Switzerland, Europe

Off-Piste Adventure Intermediate Zinal

Off-piste skiing in the the Val d'Annivièrs region still remains one of Switzerland's best kept secrets, despite its 2 hour proximity from Geneva. Being a high altitude ski destination snow is reliable and the lift pass allows access to 5 ski resorts: Vercorin, Grimentz, Zinal, St-Luc and Chandolin; offering huge scope for the week's adventure.

The Val d'Annivièrs consists of five idyllic and picturesque villages and is renowned for its variety of snow and the scope of its freeride domain. Each day our pursuit of untouched powder snow starts from a different ski region in the valley allowing for something new everyday as we explore the whole length and breadth of the valley.

This trip is a IFMGA guided week exploring the region. Your guide will take you to off piste areas that are far away from the pistes and unknown to most visitors to the area, enhancing the sense of adventure. Your guide will be able to ensure an action packed holiday and will also take on the responsibility for keeping the group safe in the winter conditions.

The week is intended to be fun with lots of thrilling skiing but always directed with maximum attention to your safety and the safety of others. You will be provided practical mountain awareness training on the hazards and risks associated with skiing off-piste particularly for avalanches - all while skiing the best off-piste in the region.

Day Itinerary

  • Travel to Zinal. You should aim to arrive by late afternoon. 

    In the evening there will be a welcome meeting and briefing with the rest of the group, followed by evening meal. 

  • The first day is a 'freeskiing' day when no guiding is provided, followed by 5 guided days.

    There is no set itinerary and your guide will decide on where to ski each day based on the prevailing snow and weather conditions, his recommendations and your own preferences.

    The week is intended to be fun with lots of thrilling skiing but always directed with maximum attention to your safety and the safety of others.

    The Val d’Anniviers in the Valais area of the Swiss Alps is one of skiing and ski touring's best kept secrets and offers huge potential for the adventurous skier. This week is sure to get your heart pumping.
  • Depart after breakfast

2020

Dates

Price

Sat 11 Jan
- Sat 18 Jan
£1695 Full
Flexible From £1,695 PRIVATE GROUP Enquire

NOTE:     The last space - female only

 

The price includes: 5 full days off-piste guide fees and expenses, 7 nights HB hotel accommodation (twin rooms)

The price does not include: lift pass, lunches, beverages, personal insurance, equipment hire, travel to/from Zinal

Single room occupancy - subject to availability - will incur an additional charge. Contact us for details.

 

We are proud to offer all of our returning customers a £50 discount.

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Ski Club Winter Arrangements limited (trading as Mountain Tracks)
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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.

  • This season, we’ve partnered with Ortovox to provide us with the very best safety kit and clothing. Our guides will all be decked out in the latest Ortovox jackets and trousers and will keep warm, dry and comfortable thanks to their technical wool base- and mid-layers. Our guides couldn’t recommend their kit more highly.
     
    • 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 Ortovox. 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 softshell 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 from 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 a resort.

    Skis

    This winter our lead guides are using Salomon Explore MTN and Salomon QST touring skis. The MTN 95 is an award-winning ski with great stability at high speeds whilst the MTN 88 is a best-selling lightweight touring ski. The QST’s are slightly heavier and therefore suited to charging; perfect for day-touring. 

    Lockwoods Ski and Outdoor are supporting our guides and we suggest that if you’re interested in any of the MTN or QST skis, you should make Lockwoods your first point of call. This winter our lead guides are using Salomon Explore MTN and Salomon QST touring skis. 

    There are many ‘all-mountain/freeride’ skis to choose from and we highly recommend skis from Salomon, Dynastar, Movement, Black Crows, Trab Skis, Scott and Volkl. Look for a ski that is the right size for your 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

    There are plenty of other great skis to choose from so if you’re planning on buying skis for ski touring or general skiing and have any questions do not hesitate to call us, or Lockwoods, to discuss the options available.

    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
    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 the 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, mouldings 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 has 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 Pin bindings have been around since the Dynafit Low Tech bindings over 30 years ago. Since their patent expired the technology has advanced substantially. Salomon, with their Shift Binding, are at the forefront; they’re ‘multi norm compatible’ so fit a selection of boots and are lighter than most freeride bindings. Our lead guides are using the Shift binding this winter, so if you’d like to know more about them give Lockwoods a ring.

  • 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

    We recommend simple and intuitive ORTOVOX AVALANCHE RESCUE KIT 3+.

    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 Ortovox AVABAG. 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 https://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.)

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 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.
     

  • Guide Information
    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. 
  • Off-Piste Adventure - Guides and Group Sizes

    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 maximum, our advanced weeks typically run on a 1:4 ratio with expert trips either 1:2 or 1:1 we can run with a maximum of 2 groups on the same week.

  • Chalet Edelweiss

    Our base is Chalet Edelweiss in the hamlet of Mottec, 2km from Zinal and at the foot of one of the valley’s best off-piste routes.

    Our hosts Penny and Eric renovated the old building themselves, providing a luxurious chalet with great facilities for skiers - 5 ensuite bedrooms, a range of Scott freeride skis to test, ski-room with boot dryer, warm booting-up space and a stop for the free ski-bus right outside.

    Our groups have loved this home from home, with its huge double-sided fireplace, ample seating and extensive library, as well as vin chaud evenings around the outdoor firepit. Penny’s delicious food is a highpoint - not just the cakes, fantastic evening meals and local wines, but also the lavish breakfasts devised to send you out prepared for the ski day ahead!
     

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