
For all touring trips it is essential you ski with an all-mountain/freeride type skis, ski touring boots and ski touring bindings. If you have your own skis but they do not have ski touring bindings then you will need to rent skis. The same applies if you have downhill ski boots, you will need to rent ski touring boots.
This winter our lead guides are using Salomon Explore MTN and Salomon QST touring skis. The MTN 95 is an award-winning ski with great stability at high speeds whilst the MTN 88 is a best-selling lightweight touring ski. The QST’s are slightly heavier and therefore suited to charging; perfect for day-touring.
Lockwoods Ski and Outdoor are supporting our guides and we suggest that if you’re interested in any of the MTN or QST skis, you should make Lockwoods your first point of call.
For alpine ski touring we recommend an all-mountain/freeride touring ski that isn’t too heavy, a really lightweight ski comes at a cost to performance on the descents so are only recommended for really good off-piste skiers with a strong interest in ski touring.
There are plenty of great skis to choose from and we highly recommend skis from the following manufacturers:
Dynastar Skis: www.dynastar.com
Movement Skis: www.movementskis.com
Black Crows Skis: www.blackcrows-skis.com
Trab Skis: www.skitrab.com/en-us
Scott Skis: http://www.scott-sports.com
Volkl Skis: http://www.voelkl.com
There are plenty of other great skis to choose from so if you’re planning on buying skis for ski touring or general skiing and have any questions do not hesitate to call us, or Lockwoods, to discuss the options available.
If you are planning on buying skis for ski touring and general skiing and have any questions do not hesitate to call us to discuss the options available to you.
It is essential that you have ski touring boots for all touring trips as walking uphill is much more comfortable in these types of boots with a walk mode and great flex. A dedicated touring boot or a hybrid freeride boot is best.
Scarpa have lead the way in touring boots for many years but they have been joined by other manufactures like Dynafit, Salomon, Scott, Black Diamond, Dalbello and K2; all producing their own versions of a ski touring boot.
• Scarpa’s Freedom boots are their Hybrid offerings, great ski performance, a walk mode and vibram sole. Their Maestrale (men’s) and Gea (women’s) boots are also highly recommended.
• The Scott Celeste and Cosmo boots have stood the test of time and are good all-round choices.
• Salomon’s Quest Max series offer boots with a walk mode in various flex’s with good downhill performance.
• Dynafit offer the Mercury or Vulcan boots plus a range of lightweight options like the TLT6.
The best of the rest are:
Fischer - Transalp
Black Diamond – Quadrant and Factor
K2 – Pinnacle boot
Dalbello – Lupo or Sherpa
Langue – XT series offer a ski boot with a walk mode in various flex options
These days many manufacturers offer ‘thermo-fit¹ liners as standard equipment. You may also want to consider a custom liner as these are heated and molded to your foot and boot for a perfect fit. They can make all the difference especially if you have trouble finding really comfortable ‘off-the-shelf’ boots. Zipfit liners are a great option for anyone seeking total customisation in fit and comfort. They will replace the original liner.
Essential kit – to provide additional comfort and ski control. If you want to get footbeds made or a pair of new boots fitted then we suggest you visit somewhere like Profeet for a professional fitting. Don’t forget if you have footbeds in your downhill boots but need to rent touring boots then you can bring the footbeds with you and put them in the hire boots.
For all ski touring trips ski touring bindings are essential. Fritschi and Marker both make excellent ski touring bindings and you have a few different options to choose from. Many more people are seeing the advantage of the “pin” binding system now offered by a number of manufacturers as these are light and offer ever improving security despite their minimalist looks!
It’s essential you have ski touring bindings on your skis. Although Pin bindings have been around since the Dynafit Low Tech bindings over 30 years ago, since their patent expired the technology has advanced substantially. Salomon, with their Shift Binding, are at the forefront; they’re ‘multi norm compatible’ so fit a selection of boots and are lighter than most freeride bindings. Our lead guides are using the Shift binding this winter, so if you’d like to know more about them give Lockwoods a ring.
We recommend telescopic poles. They must have wide powder baskets (4-5 inches/100-120mm diameter) otherwise you’ll be up to your armpits on the ascents. Go for an alloy rather than carbon poles which are lighter but have a nasty habit of snapping near the basket due to ski edge nicks.
