16 February 2020, Val Feret, Bonatti and Chamonix Ski Touring Update

Chamonix Ski Touring Weekend

It’s always a real pleasure to go ski touring in the wonderful Italian Val Feret and this sortie with our robust Chamonix intro ski touring weekend was certainly no exception.  We had a great time, skinning, skiing & training, but mainly soaking up the superb winter mountain ambiance of this frontier where the Mont Blanc Massif meets the upper Val d’Aosta.  It’s an obligatory ski touring pilgrimage and we were lucky to have not only good weather and snow conditions but also a fantastic base camp in the shape of the Rifugio Bonatti.  Is this the best hut in the Alps?  Perhaps that’s a daft question, but be warned, if Bonatti is your first ever hut trip, it may go downhill after that!

The brilliant base camp for ski touring in Val Feret – Rifugio Bonatti run by Mara and her team of great staff.

As usual, the approach starts with a long leisurely cruise up the valley floor via the cross country ski track area and another cappuccino at the sunny & scenic piste-side cafe at Lavachey.  From just beyond here the ascent gets more sustained through the forest and we were encouraged that the high freezing level had not trashed the lovely velvet powder snow in the forest…but would it survive another day of warm winter weather before our descent tomorrow!?

Val Feret Ski Touring Weekend
The wonderfully scenic ascent to Rifugio Bonatti in the Val Feret with Monte Bianco beyond.

After a good pit stop at the Hut we continued up the pleasant wombly ground towards the Tete Entre Deux Sauts North Summit and enjoyed a sun set ski back to the hut with plenty of powder as well as a few surprises with boiler plate ice outcropping at or near the surface in places.

Chamonix Ski Touring Weekend
Evening ski tour above Rifugio Bonatti with Val Feret below

The light was fading as we skied down, but the turns were fun and the welcoming atmosphere at the Rifugio close by.

Evening powder patrol above Rifugio Bonatti, Val Feret, Mid Feb 2020

Teams had skied steep lines off both the West and East slopes of the Tete Entre Deux Sauts.  This morning the light was a bit flatter than expected with plenty of clouds veiling the sky and only pockets of sunshine, but we made good progress up the long valley behind the hut en route to the Col de Malatra.

Chamonix Ski Touring Weekend
En route to the Col de Malatra with Monte Bianco beyond. Great ski touring above Val Feret, Val d’Aosta.

We took a good direct line to the upper valley with plenty of kick turn training for the team who made great progress all the way to the final mini steepening just below the col itself.  This we booted up as whilst the ski down was not worth bothering with, the view was!

Bonatti Hut Ski Touring Weekend
Creamy velvet snow on the descent of the Col de Malatra, Val Feret.

Wherever there was shelter from the wind on the descent the snow was really nice (see small video on our Facebook page here) but again there were a few localised ice patches to keep you on your toes!  Despite the warm temperatures, recent sunny and rainy weather, snow volume remains good and the recent snow fall had coated most things in white velvet again giving plenty of fun turns.

Bonatti Hut
Lunch at Rifugio Bonatti before the final ski down through the forest…

After a hearty lunch back down at Bonatti we were mainly ready for a siesta rather than the final ski down through the forest!  How would the 3000m+ freezing level affected the snow below the 2000m hut we asked ourselves.  It had been good above the hut today and was lovely below the hut yesterday…But there is a limit to how long even Bonatti Forest pow can last with a zero degree isotherm reportedly at 3300m today.  We didn’t know which issue to deal with first – the hundreds of snow shoe ers who had suddenly appeared in the forest or the increasingly heavy snow!  Neither were a big problem, and it was still a fun ski down, but not quite the sparkly satin powder we had for the ascent!

Sunset ski tour above Rifugio Bonatti, Val Feret

It was a great weekend and if you want to join us ski touring in the Val Feret with a night at Bonatti next year, the dates and booking are already online here.

On the other side of Monte Bianco in Chamonix Kev & Dave really enjoyed the ski mountaineering traverse of the Col de Beaugeant and descent of the Berade Valley.  There was firm snow for skinning up to the mountaineering traverse in to the col which was done in crampons.  There is currently a fixed rope in place here.

Col de Beaugeant Ski Tour, Aiguilles Rouges, Chamonix, Photo Kev Avery

Quite a nice ski out down the Berade Valley with decent cover and some fun turns in soft snow but getting heavy lower down with the warm mid Feb temperatures!

Col de Beageant Ski Tour, Aiguilles Rouges, Chamonix, Photo Kev Avery

Graham and team USA enjoyed a fine powder descent of the upper Vallee Blanche on Friday, just after the fresh snow and got some fantastic powder turns – but only down to the Salle a Manger and it got icy below that although they still managed to ski within a 5 minute walk of the train despite the tricky icy conditions in places.

Chamonix Off Piste Guide
Powder in the Vallee Blanche in Mid Feb 2020. Photo Graham Mcmahon.

Most of our winter – spring 202o ski courses are selling out now, but there are still a few places left on the following programmes…

25-28 Feb, Chamonix Off Piste & Mountain Skills – Progression Course

1 places left – Now full 

24-28 Feb, Chamonix Off Piste & Mountain Skills – Classic Course

Was full- now 1 Place left due to cancellation 

23-26 March, Chamonix Off Piste & Mountain Skills – Progression Course

1 Place left

13-17 April, Chamonix Off Piste & Mountain Skills – Classic Course

1 Place left

27 April – 2 May, Spring Ski Summits

2 Places Available

4-7 May, Ski Mont Blanc

1 Place left

We also still have availability for Chamonix private guiding so please get in touch if we can help with ski or mountaineering guiding this winter or spring season.

Val Feret powder ski tour patrol up towards the Col de Malatra with Monte Bianco South Face beyond