Chamonix, France

Chamonix Day Tours

For the experienced off-piste skier, Chamonix need little introduction. The area hosts some of the greatest skiing in Europe. The use of touring equipment enables us to go the extra mile from the lift stations to gain the longest routes on the best snow. The main focus of the course is to ski the classic routes however we also offer instruction in the essential techniques of ski-touring coupled with avalanche awareness. 

During this week you will ski some of the most famous tours including the Col du Passon, Col du Tour Noir and Col du Belvedere. The focus is always to get away from the crowds. We will also use the Aiguille du Midi cable car to cross over to Pointe Helbronner in Italy before skiing the Vallee Blanche back down to Chamonix.

Previous touring experience is not necessary but you must be a fit and competent off-piste skier (slopes of 35 degrees) and be willing to undertake ascents of 2-3 hours.

The itinerary is based on our many years experience of skiing in the Chamonix valley. However this is just a selection of the many day tours available and your week will likely differ from what is listed below depending on weather and snow conditions and the recommendations of your guide. 

This week will appeal to all intermediate level ski tourers looking for an exciting week in one of the Alps' best known resorts. 

THERE IS ONE COURSE ONLY SPOT AVAILABLE - £795

 

Day Itinerary

  • Arrive in Chamonix and settle into your accommodation. We'll have a welcome meeting and briefing at 7pm to discuss the plans for the week ahead and ensure you have all the kit.

  • Col des Dard – Our first day is a good warm up ski tour, a steady ascent over undulating terrain leads us to the Col des Dards.

    This col is situated between the Aiguille du Belvedere and the Aiguille Crochues at 2780m. With a superb 270 degree panorama across to the Aravis mountains, Mont Blanc and the Dents du Midi in Switzerland. The tour involves a 700m ascent from the top of the Index and Floria ski lifts typically taking 2-3hrs. A picnic lunch can be taken perched on the ridge line enjoying the views.

    The descent route is similar to the ascent and we enjoy the long 1,330m of downhill down over the undulating terrain.

    Depending on the conditions powder is often found on this route as the descent faces north and east. Later in the season you can expect some of the best spring snow available. 

     

  • Col Des Autannes – Our second ski day takes us to the Le Tour ski area at the head of the Chamonix Valley. Using the lift system we have easy access to the start of the route. The tour takes us to the Col des Autannes which is a 560m skin with a short boot pack to reach the summit ridge line. Usually this will take between 2 - 2 1/2 hrs.

    Once on the ridge the views across to Switzerland are spectacular. We have a number of choices for the descent. Straight down from the ridge leads us onto the small Glacier du Bron and our goal of the Trient valley. We can also traverse a short distance further and cross the ridge line to reach the Glacier des Grands and making a long arcing ski descent towards the Trient Valley. Both descents offer fantastic skiing with a 1,400m descent finishing in Trient in Switzerland. From Trient we usually catch the bus or a taxi back to Vallorcine where the lifts will link us back into the Le Tour ski area. 

  • Le Col du Tour Noir – The day is spent ski touring in the spectacular Argentiere Glacier basin. This vast glacier carves its way down between some of the most famous peaks of the region from its head at Mont Dolent on the border with Italy and Switzerland. We begin at the Grand Montets ski area and take the 2 stage cable car to its summit at 3,300m. We ski down onto the Argentiere Glacier where we put on our skins and tour in the direction of the Argentiere Refuge. Passing the refuge we turn left and skin towards the col above the Glacier des Amethystes. The climb is around 760m of vertical and typically takes around 3hrs to complete. At the col you can see far into Switzerland to the east and behind are the famous North Faces of the Les Courtes, Les Droites and the Aiguille Vert.

    The descent route follows a similar line but we can pick our way to the left of the glacier in search of the best snow. We have a long schuss down the main glacier to return to the ski area before skiing the piste to the base of the mountain. 

     

  • Brèche de Bérard or 'Keyhole' – is a super day tour, lesser known than the other popular tours starting from the same place. We access the tour from the Flegere lifts and the first of our 2 climbs takes us to the Col de Crochues. a skin and boot pack of about 250m. Once at the col we have a short ski down on the other side and traverse towards the Combe d’Envers de Bérard. From here we ski tour towards the higher part of the ridge separating the combe from the Bérard Valley. A further 400m height gain takes you to the 'Key Hole' or 'Brèche de Bérard', a narrow gap in the ridge which we climb through to access the ski descent on the other side. The ascent usually takes a total of 3hrs.

