Off-piste skiing in the the Val d'Annivièrs region still remains one of Switzerland's best kept secrets, despite its 2 hour proximity from Geneva. Being a high altitude ski destination snow is reliable and the lift pass allows access to 5 ski resorts: Vercorin, Grimentz, Zinal, St-Luc and Chandolin; offering huge scope for the week's adventure.
The Val d'Annivièrs consists of five idyllic and picturesque villages and is renowned for its variety of snow and the scope of its freeride domain. Each day our pursuit of untouched powder snow starts from a different ski region in the valley allowing for something new everyday as we explore the whole length and breadth of the valley.
This trip is a IFMGA guided week exploring the region. Your guide will take you to off piste areas that are far away from the pistes and unknown to most visitors to the area, enhancing the sense of adventure. Your guide will be able to ensure an action packed holiday and will also take on the responsibility for keeping the group safe in the winter conditions.
The week is intended to be fun with lots of thrilling skiing but always directed with maximum attention to your safety and the safety of others. You will be provided practical mountain awareness training on the hazards and risks associated with skiing off-piste particularly for avalanches - all while skiing the best off-piste in the region.
Travel to Zinal. You should aim to arrive in Zinal by late afternoon.
There will be a welcome meeting and briefing with your guide at 7pm before dinner.
Depart after breakfast.
Please note that the last two spaces on the trip departing 25th January 2020 will be in a hotel on HB basis.
The price includes: all guide fees and expenses, 7 nights half-board chalet accommodation (twin rooms)
The price does not include: lift pass, lunches, beverages, personal insurance, equipment hire, travel to/from Zinal
Single room occupancy is subject to availability and will incur additional charges. Ask us for details.
Here at the Mountain Tracks, we give you our word that we will fully refund every part of your package holiday if it is not able to run due to COVID-19.
Our Mountain Tracks and holiday teams are monitoring the COVID-19 outbreak guidance and advice while communicating closely with our suppliers to make sure everything is in place to keep you safe.
Read more: Frequently Asked Questions.
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This is an extensive list of the recommended clothing and equipment you will need if you are coming on one of our Off-Piste Adventure trips. On all our weeks you’ll be staying in comfortable catered chalets or hotels. When skiing you need to carry just a day pack, which contains your safety equipment and any personal items or extra clothing layers you may need.
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. This winter our lead guides are using Salomon Explore MTN and Salomon QST touring skis.
There are many ‘all-mountain/freeride’ skis to choose from and we highly recommend skis from Salomon, Dynastar, Movement, Black Crows, Trab Skis, Scott and Volkl. Look for a ski that is the right size for your height, typically the tip of the ski should be somewhere around your nose height. As for the width of the ski or “side cut” a mid-fat ski – 90-110mm under the foot is a good place to start; this offers plenty of flotation off-piste while remaining suitable for day tours and they should also handle reasonably well on piste and mixed terrain.
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.
For our Off-Piste Adventure courses its best to have a pair of ski touring boots – they have great skiing performance and with the vibram soles, they are much safer for scrambling around on the rocky or icy ground. However standard downhill ski boots are also acceptable. We do not recommend you come on a trip with brand new boots.
If you are going to be getting into off-piste and ski touring, then rather than having a pair of downhill boots and a pair of ski touring boots, we strongly suggest that you opt for a good pair of ski touring boots. With advances made in plastics, mouldings and materials in recent years you can now get a ‘hybrid’ touring boot that offers as much downhill performance and stiffness but they come with a walk mode and good flexibility for the uphill too. Many boots fall into the category "hike & ride" so a 3 or 4 buckle boot, walk mode, vibram/grippy sole and possible Pin binding compatible.
It just makes more sense - not only are they much more comfortable to walk in compared to ordinary ski boots, they are great to ski in too.
Scarpa has 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.
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-fit’ liners as standard equipment. You may also want to consider a custom liner. Heated and moulded 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-shelf¹ 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.
We prefer you to have ski touring bindings on your skis for our adventure courses but if you have downhill bindings mounted on your skis then this is perfectly acceptable. The new touring bindings are every bit as safe for downhill as alpine bindings, yet you have the additional advantage of being able to walk uphill with them to access the real off-piste. Fritschi Diamir and Marker both have great bindings which can be used with ski touring boots and downhill boots. Many more people are seeing the advantage of the “pin” binding system now offered by a number of manufactures; they are light and offer ever improving security despite their minimalist looks!
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.
Although our Off-Piste Adventure courses rely heavily on the lift systems in resorts, access to and egress from runs sometimes involve climbing and walking a short way and you may undertake 1 or 2 day ski tours, for this reason its best to have skis with ski touring bindings, skins and ski touring boots.
The “Safety Trilogy” - applicable for all our off-piste courses and ski tours.
We recommend simple and intuitive ORTOVOX AVALANCHE RESCUE KIT 3+.
Avalanche airbags/rucksacks – if you wish to ski with one of these on our courses you are welcome to do so, they are not mandatory but we always support the use of available safety items.
You can hire avalanche rucksacks in a lot of resorts, makes are usually Snowpulse/Mammut, ABS or Ortovox AVABAG. Prices vary from shop to shop and resort to resort but a guide line price would be from €20-30 per day or around €100-120 for 6/7 days.
