Chamonix, France

Splitboarding Skills 3 day Chamonix

For many years snowboarders access to the backcountry has been restricted by resort boundaries and ones inclination to boot back or post hole waist-deep through the snowpack. The frustration that we couldn't take our craft deeper into the mountains has given way to innovation and after years of R&D, splitboarding technology has progressed enormously. Today's equipment is user-friendly, lightweight, and in many cases offers a superior ride quality to most traditional style snowboards. 

This course is for keen riders who are looking to expand their skill set and experience riding outside the resort boundary. The course is suitable for confident off-piste snowboarders with aspirations to experience the purist's form of riding. You should be fit and ready for adventure. This course is a great way to meet like-minded people of a similar skill level and mindset, the social atmosphere is perfect for solo travellers and groups of friends alike.

With splitboarding experience spanning four continents Mountain Tracks office and guiding team will be here right from the start to offer you advice on fitness and equipment, plus mountains of inspiration on where this journey can take you.

Mountain Tracks' three-day skills courses run throughout the season providing the perfect base from which to launch into the backcountry. The course teaches you to safely navigate the backcountry and develop a smooth and safe skinning technique to ensure you make it to the top with maximum energy left to enjoy the descent. The fully guided course lays the foundations for keen riders to progress to bigger challenges like one of our hut-to-hut tours, and what better place to learn than Chamonix, the home of alpinism.

We aim to pack in as much as possible to this short course to maximise your time with 3 full days on the mountain with your guide leading a range of skills sessions covering the following:

  • Route planning and navigation
  • Skinning skills
  • Kick turns 
  • Glacier travel
  • Transceiver training
  • Recognising avalanche terrain and avoiding avalanches
  • Emergency procedures
  • Using crampons and ice-axe

Once you have completed the course you will be prepared to tackle one of our intermediate hut-to-hut challenges, like the Stubai Alps Ski Tour, Dolomites Circuit Ski Tour, The Silvretta Alps Traverse, Tour De Soliel or The Bernese Oberland Traverse

 

All courses at £495 include all guiding fees and expenses, 3 nights B&B hotel accommodation (twin rooms), in-resort transfers.

All courses at £350 are a course only price for 3 guided days including the 2017 Dates at Christmas.

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

A room on single occupancy will incur an additional charge. Contact us for 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 Splitboard Touring Skills courses. 

On these courses you'll be staying in a comfortable catered chalet or hotel and so when riding you only need to carry a small day pack, which contains your safety equipment and any personal items you may need.

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

  • For all splitboarding trips, it is essential that you riding a fully functional splitboard. Snowshoeing is not suitable for multiday hut to hut touring. 

    Splitboarding is still gaining traction in the rental market. This means that currently many resorts around the alps have little or no splitboard rental options. We are always on the lookout for rental options and are happy to help you find a solution if you are having trouble finding rental equipment. 

    Splitboard

    Splitboards come in many different shapes, sizes, configurations and weights. For hut to hut touring you should always look for a lighter weight setups or easy to use hardware. If you are joining a day touring trip or off-piste adventure advanced course where you will be doing short tours with a focus on powder hounding - surf or fish style boards are sensational, as will be any all mountain or freeride designed split. 

    There are lots of different brands on the market. Currently, the quality of build, uphill and downhill performance can vary and the price isn't always a direct indicator or performance. With such growth in the industry, we recommend you get in contact with us if you have any questions about purchasing a splitboard. Our team has a huge amount of splitboarding experience and we love to talk kit!

    The length of your ride is a pretty personal choice. For backcountry riding, we recommend a board that stands about equal height with your nose with the tail of the board flat against your big toe. Directional flex or a setback stance is beneficial for crushing avalanche debris and generally cruddy snow that you will almost always encounter on long descents. 

    Width should be a major consideration. although a wider board will float better, they can be an utter nightmare in touring mode. The extra width can make it very difficult to hold the inside edge when traversing uphill on firm snow. This problem is amplified by the flexible nature of soft snowboard boots. a board that is too wide will sap your energy and ruin your day. 

