Alps Ski Touring Programs - Spring 2017

Booking info

See also:
Ski programs overview
Valle Maira, Italy
Queyras, France
Albula, Switzerland
Ortler, Italy
Haute Route Verbier
Haute Route Plateau
Gran Paradiso
Zermatt to Saas Fee
Silvretta
Berner Oberland
Vanoise Haute Route
Stubai
Chamonix off-piste
Alps skiing advice

Vignettes hut
Every year we take full advantage of the spring touring season in the Alps. From hut-to-hut multi-day adventures, to day tours and peak ascents, the terrain and access are incomparable. The fame and epic reputation of ski tours in the Alps, are well deserved.

Our schedule for ski touring in 2017 includes:

  • Chamonix off-piste
  • Valle Maira, 5 days in Italy
  • Queyras, France, 6 days
  • 6-day Silvretta tour
  • Chamonix to Zermatt Haute Route, Plateau du Couloir
  • 6-day tour in the Berner Oberland
  • 6-day Gran Paradiso ski tour and ascent

We also have space on or calendar in mid to late April for additional private programs. Contact us if you have a group.

Within each of these trips are innumerable variations, side trips, and much great skiing. In addition, there are wonderful day trips to enjoy, from the well known Vallée Blanche, a 9000 foot descent in the heart of the Mont Blanc Massif to tours around Zermatt and other alpine centers.

Check out our Recent Trips Gallery page for links to photos of our previous trips to these areas.

Please read our "Choosing the right tour" section lower on this page.

A large amount of information is available in the pages on our site. But we still invite you to contact us with your questions. We have found that the more we dive into the depths of a subject the more there is to learn about it. Give us a call, or send an email.

 

2017 Alps Skiing Programs
Chamonix Off-Piste
With a base of your hotel in Chamonix, you can enjoy an amazing variety of off-piste skiing at nearly any level of difficulty. Many route are possible on downhill "alpine" ski gear, while others need randonnée skis with skins.

Early-January to
Mid-March

   

Google Earth
Valle Maira, Italy
Day tours from a wonderful hotel. Think powder skiing, 7 course meals and great wine.

February
20-24, 2017

 

Valle Maira Equipment list

 
Queyras, France
This mid-winter tour is for those that like powder. We spend 6 big days touring, staying in either hotels, gîtes or huts, all equipped with showers!

February
26-March 3, 2017

 

Queyras Equipment list


Google Earth
Silvretta Tour, Austria
This is a great introduction to hut-to-hut touring in the Alps. The Silvretta Group offers great huts, big terrain, and a very wide range of objectives from which to choose.
March
7-12, 2017
Silvretta Equipment list

Google Earth
Chamonix to Zermatt
Haute Route via Plateau du Couloir

This is a harder version of the Haute Route. We include Mont VĂ©lan on this route.

March 24-31, 2017

Day by day description and photos
Haute Route Equipment list

Google Earth
Berner Oberland Ski Tour
The Berner Oberland is known for its giant valley glaciers winding among a multitude of very high summits. The peaks and passes between these glaciers, and the numerous huts offer incredible options for ski touring and peak ascents (and descents!). On this page we describe a 6-day program featuring some of the area's best.
April 11-16, 2017
Day by day description and photos
Berner Oberland Equipment list

Google Earth
Gran Paradiso, ski tour and ascent

This is a 6-day tour through the heart of the Parco Nazionale Gran Paradiso. We conclude with an ascent of the Gran Paradiso, the highest peak wholly within Italy.

April 19-24, 2017

Gran Paradiso Equipment list
 
Saint Moritz to Davos
Albula Traverse
Seven days of great touring near Saint Moritz. This range is known for its good powder snow. The terrain (read north-facing descents) quality of snow are what make this tour special.

Available for private booking

Albula Equipment list

Google Earth
Vanoise Haute Route
A 5-day traverse of the Parc National de la Vanoise. The highlights of this Haute Route are the great north-facing descents.

