Ski touring provides a fantastic way of exploring the magical winter mountains whilst enjoying adventurous ski journeys away from the lifts and pistes. We are passionate about introducing skiers to this addictive activity and also offer further inspiring journeys, courses and guided multi days ski tours as a great progression.
For those with some off piste skiing experience and good fitness our action packed 5 day Chamonix intro ski touring course provides the inspiration & information to add a whole new dimension to enjoying your ski trips. You can enjoy a similar journey by doing some, or all, of our popular series of ski touring weekends. These start in January with Chamonix day trips & training and run through the winter to our long spring weekend of hut to hut touring.
All the following courses start and finish from the world skiing base camp of Chamonix – but numerous courses visit the equally inspiring & nearby Italian & Swiss Alps.
Chamonix Intro Ski Touring – 5 Day Course
The ski tourer is able to mix the fun of off-piste skiing whilst making a journey through the magical & remote environment of the winter mountains. On this practical 5 day introductory course we aim to train you in the essential skills required for smoothly completing some classic ski tours whilst becoming a good trained member of a back-country ski team in the process.
Chamonix Intro Ski Touring – Course Aims
- Provide high quality training so that you develop the skills for ski touring safely and efficiently.
- Complete some enjoyable, short & medium length ski tours in the Mont Blanc Massif
- Also explore the superb variety of venues accessible from a base in the Chamonix Valley, including the potential to visit the nearby French ‘Aravis’, Italian Val d’Aosta or Swiss Valais Alps, which often offer different weather and conditions.
- Spend a night in a mountain hut / refuge to allow a 2 day tour to be completed and give a good insight in longer ‘hut to hut’ ski touring.
- Prepare you for further off-piste and ski touring adventures either with a Guide or independently (e.g Skiing The Haute Route)
- Have a fun & sociable week & meet up with other like minded ski touring folk who you may be able to ski with in the future.
From our base in the Chamonix valley we can use the extensive range of nearby lifts and high mountain roads to access a variety of styles of ski touring terrain. The start of the week will focus on training and becoming efficient with the fundamental basics like using your skins & bindings, how to skin efficiently and enjoyably and understanding the context and use of your avalanche safety equipment.
Essential Ski Touring Skills
- Understanding your ski touring bindings and becoming efficient in their use
- Skinning – The essence of ski touring! How the skins work, putting them on and taking them off, breaking trail and choosing a line, easy angled & steeper turns (Kick turns)
- Avalanche awareness, route planning, safe travel techniques – choosing terrain
- Becoming skilled in the use of your essential avalanche emergency equipment, shovel, probe and transceiver
- Managing ‘transitions’ (e.g. being efficient transferring from skinning to skiing modes)
- Effective skiing techniques for different types of off-piste terrain (this course is run by a Mountain Guide, not a Ski Instructor, but you will still receive some valuable guidance about off piste technique. Check our ‘Off Piste & Mountain Skills’ course if you think you need more off piste coaching.
- Storing skis on your rucksack if you need to travel on foot
- Introduction to ski glacier travel, skiing in a harness and skinning on the rope
- Simple crevasse rescue problem solving
- Use of maps, guide books, GPS and the latest ‘Apps’ for route planning and navigation
- Using mountain huts
- Emergency Procedures in the Alps
And, as a progression towards Ski Mountaineering for the progression courses
- Familiarising with your mountaineering equipment – ice axe, crampons, harness.
There is a lot to take in for the newcomer to ski touring so we try and distill things to the essentials and drip feed information throughout the week. We aim to enjoy a mixture of styles of touring including lift accessed skinning where several enjoyable short tours can be completed right through to a longer single day tour well away from the ski resorts.
Chamonix Intro Ski Touring – 5 Day Sample Itinerary
Pre Course. 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 that your own bindings are correctly adjusted, skis are well serviced and that skins & ski crampons fit your skis & bindings correctly.
Day 1. Introduction to the course and equipment check. Off-piste skiing and touring skills training. Venue, e.g. Le Tour at the head of the Chamonix Valley.
