High Mountain Guides / What we do / Skiing in Chamonix / Off-Piste & Mountain Ski Course

Chamonix Off-Piste Ski & Mountain Skills

Off-Piste Skiing in High Alpine Terrain

“A ski instruction course designed to improve your technical off-piste skiing, mountain safety awareness and skill, whilst doing lots of good skiing in the process”.

Course Aim

To develop competence and confidence skiing in variable off-piste terrain and to ensure it is something you look forward to rather than fear. To achieve this there are two skill sets that need to be developed; ski technique and safe travel skills. You will come away from this course feeling that you have developed both.

You will also hopefully be inspired to embrace a creative approach to your ski adventures in future and realise the potential for fun ski journeys with touring bindings, skins, map and a good plan!

Chamonix Off Piste & Mountain Skills - Standard Course

Chamonix Off Piste & Mountain Skills - Progression Course

Chamonix Off Piste & Mountain Skills - Advanced Course

2017 Course Dates

Most of these courses will be run by:

Alison Ski Touring in Arctic Norway

Alison Culshaw

BASI Ski Instructor

Rob Ski Touring on the Chamonix to Zermatt 'Haute Route'.

Rob Jarvis

IFMGA International Mountain Guide

Standard Course

Ski Technique

Good balance, rhythm and a smile on your face will all help your off-piste ski technique as well as the host of strategies and skills that Alison will help you develop.

Alison will work with you to make the downhill become something you look forward to whatever the snow type. She will give you the tools to float effortlessly through the powder, embrace the bumps, control the hard pack, manage the ice and even enjoy the crust!

You will gain tactics to ski smoothly through the trees, feel more confident on the steeps and have a strategy for when snow conditions are so poor you just need to get down the mountain safely.

Alison has experience of delivering these skills to skiers from beginner to mountain guide and other ski instructors. She will analyse your own skiing style and coach the improvements accordingly. Check out some feedback from Alison’s previous ski clients here.

Safe Ski Travel in the Mountains

Avalanche transceiver training with the 'Mammut Pulse'

By ascending on skis, using skins, untracked slopes can be reached or a quiet summit view enjoyed away from the crowded pistes. The pleasures are great but the hazards are real.

During 2 active days skiing Rob will guide you through the mountain practicalities of backcountry ski travel.

  • How to use skins and bindings effectively so that ski ascents become an aesthetic and efficient pleasure.
  • How to interpret avalanche and weather forecasts alongside actual mountain snow conditions and decide where to ski safe and good terrain accordingly.
  • How to become highly skilled in the use of your essential avalanche equipment (shovel, probe and transceiver) and be able to manage an avalanche scenario should one arise.
  • How to ski on a glacier, including roped ski travel, will also be covered, ideally during a descent of the Chamonix classic ‘Vallee Blanche’

As an international Mountain Guide Rob will not only deliver these practical skill sessions but constantly ‘drip-feed’ information about the constant decision making processes involved in off-piste skiing and ski touring.

You should finish the course with a much greater awareness of the issues involved in planning your own off piste & ski touring journeys and a good simple framework to use for planning your own routes.

About Us

Ski Mountaineering in Chamonix with Mont Blanc Behind

‘Chamonix Off-Piste Ski & Mountain Skills is a joint venture between ‘High Mountain Guides’ and ‘Off-Piste Performance’ aimed at giving you expert adviceand coaching in all aspects of mountain skiing.

Alison Culshaw runs ‘Off-Piste Performance' and holds the BASI International Ski Teacher Award. She has delivered Continuing Professional Development (CPD) to the British Mountain Guides and works as a trainer on the BASI Mountain Safety Courses training aspiring instructors. When not teaching skiing she'll be off ski touring somewhere. Her most recent trip took her to the Lyngen Alps in Norway.

Rob Jarvis runs ‘High Mountain Guides’ and is a full time Mountain Guide based in the French Alps near Chamonix. He has led mountaineering and ski expeditions around the world including skiing to the South Pole and, slightly steeper, Mount Vinson, the highest peak in Antarctica.

