Queyras Ski Touring

6 days skiing

Maximum Group Size
8 skiers with 2 guides

Required skills

Booking info

Guiding Fees

Equipment list

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See also:
Ski programs overview
Alps skiing advice
Valle Maira, Italy
Queyras, France
Lofoten, Norway
Albula, Switzerland
Ortler, Italy
Haute Route Verbier
Haute Route Plateau
Mont Thabor
Gran Paradiso
Zermatt to Saas Fee
Berner Oberland
Vanoise Haute Route
Tour du Ciel
Tour du Soleil
Chamonix off-piste
Private ski tours

French friends have long urged us to visit the Queyras—a quiet corner of rural alpine France straddling the Italian border in the Cottian Alps. The group of mountains known as the Queyras is quite wild and remote despite its relatively modest altitude. Its attractions for ski touring include rugged peaks and ridges, light and powdery snow, and proudly un-spoiled traditional villages, as well as relatively few other tourists. In 2010 we went to check it out for ourselves, and found it everything it was reputed to be. And again, in February of 2011 and 2012, we returned, both times with great fun groups of paying customers and had absolutely fantastic trips with consistently great powder skiing under sunny skies.

Photos from previous
Queyras ski trips

Our six-day itinerary begins with an afternoon rendezvous in Saint Véran, the highest village inhabited year-round in the Alps. We can arrange a pick up at the gare (train station) in Mont-Dauphin for those that are arriving by train. We spend two nights at our gîte in Saint Véran. After a day tour and second night there, we will move to the Refuge de la Blanche. There are a number of options for tours on this day, the choice of which depends on conditions and ambitions. On our third day we cross over peaks and passes to the newly-renovated and comfortable Refuge Agnel. After another long day's touring and a second night in this hut, and we will cross the Col de l'Eychassier and the Crête des Fonzes, and a long descent will bring us to Ristolas and thence by taxi to Abriès for the night. Our final day's touring takes advantage of a ski lift in Abriès to easily gain elevation. Again, there are a number of options, all of which include fantastic north-facing descents. We return to our hotel in Abries for the night. The program ends the following morning with a possible shuttle back to the station at Mont-Dauphin.

This tour is a skier's tour. The mid-winter snowpack almost always offers good powder skiing in north-facing bowls. Add to that the high likelihood of sunshine - the Queyras are famous for their high number of sunny days - as well as comfortable lodging (take a shower every night!), and we have a great program for those who like their turns.

The village of Saint Véran.

Queyras Ski Touring Itinerary

Day 0

Rendezvous in Saint Véran. For those without cars we can arrange a shuttle pick-up at the station in Mont-Dauphin (reachable by train from Grenoble in about 3 and ½ hours). In Saint Véran we will be staying in a comfortable and very friendly skiers gîte, a rustic skier's and hiker's inn.

Day 1

Relaxing in the Gîte Gabelous in Saint Véran.

We have two options for our first day. The easier is an ascent of the Pic Cascalvier, a summit of 2562 meters overlooking Saint Véran to the west. The descent is via a fine north-facing bowl.

Our more ambitious option is a tour up the 2909 meter Pointe des Marcelettes. We begin with the ascent of Pic Cascalvier, then continue up the narrow east ridge of the Marcelettes, possibly having to boot up the final steep section just below the summit. From here we have a long descent down the Vallon du Châtelard. We spend a second night in the hotel in Saint Véran.

Pointes des Marcelettes Traverse

• ascent: 1200 m
• descent: 1200 m
• distance: 10.5 km

or, Pic Cascavelier

• ascent: 870 m
• descent: 870 m
• distance: 8.8 km

Day 2

Leaving our town luggage behind, we strike off into the less busy back-country, via chairlift at first. After skiing up a very scenic ridge to the Pic de Château Renard, we descend southward. Our objective is the Refuge de la Blanche. We can head directly there, drop some of our weight and ski up to one of several passes. However, if we are feeling gung-ho, and conditions are good, we can make an exciting descent of the North Couloir of the Pic de Château Renard, a narrow, 38° slot in an impressive alpine wall. If we chose this option, we'll have a 500-meter skin back up to the Col de Longet before our descent to the hut.

If we elected to first go to the hut (bypassing the North Couloir) there are a number of skiing options available, ranging from the relatively easy Col de la Noire or the Col Blanchet, to a more demanding ascent of the Pic de Caramantran.

Direct to the hut, via Pic de Château Renard

• ascent: 330 m on foot, 800 m on lifts
• descent: 600 m
• distance: 6 km

Via the North Couloir of the Pic de Château Renard and the Col de Longet

• ascent: 880 m on foot, 800 m on lifts
• descent: 1080 m
• distance: 9 km

Day 3

Arriving at the summit of Pointe de Sagnes Longues.

On day 3, we continue our tour to the Refuge Agnel. Again, there are a number of options to reach the hut. One of the most enjoyable is via an ascent of the Pointe des Sagnes Longues (3032m). For this route, we leave the hut, traversing at the 2500 meter level to the valley of the Cornivier. The we climb up to the crest at about 2850 meters, then follow the ridge to the summit. The north-facing descent is wonderful, some 850 meters long, to the valley bottom. Finally, we skin up the groomed cross-country track to the hut at 2588 meters.

If conditions are not so good, we can directly cross the Col de Chamoussiere, a 2884 meter high pass between the valley of l'Aigue Blanche, and l'Aigue Agnelle. With this route we have a good descent, also on north-facing slopes, either directly to the hut on a long traverse, or with more fall-line skiing and a short skin back up to the hut.