Day 2. A day combining further training in an off-piste environment with lift accessed ski touring e.g from Les Contamines or Combloux just down the valley from Chamonix. Several short tours can be completed giving a few hours of skinning uphill and lots of practice managing ski ‘transitions’ without a big time pressure on the day. The aim is always of course to find good snow and enjoy some great turns and fresh tracks!
- Day 3. An opportunity to combine a great journey up the beautiful Val Feret on the Italian side of Mont Blanc, with spending a night at a mountain hut, the superb Rifugio Bonatti. There is great north facing mellow terrain around the hut, often powder in mid winter and opportunities for skiing & training above & below the tree line. Not to mention enjoying the great Italian hospitality at the Bonatti Base Camp!
- Day 4. After a hut breakfast there is the option to tour above the hut or ski down & take the Skyway Monte Bianco lift to high altitude on the Italian side of the Vallee Blanche for an introduction to the important principles of ski mountaineering on glaciers. This is a fantastic and extremely scenic aspect of ski touring and we will spend some valuable time discussing and practising the skills and strategies for skiing safely on glaciers.
- Day 5. We aim to finish a great week of skiing putting all the recently learnt skills together to complete a longer classic Chamonix ski tour (e.g. Col du Tour Noir and Ski the Argentiere Glacier). This day also provides a good opportunity to ask any final questions and make plans for future tours with advice from the Guide.
There are a huge amount of excellent alternatives which can be considered at the time according to the weather, snow conditions and aspirations of the group.
Jen Kingwill, Chamonix Intro Ski Touring Course Feb 2018
On the way to the airport now after a great week! I had a wonderful week – the itinerary choice for each day was great, with Kenny finding good snow for us most days. Kenny was excellent – lots of little tips along the way and sharing his mountain /snow knowledge throughout the week. Bon weekend!
Chamonix Intro Ski Touring – Fitness & Ski Pre-requirements
Ski touring is like many other activities in that, the more you do, the more efficient you become, and the less energy you use. Therefore whilst we will be aiming to complete short & medium tours (maximum of around 4 hours uphill at an ascent rate of around 300m/hour) skiers should be prepared for a physical week with 5 days of skinning, off piste skiing, generally being high in the mountains with a bit of falling over, getting up and dusting the snow off!
Folk with a ski background can soon be instructed in basic touring techniques but the same can not be said for mountaineers wishing to start off piste skiing. This is a course for folk who can already ski with linked short radius turns on pisted black runs and who have some experience descending off-piste terrain in a controlled manner. Skiers need to be confident that they can safely negotiate the equivalent angle of black runs in all snow conditions. This does not need to be fast or stylish but it does need to be effective and safe!
James, Intro Ski Touring Feb 2016
The course was EXCELLENT. Paul was a great guide and we had some great ascents and descents, and learnt a lot! We will share photos shortly, but the problem is there are too many!
2019 Chamonix Intro Ski Touring – 5 Day Course
5 days, Monday – Friday Inclusive, 4 / 6 Places Still Available
2019 Course Cost
£745 – 5 Day Course
Maximum group size 6 guests with 1 Guide
To Book your place – please visit the specific course page above.
What’s included in the Price?
- 5 full days ski touring training, guiding & off-piste skiing with a Mountain Guide
- Travel to ski venues when skiing outside the Chamonix Valley
What’s not included?
- Accommodation. Please see our Chamonix Venue Info
- Flights and transfer / travel to Chamonix
- Ski touring equipment (Note 1* below). Check the kit list below
- Lift passes (Note 2* below)
- Ski Insurance, see our Insurance FAQ’s for more information
- Buses, train fares if required
- Any other expenses
- *Please note that the detailed kit list, given via the link above should be followed and all hire kit including boots, skis, skins, ski crampons, poles, transceiver, shovel, probe should be collected in advance of Day 1, so that a swift start to the course can be made. You can arrange with us in advance to hire shovel, probe & transceiver for a considerably cheaper rate than in the shops.