    Our descent route in the Bérard Valley is a classic ski with 1,500m of descent. We usually find great snow on the way down and the rolling terrain hides some stashes of powder snow. The bottom of the valley is reasonably flat and we have to negotiate the narrower terrain next to the river by skiing and traversing on a path, often involving side-stepping up short hills and tackling some moguls and avoiding the trees. We finish in the hamlet of Le Buet right next to a hotel and bar where we can enjoy some refreshment before taking the train back to Chamonix.

     

  • Punte Croce, Aosta valley. Today we head through the Mont Blanc Tunnel into Italy. The Italian side of the massif is very spectacular with stunning views of the huge Peutery Ridge of Mont Blanc, the longest ridge in the Alps and the huge South face of the Grand Jorasses. Punta Croce is an attractive independent peak, separate from the main ski domains of the upper Aosta valley. This tour takes us into a remote and unspoiled landscape seldom visited by other skiers. Firstly we drive up to valley leading to the ski resort of La Thuile and park in the pretty hamlet of Arpy at 1700m. From Arpya an 800m (2h30) ascent leads up a beautiful valley into a high cirque with a frozen lake at its head. From here the climb continues up the eastern slopes to the summit at 2500m. From the summit fantastic north facing slopes take us back down towards Arpy. This circular tour is an unforgettable voyage through an untouched winter landscape, and is a welcome tonic from busy ski domains.

     

  • Col du Passon – for our last ski day we return to the Grands Montets ski area to access our last tour of the week. Taking the lift to the summit of the Grands Montets again we ski one of the off piste routes to reach the Argentiere Glacier. This time we cross the glacier lower down and head towards its right bank under the slopes of the Aiguille du Chardonnet and the Bec Rouge.

    Here we put on our skins and ascend the 750 metres to the Col du Passon. Parts of the skin will be a little steeper and the last 150m vertical is done on foot carrying our skis on our rucksacks. We scramble up a short climb to the ridgeline usually wearing our crampons and using our hands to pull ourselves up. Once the ridge is gained you can rest and eat your lunch on the wide plateau of the Glacier du Tour. The ascent usually takes between 2.45 – 3hrs. Our descent route is via the vast Glacier du Tour a whopping 2,500m down to finish in the village of Le Tour. We can either ski the left side or the centre of the glacier for the best route. The terrain is smooth and rolling with some short, steeper sections (35 degress). Towards the bottom we approach the trees and bushes behind the village and traverse out crossing the river by bridge before ending our day at the bottom of the Le Tour ski area. We take the bus back to Chamonix.

     

  • Depart after breakfast.

2019

Dates

Price

Sat 09 Feb
- Sat 16 Feb
£795 Book
Sat 09 Feb
- Sat 16 Feb
£1395 Book

£795 OPTION IS COURSE ONLY - NO ACCOMMODATION IS INCLUDED IN THIS OPTION - IDEAL FOR CHAMONIX LOCALS! 

The price includes 6 guided days, 7 nights accommodation on typical chalet board (breakfast and afternoon tea each day and a 3-course evening meal on 6 nights of the week) and daily ski transfers.

The price does not include flights, airport transfers, uplift costs, lunches, drinks, 1 evening meal and equipment hire.

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This is an extensive list of the equipment you will need if you are coming on one of our Day Ski Touring trips

During the trip you will be staying most nights in comfortable chalet or hotel accommodation on a half board or B&B basis. You will just need to carry a day pack with your avalanche safety equipment and a few personal items.

On some of our trips you will stay 1 night out in a mountain hut. Huts in the Alps are comfortable but very basic with limited facilities – running cold water, European-style toilets and dormitory-style accommodation. All the huts provide ‘hut slippers’ – these days they are usually Crocs - and so you will not need to carry additional footwear.   You will need to have a sleeping bag liner for any hut nights; huts provide a duvet or blankets plus a pillow for sleeping so its not necessary to carry a sleeping bag. 