Course Outline

This suggested itinerary may vary considerably according to weather and snow conditions.

Pre-Course

Arrive in Chamonix. Arrange all ski equipment & warm up skiing. As with all our ski courses, we recommend you prepare as much as possible in advance with relevant ‘ski fit’ preparation and then arrive at least a day or two early to both warm up your ski legs & check equipment. This is especially important if you will be renting boots or skis & bindings. Please also make sure your skis are well serviced & bindings correctly adjusted.

Day 1

Introduction to Off-Piste Skiing with Alison looking at the fundamental skills needed for being effective in the off-piste. Feedback will be specific to the individual so that you have personal top tips to take forward into the week.

Day 2

Off-Piste Ski decision making in ‘avalanche terrain’, use of avalanche equipment and Emergency procedures. Efficient use of skins for ascending on skis.

Day 3

During this day you will apply the skills learnt on day 1 to whatever the off-piste conditions are. Whether it is powder, icy or bumpy (or a mixture of all of the above!) you will have plenty of time to put the skills into practice.

Day 4

Weather permitting, this day will be a glacial ski journey covering aspects of safe travel in crevassed terrain. Roping up, route finding and basic crevasse rescue techniques can all be covered whilst enjoying a magnificent journey down one of Chamonix’s famous glaciers like the Argentiere or Vallee Blanche.

Day 5

A full days ski touring in the Chamonix Valley or over in the Valle d’Aoste on the Italian side of Mont Blanc. This is an opportunity to combine all the skills developed throughout the week and quiz Rob & Alison together on any final burning issues. We have visited many different interesting touring venues over the last few years, here are just a couple of examples...

2017 Course Dates

Since 2012 these courses have been a complete sell out so book early to ensure your place in 2017.

For Winter 2017 we have 3 courses running throughout the season from the powder tree skiing in January to higher mountain ski touring in April. So choose your course, choose your month & get in touch to book your place!

Standard Course

23rd - 27th Jan, Monday - Friday Inclusive, 0 / 6 - Course Full - Please see other course dates or enquire for 2018 dates

20th - 24th Feb, Monday - Friday Inclusive, 0 / 6 - Course Full - Please see other course dates or enquire for 2018 dates

27th - 31st March, Monday - Friday Inclusive, 0 / 6 Places still available - Please see other course dates or enquire for 2018 dates

10th - 14th April, Monday - Friday Inclusive, 4 / 6 Places still available

Progression Course

27th - 30th March, Monday - Thursday Inclusive 0 / 4 Places available - Course Full

10th - 13th April, Monday - Thursday Inclusive 2 / 4 Places available

Advanced Course

26th - 28th Feb Sunday - Tuesday, 0 / 3 - Course Full - Please enquire about private guiding or 2018 course dates

Course Fee

£650 - Standard Course

£750 - Progression Course

£850 - Advanced Course

What’s included in the Price?

Standard Course

  • 2 full days ski instruction and off-piste skiing with a ski instructor
  • 2 full days instruction & off-piste skiing with a Mountain Guide
  • 1 full day with both Alison and Rob to help you combine the skills
  • Loan of high quality avalanche transceiver, shovel & probe if required

What’s not included?

  • Accommodation. We recommend that you stay at Ski Breezy in Chamonix. If they are full or you would like an alternative style of accommodation please see our recommended list for places to stay in Chamonix.
  • Lift passes. The 'Mont Blanc Unlimited' Ski Pass now has such good coverage including all the Chamonix lifts, Courmayeur and even the nearby Aravis / Megeve / St Gervais areas that we ask you to buy this pass for the duration of the course. This means that you will then not have to buy a lift pass each morning and we have good flexibility to use any lift as weather & snow conditions dictate. Occasionally we do a ski tour away from the lifts and thus a pass is not required for a day or 2 but this is not possible to determine at the start of the week and thus overall we have found the best solution is to buy the MB Unlimited Pass.
  • Flights and transfer from the airport to Chamonix.
  • Food and drink during the course
  • Ski Equipment. Check the ski course kit list.
"

Thanks! Great experience , really glad we did the course again. Retained so much more than first time around. Not too sure we should have repeated the Friday night out ! I am sure we will see you both again next year.