- Lift passes. As we will ski at the most appropriate venue for the day depending on the weather and snow we ask you to leave buying your ski pass until the first morning of the course. We have found that the discounts for buying multiple days are small but the losses if you do not use them are significant so we prefer to retain flexibillity to ski outside the area covered by certain passes.
- Cost of an unlimited day pass in Chamonix is c.€65 and any other venues we use will be a lot cheaper than this, down to around 20 euros for a ‘forfait rando’ or free if we are skinning from the car!
Gabriela Fedullo, Chamonix Intro Ski Touring Week Course, Feb 2018
I just wanted to thank you all for the AMAZING week I had. It really motivated me to keep learning and training. Kenny’s tips and suggestions have really helped me realise what I have to work on from now onwards, and have also helped for this week to be so nice!
2019 Alpine Ski Touring Weekends – Jan, Feb, March & April
These are dynamic weekends designed to give you an action packed, fun and informative insight into the magical world of ski touring. We run 4 separate weekends in January, February, March & April and each course is designed to offer consolidation and progression from the previous one. Doing all 4 weekends would give a great opportunity to learn, practice and develop your ski touring skills & experience whilst doing some inspiring ski journeys in 4 superb different locations.
Our January course makes the most of the deep winter snow pack and is based in Chamonix to take advantage of the lifts, trees and hopefully ski some great powder. The February courses heads to the scenic south side of the Mont Blanc range and tours in the lovely Italian Val Feret with the comfortable Rifugio Bonatti as Base Camp. In March the spring touring season is underway and the weekend is based at the remarkable Grand St. Bernard Monastery run by the hospitable monks. This gives a great opportunity to explore this classic ski touring area on the Swiss – Italian Alpine border. Our long spring weekend in April explores the superb touring country of the West Oberland from the strategic access point of the Gemmi Pass. A feast of varied touring options!
Alpine Ski Touring Weekends – Course Aims
- Enjoy 2 days ski touring in the Alps (3 on the April long weekend course)
- Do some inspiring backcountry journeys with a mix of lift and skinning acces, find the best snow possible and do some memorable turns and fresh tracks
- Complete practical introductory training in the essential skills for ski touring – then consolidate and refine these skills on the progression spring weekends
- Spend an enjoyable night in a mountain hut (apart from the Jan weekend) and become more familiar with using hut to prepare for bigger hut to hut tours in future
- Spend a sociable weekend in the mountains and meet other like minded skiers
A lot of new skills need to be learned by the newcomer to ski touring so we focus on the practical essentials and leave more advanced techniques and glacier skiing for another trip! Training takes place during the journey and with specific sessions both on the snow & in the great indoors over a café!
Intro Ski Touring – 2 Day Course – Sample Itineraries
Our 4 inspiring itineraries have been created to offer you a good mixture of ski touring, training and visiting a great area. Each weekend venue has been chosen to make the most out of the ‘normal’ conditions at that time of year and offer interesting opportunities to tour even if the weather and snow conditions are not ideal. As with all mountain itineraries, they sometimes need to be changed at short notice according to these factors.
Even though this is only a short course we recommend you prepare as much as possible in advance with relevant ‘ski fit’ preparation and then, ideally arrive a day or two early to both warm up your ski legs & sort ski equipment. This is especially important if you will be renting boots or skis & bindings. Please also make sure that your bindings are correctly adjusted & skis are well serviced.
January Course – Chamonix Day Trips
This is a great opportunity to take your first steps ski touring or refresh your existing skills with some very short early season tours and fresh tracks. We use a mixture of lift and skinning access to find some fresh tracks and hopefully some great turns!
Day 1. Introduction to the weekend and ski equipment checks. An opportunity to use the lifts of Chamonix to kick start the ascent and then complete several short skinning journeys making fresh tracks away from the pistes. This is an excellent & essential intro touring day with plenty of time for some skiing & training the elements described above. A good venue for this day is Le Tour at the eastern end of the Chamonix Valley, a resort where you can tour on either side of the French – Swiss alpine border! Return to Chamonix for the evening.