For most ski tours especially multi-day hut-to-hut tours you will need a 35 - 40 litre rucksack. You might get away with a big 30 liter pack if you are an experienced ski tourer and know what to pack. Most people will find a 35-40 liter pack is a good size for touring.
Key features of a good ski touring pack:
Ortovox Haute Route 40 rucksack will be a good choice for ski touring trips.
Avalanche airbag rucksacks can be used for touring but they are heavy, adding somewhere between 5-8kg just for an empty pack plus canister. So unless you are sure you can carry it and fit all you need in, we do not recommend you use one.
Over a long multiday tour, every gram of weight is important as you have to carry and move it yourself. Carrying a heavy pack will hinder and tire all but the most experienced and fit ski tourer.
The “Safety Trilogy” - required on all our ski tours and off-piste courses.
We recommend Simple and intuitive ORTOVOX AVALANCHE RESCUE KIT 3+
Remember it is not enough just to carry this equipment; you have to know how to use it.
How about joining one of our specialist avalanche courses – check out www.mountaintracks.co.uk/activity/avalanche-training
Food and Water
We suggest you bring with you or buy in resort snack food that you can take out on the hill with you each day. Things like cereal bars, dried fruit and nuts, chocolate, sugary sweets or your favorite hill snacks. When you’re staying overnight in huts its best to take supplies for the days you are away. Huts do sell food but it’s expensive and sometimes stocks run low.
If you have any food allergies or dietary requirements especially if you are a Coeliac (Gluten free) or have a dairy allergy we strongly recommend you bring some food with you that you can supplement your dinners with. The huts are fairly good at providing for vegetarians but less so for other dietary needs.
You have to buy bottled water in the huts as usually any running water is non-potable. Bottled water is expensive in French and Swiss huts; you can be paying upto 12-16CHF per 1.5L bottle of water. So please ensure you budget for this cost.
It is a condition of booking that you are insured for your chosen activity and the cover must include medical expenses, personal accident, personal liability, third party risks and rescue (including helicopter rescue). You are strongly advised also to take out cover against cancellation and curtailment.
For more details and to purchase a policy online visit http://www.skiclubinsurance.co.uk/
If you need assistance arranging your personal insurance please let us know.
The most convenient airport is Geneva which is served by many UK and International airports.
The transfer time from the airport is about 75 minutes to Chamonix and to get to the resort we recommend that you book a seat with one of the many transfer companies who offer shared minibus transfers to and from the airport. Mountain Tracks recommends Mountain Dropoffs or Cham Van who both offer comparatively priced transfers and run a regular and efficient service.
All our ski tours are led by our team of IFMGA Mountain Guides. The team is led by Olly Allen, Matt Dickinson and Nick Parks.
For this course, we will be housed in one of our excellent partner hotels in Chamonix
Ski classic itineraries in Chamonix
6 days guiding with IFMGA Mountain Guides
Comfortable Hotel Accommodation
Our Introductory level is suitable for people who can ski red and black pistes in resorts without problems and you can deal with moguls and some ice. You will be new to off-piste skiing or maybe have dabbled a little on the sides of the piste or even attended a previous off-piste specific course. You would like to ski powder snow with confidence and learn to link turns off-piste in a variety of terrain as well as being able to control your speed and adjust your turn radius.
Introductory level ski touring trips are appropriate for people looking for their first touring experience. The pace is relaxed and typically we skin for 2-4hrs per day so ascents are about 500 - 800m vertical. You need to be a reasonable off-piste skier (at our Off-Piste Development level), able to link controlled parallel turns in powder snow and ski through trees in control. You need to be prepared to hike short sections on foot carrying your skis on your rucksack (though you won’t need any specific mountaineering knowledge, so crampons and an ice axe are usually not required).
Off-Piste Coaching and Adventure
For our Intermediate graded off-piste ski courses and trips you will have at least a couple of weeks off-piste skiing experience and /or received some previous instructions on an off-piste specific course. You can link 10-12 turns together in reasonable control, speed and style, following the fall line in most conditions. If you’re looking to improve your technique in deeper snow and steeper slopes then our Off-Piste Coaching Development trips are for you. These are instructor-led courses.
If you want to get some miles under your skis then look at our Off-Piste Adventure Intermediate trips which are led by our team of Mountain Guides. On the Adventure courses you can expect to hike or ski tour short distances to get to better snow and terrain, although no previous ski touring experience is required.