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 https://mountaintracks.co.uk/discipline/winter-mountaincraft
The Val d'Annivièrs is the most easterly French speaking valley in southern Switzerland. From a skiers point of view five of its many idyllic and picturesque villages: St. Luc, Chandolin, Zinal, Grimentz and Vercorin operate ski lifts and pistes all on the same ski pass. Each is a ski area in its own right and stretch between 1200m – 3000m in altitude. With skiing on all aspects of the compass the valley is renowned for its variety of snow and the scope of its freeriding.
The area has a large network of lifts servicing 200km of pistes up to an altitude of almost 3,000m. The whole area is characterised by stunning high alpine terrain, deep valleys and charming villages. The main ski domains of Zinal, Grimentz, St Luc-Chandolin and Vercorin are well-connected by local buses. The area also has the advantages of being relatively unknown (and therefore not so busy) and easily accessible from Geneva, Zurich or Sion airports.
We rate Zinal and the Val d'Anniviers as one of the best areas for off-piste and backcountry skiing in the Alps.
Our top reasons to visit Zinal
Resort Height: 1,670m
Highest Lift: 3,000m
Nearest Airport: Geneva or Zurich
Accommodation in Zinal
For many of our weeks in Zinal we stay at the comfortable Chalet Edelweiss run by our good friends Eric and Penny Kendall. They have created a fantastic chalet in the village of Mottec just 2 minutes from Zinal. The chalet has 5 comfortable twin or double rooms, all with ensuite facilities, complimentary toiletries and fluffy towels. The lounge area has plenty of seating, a large fire place, library, TV/DVD/satellite and music system plus an internet corner and wifi. Penny's cooking is exceptional and you will be fed and watered extremely well all week with breakfast, tea and a 3-course evening meal. It’s possible for the vast majority of the winter to ski directly back to the chalet off piste all the way with over 1500m of descent, arriving to well deserved tea and cakes!
The chalet has a ski room with boot dryer and private car park. They also hose a Scott Ski Test Centre at the chalet with many pairs of freeride and touring skis for hire and test. You can book ski hire with the chalet direct before you travel. If you need to hire boots then this needs to be done at the local ski shop in Zinal village. Find out more about the Chalet at www.skizinal.com
We also work with some of the hotels in the village of Zinal for other weeks like the Hotel Besso and Hotel Europe. Both offer comfortable accommodation plus good food. The village is small with a few shops and a good après ski bar called the Bar e VoX close to the bottom of the main lift at Sorebois.
Recommended Travel Options
The most convenient airport is Geneva followed by Zurich. Train is the best option for the onward journey from the airport to Zinal. Connections are regular and the total travel time is approximately 3hrs 15mins from Geneva with 2 changes and around 4hrs with 3 or 4 changes from Zurich Airport. To look up train timetables use this link Swiss Railway Timetables You can travel as far as Sierre in the main Rhone Valley by train, here you have to change to the Swiss Post Bus (Yellow) and you travel up the Val d'Anniviers by bus (you may need to change in Vissoie). If you are staying at Chalet Edelweiss, you must ask the driver for Mottec (as it’s a request stop) and the bus stops right outside Chalet Edelweiss. This is the large balconied house alongside the road.
Alternatively, you can hire a car at the airport, driving time to the Auberge is approximately 2 hrs from Geneva, and 2.5 hrs from Zurich.
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 airports are Geneva or Zurich airport, from where you can take the train to Sierre (Geneva 2 hrs, Zurich 2.5 hrs).
At Sierre catch the yellow Post Bus to Zinal (you may need to change in Vissoie). Ask the driver for Mottec (as it’s a request stop) and the bus stops right outside the Auberge Edelweiss. This is the large balconied house alongside the road.
Train and bus timetables can be found at www.sbb.ch/en
Alternatively, you can hire a car at the airport: driving time to the Auberge is approximately 2 hrs from Geneva, and 2.5 hrs from Zurich.
You should arrange to arrive in Zinal by late afternoon on Day 1 and we recommend that you arrange your return/onward flight for mid to late afternoon to give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport without having to rush!
Our Off-Piste Adventure courses are run by our team of IFMGA Mountain Guides led by Olly Allen, Matt Dickinson, and Nick Parks.
The guide to skier ratio is 1:6 maximum, our advanced weeks typically run on a 1:4 ratio with expert trips either 1:2 or 1:1 we can run with a maximum of 2 groups on the same week.
Our base is Chalet Edelweiss in the hamlet of Mottec, 2km from Zinal and at the foot of one of the valley’s best off-piste routes.
Our hosts Penny and Eric renovated the old building themselves, providing a luxurious chalet with great facilities for skiers - 5 ensuite bedrooms, a range of Scott freeride skis to test, ski-room with boot dryer, warm booting-up space and a stop for the free ski-bus right outside.
Our groups have loved this home from home, with its huge double-sided fireplace, ample seating and extensive library, as well as vin chaud evenings around the outdoor firepit. Penny’s delicious food is a highpoint - not just the cakes, fantastic evening meals and local wines, but also the lavish breakfasts devised to send you out prepared for the ski day ahead!
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.