Day 2. An opportunity to consolidate on yesterday’s training with some longer touring journeys. The Aravis, just down the Arve Valley from Chamonix gives a great opportunity again to use the lifts to gain height, then skin up some hills and get away from the pistes. The Croise Baulet at Combloux is a great example of an attractive & logical ski peak. Achievable by folk just starting touring, this is an enjoyable ascent with superb views of the Mont Blanc Massif. Return to Chamonix late afternoon. Possible to return to Geneva this evening or enjoy some more skiing the following week.
Mike Sweeney, Intro Touring Weekend, Les Houches, Chamonix Jan 2016
Thanks Rob for a great day out. Just the right amount of challenge and encouragement – highly recommended.
February Course – The Beautiful Italian Val Feret & Rifugio Bonatti
This weekend provides a brilliant contrast between touring on the beautiful wooded slopes of the Italian Val Feret and, if the weather allows, the spectacular high altitude glacier terrain of the Vallée Blanche, accessed via the superb Skyway Monte Bianco lift above Courmayeur…
Day 1. Introduction to the weekend and ski equipment checks before transferring to the Italian side of the Mont Blanc Massif and enjoying a steady skin up the beautiful Val Feret. The Bonatti Hut provides a fantastic base camp for this weekend and even the approach to the hut through Larch forests gives an enjoyable ascent with good opportunities for skinning training. After lunch at the hut, the afternoon is spent training and enjoying some short skinning journeys to hopefully ski some great snow. Dinner at the hut is usually excellent and a sociable & comfortable night is then spent in the Rifugio…
Day 2. After a classic café fuelled Italian breakfast we start skinning immediately above the hut and can explore the interesting north facing valleys and cols on these lower hills to the south of the main Mont Blanc range. Fantastic views of Monte Bianco and the Val d’Aosta are revealed as height is gained. The emphasis for the day is to enjoy some ski touring, good skiing and training before descending back down the Val Feret for a late afternoon return to Chamonix.
Another option for the Sunday is to ski back in to the Val Feret after breakfast and ascend the high (3400m) nearby Punta Hellbroner lift. A spectacularly scenic day of glacier ski touring can then be enjoyed high on the Italian side of Monte Bianco. The Combe Vierge, Col d’Entreves and Combe Maudit all provide fine venues for ski touring. In this way the team can ski all the way back to Chamonix. Note that a good forecast for the Sunday and a taxi to Val Feret on Sunday are required to make this traverse possible.
Gareth Kaminski-Cook, Intro Ski Touring Weekend – Rifugio Bonatti, February 2018
This was my first ski trekking adventure and I could not be happier with the experience. Just brilliant. Kathy our guide was so helpful, kind, great fun and passionately informative. The agenda was also adapted based on the weather so that we filled the two days just perfectly to optimise time skiing back country, trekking, learning skills. If you are thinking of doing this – just do it. Thanks Rob and Kathy.
Tanya Viscovich, Italian Intro Ski Touring Weekend, Feb 2015
Beautiful 2 day touring trip with Neil, setting off up picturesque Val Feret, skinning up to VERY comfortable Bonatti Hut for excellent veg/bean soup lunch before heading out for more uphill into white yonder. Lovely all home made supper provided by charming hut hostess and very comfortable beds (they have variety of twins>dorm options) and hot water.
Day 2 skinned up and climbed top ridge to summit of la Tete entre deux Sexes. Stunning scenery – Mont Blanc and the Aiguilles in the background on one side – no-one else up there. Perfect ski back down but take snacks for the last 30/45mins ‘skating’ along valley bottom back to car park!
Really good trip for new tourers.
Neil was a great guide with gentle nudges and advice on snow, being in the mountains etc, and more important, very safety conscious, particularly with this seasons conditions. I will def return to val Feret and would highly recommend this trip.