Les Leavitt, Standard Course, Jan 2016

"

Standard Course Pre-requirements

Ski Ability

To get the most from this course you will be a strong piste skier and be able to get down all groomed slopes with confidence. You should also have existing off-piste experience and be reasonably competent descending in a variety of snow types from powder to crust! Instruction & coaching will be given as part of the course and the aim is to gain confidence and skill rather than ski particularly steep slopes.

We have found that people really enjoy this course when they have done lots of off-piste mileage but never quite got the hang of it. Or if you are able to rip it up in the powder but feel you only have “one skill set in your tool box” so struggle to make changes to adapt to the changes the off-piste environment throw at you..

Mountain Fitness

You’ll need to be fit & robust enough to be able to cope with 5 full days out skiing in the mountains and be able to skin steadily (300m / hr) uphill for a few hours (this will feel like hill-walking uphill not running uphill!)

Course Kit List

Chamonix Off-Piste Ski & Mountain Skills Kit List

Equipment required for this course:

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More Details & Booking

For more details on our terms & conditions, to fill in a booking form and make a payment, please visit our booking page via the link below:

Contact

We are always delighted to hear from past, current and future clients so whether you have a booking enquiry, want a conditions report, or some mountaineering advice please do get in touch to discuss your plans...

Good climbing & skiing,

Rob

High Mountain Guides

Tel: +44 115 888 2994

Skype: High Mountain Guides

Email: Please use the form below

Chamonix Off Piste & Mountain Skills - Progression Course

Our second & more advanced course has been designed specifically for those who want to develop their skills after the standard course, or those with a similar level of experience. The aims are to further improve both your technical off-piste skiing, technical ski touring skills & mountain safety awareness whilst visiting some different venues and interesting new terrain in the process.

The progression course will also be run by both Alison Culshaw (BASI ISTD Ski Instructor) and Rob Jarvis (IFMGA International Mountain Guide) unless we have a 2nd course running which will be led by a carefully chosen pair of fully qualified ski instructor and mountain guide.

Course Aims

  • Develop competence and confidence skiing in adventurous mountain terrain
  • Improve technical ski ability on steeper & more sustained slopes
  • Develop ski touring skills with the view to tackling steeper / harder day & hut to hut tours in future
  • Complete some excellent high mountain ski touring with at least one long (1000m+) day
  • Develop planning skills for selecting your own ski tours & route finding / terrain choice during the tour
  • Meet like minded others keen to enjoy 4 excellent days mountain skiing & touring

Ski Technique

Mont Blanc top right with the Peutery Ridge as the left hand skyline

Although you will already be a good off-piste skier, Alison will work with you to develop more confidence on steeper or more technical ground and give you techniques and tactics for when conditions are tough.

With lower ratios than the standard course, this tuition will be even more tailored to your individual needs. Time can be spent working on those individual habits that you have always been trying to change.

Alison has experience of delivering these skills to skiers from beginner to mountain guide and other ski instructors. She will analyse your own skiing style and coach the improvements accordingly. Check out some feedback from Alison’s previous ski clients here.

Over the 2 days you will feel your skiing becoming more efficient in challenging situations.

Ski Travel in the High Mountains

Les Courtes, Droites, Verte Beyond

A solid & reliable ski touring kick turn is a pre-requisite of this course to enable us to visit some of the classic steeper ski mountaineering terrain around the Mont Blanc Massif.

Touring in these areas under the supervision of an IFMGA Guide will help you develop further your technical ski touring skills including efficient transitions, glacier skiing, the use of ski crampons and perhaps even boot crampons, ice axe and rope if conditions / team ability allows. Those looking for more technical tours and steeper terrain should check out our advanced course.