These tours will involve around 3-5hrs of skinning per day, achieving around 800 – 1000m of vertical ascent. We would expect you to be able skin to a pace of 300m of vertical ascent per hour. You need to be able to execute good uphill kick turns on steeper slopes and have some familiarity with use of crampons and ice axe. You need to be a reasonably strong off-piste skier able to deal with a variety of snow conditions (powder, crust, slush) and able to ski on steeper and narrower slopes with the requisite ability and confidence for exposed sections.
For our Advanced Off-Piste Coaching courses you should be an excellent piste skier and have many years experience of skiing off-piste. You should be able to ski off-piste in most conditions linking controlled parallel turns, ski bumpy terrain, trees, narrow gullies and enjoy pushing yourself to achieve new things. Your skiing should be reasonably fluid and autonomous i.e. you can already adapt your turn radius and speed to the terrain and snow conditions off-piste. This course will focus on the technical and tactical skills to ski steep terrain, jump turns and line choice as well as refreshing your avalanche skills and mountain safety. The mission is for your skiing to become more dynamic and reactive!
You are an experienced and confident off-piste skier able to handle most snow types and conditions, you can ski steep slopes (30 degrees+) and make short turns in gullies and ski through trees. These skills have been learned over a number of years of skiing off-piste with mountain guides or experienced groups of friends. You are happy to ski tour to access descents and better snow, so you will have previously used ski touring equipment and can do effective and safe uphill kick turns. You aspire to ski the best snow available and are happy to push yourself to reach the best snow and terrain.
Advanced-level tours are for experienced ski tourers who’ve previously completed another hut-to-hut trip or multiple day tours. A large proportion of the terrain may be steep and exposed; thus confidence in your uphill kick turns on 35+ degree slopes is a must, as is your ability to ski slopes of 40 degrees. You will be a strong, fluid off-piste skier able to handle all conditions. You will be confident of using crampons and an ice axe and happy scrambling/climbing on snow and rock on short climbs to summits, and in gullies to gain a col.
You can ski fluidly and autonomously on all terrain. You often ski couloirs and gullies and seek out steep slopes and you can jump turn in narrow couloirs and have experience of abseiling and sideslipping on steep terrain. You can ski fast with fluid ‘freeride’ style turns and can jump off small rocks and ski trees with no fear or problems. You are happy to ski tour and hike to reach the best snow and terrain and you should have some basic knowledge of using crampons and ice axe. Your aims are to push your skills and challenge yourself further.
Expert level ski tours are pure ski mountaineering journeys in the high mountains. You must be confident skiing steep exposed terrain and ski touring for at least 5 hours per day with long ascents. You will be expected to climb on your feet carrying your skis on your pack to summit mountains above 4000m in altitude. You must be completely confident with your crampon placement and use of an ice axe and you will have some basic rope skills and be happy walking along exposed ridges on mixed terrain to gain the summits of peaks.
You can ski all day comfortably off-piste with only short stops for food and drink, you can do this for multiple days on your holiday. If necessary you can ski tour for around 1-2 hrs up hill plus your happy to do a few short hikes to access good snow with your skis on your shoulder or rucksack. Your stamina and endurance fitness is good and you work hard to maintain a good level of fitness. You will be exercising 3-4 times a week and also at the weekend; thus running a half marathon, doing a 50 mile cycle ride, 3-4 hours on a mountain bike or a full day’s hill walk would all prove possible with this stamina level.
You can ski all day comfortably and will be expected to ascend on skis at around 400m/hr and be able to skin for at least 5hrs with up to 1000m to 1300m of ascent per day. Your stamina and endurance fitness is good and you work hard to maintain a good level of fitness. You will be exercising 3-4 times a week and also at the weekend; thus running a half marathon, doing a 50 mile cycle ride, 3-4 hours on a mountain bike or a full day’s hill walk would all prove possible with this stamina level.
IFMGA / UIAGM / IVBV
The IFMGA / UIAGM / IVBV symbol is the logo of the International Federation of Mountain Guides Association.
Nick, Olly and Matt are all fully-qualified UIAGM Mountain Guides and members of the British Mountain Guides Association.
The International Ski Instructors Association is the world body for professional ski instructors.
The ISIA was formed in 1971 and there are currently 39 member nations representing the very best in ski instruction around the world.