March Course – The Grand St. Bernard Monastery
Our March weekend increases the physical factor in touring on the Jan and Feb weekends and the first day has nearly 1000m of ascent. This is also an opportunity to tour in the beautiful Western Swiss Valais Alps, with a remarkable base camp of the working monastery at the Hospice Grand St Bernard. This is completely away from any resorts or lifts and provides a classic alpine touring weekend.
Day 1. Introduction to the weekend and ski equipment checks before transferring to Bourg St Bernard, high in the Swiss Valais Alps. Here we start the skinning approach up the famous high level route towards the Monastery. En route, we can take in the 2636m Col de Barosson which provides a fun and scenic start to the weekend and your ski touring career! After arriving for the traditional tea and bowl of soup at the Monastery we complete some further technical touring training on the snowy slopes immediately around the buildings. Often in the evening as well as dinner provided by the monks there is a welcome talk, video and opportunity to appreciate the history of the place, building and even attend a service with the monks. Total Ascent for the day = around 950m.
Day 2. After a hearty Swiss alpine breakfast we leave the Monastery at 2469m and we are skinning straight away into interesting touring terrain. One of the classic tours of the area ascends Mont Fourchon (2900m) and this provides us with a great objective to ski whilst doing more touring training along the way. The return ski is usually right back to the car from where we drive back to finish the weekend back in Chamonix late afternoon.
April Course – Gemmi Pass, West Oberland, Swiss Valais Alps
Our April course is a long weekend with 3 full days and 2 nights in mountain huts / lodges and is a superb opportunity to enjoy spring touring in this Swiss alpine ski paradise! With rapid access from Leukerbad to Gemmi Pass we enter this middle mountain sanctuary of ski touring easily and are able to enjoy the fine ski summit tours and comfortable base camps to the full! The course starts with an informal meeting and welcome drink on the Friday evening plus equipment check before the very early start on Saturday morning.
Day 1. After a very early morning meet in Chamonix (c.0545) there is the 1hr45m transfer to Leukerbad to take the ski lift to Gemmi Pass (2350m). From here we warm up with a short ski and long traverse of the Lammeren plateau. We can even stop for a brew at the friendly Lammeren Hut before continuing up the valley for some steeper and sustained skinning up to the Schwarzhorn (3104m). Some fine north facing pitches on the descent lead us back to the Lammerenhutte (2502m) or Gemmi Pass Hotel (2350m) for the night – *see accommodation note below.
Day 2. This middle day provides a great opportunity to ski the major peak of the West Oberland. The Wildstrubel (3244m) is a fantastic and logical ski peak with interesting winding valleys on the approach leading to a high & exposed glacier plateau and steep summit pyramid. The views across the Rhone Valley to the giants of the Swiss Valais are superb and there is some equally good ski terrain to play with on the descent to the the Lammerenhutte (2502m)*. If the early hour, snow conditions and fresh legs allow another short ski sortie can be completed after lunch at the hut, eg the nearby Lammerenhorn (2806m).
Day 3. An intricate and beautiful final day takes us north directly out of the Lammeren Hut and over the Rote Totz Luck (pass). If there is powder in the north facing bowl beyond, we do a good pitch down there before tracking back up to the fine summit of the Rote Totz (2847m) and the fine steep descent of its South Face. From there we start winding our way east and north taking numerous steep slopes hopefully on juicy spring snow. If conditions and time allows we follow this route all the way to the lovely Schwarenbach mountain Lodge (2060m) for lunch. From there a steady skin of 300m ascent and a crossing of the frozen Daubensee Lake takes us back to Gemmi pass, the lift to Leukerbad and an early evening return to Chamonix.
Thanks again for a truly incredible week – it’s safe to say we are still both buzzing! Saturday night and Sunday morning were spent eating the majority of the patisserie in Chamonix whilst trying to fully absorb and recount everything we learnt over the course of the week. I’ve just downloaded the photos – they are brilliant and an amazing momentum of the week. On top of this was the amount we learnt about how to plan, gather information and safely continue on our adventures. I have no doubt this will be invaluable for the future. Thank you so much.
