Ski Touring encompasses a large variety of ski days, short little skins to access a slope away from the lifts through to multi-day hut to hut ski tours.
Some tours require some mountaineering skills, such as using crampons and a rope whilst others are super mellow and are just gentle uphill walking with skis on. “Earning your turns” is hugely rewarding and ski touring is all about quality rather than quantity.
In short, there really is something for everyone, and using Chamonix as a base is super flexible with good touring in Chamonix itself but with many other areas close by such as Les Contamines, the Italian Aosta Valley and Switzerland.
Ski touring equipment has advanced hugely over the past few years and there’s a huge variety of gear to choose from depending on your desired ski touring style. Wide skis and heavy bindings for “free ride” style skiing where the ascents are short through to super light skis and boots for those wishing to go fast and light.
We run several scheduled trips where individuals can join a group, such as our Haute route trips as well as one off special trips that change every season. We specialise in private bookings though, often picking the ski touring venue just prior to the trip thus enjoying the better and weather and conditions at the time.
What equipment do I need for ski touring?
Our trips come with avalanche gear included, but you will need to rent some ski touring boots and skis. Please get in touch for recommended hire shops in Chamonix. A rucksack is required to carry the avalanche gear and the touring gear whilst your skiing.
Clothing wise, it’s normally better to use mountaineering style layers, rather than heavy ski jackets, as you’ll get pretty warm uphill. A helmet is recommended, spare gloves, goggles and sunglasses and some snacks and water. We will discuss and send you a equipment list upon booking.
How good a skier do I need to be to enjoy ski touring?
If your booking a private trip then we can discuss your level of skiing and pick a suitable tour for you and your group. In general however, you will enjoy ski touring more if you are a competent off piste skier, able to handle some tricky snow conditions. Have a read of our ski levels page here.
Fitness also plays a major role for some ski tours and again, this depends on the route we are choosing for the day. Multi-day hut to hut tours obviously require a good level of fitness, shorter tours from the lifts require less. If your thinking of a multi-day trip and you’re unsure of your fitness levels do get in touch and have a read of our ski touring fitness levels page.
When is the best time of year for ski touring?
It is possible to go ski touring almost from the first snows, and many of the locals will be out in November! During the early season we are ski touring in the “mid mountain” areas normally, saving the high mountains for when the weather is milder, days longer and the snow is stable.
Ski touring on the glaciers also requires some good snow cover to fill and bridge the crevasses, which generally happens from February onwards. Every year is different.
So for shorter tours, or mid mountain ski touring (in the Chamonix Aiguille Rouge for instance), touring is possible from December, for classic high mountain ski tours you can normally start from early March and go right through to the end of April, or even May.
Why hire a mountain guide to go ski touring?
There are now several dedicated skinning tracks at the resorts in the Chamonix valley, such as les Houches, Grand Montet and Le Tour. This allows people to ski tour up the mountain away from the piste before using the piste to ski back down at the end. The track at Les houches in particular is safe in all but the worst avalanche conditions and is a nice track zig zagging through the woods.
But to enjoy ski touring to it’s full potential, you need to get away from the resorts and the lifts. Our qualified IFMGA mountain guides will take into account current snow conditions to pick interesting and safe routes, no matter what your skiing ability os ski touring experience.
Every day also gives us some instructional opportunity, such as route choice, navigation, avalanche awareness and route planning. We have an open guiding style, talking through our decisions during the day.
Read more about us and our guides here.