Crossing via the Col de Chamoussiere

• ascent: 380 m
• descent: 300 m
• distance: 4.5 km

or, via the the Pointe des Sagnes Longues

• ascent: 1060 m
• descent: 880 m
• distance: 10 km

Day 4

Moonrise over the Pain de Sucre.

Today's tour, a circumnavigation of the prominent peak of the Pain de Sucre, will see us crisscrossing the watershed ridge line border between France and Italy. We will cross four cols on this day. The first is the 2806 meter Col Vieux, then on to the Breche de Ruine at 2908 meters. Skiing south we cross into Italy at the Col d'Asti at 3145 meters. Finally we pass back into France over the easy Col Agnel at 2744 meters. With any luck we should enjoy magnificent views of the 3841 meter high Mont Viso, the most prominent of the nearby Italian peaks.

Tour of the Pain de Sucre

• ascent: 810 m
• descent: 810 m
• distance: 8.5 km

Day 5

Leaving the Refuge Agnel, we have a couple of options. If conditions are good and stable, we can climb up over the Col de l'Eychassier, descend around the Crête des Fonzes, to access some high north-facing bowls just to the west of the Pic Ségure. Descending these leads us eventually down the drainage of the Torrent de Ségure. We can follow the fun, gentle contours of the forest road through thick woods (watch for ibex!), or make a possible side trip over the top of the Pic Ségure if we want to get good and tired; either way this route drops us in the tiny ski resort village of Ristolas, surprising us around the last bend. If conditions dictate a more conservative option, we can cross the Col Vieux and descend the drainage of the Torrent de Bouchouse (watch for wildlife here too!). With both routes, our day ends with a short ski-bus ride down-valley to our hotel in Abriès.

Refuge Agnel to Ristolas via Col de l'Eychassier, but not including Pic Ségure

• ascent: 495 m
• descent: 1452 m
• distance: 12.4 km

Refuge Agnel to Ristolas including Pic Ségure

• ascent: 1100 m
• descent: 2050 m
• distance: 14 km

Day 6

We again have several choices for this day, but most likely we will take advantage of the chairlift at Abriès to gain some 800 meters "sweat-free", to start this day's tour. One options is a circumnavigate the Tête de Pelvas, crossing again into Italy via the Col d'Urine, then back to France over the Collet du Pelvas. We cross over the ridge to the north aspect again, and enjoy a very long descent to Valpreveyre. Here we follow the Abries ski trails back to Le Roux and the shuttle bus back to Abriès.

Another option is an ascent of la Mait d'Amunt, a fine summit of 2804 meters, just on the border between Italy and France. This peak has a wonderful north-facing descent. It is a bit steep at the top, perhaps a bit more than 35°, but mellows after the first 200 meters. This route also lead back to Valpreveyre and the piste and shuttle to Abries.

We spend our last night at our hotel in Abries. The following morning we can shuttle those without cars down to the train station at Mont Dauphin.

Circumnavigation of the Tête de Pelvas

• ascent: 839 m on skis, 800 on lifts
• descent: 1642 m
• distance: 18.0 km

Ascent of the Mait d'Amunt

• ascent: 680 m on skis, 800 on lifts
• descent: 1300 m
• distance: 14.5 km

Fresh tracks down the valley of the Torrent de Ségure.

Skills Required

This tour requires a high level of fitness and very good skiing abilities. On a number of days the total elevation gained is over 1000 meters (3000 feet). Being in good shape will ensure you have enough energy to manage (and have great fun as well!) on the long descents that follow. The reason that skiing skills must be at an advanced-to-expert level has more to do with the conservation and expenditure of energy over a long day than the absolute technical difficulty of the skiing. There are a few steep sections, but for the most part the slopes are not overly steep. The challenge comes in managing poor snow conditions (heavy wet snow, crud or breakable crust) and not losing too much energy or risking injury in the process. Great skiers look like they are hardly working, and this is in fact the case. If your skiing is not up to par you will spend far, far more energy than a better skier.

Ski skills required;
  • Ability to turn comfortably through the fall line in difficult deep, heavy snow, or bad breakable crust.
  • Ability to execute parallel turns turns on 35° firm snow.
  • Ability to ski the fall-line with short-radius, rhythmic parallel turns in deep light (good) snow.
  • Ability to side-slip, both forward and backward, on firm 35° slopes.
  • Ability to skate on level ground.

Skiers who regularly enjoy black or double black runs in most western North American ski areas should do fine. If you like to get off the piste and into the crud, ski the trees, and in general look for the steeper shots, you'll probably have a great time on this tour. If you tend to stick to the groomed slopes and find the wild untracked a bit intimidating you should think twice about this option. We will likely encounter all different kinds of snow, from the best to the worst, and you need to have sound, energy-efficient strategies to cope with them.

A good gauge of your ability can be found in mogul skiing. If you are good in the bumps and seek them out, then you most likely have developed the rhythm and balance needed for steep or difficult snow. You must be able to ski moderate bumps in good conditions, skiing rhythmically and fluidly, following a line near the fall line with good speed control. If you have any doubt about your ability to manage the skiing on this tour, please contact us to see if we can answer your questions.

Previous ski touring or mountaineering skills are useful, but not required. If you are a good skier, you will not have difficulty picking up these new skills, as you will already be comfortable on steep slopes.

Crossing the 2827 meters pass at the Crête des Fonzes.

Skinning up to the Pointe des Sagnes Longues between the town Saint Véran and the Refuge Agnel.

Kathy Cosley & Mark Houston
UIAGM Internationally Licensed Mountain Guides

AMGA Certified • SNGM members
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Arriving at the Col de l'Eychassier.

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