Throughout the progression course, attention will be given to prevailing snow conditions, weather and avalanche forecasts and developing your ability for information gathering, planning suitable routes & making good decisions about terrain to ski with the two fundamental aims of...being safe & having fun!

As well as these training & technical elements at least one of the touring days will be a long & physical ski tour to give the satisfaction of completing a grand high level mountain ski journey.

Progression Course Pre-requirements

Ski Ability - Competent, confident, robust and reliable skills whilst skiing any pisted run and off-piste in all conditions on slopes up to 35 degrees. You will have already completed at least a week of ski touring and be competent performing kick-turns on steep & sometimes exposed terrain. You will have practiced regularly with your avalanche transceiver and generally be a competent member of an off piste / ski touring team.

With the Mont Blanc Range Beyond...

Fitness - You’ll need to be able to cope with full mountain days and have the fitness & stamina to maintain an ascent rate of 300-400 metres per hour for up to around 4 hours and still be able to then make a safe and reasonably stylish ski descent!

Mountaineering Experience - Basic mountaineering experience with some previous use of crampons & ice axe is useful but not essential.

We recommend that you do some warm-up skiing before this course, ideally at altitude and with some skinning and kick turn practice if required. This is a demanding course and you need to be physically and mentally prepared for it. Unless you are a strong ski mountaineer already, this course is most suited to folk who are skiing quite regularly during the season.

Progression Course Outline

This suggested itinerary may vary considerably according to weather and snow conditions and group experience / aspirations:

Pre-Course

Arrive in Chamonix, enjoy at least one days pre-course warm up skiing & check all off piste & touring gear is working well.

Day 1

Introduction to steeper Off-Piste Skiing with Alison looking at the fundamental skills needed for being effective on steep and / or more technical terrain. Feedback will be specific to the individual so that you have personal top tips to take forward into the week.

Possible venues Le Tour, Brevent / Flegere, Grands Montets

Day 2

Alpine ski touring day with the aim of completing a mid length, middle altitude tour to access interesting & varied terrain. Practice classic touring skills on ascents, route planning & finding, efficient transitions & ski skills in descent, all as part of a fine ski journey.

Possible venues, Contamines Valley, Ski Touring Italian Val Feret, Ski Touring in the Chamonix Aiguilles Rouges

Day 3

During this day you will apply the skills learnt on day 1 to whatever the off-piste conditions are. Whether it is powder, icy or bumpy (or a mixture of all of the above!) you will have plenty of time to put the skills into practice.

Possible venues: Ski Courmayeur, Le Tour, Brevent / Flegere, Grands Montets

Day 4

Ski Mountaineering day with the aim of completing a high alpine journey in steeper and / or glacial terrain necessitating the use of ski mountaineering skills and equipment like crampons, ice-axe and rope. Judgements of prevailing conditions and subsequent route / terrain choice will be discussed and the aim will be to plan and complete an excellent high alpine ski journey in good style.

Possible venues: Col de Passon from Argentiere Glacier, Variations on the Vallee Blanche / Glacier de Toule from Midi / Hellbronner

2017 Course Dates

Progression Course

27 - 30 March

Monday - Thursday Inclusive (4 days) 0 / 4 Places available. Course Full - But 2 Places left on our April Course, see below

People Enquiring About This Course: 3

10 - 13 April

Monday - Thursday Inclusive (4 days) 2 / 4 Places available

People Enquiring About This Course: 1

Price

£750 - Progression Course

Group Size

Maximum 4 people to 1 Guide / Instructor

What’s included in the Price?

  • 2 full days ski instruction and off-piste skiing with a ski instructor
  • 2 full days instruction & off-piste skiing with a Mountain Guide
  • Loan of harness, crampons, ice axe & helmet if required

What’s not included?

