Zinal, Switzerland

Imperial Crown Haute Route Ski Tour

The Imperial Crown Haute Route derives its grand name from the spectacular range of 4,000m peaks that encircle the Val d’Anniviers, including the Weisshorn, Zinalrothorn and Dent Blanche. This is the heart of the Peninne Alps, stunning ski touring terrain and richely served by welcoming huts. Travelling with a guide will give you the opportunity to truely explore the mountains and glaciers of this quintessential Swiss region.

Day Itinerary

  • Travel to Zinal aiming to arrive by late afternoon. Evening welcome meeting and briefing with the guides. Stay overnight in Zinal.

  • We start with a warm-up day on the slopes above Zinal. There are several easy day touring options to get us ready for the week ahead. We return to our hotel for a second night.

  • We depart Zinal for Zermatt usually by private minibus or we can take the train. We take the lifts up to Schwarzsee and ski from there along the Zmuttgletscher to the Schonbiel Hutte, where we spend the night.

  • We leave the hut early and descend a short way below the hut and then skin up the Howanggletscher for approximately 1000m to the Col Durand. The first part of the skin can be quiet technical and it is sometimes necessary to boot up the last 100m with crampons. Summit options around the Col Durand exist before we make a long and impressive descent of the Glacier Durand. We have a final short skin to the Cabane du Grand Mountet.

  • Plan A would be to leave the Cabane and skin up the Glacier du Mountet for about 900m to roughly 3700m, where we join the Arete du Blanc and from there we traverse the ridge westwards on crampons with skis on our packs. The ridge is about 800m long and takes us towards the summit of the Blanc de Moming. This is one of the finest ski mountaineering ridges in the Alps. From the summit we ski down the Glacier de Moming, often in powder snow, under the steep flank of the East face of the Besso before exiting the glacier. We then have a final skin for about an hour to the Cabane d'Arpitettaz.
    Plan B - in case the ridge is in poor condition we would descend the Zinal glacier to 1900m altitude and then skin the 900m up to the Cabane d'Arpitettaz.

  • From the cabane we head northwards and cross the winter Col de Milon where on the north facing side we often have a fantastic 300m descent. This is followed by a 500m skin to the Cabane de Tracuit; famed for its spectacular picture windows overlooking the Zinal Valley. In the afternoon we often ascend the Tete de Milon or rest up for the Bishorn, our objective for the next day.

  • Ascent of the Bishorn (4153m), one of the few 4000m peaks in the Alps that can be ascended on skis. Up and back from the cabane takes about 3-4 hours. After a quick pit-stop for tea and cake we descend back to Zinal and return to our hotel for the night.

  • Depart after breakfast.

2018

Dates

Price

Sat 31 Mar
- Sat 07 Apr
£1595 Book

The price includes all guiding fees and expenses, 3 nights B&B hotel accommodation, 4 nights half-board accommodation in mountain huts.

The price does not include travel to / from Zinal, local transfers and uplift costs, 3 evening meals, lunches and beverages.

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This is an extensive list of the recommended clothing and equipment you will need if you are coming on one of our Alpine Ski Tours.

During the tour you will be staying most nights in catered high mountain huts and will need to carry all the equipment and clothing you require for the duration of the tour. The huts are comfortable but basic with limited facilities – running cold water, European-style toilets, 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.

Any clothing or other items not required on the tour can be left in a travel bag at your first hotel ready for your return on the final night.

We recommend keeping the weight of your pack as light as possible. If you are new to alpine multi-day ski touring, try taking your pack out on the slopes before the tour to see how it feels. You quickly realise the benefit of ‘skiing light’.

If you are uncertain or need further information, don't hesitate to contact us.

  • 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
    • 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.

The Val d'Annivièrs is the most easterly French speaking valley in southern Switzerland. From a skiers point of view five of its many idyllic and picturesque villages: St. Luc, Chandolin, Zinal, Grimentz and Vercorin operate ski lifts and pistes all on the same ski pass. Each is a ski area in its own right and stretch between 1200m – 3000m in altitude. With skiing on all aspects of the compass the valley is renowned for its variety of snow and the scope of its freeriding.