  • When choosing clothing for ski touring you want to think light, warm and versatile. During the trip weather conditions will change and you’re likely to go from warm afternoons where you’ll be carrying most of your gear in your rucksack, to icy-cold mornings when you’re wearing everything to keep warm! Getting hold of the best and lightest kit available is always worth it and most of the major brands will be able to supply suitable kit.
    • Roll neck rather than a scarf. We use and recommend the ‘Buff¹ ¬ a light, stretchable tube. Excellent despite the name! They do both a fleece/cotton version for warmth or just a cotton one (to keep the sun off).
    • Headwear to include warm hat and sun-cap or wide-brim hat for extra protection from the sun. Mountain Tracks fully supports the wearing of helmets for skiing, although not mandatory for any of our trips we do recommend them.
    • An outer shell jacket made of waterproof and breathable material like Gore-Tex or similar with a built-in hood. The lighter the better and so a shell is recommended rather than a insulated jacket.
    • 1-2 thin fleeces - rather than a thick layer between your skin and the outer shell - an approach which gives better heat retention and good flexibility. These tops are known as ‘mid layers’. The principle of ‘layering’ e.g. allowing you to easily add/remove layers depending on the temperature and the activity is recommended to ensure comfort on the mountain.
    • Insulation layer like a down or Primaloft jacket is a good item to have ready to wear in the event of cold weather, it can live in your rucksack as a spare layer and can come in very handy for sudden changes in the weather.
    • For the lower half it’s essential that you have a pair of thermal base layer pants (long johns).
    • These can then be combined with either:
    • (a) a good pair of ‘technical shell’ pants in a waterproof and breathable fabric like Gore-Tex (b) a pair of mountain or alpine pants in a softshell material together with a pair of lightweight, breathable over trousers with long side zips.
    • Top and bottom underwear made of a synthetic, wicking material. Very popular at the moment are the wool based layers from companies such as Icebreaker and Smartwool. They are comfy, breathable and warm when needed and can be worn for days without your friends catching a whiff!
    • Good quality Gore-Tex gloves or mitts and a thin pair of softshell or fleece gloves for when it is hot and for ski touring in. Silk inner gloves can be useful if the weather is cold and you suffer with cold hands.
    • Technical Socks - Investing in good quality ski socks will improve fit, warmth and feel when skiing for long periods. Bring along a few pairs.
  • For all touring trips it is essential you ski with an all-mountain/freeride type skis, ski touring boots and ski touring bindings. If you have your own skis but they do not have ski touring bindings then you will need to rent skis. The same applies if you have downhill ski boots, you will need to rent ski touring boots.

    Skis
    For alpine ski touring we recommend an all-mountain/freeride touring ski that isn’t too heavy, a really lightweight ski comes at a cost to performance on the descents so are only recommended for really good off-piste skiers with a strong interest in ski touring.
    There are plenty of great skis to choose from and we highly recommend skis from the following manufactures:
    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

    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.

    Boots
    It is essential that you have ski touring boots for all touring trips as walking up hill is much more comfortable in these types of boots with a walk mode and great flex. A dedicated touring boot or a hybrid freeride boot is best. 

    Scarpa have 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.
    • Scarpa’s Freedom boots are their Hybrid offerings, great ski performance, a walk mode and vibram sole. Their Maestrale (men’s) and Gea (women’s) boots are also highly recommended.
    • The Scott Celeste and Cosmo boots have stood the test of time and are good all round choices.
    • Salomon’s Quest Max series offer boots with a walk mode in various flex’s with good downhill performance.
    • Dynafit offer the Mercury or Vulcan boots plus a range of lightweight options like the TLT6.

    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

    Boot Liners
    These days many manufacturers offer ‘thermo-fit¹ liners as standard equipment. You may also want to consider a custom liner as these are heated and molded 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-shelf’ boots. Zipfit liners are a great option for anyone seeking total customisation in fit and comfort. They will replace the original liner.

    Custom Footbeds
    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.

    Bindings
    For all ski touring trips ski touring bindings are essential. Fritschi and Marker both make excellent ski touring bindings and you have a few different options to choose from. Many more people are seeing the advantage of the “pin” binding system now offered by a number of manufacturers as these are light and offer ever improving security despite their minimalist looks!

    Ski Poles
    We recommend telescopic poles. They must have wide powder baskets (4-5 inches/100-120mm diameter) otherwise you’ll be up to your armpits on the ascents. Go for an alloy rather than carbon poles which are lighter but have a nasty habit of snapping near the basket due to ski edge nicks.

    Rucksack
    For most ski tours especially multi-day hut-to-hut tours you will need a 35 - 40 litre rucksack. You might get away with a big 30 liter pack if you are an experienced ski tourer and know what to pack. Most people will find a 35-40 liter pack is a good size for touring.

    Key features of a good ski touring pack:
    • a method of attaching your skis in either a A-frame (one either side) or both together on a diagonal ski carriage
    • easy access into the main compartment without having to empty the sack to get something at the bottom
    • separate pocket for avalanche shovel, handle and probe
    • small top pocket for items like wallet, sunglassed/goggles etc; an ice axe loop
    • a built-in rain cover an a secure method of attaching/stowing a ski helmet 
    • good hip/waist belt and adjustable shoulder straps

    Avalanche airbag rucksacks can be used for touring but they are heavy, adding somewhere between 5-8kg just for an empty pack plus canister. So unless you are sure you can carry it and fit all you need in, we do not recommend you use one. 

