Courchevel, France

Courchevel to Chamonix Ski Safari

This guided trip begins in Courchevel in France, passes through the 3 Valleys (Trois Vallées), La Plagne, Les Arcs, La Rosière, La Thuile, Courmayeur, Helbronner (Monte Bianco and the Italian Vallée Blanche) before finishing in Chamonix. Along the way the group will experience a great deal of variety, both in terms of terrain and skiing conditions. The goal is to explore the more remote corners of this vast area and to enjoy fantastic off-piste skiing and ski touring. One of the highlights of the ski touring safari is the very last run down the Italian Vallée Blanche from Point Helbronner to Chamonix - a wonderful 12-mile descent across stunning glaciated terrain...a memorable finale to the week!

A ski safari is a little like a hut-to-hut ski tour without the huts! Every night of the voyage is spent in a different valley base in a hand-picked hotel. The idea is to get as much off-piste skiing as possible during the journey, but the occasional piste isn’t ruled out! We carry a small rucksack with our ski safety and touring gear, and the rest of our luggage is sent by vehicle. Ski safaris are a great adventure and a superb way to explore the landscape.

 

Day Itinerary

  • Arrive in Bride Les Bains. You should aim to arrive in Bride Les Bains by late afternoon. The trip starts with a welcome meeting and briefing at 7pm. Stay overnight in hotel.

  • Today will be spent enjoying the vast area of the 3 Valleys and all its wonderful skiing. A perfect chance to warm up on the wide pistes before venturing off-piste on the easily accessible slopes. Stay overnight in Champagny en Vanoise. 

  • Beginning the day in Champagny en Vanoise you travel onwards to La Plagne using the lift system. Skiing the length of La Plagne to Les Arc using the Vanoise Express lift across the valley. During the day you will tackle some steeper slopes, rolling meadows and tree skiing on route to your destination in Sainte Foy. Your luggage will be moved to Sainte Foy.

  • An off-piste and touring day in Sainte Foy, one of our favourite ski areas. Spend a second night in Sainte Foy.

  • We take a taxi up to La Rosière and begin our journey toward the French/Italian border on the Col du Petit Saint Bernard. Taking a relaxing Italian lunch before skiing down the tree lined slopes of La Thuile. Overnight in a hotel in La Thuile.

  • A day tour around Punta Croce. This is an excellent intro level tour with 500m of ascent and 800m of descent. Descend to the road at Arpy and travel round to Courmayeur. Apres ski in the Café Roma is highly recommended...great atmosphere and a free buffet! Stay overnight in Courmayeur.

  • Spend the morning in the Courmayeur lift system skiing the open slopes and in the trees. For a true Italian lunch we stop at the fabulous Maison Vieille restaurant, for the perfect pizza and pasta. After lunch we head to Entrèves and take the cable car that whisks you up to the Italian side of the Vallée Blanche. From here you take the Virage route down the Vallée Blanche back to Chamonix. Celebrate a great tour in one of Chamonix’s many bars and restaurants! Overnight in a hotel in Chamonix.

  • Depart after breakfast.

2019

Dates

Price

Sat 19 Jan
- Sat 26 Jan
£1695 Departed  

Prices includes 6 guided days with all guide fees and expenses, 7 nights half-board hotel accommodation and luggage transfers.
Prices do not include: travel out to Courchevel and back from Chamonix, equipment hire, lunches, uplift costs and local transfers.

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This is an extensive list of the recommended clothing and equipment you will need if you are coming on our Courchevel to Chamonix Ski Safari.

During the safari you will be staying most nights in hotels or chalets.

We do provide luggage transfers during this trip so that on 2-3 days on the week you will have access to your bags. However you do always need to ski with a backpack containing kit you'll need during the day. We recommend keeping the weight of your pack as light as possible. If you are new to alpine multi-day ski trips, try taking your pack out on the slopes before the trip to see how it feels. You quickly realise the benefit of ‘skiing light’.

 

  • 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.

     

  • On our ski safaris we do use the lift systems in resorts to gain height before heading off into the back country on a tour. You will need to have:
    Ski Skins – these are skins, now made of artificial fabric, that 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 in French) - 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 aluminium 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 safaris 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
    • 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.

  • 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.
Courchevel.JPG

Courchevel

View map

Courchevel is one of the principal resorts in the famous 3 Valleys ski area in France, one of the largest, most renowned and most popular ski areas in the Alps.
As well as Courchevel the other principal resorts are Meribel, Val Thorens, La Tania, Les Menuires and St Martin de Belleville.

Together the area has more than 200 lifts and over 600kms of piste suitable for everyone from first day novices to expert level. The off-piste terrain here is equally impressive with enough choice to satisfy the most demanding backcountry enthusiasts. The highest lifts take you to 3200m (on the Glacier de Peclet).

Courchevel is made up of a number of smaller villages which are named for their altitudes in metres: Courchevel 1300 (Le Praz), Courchevel 1550, Courchevel 1650 (Moriond), and Courchevel 1850.

If you are staying in Courchevel, the big off piste classics are aro und the Aiguille du Fruit, the back of Roc Merlet and the Vallée des Avals. The Loze area has some excellent terrain for those who are just adventuring off piste for the first time. From Courchevel you can access the skiing across the 3 Valleys and glacier skiing on the Glacier de Vanoise and at Val Thorens is easily accessible.

  • Insurance

    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.
     

  • Getting There

    The most convenient airport is Chambéry which is situated 110 km away.

    Grenoble (175kms), Lyon (185km) or Geneva (190km) are the next best options.

    Altibus operates public bus services from all 4 airports to the 3 Valleys.
    They offer a regular daily service throughout the winter and tickets can be purchased in advance on-line through Altibus. Go to www.altibus.com 
    The journey from Geneva airport to Bride Les Bains takes 3 hours and a 1-way ticket costs about €70 and a return ticket costs about  €120.
    Bensbus (www.bensbus.co.uk) offer shared transfers from the airports to Bride Les Bains. A 1-way transfer costs from £44 per person.
    You can also travel by train to nearby Moutiers from where you can take a taxi to Brides Les Bains.

  • Guide Information
    This trip will be led by one of our team of professional IFMGA Mountain Guides. On this trip the guide ratio is 1:6, if we have a group of 8 or more, the second leader will be a Ski Instructor who will focus on off-piste instruction and technique.
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