Sicily, Italy

Mount Etna Ski Tour - Sicily

The climate of Mount Etna generally provides good compact snow conditions and often spring snow. It's after a fresh snowfall that the powder can be fantastic! Slopes vary in steepness, but on the whole they are wide open slopes ideal for intermediate off-piste skiers. There are ski lifts (a gondola, chairlift and two drag lifts) plus a few pistes on Mount Etna's northern slopes close to the town of Linguaglossa.

The best conditions tend to be in February and March. We plan to use a mixture of lift-accessed ski touring to reach the summit of Etna. From the top of the lift at 2,500m it takes around 3 hours to reach the main crater. Additional days skiing will be spent exploring each side of the Etna National Park using our own vehicle to access the best skiing conditions at the time.

The Mediterranean atmosphere and mild climate, combined with the warm and cheerful hospitality of the locals, certainly makes for an authentic Sicilian adventure!

Our trip covers 4 ski days with 5 nights of accommodation.

Day Itinerary

  • We plan to meet at the airport at Catania and travel by road the short distance to the Hotel Sapienza.  The hotel is located at 1920m on Mt. Etna and right next to the Etna cable car.  It has spacious rooms a large dining room serving excellent food.  You can see more information on the hotel HERE.

  • Our first ski day we will ski the southern slopes of Mt. Etna and can include routes such as Canalone degli Svizzeri and Montagnola. From the hotel, we will take the lifts of the ski area and then ski tour for a short distance and have a choice between the 2 ski route.  We stay back in the Hotel for the night.

  • Southeast Traverse

    From the hotel, we will ski tour to the craters of Mt. Etna at around 3323m, a long but enjoyable climb. This will give us a big descent on the north aspect of Pizzo Deneri (2847m) down to the Rifugio Citelli at 1741m. We overnight in the Rifugio Citelli http://www.rifugiocitelli.net/

  • East - North Traverse

    We re-ascend on our skins towards the Pizzo Deneri at 2874m and descend to the Refuge Piano Provenzana at 1800m.  From there we reach our hotel by a short bus or taxi ride.  

  • West - Southeast Traverse

    We have a short transfer by taxi or bus to the Piano Provenza.  We will use the lifts to get to Anfiteatro at 2340m and from here we ski tour to the Nort-East crater.  We can enjoy a long and amazing ski down to the Torre del Filosofo and the Valle del Bove until we reach the Rifugio Manza.  From here we traverse to Col Lapide Malerba and ski down to Piano dei Pompieri.  We return to the Hotel Sapienza for our final night.

  • Departure after breakfast. Our guide will drop you back at the airport in Catania in the morning for your onward travel. If you wish to stay on in Sicily for a few days you are free to make you own onward travel plans when you wish.

The terrain is mostly good intermediate level skiing and touring, occasionally there will be some more technical parts due to conditions where the snow can be icy or windblown. Its important to have some previous ski touring experience for this trip plus a good level of off-piste skiing ability.

2019

Dates

Price

Sun 24 Feb
- Fri 01 Mar
£925 Book

The price includes: all guiding fees & expenses for 4 guided days, 5 nights B&B accommodation on a twin share basis and local transfers to ski.
The price does not include: uplift costs, evening meals, lunches, beverages, equipment hire, travel to/from Sicily.

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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
    • 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.

For this trip you should have a ski touring set up, boots, skis with touring bindings, skins and couteaux. You will also need a harness, ice axe and boot crampons and a ski helmet.

We recommend you bring all your own skis and boots (for touring), we believe it is possible to hire from a new shop located in Nicolosi (close to Ragalna) but we do not know what makes/models of skis/boots they have and the quality.

You can however hire boot crampons, ice axe and harness from our guide if you book this well in advance, please speak to our office about it.

Ski_Touring_MtEtna2.jpg

Sicily

Sicily is the largest Mediterranean island off the toe of Italy. Its rich in history with sites like the Valley of the Temples and Byzantine mosaics at the Cappella Palatina in Palermo. Mount Etna, one of Europe's most active volcanoes, sits on its eastern side of the island on the convergence of the African Plate and the Eurasian Plate. Mount Etna is the tallest mountain in Italy south of the Alps and provides some excellent skiing and touring on its slopes during the winter.

The climate of Mount Etna generally provides good compact snow conditions and often spring snow. It's after a fresh snowfall that the powder can be fantastic! Slopes vary in steepness, but on the whole they are wide open slopes ideal for intermediate off-piste skiers. There are ski lifts (a gondola, chairlift and two drag lifts) plus a few pistes on Mount Etna's northern slopes close to the town of Linguaglossa.

The best conditions tend to be in February and March. We plan to use a mixture of lift-accessed ski touring to reach the summit of Etna. From the top of the lift at 2,500m it takes around 3 hours to reach the main crater. Additional days skiing will be spent exploring each side of the Etna National Park using our own vehicle to access the best skiing conditions at the time.
The Mediterranean atmosphere and mild climate, combined with the warm and cheerful hospitality of the locals, certainly makes for an authentic Sicilian adventure!

  • 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.
     

  • We plan to meet in Catania airport on Saturday 24th February 2018 around 2pm. There are flights with Easyjet from London Gatwick leaving at 0845 arriving Catania Sicily at 1255. On the departure day Thursday 1st March if you wish to be dropped back at the airport we will do so that morning. There is a return flight to London Gatwick departing at 1210 landing 1425. If you wish to extend your stay either side of our dates this is possible and we can meet at the airport or our first nights accommodation.
    We would plan for our guide to have the use of a minibus for the duration of the trip to make transportation around the area easier.

  • 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. The maximum ratio for this tour is 6 skiers with 1 guide. The minimum group size is 4. The maximum is 12 with 2 guides. This trip is typically lead by Guido or Massimo Candolini 2 of our Italian IFMGA Mountain Guides, who have lead trips to Etna before.

  • We stay in a comfortable B&B accommodation in the towns on the edge of the Etna National Park, this accommodation is provided on a twin share basis, if you wish to have a single room then please ask but they are subject to availability and usually there is a supplement. We spend 1 night in a mountain Rifugio where typically the accommodation is dormitory style.

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