Available for private booking

Vanoise Equipment list

Google Earth
Ortler Tour, Italy
A fantastic trip in Italy's Tyrol. This hut-to hut tour takes in several fine ski summits in a less visited part of the Alps. Wonderful huts, and big descents on some of the best ski peaks in the Alps.

Available for private booking

Ortler Equipment list

Google Earth
Chamonix to Zermatt
Haute Route via Verbier

The famous Chamonix to Zermatt Haute Route. This version is the most commonly done, starting in Argentière in the Chamonix Valley, going through Verbier, and on to Zermatt.

Available for private booking

Day by day description and photos
Haute Route Equipment list

Google Earth
Zermatt to Saas-Fee

This is a difficult tour, best done late in the season. Slightly harder than the Ortler or Verbier version Haute Route, this tour has lots of vertical.

Available for private booking

 

 

Zermatt-Saas Equipment list
 
       
DO NOT use the Google Earth files for navigation! They are not drawn accurately enough for this type of use!

Advice for skiing in the Alps. Information and tips for having the best trip possible. (Links to another page.)

 

Choosing the best tour

Few skiers have not heard of the Chamonix to Zermatt Haute Route. But the many other great tours in the Vanoise, Val Maira, Queyras, Albula, Ortler, Silvretta, Berner Oberland and countless other gems in the Alps, are relatively unknown among "non-European" skiers. They deserve more attention!

While all of the ski trips we present here are fantastic, there are important differences of which you should be aware when you choose among them. They vary in several ways:

  • quality of the downhill skiing
  • strenuousness
  • difficulty of the skiing, steepness, and hazards
  • comfort and amenities in the huts
  • emphasis on ski peak ascents and great descents verses an emphasis on the "journey" from point A to B

Here, we have created a table to help compare various attributes of the programs we offer. This is all rather subjective, and such things as "quality of the downhill" relates as much to the snow-of-the-moment as to the hill. But, hopefully it will help you compare one tour to the other. Don't assume that higher numbers are better. Some like it hard, others like showers at the end of the day....

 

 
tour attributes

our ski tours

quality of
downhill
strenuousness
skiing difficulty
hut comfort
ascents/descents
verses "journey"
Val Maira
2
1
2
3+
3
Vanoise Haute Route
3
2
2
2
2
Queyras
3
1
2
3
3
Silvretta
2
1
1
3
2
Albula Traverse
3
2
2
2
2
Stubai
2
2
1
2
2
Ortler
3
2
2
3
3
Gran Paradiso
2
2
2
2
2
Haute Route - Verbier
1
2
2
1
1
Haute Route - Plateau
2
3
3
1
1
Berner Oberland
3
2
2
2
2
Zermatt to Saas-Fee
2
3
3
2
2

Key to the table

Quality of the downhill - Some tours seem to consistently offer better downhill skiing. While all of the tours mentioned here can have long, fantastic runs, some have more potential or options than others. In our opinion the Vanoise, Queyras, Albula, Ortler and the Berner have the best downhill skiing possibilities. Score 3 for "outrageous downhill", and 1 for only "very good downhill" options.

Strenuousness - Some tours have longer days than others, with more uphill climbing. 3 is hard, 1 is less hard.

Skiing difficulty - This is a tricky one as difficult snow conditions can make skiing hard at almost any angle. Breakable crust, mashed potatoes and all sorts of other nasties inherent to off-piste skiing are possible on any tour. However, some tours have more steep skiing or more technical sections through crevassed glacier terrain, for example. On all but the Silvretta and Val Maira, there are unavoidable pitches where, should the snow be firm, a fall could result in an unstoppable slide and likely injury or worse. Score 1 for easier skiing and 3 for harder skiing.

