France, Europe

Off-Piste Adventure Advanced Ste Foy

Sainte Foy has been our base within the Tarentaise region for over 10 years, and during that time our guides have built up a wealth of experience within the area. The advanced off-piste week is specifically tailored for experienced skiers wanting to get experience of the many challenging routes which are accessible by the ski lifts or short ski tour.Combinging these two methods of access we'll take you we’ll take you onto the iconic north face of the Fogliettaz (numerous entry points), Col Grenier, Col d’Argentière and possibly Couloir Doudou off the side of the Archeboc. Another possibility is to skin to the remote Montseti ridge and ski the north side to the Ruitor refuge.From Les Arcs we can access the Grand Col or Couloir 'S' and ski the 1800 metre vertical descent to Villaroger. La Plagne is also accessible, with its famous north face of the Bellecotte. And if that is not enough we will have a day or two in Val d’Isère and Tignes with endless possibilities for the serious skier.This is an incredible package for those looking to get the most from their ski week. The itinerary below is an example of what can be achieved during the week. As always, mountain conditions will dictate the program.

Day Itinerary

  • Travel out day.

    You should aim to arrive in Ste Foy by late afternoon. There will be a welcome meeting and briefing at 7pm.

    We offer a group transfer to Ste Foy from Geneva airport or a pick-up from Bourg-st-Maurice for anyone travelling by train. Check out the Essential Information page for more details.
  • A free day to get your ski legs tuned in the Saint Foy ski domain. Pick up at the end of day and back to the Auberge for some R&R.

    Drinks are served down at the hot tub. In the ski room we’ll have a session on skins and ski touring equipment for those that need it. The guides will arrive to conduct a briefing and issue safety equipment followed by a superb evening meal.

  • After a warm up ski together on the front side of the domain we’ll head for the Col d’Aiguille and either boot stomp the ridge or skin up to the summit of the Fogliettaz.

    This takes around 45 minutes and gives us accesses to the  North face – a huge steep skier’s paradise. There’s 1800m of vertical to descend to La Mazure where we’ll have a minibus waiting to get us the 10 minutes back to the Auberge.

    Evening of chilling out with optional drinks in the outdoor hot tub and a gourmet dinner to follow.

  • A ten minute drive from the Auberge gets us to the Les Arcs lift system at Villaroger. We’ll use the lift system to get a ski from the Aiguille Rouge summit back down to Arc 2000 before heading, again on the lift system up to Col de la Chal for an 1100 vertical meter descent in wilderness conditions down to Peisey.

    Here we’ll grab the bus to link again with the lift system and head up to the top of the Grand Col chair. We then skin for 20 minutes to Grand Col itself – opening out the vast 1800m North East facing bowl below the Aiguille Rouge and Mont Turia. The entrance is short but steep and then we are away for one of the ski descents of your life. Utterly fabulous, wild and certainly unforgettable.

    We’ll descend all the way to Villaroger to meet our minibus (or more likely, have a beer in La Ferme bar). Back at the Auberge we’ll spend some time chilling before being driven out to a local restaurant.
  • Back to Sainte Foy and straight onto the Marquise chair to aim for Col Grenier. Here, most skiers head left on a traverse… we’ll put on skins and with a 30 minute climb to access the real Col Grenier and give ourselves the best and longest descent line.

    We’ll traverse skiers right as we descend the huge North Face and take the bridge at the bottom of the Mercurel valley where we’ll change to climbing mode and skin for a couple of hours in the most stunning scenery to the deserted Montseti ridge.

    Here the vista completely changes and we look down the north facing slopes towards the Italian border and Ruitor glacier. It’s wilderness skiing down this north side where we’ll take in the incredible scenery before gently traversing out to get another descent down via Pierre Giret and to La Mazure for a minibus pick up.

  • Today we’ll head to Val d’isère to get some big altitude and an iconic ski descent. We’ll park up at Le Fornet and ride the lift system to the top of the Pissalis glacier – where we’ll take a warm up ski through the Pays Desert.

    We’ll head up again and from the top of the t-bar we’ll traverse and then skin up to the Col de l’Ouille Noir. The other side opens up fabulous views across to the Albaron and the slopes down to Bonneval at the top of the Maurienne valley. We’ll descend heading skiers lift to the bottom of the Col des Montets for the hour’s climb to the ridge. Here we’ll be just below the Grande Aiguille Rousse (the Big Russian Needle to you and I) and drop straight down into the north facing descent to the Prariond Refuge.

    For those of you used to seeing the amusement park thrills of Val d’isère and Tignes, this will be a backcountry eye opener. What a beautiful descent and what a beautiful valley!