    Over a long multiday tour every gram of weight is important as you have to carry and move it yourself. Carrying a heavy pack will hinder and tire all but the most experienced and fit ski tourer.

     

    • Ski Skins – these are skins which, now made of artificial fabric, stick to the bottom of your skis and allow you to walk up hill. They must be cut to fit your skis exactly, so if you are bringing your own skis you must provide your own skins.
    • Ski Crampons (aka couteaux) - most ski touring bindings have ski crampons specifically designed for the binding. We always carry these just in case. Again if you are bringing your skis and touring bindings you must provide your own ski crampons. 
    • Ice Axe - general lightweight mountaineering / alpine pick. Ideally this needs to be short enough to fit in your pack.
    • Boot Crampons - ideally lightweight aluminum ones although steel crampons are required for more demanding tours
    • Climbing Harness - a simple lightweight harness. The key feature is that it should have fully adjustable leg loops for putting on over ski boots, crampons, etc.

    On some tours in non-glaciated terrain an ice-axe, boot crampons and climbing harness may not always be required. However as conditions and itineraries can change we do generally recommend that you bring these items with you. If you do not own these items they can be rented to you by our guides or via one of the local sports shops.
  • The “Safety Trilogy” - required on all our ski tours and off-piste courses.

    • Avalanche Transceiver/Beacon
    • Snow shovel
    • Avalanche probe
    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 www.mountaintracks.co.uk/activity/avalanche-training
  • Most resorts have ski shops that hire ski equipment and we try to provide relevant contact details for all our courses and tours.

    Prices do change by resort/country, but here’s an approximate guide to hire costs for 6-days hire:

    Touring Skis plus skins and ski crampons €150-180
    Touring boots €80-90 
    Boot Crampons €45-50
    Ice Axe €30-40
    Harness €20-30
    Helmet €20-30
    Transceiver/shovel/probe €75-80

    Our guides also generally have additional sets of safety equipment (transceiver/shovel/probe) which they hire out to clients for €65 for 6 days hire. Must be booked in advance.
    • Good pair of ski goggles with a lens for low light is essential in the event of snow and poor visibility
    • Good quality sunglasses with 100% UV protection
    • 35 – 40 liter rucksack
    • 1 – 1.5 Liter water bottle – we don’t recommend hydration systems (e.g. camelbak) in winter as they can freeze.
    • Food – bring some of your favorite hill nibbles (chocolate, energy bars)*
    • Suncream and lip salve
    • Camera with a large capacity memory card!
    • Money – most hotels, shops and restaurants accept credit cards, but not all the alpine huts do. You should allow about 30-40 Swiss Francs or 20-30 Euros per day for lunch and drinks (amount approximate and depends on consumption)
    Please note that your guide will have a few “spares” and other safety items that he or she will ask the group to carry between them; so leave a small space in your sack for an item e.g. spare skin, spare ski pole, emergency shelter.

    For a hut night:
    • Lightweight sleeping bag liner – now compulsory in most huts.
    • Wash kit with small personal first aid items – should include:
    • Toothbrush and paste - a mini one is ideal
    • Soap
    • Anti-bacterial hand cleaner
    • Wet wipes – essential to try to maintain hygiene
    • Tissues and toilet roll
    • Plasters – of various sizes and possibly some adhesive wound dressings.
    • Pain Killers – aspirin or Paracetamol/Nurofen
    • Antiseptic cream or wipes
    • Blister kit – compeed and elastic tape to hold it in place (essential)!
    • (Note: Guides will have comprehensive first aid kits and are qualified in mountain first aid)
    • Small light quick dry towel e.g. a Lifeventure Soft fiber towel
    • Most huts have limited washing facilities
    • Earplugs – it can get quite noisy!
    • Headtorch - lightweight and carry spare batteries.
    • Book, pack of cards and or Ipod/MP3 player – It’s nice to have something to read or listen to when you are in the huts or to challenge your fellow travelers to a game of card. These items are not essential but if you have space you might appreciate them.
    What to wear in the hut
    We are often asked by people what they should wear in the hut. It's a good question as you don't want to carry many or any extra clothes with you if they are not required. In the winter you will probably end up wearing your base layer thermals (top & bottom) or you can carry a lightweight pair of loose trousers to wear around the hut in the afternoons/evenings. Your base layer top is what you will probably wear on your top half or you can carry a t-shirt to wear in the hut that can double to sleep in. 