    Boots

    There is currently a confusing array of boots on the market. It is important to note that you do not need splitboard specific boots, but they do have some benefits. Any stiff all mountain or freeride snowboarding boot will do the job, If your boots are soft or flexed out from a few seasons use you may want to consider a new pair. 

    Splitboard specific boots are typically very stiff, they have sole which is suited to scrambling uphill on snow and rock. The sole is often wider and with a square edge to help you gain a mechanical advantage over the waist of your ride while in uphill mode. Finally, they may have a lip on the heel of the boot which is suitable for semi-automatic crampons. If you boot cannot take a semi-automatic crampon you can simply use something like a Grivel G-10 as an alternative.

     Hard-booting is becoming more popular each year and is worthy of consideration for any keen hut to hut tourer or aspiring splitboard mountaineer. With rapidly evolving tech and fresh ideas each season its best to email us if you have any questions about hard-booting. 

    Bindings

    Splitboard bindings have advanced in leaps and bounds in recent years. In this instance, you typically do get what you pay for. Cheap binding conversion kits are okay but not great and we really don't recommend these. Bindings form a critical part of your setup and it is worth investing time into researching the different configurations and considering how they will work for you when you are deep in the backcountry. Every gram of weight matters, the lighter the weight the higher the price is the general trend, the prices can be eye-watering but it if your serious about where your ride will take you, it is worth it. 

    Ski Poles

    Poles that collapse into three sections are perfect. Cheap poles can and do fail, freeze, seize and rust. Trust us, if your pole breaks or fails it is a serious problem. When heading uphill the pole needs to hold your body weight and you need to trust it won't collapse or telescope back into a kiddies pole suddenly as this could lead to a series injury, long fall or an uncontrolled slide back down the mountain. 

    Rucksack

    For most trips especially multi-day hut-to-hut tours you will need a 35 - 40-litre rucksack. You might get away with a big 30-litre pack if you are an experienced tourer and know what to pack. Most people will find a 35-40 liter pack is a good size for touring. You should only consider rucksacks which are designed for backcountry and multi day use. 

    Key features of a good splitboarding pack: 

    • a method of attaching your board in either an A-frame (one paddle split either side) or both together on a vertical 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
    • a built-in rain cover and 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.

     

     

     

    • Skins – these are skins which, now made of artificial fabric, stick to the bottom of your board when it is in touring mode, skis and allow you to walk uphill. They must be cut to fit your paddles exactly, so if you are bringing your own skis you must provide your own skins.
    • Board Crampons (aka couteaux) - most bindings have ski crampons specifically designed for the binding. We always carry these just in case. Again if you are bringing your own ride and 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 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
  • When choosing clothing for a day of touring in the mountains 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 'Buff' 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, Mountain Tracks guides are allowed to enforce helmets if they think it is required, if you are unsure please contact us to clarify. 
    • 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 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 or snowboard socks will improve fit, warmth and feel when skiing for long periods. Bring along a few pairs.
  • Splitboarding is rapidly growing however, it is still not yet at a level that rental shops can readily own a supply of quality equipment. Many resorts around The Alps currently have zero stock for rental. Chamonix is an exception to this rule, and one of the main reasons many of our entry-level courses are based here.

    At Mountain Tracks we are tracking rental options as we discover them, please make contact with us if you require some help finding the equipment you need.

  • 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
    • 30-35 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!
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Chamonix

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The town of Chamonix-Mont-Blanc is situated at 1042m (3,396 ft) above sea level. It sits at the foot of Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Western Europe at 4807m (15,770 ft).

Chamonix is considered by many as Europe's mecca for outdoor sports and draws many enthusiasts from all over the world. Unlike many of the purpose built resorts, Chamonix is a proper working town with a large population of about 12,000 inhabitants. This number can be boosted by as many as 80 - 100,000 during the peak months in summer and winter.