    We’ll descend through the Malpasset Gorge and back to the minibus at Le Fornet. Back at the Auberge that evening we’ll have a session on ski tech skills in the Auberge ski room. More pampering and another gourmet dinner.

  • Back at the Sainte Foy ski station we head straight up to the Col d’Aiguille on the lift system and then to the summit of the Fogliettaz by foot. From here we’ll take the south side descent all the way to the valley floor at Les Pigettes (on the Tignes road). That’s a magnificent 1500m descent, hopefully on spring snow. There’ll be our minibus waiting for us and we’ll take a 10 minute drive back to the ski station of Sainte Foy.

    Again we’ll ride the lifts to the Col d’Aiguille, but this time we descend skiers left and then change to climbing mode. We ascend via two deserted lakes, getting us to the Col d’Argentière and an idyllic steep north facing descent to the Archeboc refuge. Those keen on couloirs may like to continue the climb for another 15 minutes to get to the Couloir Doudou for a really steep and committing experience. The bragging rights will be yours.

    What a great day! Finish off with a minibus pick-up, then the spoiling you will by now be getting used to back at the Auberge.
  • Depart after breakfast.

The price includes: 5 full days guiding and instruction, 7 nights half-board accommodation (6 evening meals) in a fully catered chalet, daily ski transfers in private vehicle, group transfer from Chambery or Geneva airport (minimum 4 people), pick-up/drop-off at Bourg St Maurice (for the ski-train).
The price does not include: lift pass, lunches, personal insurance, equipment hire, international travel.
Single room occupancy in the Auberge is limited and will incur an additional charge of 50% (around £230 - £260). Contact the office for further details.

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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 Off-Piste Adventure trips.  On all our weeks you’ll be staying in comfortable catered chalets or hotels. When skiing you need to carry just a day pack, which contains your safety equipment and any personal items or extra clothing layers you may need.

    • A good quality pair of ski trousers. They must be made from a waterproof and breathable fabric like Gore-Tex or similar. It’s useful to have some venting zips on the legs either inside or outside thigh or full length side-zips. Integral snow gaiters and some pockets for handy items are good features.
    • An outer shell jacket made of waterproof and breathable material like Gore-Tex or similar with a built-in hood. We advocate the ‘layering principle’ and so a shell is recommended rather than an insulated jacket.
    • Comfortable underwear with good wicking properties. Very popular at the moment are the wool based layers from companies such as Icebreaker and Smartwool. They are comfy, breathable, warm when needed and can be worn for days without your friends catching a whiff!
    • Several thin (rather than fewer thick) layers between your skin and the outer shell - an approach that gives better heat retention and good flexibility. These tops are known as ‘mid layers’.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • Good quality, ski gloves or mitts if you suffer from cold hands and 1 thinner pair of gloves made from a soft shell or fleece material if the weather is warm. These are particularly useful if you do any ski touring or hiking on the trip as thick gloves quickly become too hot.
    • 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.
  • We continue to see big changes in ski, boot and binding design and technology, which make off-piste skiing and ski touring much more accessible. For our Adventure courses we prefer you to ski with” freeride” skis, ski touring boots and ski touring bindings. If you have your own skis but they do not have ski touring bindings but are suitable for off piste then you are welcome to bring them with you. Downhill boots are also acceptable but please bear in mind that you will do some touring on ALL our Off-Piste Adventure courses so you made need to hire suitable skis and boots in resort.

    Skis
    There are many ‘all-mountain/freeride’ skis to choose from and we highly recommend skis from Dynastar, Movement, Black Crows, Trab Skis, Scott and Volkl. Look for a ski that is the right size for you height, typically the tip of the ski should be somewhere around your nose height. As for the width of the ski or “side cut” a mid-fat ski – 90-110mm under the foot is a good place to start; this offers plenty of flotation off piste, while remaining suitable for day tours and they should also handle reasonably well on piste and mixed terrain.
    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

    Boots
    For our Off-Piste Adventure courses its best to have a pair of ski touring boots – they have great skiing performance and with the vibram soles they are much safer for scrambling around on rocky or icy ground. However standard downhill ski boots are also acceptable. We do not recommend you come on a trip with brand new boots.

    If you are going to be getting into off-piste and ski touring, then rather than having a pair of downhill boots and a pair of ski touring boots, we strongly suggest that you opt for a good pair of ski touring boots. With advances made in plastics, moldings and materials in recent years you can now get a ‘hybrid’ touring boot that offers as much downhill performance and stiffness but they come with a walk mode and good flexibility for the uphill too. Many boots fall into the category "hike & ride" so a 3 or 4 buckle boot, walk mode, vibram/grippy sole and possible Pin binding compatible.
    It just makes more sense - not only are they much more comfortable to walk in compared to ordinary ski boots, they are great to ski in too.