  • Accommodation. We recommend that you stay at Ski Breezy in Chamonix. If they are full or you would like an alternative style of accommodation please see our recommended list for places to stay in Chamonix.
  • Lift passes. As we will use the best place for the day depending on the weather and snow we ask you to leave buying your pass until the first morning of the course. Cost of a day pass in Chamonix is max C.60 Euros and any other venues we use will be cheaper than this. For folk skiing before & after the course, a good simple option is to buy a Mont Blanc Unlimited Pass for the duration although we may do a ski tour away from the lifts on one day and thus that days lift pass would not be required.
  • Flights and transfer from the airport to Chamonix.
  • Food and drink during the course
  • Ski Equipment. Check the ski course kit list.

Chamonix Off Piste & Mountain Skills - Advanced Course

The Upper section of this classic Chamonix steep ski reaches 40 degrees and a bit more with a few bumps forming!

This is the third and most advanced course in our trilogy of Chamonix Off Piste & Ski Mountain courses and presents the opportunity to receive very high quality coaching on steep terrain as well as improving technical ski mountaineering skills, whilst visiting some inspiring ski terrain around the Mont Blanc Range.

Course Aims

  • Consolidate your existing very good off piste ski standard; refine technique and build confidence on steeper terrain
  • Visit some inspiring new terrain around the Mont Blanc Range and ski some classic Chamonix off piste itineraries. In the process develop knowledge of the area and spot lines for future descents!
  • Complete a technical & physical ski mountaineering day combining elements of a classic hard tour in the high Western Alps such as sustained kick turns, roped travel, mountaineering with axe & crampons, glacier travel, steep ski terrain, avalanche assessment, rope work etc.
  • Meet some like minded and abled ski mountaineers for a challenging, rewarding and sociable 3 days of skiing around the Mont Blanc Range.

The Advanced course will also be run by both Alison Culshaw (BASI ISTD Ski Instructor), Rob Jarvis (IFMGA International Mountain Guide).

Again, skins were exchanged for crampons on boots & skins on the pack. With good snow & a track like today the climb up the gully felt quick and easy. This can be more mixed, rockier a bit steeper & trickier.

The programme includes a day of lift accessed off piste skiing and coaching with a ski instructor; a day ski mountaineering with the Guide and, to finish, a day with both ski instructor and guide where the aim is to ski some technically interesting off piste itineraries as a full team.

These low ratios provide the opportunity to visit some inspiring ski & mountaineering terrain and thus allows more technical routes to be undertaken than on our standard & progression courses.

Steep Ski Technique

Although you will already be a very good off-piste skier, Alison will work with you to develop more confidence on steep and more technical ground and give you techniques and tactics for when conditions are tough.

With a lower ratio than the progression course, this tuition will be even more tailored to your individual needs. Time can be spent working on those individual habits that you have always been trying to change.

Alison has experience of delivering these skills to skiers from beginner to mountain guide and other ski instructors. She will analyse your own skiing style and coach the improvements accordingly. Over the 2 days you will feel your skiing becoming more efficient in challenging situations.

Ski Mountaineering

To undertake this advanced course your ski touring skills will already be refined and good skinning technique, including a ‘bombproof’ kick turn and efficient transitions will allow us to concentrate on the more technical elements of ski mountaineering like actual mountaineering skills and rope work.

These great features can be accessed from the transitional balcon area as per previous photo. A good option is to skin up towards the Col du Tacul and enjoy a ski down before another short skin accesses the mini plateau above the couloirs. This is where teams join from the Aiguille du Tacul shoulder above (via a short rappel).

One day with the guide will aim to complete a classic day of high alpine ski mountaineering and longer tour and the final day will focus on more technical approaches to off piste descents and aim to visit inspiring off piste terrain utilising the skills covered on the 2 previous days.

Advanced Course Outline

This suggested itinerary may vary considerably according to weather and snow conditions and group experience / aspirations.

Pre-Course

Ideally plenty of warm up skiing, touring, acclimatisation and checking all ski & mountaineering gear is working perfectly.

Day 1

Coaching for steep off piste terrain with Alison refining your existing strategies for control and progression on steep slopes / couloirs. Feedback will be specific to the individual so that you have personal top tips to take forward into the week.