The area has a large network of lifts servicing 200km of pistes up to an altitude of almost 3,000m. The whole area is characterised by stunning high alpine terrain, deep valleys and charming villages. The main ski domains of Zinal, Grimentz, St Luc-Chandolin and Vercorin are well-connected by local buses. The area also has the advantages of being relatively unknown (and therefore not so busy) and easily accessible from Geneva, Zurich or Sion airports.

We rate Zinal and the Val d'Anniviers as one of the best areas for off-piste and backcountry skiing in the Alps.

Our top reasons to visit Zinal

  • The off-piste terrain is as good as it gets anywhere in the Alps!
  • Fresh tracks can be skied here for days after other resorts have been tracked out
  • Off the beaten track, but still within 3 hours of Geneva Airport - 2 hours if you hire a car as 3/4 of the journey is motorway!
  • Luxuriating in the wonderful hospitality on offer in Chalet Edelweiss
  • Among many excellent descents is the classic run down to the Moiry Dam, a must on a blue-sky powder day!
  • The Imperial Crown Haute Route - a majestic 5-day ski tour that knocks the spots off many more well known ski tours

 

Resort Height: 1,670m

Highest Lift: 3,000m

Nearest Airport: Geneva or Zurich

Accommodation in Zinal

For many of our weeks in Zinal we stay at the comfortable Chalet Edelweiss run by our good friends Eric and Penny Kendall. They have created a fantastic chalet in the village of Mottec just 2 minutes from Zinal. The chalet has 5 comfortable twin or double rooms, all with ensuite facilities, complimentary toiletries and fluffy towels. The lounge area has plenty of seating, a large fire place, library, TV/DVD/satellite and music system plus an internet corner and wifi. Penny's cooking is exceptional and you will be fed and watered extremely well all week with breakfast, tea and a 3-course evening meal. It’s possible for the vast majority of the winter to ski directly back to the chalet off piste all the way with over 1500m of descent, arriving to well deserved tea and cakes!

The chalet has a ski room with boot dryer and private car park. They also hose a Scott Ski Test Centre at the chalet with many pairs of freeride and touring skis for hire and test. You can book ski hire with the chalet direct before you travel. If you need to hire boots then this needs to be done at the local ski shop in Zinal village. Find out more about the Chalet at www.skizinal.com

We also work with some of the hotels in the village of Zinal for other weeks like the Hotel Besso and Hotel Europe. Both offer comfortable accommodation plus good food. The village is small with a few shops and a good après ski bar called the Bar e VoX close to the bottom of the main lift at Sorebois.

Recommended Travel Options

The most convenient airport is Geneva followed by Zurich. Train is the best option for the onward journey from the airport to Zinal. Connections are regular and the total travel time is approximately 3hrs 15mins from Geneva with 2 changes and around 4hrs with 3 or 4 changes from Zurich Airport. To look up train timetables use this link Swiss Railway Timetables You can travel as far as Sierre in the main Rhone Valley by train, here you have to change to the Swiss Post Bus (Yellow) and you travel up the Val d'Anniviers by bus (you may need to change in Vissoie). If you are staying at Chalet Edelweiss, you must ask the driver for Mottec (as it’s a request stop) and the bus stops right outside Chalet Edelweiss. This is the large balconied house alongside the road.

Alternatively, you can hire a car at the airport, driving time to the Auberge is approximately 2 hrs from Geneva, and 2.5 hrs from Zurich.

 

  • 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 we recommend Ski Club Travel Insurance.

    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.
     

  • Ski Touring - Guides

    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. 

  • Accommodation Information

    We spend the first, second and last night in the Hotel Besso in Zinal. This is a comfortable 3* hotel in the village centre with a cosy atmosphere.

    The other 4 nights are spent in traditional alpine mountain huts. The Swiss huts are renowned for good food.

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