Fitness, Off Piste Skiing & Touring Experience Required – Jan Feb & March Weekends
These weekends are physically demanding but are not aimed at being major endurance events. However you do need to be fit and able to climb steadily uphill (250-300m per hour) on skins for up to around 4 hours maximum. During the March weekend there is a day with nearly 1000m of ascent skinning but the Jan and Feb weekends are generally more like several hundred metres although this can feel hard work in soft snow!
This is a course for folk who can already ski with confident linked short radius turns on pisted black runs and who have some existing experience successfully descending off-piste terrain and variable snow conditions in a controlled manner.
Fitness, Off Piste Skiing & Touring Experience Required – April Weekend
This long spring weekend provides both a physical and technical progression from the earlier courses. Both longer days with more ascent and steeper terrain will be encountered. So skiers need to be physically fit in order to cope with 1000m+ days of skinning at a pace of at least 300m/hr. Previous touring experience is also required for this weekend with the ability to manage your own ski touring equipment during transitions and reliably do effective kick turns whilst skinning efficiently.
Steeper terrain is also encountered on the ski descents so guests need to be competent & confident skiing steep slopes of around 35 degrees with controlled short radius turns in varied snow conditions.
- Please note that the detailed kit list, given via the link above should be followed and all hire kit including boots, skis, skins, ski crampons, poles, transceiver, shovel, probe should be collected in advance of Day 1, so that a swift start to the course can be made. You can arrange with us in advance to hire shovel, probe & transceiver for a considerably cheaper rate than in the shops.
- In addition to the equipment items described on the kit list above – for the February, March & April weekends, which are hut based, you will also need a head torch, cash to pay for the mountain hut and your passport for the border crossing to Italy / Switzerland.
- Lift passes. As we will ski at the most appropriate venue for the course depending on the weather and snow we ask you to leave buying your ski pass until the first morning of the course. We have found that the discounts for buying multiple days are small but the losses if you do not use them are significant so we prefer to retain flexibility to ski outside the area covered by certain passes. Cost of an unlimited day pass in Chamonix is c.€60 and any other venues we use will be cheaper than this, down to around c.€20 for a ‘forfait rando’ or free if we are skinning from the car!
2019 Intro Ski Touring Weekends, Dates & Prices
To book your place – please visit the specific course page above for your chosen dates
£295 – 2 Day
Maximum Guide : Guest Ratio 1:6
£295 – 2 Day
Maximum Guide : Guest Ratio 1:6
£295 – 2 Day
Maximum Guide : Guest Ratio 1:6
£545 – 3 Day
Maximum Guide : Guest Ratio 1:4
What’s Included In The Price?
- 2 full days ski touring training, guiding & off-piste skiing with a Mountain Guide (3 on the April course)
- Car travel to ski venues when skiing outside the Chamonix Valley
- Trip planning and booking of mountain huts
What’s Not Included In The Price?
- Accommodation. Please see our Chamonix Venue Info
- Dinner, Bed & Breakfast at the Mountain Hut (for the Feb & April courses) plus your part share in the Guides discounted hut fees. Allow c.€85 / night
- Flights and transfer / travel to Chamonix
- Skis, boots & touring equipment (Note 1-2* above)
- Lift passes (Note 3* above)
- Ski Insurance, see our Insurance FAQ’s for more information
- Buses, train fares, any taxi or public transport costs as required
- Any other expenses
Calum Williams, Intro Ski Touring Weekend, Feb 2016
Such a shame to be writing this from my office back in London rather than still out enjoying the sun and great snow conditions that we had over the last 2 days…..Just a quick note to say thanks very much for a really well planned and enjoyable two days introduction to the world of ski touring. I feel somewhat prepared for Svalbad now, except perhaps how to fight off the Polar Bears!
My legs are certainly feeling a little tired today but am really looking forward to the next time I can get out again. No doubt I will be emailing you in the not too distant future to book another excursion in Cham. Enjoy the rest of the season & thanks again, Calum