    Food and Water
    We suggest you bring with you or buy in resort snack food that you can take out on the hill with you each day. Things like cereal bars, dried fruit and nuts, chocolate, sugary sweets or your favorite hill snacks. When you’re staying overnight in huts its best to take supplies for the days you are away. Huts do sell food but it’s expensive and sometimes stocks run low.
    If you have any food allergies or dietary requirements especially if you are a Coeliac (Gluten free) or have a dairy allergy we strongly recommend you bring some food with you that you can supplement your dinners with. The huts are fairly good at providing for vegetarians but less so for other dietary needs.
    You have to buy bottled water in the huts as usually any running water is non-potable. Bottled water is expensive in French and Swiss huts; you can be paying upto 12-16CHF per 1.5L bottle of water. So please ensure you budget for this cost.

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Chamonix

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The town of Chamonix-Mont-Blanc is situated at 1042m (3,396 ft) above sea level. It sits at the foot of Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Western Europe at 4807m (15,770 ft).

Chamonix is considered by many as Europe's mecca for outdoor sports and draws many enthusiasts from all over the world. Unlike many of the purpose built resorts, Chamonix is a proper working town with a large population of about 12,000 inhabitants. This number can be boosted by as many as 80 - 100,000 during the peak months in summer and winter.

As befits a town of this size there are plenty of shops, hotels, cafes, bars, pubs and nightclubs.

Our top reasons to visit Chamonix

  • Home of the Vallée Blanche, one of the world’s great off-piste descents

  • Great destination for weekends and short breaks

  • Easy access from the UK and just 75 minutes by road from Geneva airport, which has regular flights from many UK airports

  • Thriving, working town full of shops, bars and restaurants = good shopping, good après-ski

  • The Alpine capital of France renowned for big mountain skiing, alpinism and extreme adventure

  • Mont Blanc – the highest peak in Western Europe

  • Very long ski season with skiing possible until well into May

  • Good range of accommodation for all budgets

Chamonix Ski Area

The skiing area of Chamonix is generally considered to have some of the best off-piste skiing in the world. Much of this is accessible from the lift systems and includes descents of over 2,000m. The Chamonix valley extends over 20km and there are several separate lift systems and mountains which provide enormous variety and all are included on the Mont Blanc pass.

Off Piste runs include:

The Vallée Blanche

The longest off-piste ski descent in the world (24kms).

Pas de Chevre

Ascend to the top of Grand Montets and ski down to the Mer de Glace and on into Chamonix.

Glacier du Toule

You can ski the Glacier du Toule down towards Courmayeur and then catch the cable car back up to the top of the mountain and ski the Italian side of the Vallée Blanche.

Le Tour

From the back of the Le Tour lift system there is fantastic off-piste skiing towards Vallorcine and Switzerland.

Some of the very best areas can only be reached with an hour's ski tour from the pistes. The effort expended is more than rewarded with the awesome skiing across untracked terrain.

Chamonix is just as much about the climbing and mountaineering in the summer months, with easy access into the high mountains and many magnificent climbs and routes available plus an extensive network of high alpine huts its also a mecca for climbers.  Mont Blanc draws over 20,000 ascents a year both by ski and foot and any good weather day in the summer months will see numerous people achieve the summit.


Resort Information:

Resort Height: 1,042m

Highest Lift: 3,842m

Nearest Airport: Geneva

Transfer Options: From Geneva the transfer time from the airport is about 75 minutes to Chamonix. We recommend that you book a seat with one of the many transfer companies who offer shared minibus transfers to and from the airport. Mountain Tracks recommends Mountain Drop Offs or Cham Van who both offer comparativly priced transfers and run an efficient services.

More about Mont Blanc

Mont Blanc is the highest mountain in Western Europe. Its height is 4,807 metres (15,780 feet), but varies from year to year by a few metres, depending on snowfall and climate conditions. The mountain lies at 45°55′N, 6°55′E between the regions of Haute Savoie, France and Aosta Valley, Italy

The first known ascent was made on August 8, 1786 by Jacques Balmat and Michel Paccard.

  • 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 UK residents Ski Club Travel Insurance may be a suitable option.

    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 airport is Geneva which is served by many UK and International airports.

    The transfer time from the airport is about 75 minutes to Chamonix and to get to the resort we recommend that you book a seat with one of the many transfer companies who offer shared minibus transfers to and from the airport. Mountain Tracks recommends Mountain Dropoffs or Cham Van who both offer comparatively priced transfers and run a regular and efficient service.

  • All our ski tours are led by our team of IFMGA Mountain Guides. The team is led by Olly Allen, Matt Dickinson and Nick Parks. 

  • Our preferred chalet in Chamonix is Chalet Les Pelerins, a comfortable 5 bedroom chalet in the Les Pelerins area of Chamonix, 10-15 minutes walk from the centre of the town.

    Subject to availability we may also stay in one of the many hotels in the town.

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