Hut comfort and amenities- While we love all the huts and peak of the Western Alps, it is the huts of Italy and Austria that have the corner on comfort. In the Silvretta and Ortler for example, expect most huts to have hot showers, a full bar, espresso machine and sometimes individual bunks. Val Maira, has, by far, the most comfortable lodgings, being based in a hotel. Here you'll enjoy 7-course meals every night! Of course, we can't entirely blame the "less-comfortable" huts for their more Spartan nature. Showers are only possible when there is a good and reliable supply of running water nearby. With the exception of the Queyras huts, the refuges in the higher Western Alps and Berner Oberland simply don't have this luxury. Score 3 for showers and espresso machines, and 1 for a more limited, but still adequate wine selection and beer on tap (or in an absolute worst-case-scenario, in cans).

Ascents/Descents verses the "Journey" - The Chamonix to Zermatt Haute Route is the quintessential journey. This undeniable appeal comes at a price. If weather or avalanche conditions preclude following the intended route to the next hut, then one may have to duck out and descend to the valley to find an alternate route. Also, being a prescribed route, there is little option as to which slopes you ski. In contrast, with tours that emphasize the downhill, we have more options to choose our objective according to aspect, angle or other attributes. We can often choose north facing slopes if the snow is better there or south for corn. And in poor weather we may be able to adjust our objective to match the conditions. Score 3 for tours with more emphasis on the quality of the downhill skiing, and 1 for the "journey".

 

What's the best season?

Generally the best time of year for ski touring in the Alps is late winter and spring. Adequate snow cover (especially important on crevassed glaciers!) longer days, and milder temperatures all bring better touring conditions in the latter part of the season.

Of course, different trips all have different considerations, and some are better earlier than others. Here is a rough guide to the trips we regularly do.

    Chamonix off-piste skiing

    Early February to the end of April. The big glaciated tours are better from March onward, while some of the lift-accessed off-piste is better in February and March.

    Valle Maira

    Like the Queyras below, the Valle Maira is best in February and early March, when there is adequate snow cover powder.

    Queyras

    The Queyras is known for its powder, and to take good advantage of this, an earlier trip is better. However, too early in the season may lack snow. Mid-February to mid-March is ideal.

    Silvretta

    The Silvretta is a good choice for March. It is not as high as the tours listed below, and the glaciers, though serious, are not as crevassed. All this adds up to suggest that March is the ideal month. April is also good in the Silvretta.

    Albula - Saint Moritz to Davos

    The Albula traverse is best in the month of March. Some of the huts are not open until the start of the month. But to take full advantage of the great powdery north-facing descents, it is best not to push it too far into April.

    Ortler

    The Ortler has a fairly extended season. The peaks are high (which is amenable to later scheduling) but it is also nice to take advantage of some of the lighter snow than tends to fall earlier, rather than later. On the other hand, the seriousness of the glaciers make very early trips dicey. In balance, early to mid-March, to mid-April are best.

    Vanoise Haute Route

    Early March to mid-April is the best for the Vanoise, though it is practicable both before and after these dates. This area, due to high elevation, has a fairly extended season.

    Gran Paradiso

    Late March to the end of April. The huts generally open about the 3rd weekend of March. Later in the season can also be good, but you'll end up walking a bit of trail at the end of the tour.

    Chamonix to Zermatt Haute Route

    April is the Haute Route month. Certainly, starting in late March is also good, and many trips run into early May. But, in general, April is your best bet.

    Zermatt to Saas-Fee

    April into May is best for this high mountain tour. The peaks here are very high and the glaciers quite crevassed. Mid-April to mid-May.

    Berner Oberland

    The Berner has more in common with Alaska than the rest of the Alps. Of all the tours we have done in the Alps, the Berner has the longest, and latest season. Touring here is good from the middle of March through to about mid-May.

 

Skiing on the Argentière Glacier on the beginning of the Haute Route.
photo info

Kathy Cosley & Mark Houston
UIAGM Internationally Licensed Mountain Guides

AMGA Certified • SNGM members
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