Ski the Chamonix – Zermatt Haute route with an experienced IFMGA mountain guide
First skied in 1911, the Chamonix to Zermatt Haute route has to be the most spectacular and well known high mountain ski tour in the world. Starting at the foot of Mont Blanc and finishing by skiing underneath the Matterhorn makes it a very sought after tour.
The Haute route is over 100km in length, passes through France, Italy and Switzerland and features more than 6000m of ascent and descent.
By staying in high alpine huts, it’s possible to ski quite long distances each day as well as enjoying some fantastic descents. Our itinerary is seven days, including a warm up day in Chamonix skiing the Vallee Blanche and then six days on the Haute Route itself which gives us flexibility with the weather and conditions if need be.
Why ski the Haute Route with Vertical Frontiers?
All of our guides are fully certified IFMGA Mountain guides with years of experience of off piste skiing and ski touring. We know the Haute route well and all of our trips are led with a strong emphasis on safety and conservative decision making in the mountains. We also love our skiing, and ski touring especially! Read more on our About Us page.
How good a skier I do I need to be to Ski Tour the Haute route?
You should have several years of off piste skiing experience and be confident skiing various snow conditions off piste, including the tricky stuff! The Haute Route is not recommended as a first hut to hut ski tour. You will have much more fun, and a higher chance of success if you have previous hut to hut ski touring trips under your belt.
We will be ascending at a rate of around 350-400m/hr, with some inevitable tricky skinning conditions including steep kick turns and icy skinning tracks. A very good level of fitness is important as each day involves quite a lot of ascent and you will need some energy for the downhills as well.
If your not sure about your current ability or fitness level, please do contact us for some advice. We also run ski touring skills weekends if you need to brush up your skills or are a very strong and fit off piste skier who wants to do the Haute route without previous hut to hut experience.
What equipment will I need for the Haute Route?
We will provide each member for the group with a climbing harness, boot crampons, ice axe, avalanche transceiver, shovel and probe.
You will need your normal ski touring equipment such as skis, boots, skins, ski crampons which can be hired in Chamonix if required. Skiing on a light setup with a streamlined rucksack is a very good idea. Skis around 85 – 95 wide are about right, anything skinner will struggle in deep snow and anything wider is hard work on icy skinning tracks. We are working on our online equipment list and will send out a pdf version when you book.
What are the mountain huts like on the Haute Route?
A good way of thinking of the mountains huts/refuge’s are as mountain hostels. All involve mixed shared rooms or dormitories, all are plenty warm enough and all feature some pretty impressive views! Most of the huts have to melt snow for water, so there are limited facilities for washing/showers.
We book into the huts on a half board basis, so dinner and breakfast are on a set menu basis, there is always plenty of food. It’s possible to buy lunch and snacks when we get to the huts in the afternoon, as well as cups of tea/beer/wine etc. At the bottom of this page there are links to the huts we use so you can click through and see what they look like.
Haute Route Ski Tour Itinerary
This seven day itinerary is designed to be flexible and it’s possible to shorten the lengthen the days in case of bad weather or conditions along the Haute Route.
- Day 0 – Arrive in Chamonix. Hire gear if necessary. Early evening meeting with your guide to discuss programme, weather and conditions. Night in Chamonix.
- Day 1 – Warm up day. This is when we test the gear and get our ski legs warmed up for the week ahead. Our exact venue depends on the weather and conditions, but we always do a little skinning and plenty of off piste, as well as getting acclimatised.
- The Grand Montet and the Vallee Blanche from the Aiguille du Midi are our favourites. We spend the night back in Chamonix.
- Day 2 – Grand Montet Lift – Col du Passon – Cabane du Trient. Approx 11oom ascent. 6 – 8 hours of skiing and skinning.
- An early start from Chamonix ensures we are on one of the first cable cars at the Grand Montet. We head down the Glacier du Rognon from the top station and begin skinning up to the Col du Passon as soon as possible. There is a section where we boot pack and carry the skis to reach the col. From the top there are magnificent views across the whole of the Mont Blanc chain, a good spot for a break.
- After a short descent we begin a gentle climb to the Col Superieur du Tour and then onwards across the glacial plateau du Trient and the Trient refuge for the night.
- If weather is not suitable for high glacial crossing, we spend more time skiing at the Grand Montet, followed by a night at the Argentiere Refuge.
- Day 3 – Cabane du Trient – Champex – Verbier – Col de Momin – Cabane de Prafleuri. Approx 700m ascent. 8 – 9 hours of skinning and skiing.
- This is a day of contrasts, starting at a high mountain refuge, passing through the busy ski resort of Verbier and skinning back into the mountains to the remote Cabane de Prafleuri.
- After a prompt start from the refuge we climb up to the col des Ecandies before one of the best descents of the ski tour down the Val d’Arpette to Champex where we meet our taxi. This takes us to Le Chable where there is an opportunity for a quick supermarket stop for mountain snacks before catching the chair lifts up into the ski resort of Verbier.
- A little piste skiing takes us below the Col de Momin and the start of the skinning towards the Rosa Blanche which is a good optional summit if time, weather and fitness allows. We then have a great ski down towards the Cabane de Prafleuri for the night.