As befits a town of this size there are plenty of shops, hotels, cafes, bars, pubs and nightclubs.

Our top reasons to visit Chamonix

  • Home of the Vallée Blanche, one of the world’s great off-piste descents

  • Great destination for weekends and short breaks

  • Easy access from the UK and just 75 minutes by road from Geneva airport, which has regular flights from many UK airports

  • Thriving, working town full of shops, bars and restaurants = good shopping, good après-ski

  • The Alpine capital of France renowned for big mountain skiing, alpinism and extreme adventure

  • Mont Blanc – the highest peak in Western Europe

  • Very long ski season with skiing possible until well into May

  • Good range of accommodation for all budgets

Chamonix Ski Area

The skiing area of Chamonix is generally considered to have some of the best off-piste skiing in the world. Much of this is accessible from the lift systems and includes descents of over 2,000m. The Chamonix valley extends over 20km and there are several separate lift systems and mountains which provide enormous variety and all are included on the Mont Blanc pass.

Off Piste runs include:

 

The Vallée Blanche

The longest off-piste ski descent in the world (24kms).

Pas de Chevre

Ascend to the top of Grand Montets and ski down to the Mer de Glace and on into Chamonix.

Glacier du Toule

You can ski the Glacier du Toule down towards Courmayeur and then catch the cable car back up to the top of the mountain and ski the Italian side of the Vallée Blanche.

Le Tour

From the back of the Le Tour lift system there is fantastic off-piste skiing towards Vallorcine and Switzerland.

Some of the very best areas can only be reached with an hour's ski tour from the pistes. The effort expended is more than rewarded with the awesome skiing across untracked terrain.

Chamonix is just as much about the climbing and mountaineering in the summer months, with easy access into the high mountains and many magnificent climbs and routes available plus an extensive network of high alpine huts its also a mecca for climbers.  Mont Blanc draws over 20,000 ascents a year both by ski and foot and any good weather day in the summer months will see numerous people achieve the summit.


Resort Information:

Resort Height: 1,042m

Highest Lift: 3,842m

Nearest Airport: Geneva

Transfer Options: From Geneva the transfer time from the airport is about 75 minutes to Chamonix. We recommend that you book a seat with one of the many transfer companies who offer shared minibus transfers to and from the airport. Mountain Tracks recommends Mountain Drop Offs or Cham Van who both offer comparativly priced transfers and run an efficient services.

More about Mont Blanc

Mont Blanc is the highest mountain in Western Europe. Its height is 4,807 metres (15,780 feet), but varies from year to year by a few metres, depending on snowfall and climate conditions. The mountain lies at 45°55′N, 6°55′E between the regions of Haute Savoie, France and Aosta Valley, Italy

The first known ascent was made on August 8, 1786 by Jacques Balmat and Michel Paccard.

  • 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.
     

  • You should arrange to arrive in Chamonix by late afternoon on the first day. 

    The most convenient airport is Geneva and from here the transfer time up to Chamonix by road is just 1 hr 15mins.  To travel between the airport and Chamonix we recommend you reserve a seat on one of the many commercial shuttle buses. Mountain Tracks can book this for you and the usual prices are from £40 per person one-way. Please supply your full flight details to us so we can make the reservation.

    Want to take the train to the resort?  No problem – it’s possible to get to Chamonix by train from the UK using the Eurostar from London St. Pancras to Paris, then the TGV to Bellegarde and a regional train to Chamonix.  The journey can be done in 1 day.  For more information and other useful train travel details look at www.snowcarbon.co.uk 

    At the end of the week the course finishes after breakfast on the last day and we recommend that you arrange your return/onward flight from lunchtime onwards to give yourself plenty of time to get to the airport without having to rush!

  • 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. 

  • You will stay in one of our preferred hotels in Chamonix or Argentiere. These are typically the Hotel Couronne 3* in the village of Argentiere or the Hotel Les Lanchers 3* in Chamonix Les Praz. Both offer comfortable rooms and serve a good breakfast and there are other facilities close by.

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