    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 Cosmos 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-fit’ liners as standard equipment. You may also want to consider a custom liner. Heated and moulded 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-shelf¹ 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
    We prefer you to have ski touring bindings on your skis for our adventure courses but if you have downhill bindings mounted on your skis then this is perfectly acceptable. The new touring bindings are every bit as safe for downhill as alpine bindings, yet you have the additional advantage of being able to walk uphill with them to access the real off-piste. Fritschi Diamir and Marker both have great bindings which can be used with ski touring boots and downhill boots. Many more people are seeing the advantage of the “pin” binding system now offered by a number of manufactures; they are light and offer ever improving security despite their minimalist looks!
  • Although our Off-Piste Adventure courses rely heavily on the lift systems in resorts, access to and egress from runs sometimes involve climbing and walking a short way and you may undertake 1 or 2 day ski tours, for this reason its best to have skis with ski touring bindings, skins and ski touring boots.

    • 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 own skis and touring bindings you must provide your own ski crampons.
    • When skiing on glaciated terrain you will need a harness and occasionally boot crampons and possibly an ice axe. Your can guide can supply you with these items if you do not have your own.
  • The “Safety Trilogy” - applicable for all our off-piste courses and ski tours.

    Avalanche Transceiver/Beacon 
    Snow shovel
    Avalanche probe

    Avalanche airbags/rucksacks – if you wish to ski with one of these on our courses you are welcome to do so, they are not mandatory but we always support the use of available safety items.
    You can hire avalanche rucksacks in a lot of resorts, makes are usually Snowpulse/Mammut, ABS or BCA Float sacks. Prices vary from shop to shop and resort to resort but a guide line price would be from €20-30 per day or around €100-120 for 6/7 days.

    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 http://mountaintracks.co.uk/discipline/winter-mountaincraft

  • Good pair of goggles – essential. Useful to have 2 pairs on powder days in case of head plants! A pair with a lens for low light is essential in the event of snow and poor visibility
    Good quality sunglasses – UV factor category 4 recommended
    20-30 liter rucksack is usually suitable for most off piste skiing. Key features are 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, sunglasses/goggles etc; an ice axe loop and possibly a built in rain cover and a secure method of attaching/stowing a ski helmet (if you use one). It’s essential that the pack has a good hip/waist belt and adjustable shoulder straps.
    Avalanche airbag rucksacks can be used but please remember that they are heavy, adding somewhere between 5-8kg just for an empty pack with cylinder in; so unless you are sure you can carry it and fit all you need in, we do not recommend you use one.
    1-1.5 Liter water bottle – we don’t recommend hydration-systems (e.g. Camelbaks) as these often freeze in winter
    Suncream and lip salve (factor 30 or higher recommended.)
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France

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France a Western European country with Paris as its capital city.  The country is diverse with countryside, mountainous areas and many beautiful beaches.  The country is renowned for its food and wine as well as well know places like the Eiffel Tower, Louvre and the Palace of Versailles.

Its population is around 66 million people (2013).  The highest mountain is Mont Blanc at 4,810m which is visited by many every year to climb.  

  • 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.
     

  • Sainte Foy is accessible by road, rail and air.

    The nearest airport is Chambery with a 90 minute transfer time. Geneva and Lyon are both about 2½ hours away.

    The chalet hosts provide group transfers to/from Geneva airport, which are included in the cost of the holiday (minimum 4 people per transfer).  We meet at 2pm at Geneva airport on the arrival day so you should arrive on a flight no later than 1.15pm; on the departure day we ask you to book a flight that leaves Geneva airport no earlier than 2pm so there is time to travel to the airport. 

    It is also possible to travel by train to Bourg Saint Maurice (with a Eurostar direct day service from London St. Pancras to Bourg Saint Maurice on Saturdays throughout the ski season. Timetables and bookings are available at Eurostar. Bourg St Maurice is only 10km from the chalet and the train offers a viable alternative to a flight and transfer. The chalet hosts provide a twice-daily pick-up and drop-off service at the station.

    Check with our office for detailed travel arrangements.

  • Our Off-Piste Adventure courses are run by our team of IFMGA Mountain Guides led by Olly Allen, Matt Dickinson and Nick Parks.

    The guide to skier ratio is 1:6 and we can run with a maximum of 2 groups on the same week.

  • Accommodation will be a mix of mountain hotels and traditional mountain huts with some nights in twin rooms and other nights in dormitories. Food is always excellent and the huts serve wine and beer.

    HOTEL RIU NERE
    Located in the centre of Vielha Town, in the heart of the old part of the city, next to the Town Hall, the tourist office and the area full of bars and restaurants.

     

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