- Optional night in the Mont Fort hut if weather requires.
- Day 4 – Cabane de Prafleuri – Lac des Dix – Cabane des Dix. Approx 700m ascent. 4 – 6 hours.
- A classic stage of the Haute route, along the huge hydro electric reservoir, Lac des Dix. An early start from the hut is required to avoid crossing the slopes above the Dam in the sunshine when there is risk of avalanche.
- At the head of the reservoir we climb up to the Pas du Chat where we get superb views of the next days stage. The Cabane des Dix – photo – is just around the corner and is a great hut for the night.
- Possible escape route from Cabane de Prafleuri – then taxi to Arolla.
- Day 5 – Cabane des Dix – Pigne d’Arolla – Cabane des Vignettes. Approx 1000m ascent. 6 – 7 hours.
- Another highlight of Ski Touring the Haute route is the Pigne d’Arolla. This is a great peak to ski and the highest point of the tour. We skin up the glacier from the hut, avoiding the most crevassed areas and negotiating the often icy passage de la Serpentine.
- The summit has a wonderful panorama of high peaks including Mont Blanc, the Matterhorn, Dent Blanche and many many more.
- A 700m decsent now awaits, taking us down the far side of the Pigne to the excellent Cabane des Vignettes for the night.
- Alternative route is to go over the Pas de Chevres and down to Arolla, then skin up to Vignettes or Bertol refuges.
- Day 6 – Cabane des Vignettes – Col de L’Eveque – Col du Mt Brule – Col de Valpelline – Zermatt. Approx 1200m ascent. 6 – 8 hours.
- The grand finale. Three major cols, seven glaciers and plenty of downhill (2400m) to Zermatt at the end. A day in the high mountains to remember.
- We need good conditions, weather and enough energy in the legs for this last day. An early start from the hut is required both for snow conditions and to give us plenty of time for the tour.
- There are several ascents and descents along this final day, but by now we will be well used to the transitions and looking after the skins before the next climb. The final ski down into Zermatt is superb, and there’s always opportunity for a beer at a piste side restaurant with the Matterhorn in the background.
- After catching a short train ride down to Tasch, we meet our taxi which takes us back to Chamonix and a hotel for the night.
- Alternative route to Cabane de Bertol
- Day 7 – Spare weather day/further off piste skiing or touring in Chamonix.
- This is a crucial spare day that we programme in to give us flexibility during the whole week. That way if we get bad weather we can either wait it out at the hut for a second night, or use one of the alternative routes.
- This is especially important for the final day when we need good visibility for the final ski descent to Zermatt. We can divert to the Cabane de Bertol, there by splitting that day into two smaller chunks as well.
- If we do end up back in Chamonix on day 6 – then after some well deserved showers and dinner that night, there is plenty of opportunity for more touring and skiing in and around the resort, including the Vallee Blanche or tours in the Aiguille Rouge.
2017 Haute Route Ski Touring dates and prices
Sunday 16th – Saturday 22nd April 2017 (You will need to book Chamonix nights on Saturday 15th, Sunday 16th and Saturday 22nd April)
2017 price – £975 per person. Minimum booking of two skiers. – Contact us here to enquire or book.
A maximum ratio of six skiers to one guide. Our trips are run on a guiding only basis, you will need to cover expenses as the trip progresses for you and your guide, which are split between the group.
Our price includes;
- All guiding fees for your IFMGA Mountain Guide
- Hut reservations
- Transport within the Chamonix valley
- Avalanche safety equipment, plus boot crampons, Ice Axe and Harness
Expenses to consider;
- Accommodation in Chamonix (we can recommend places to stay)
- Mountain rescue insurance (BMC or SnowCard recommended)
- Ski uplifts (approx 120€ pp)
- Accommodation in mountain huts. A night in the mountain refuge typically costs 75CHF pp (half board) and the guides fee (discounted) is split between the group members. Four nights in the huts would work out at 308CHF per person, plus the guides fee split between the group. With an alpine club or BMC card you would get a reduced rate.
- Ski touring skis and boot hire
- Transport via taxi from Champex to La Chable and from Zermatt to Chamonix (approx 160€ pp depending on group size)
- It’s also worth having some cash on you for drinks and snacks the huts.
Other Haute Route Ski Touring options;
- We run private Haute Route trips on bespoke dates. Please contact us with your dates and group size for a quote.
- For those wishing to go a little faster, then a 3 day Haute Route might be an option. Run with a maximum group size of three skiers to one guide this can be a great way to experience the Haute Route. We run a five day programme including a warm up day and a spare bad weather day on private bookings only. Contact us for a quote, and have a read of our previous fast Haute Route trip here.
- There are of course plenty of other ski tours in the Alps, suitable for every ability. If your not sure if your ready foe the Haute Route, then give us a shout to discuss other options.
Haute Ski Touring links and resources;
- Haute Route Ski touring guidebook – ISBN 978-2-918824-09-1
- Swiss Topo 1:50 000 Maps;
- Martigny 282 S
- Arolla 283 S
- Mischabel 284 S
- Internet maps: www.geo.admin.ch
- Mountain refuge websites;