Possible venues Le Tour, Brevent / Flegere, Grands Montets

Day 2

Western alpine style ski mountaineering day with the aim of completing an enjoyable and demanding day tackling interesting and technical terrain, as conditions allow, in both ascent and descent. Thus an opportunity to enjoy a big ‘Skimo’ day and prepare for other classic ski mountaineering challenges like the ski ascent / descent of Mont Blanc.

Possible venues, Contamines Valley, Italian Val d’Aosta, Vallee Blanche Area, Col du Geant Area (Italian side of Mont Blanc Range)

Day 3

During this day the aim is to ski some great lines whilst re-applying the skills refined on day 1. These routes may involve travelling further in to the backcountry or accessing areas using some touring / mountaineering skills. There is an inspiring array of choice around the Mont Blanc Range!

Possible venues: Ski Courmayeur, Aiguilles Rouges, Aiguille du Midi, Punta Hellbroner, Le Tour, Brevent / Flegere, Grands Montets

Advanced Course Pre-Requirements

Ski Ability

To attend this course you need to already be a very strong off piste skier, capable of skiing controlled short radius turns in varied / poor snow conditions on very steep slopes e.g. up to C.45+ degrees. Your ski style may be robust rather than refined but it needs to be reliable and strong.

Ski Mountaineering Ability

You will have already completed at least 2-3 weeks of ski touring and be totally competent performing kick-turns on steep and exposed terrain and efficient with ski touring transitions. You will have practiced regularly with your avalanche transceiver, understand the principles of avalanche emergency procedures and generally be a competent member of an off piste / ski mountaineering team.

You will also have previously used ice axe and crampons and be familiar with good technique for front pointing and flat footing.

Fitness

This course is not to prepare you for ski rando racing! However, you will need to be very fit to cope with the demands of steep skiing, ski mountaineering and some physical ascents of up to 1200-1400m. The aim is not to do huge physical tours but to access interesting technical terrain, however, this often requires a fair bit of climbing and you should be very comfortable skinning for 3-4 hours at 3-400m / hour.

Pre Course Warm Up & Acclimatisation

This course is suited to folk who are skiing regularly during the season. It is necessary to arrive skiing well, feeling fit and acclimatised and with all equipment functioning perfectly. This means skiing regularly throughout the season before hand or arriving well in advance to make sure ski legs and equipment are all sorted for starting the course!

Ski Bindings

As the course will be aiming to ski steep terrain it is crucial your bindings are perfectly fitted and we recommend one of the excellent ski tech shops in Chamonix checks them out for you eg. Sanglards Sports, Concept Pro Shop, Snell Sports or Aux Vieux Campeur in Sallanches.

2017 Advanced Course Dates

27 Feb - 1 March

Monday - Wednesday Inclusive (3 days)

0 / 3 Places available. Course Full - Please see other course dates or enquire for 2018 dates

Price £850

Group Size: Maximum 3

What’s included in the Price?

  • 1 days ski instruction and off-piste skiing with a ski instructor
  • 1 days guiding, ski mountaineering & off-piste skiing with a Mountain Guide
  • 1 days instruction & off-piste skiing with a Ski Instructor & Mountain Guide
  • Loan of harness, crampons, ice axe & helmet if required

What’s not included?

  • Accommodation. We recommend that you stay at Ski Breezy in Chamonix. If they are full or you would like an alternative style of accommodation please see our recommended list for places to stay in Chamonix.
  • Lift passes. As we will use the best place for the day depending on the weather and snow we ask you to leave buying your pass until the first morning of the course. Cost of a day pass in Chamonix is max C.60 Euros and any other venues we use will be cheaper than this. For folk skiing before & after the course, a good simple option is to buy a Mont Blanc Unlimited Pass for the duration although we may do a ski tour away from the lifts on one day and thus that days lift pass would not be required.
  • Flights and transfer from the airport to Chamonix.
  • Food and drink during the course
  • Ski Equipment. Check the ski course kit list.

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