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Extreme Steep Skiing in the French Alps

Discover the best of the French Alps’ insane steeps and get ready to push your skiing to the next level! Steep skiing is an Alpine discipline like no other, combining expert skiing with climbing and a deep understanding of the mountains.

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French Alps Steep Skiing Guide

The French Alps most extreme terrain is accessible to expert skiers with mountaineering experience and a keen sense of adventure. That’s you if you’re comfortable skiing difficult off-piste terrain or un-pisted black runs and you have some high altitude climbing experience under your belt. Then, with the expertise of a local qualified guide, you can take on the Alps’ legendary couloirs and steep powder pitches.

By its very nature, steep skiing takes you to some mind-blowing terrain, including cliff areas and steep, sometimes unstable powder fields. Don’t underestimate the importance of the role your guide will play. A good guide will mix a healthy dose of technical instruction, steep skiing tactics and local knowledge to provide you with an unforgettable experience.

Sometimes you’ll look down and not quite believe what you’re about to launch yourself into.

Your guide will also tell you what’s coming up next and give you tips on how to ski the section. Sometimes you’ll look down and not quite believe what you’re about to launch yourself into. But, somehow you get down it and you feel like you’ve achieved something amazing. Your guide will aim to push your limits but without pushing you beyond your ability. Often they’ll take something that looks absolutely impossible and make it so easy you’ll surprise yourself.

With steep skiing, one thing’s for sure, you’ll be out of your comfort zone, but the huge sense of satisfaction you’ll feel from having pitched yourself against dame nature‘s gnarliest terrain will make it fully worth it.

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Pain du Sucre | Glacier Rond | Aiguille du Chardonnet | Aiguille de la Noire | Couloir Rectiligne
Aiguille d’Entreves | Find a Steep Skiing Guide

Book an Extreme Steep Skiing Trip

Take a guide, you’ll be safer and you’ll have a lot more fun. Your guide will tailor the day to your steep skiing needs, providing you with a blend of technique instruction and heart pumping action and adventure. Whether you’re looking for some serious skills training, or just a guide to help you find the best steep snow on the mountain, even the hungriest freeskiing powder hound will be satisfied.

Skiing the North Face of the Pain de Sucre, Aiguilles de Chamonix – 55°

Steep Skiing the North East Face of the Pain de Sucre in Chamonix
Steep Skiing the North East Face of the Pain de Sucre in Chamonix | © HELISKIMONTBLANC.COM

The north face of Chamonix’s Pain de Sucre (Sugar Loaf) is steep, technical and isolated. To tackle it you need solid mountaineering skills and expert off-piste skiing ability. Seen from the Grands Montets, the top part of the descent looks frightening, so little surprise then that it was only first skied in 1990 by Pierre Tardivel.

The Aiguille du Midi cable car takes you up to 3500 m. From here you follow the Grand Envers du Plan Vallée Blanche route before ascending the Glacier du Plan. A steep couloir brings you to the top of the descent.

Grandiose scenery and steep big mountain terrain compounded by the adrenaline fulled nerves felt before tackling a technical 55° slope, make for an unforgettable moment. Depending on the snow conditions, you may need to be roped up for the first few turns. A 60 m abseil will bypass the icy rocks. Even if there seems to be a lot of snow, it might be covering a treacherous icy base. As with any steep run, try to visualise your descent, know ahead of time where you’re going to put in a turn, and get in the zone.

The lower section is still steep but it’s less exposed and you can pick up a bit up speed and stretch out your turns.

Crossing the bergschrund, renowned for being tricky, may or may not require you to be roped up. Once you’re across, regroup, high-five, and spend a few moments observing your tracks before enjoying an easy ski down to Montenvers.

Skiing the Glacier Rond, Aiguille du Midi, Chamonix – 50°

Steep Sking the Glacier Rond, Aiguille du Midi, Chamonix
Roped up on the Glacier Rond, Aiguille du Midi, Chamonix | © HELISKIMONTBLANC.COM

The Glacier Rond is one of Chamonix’s classic steep skiing descents. It’s a challenging route requiring good ropework and glacier skiing experience. Avalanche risk is high, rockfalls are not uncommon and the traverse into the uppermost couloir is treacherous when icy. Having said that, the spectacular scenery and ‘out there’ backcountry feel make this a very satisfying itinerary.

Access the descent via the Aiguille du Midi cable car. Walk down the ridge and ski the classic Vallée Blanche route skirting the south face of the Aiguille du Midi. Stay right of the Refuge des Cosmiques (3613M) and ascend the slope between the Refuge and the Abri Simond hut. Once you reach the top, you need to traverse the steep ice to reach the glacier. It’s quite exposed so crampons are a good idea. Between the ridge and a steep wall to your right you access the first steep couloir, which oriented north-west is icier than further down.

The couloir spits you out into a second steep line oriented south-west, the entrance of which is quite narrow, though it widens further down. Link some turns down to the bergschrund which is more or less filled in depending on the snow conditions. Once you reach the Bossons Glacier stay on the right hand side and ski down to 2530 m where you head towards the base of the north face of the Aiguille du Midi. There’ll be a bit of climbing involved to reach the Glacier des Pèlerins, cross the glacier to arrive at the Plan de ‘Aiguille lift station (2310 m).

Skiing the Aiguille du Chardonnet Arête, South Couloir, Chamonix – 45/50°

Steep Skiing the Aiguille du Chardonnet, South Couloir, Chamonix
Steep Skiing the Aiguille du Chardonnet, South Couloir, Chamonix | © HELISKIMONTBLANC.COM

Aiguille de la Noire, Bassin du Géant, Chamonix – 45°

Aiguille de la Noire - Bassin du Géant- 45°- Chamonix
Skiing the 45° Aiguille de la Noire in Chamonix | © HELISKIMONTBLANC.COM

Couloir Rectiligne, Grands Montets, Chamonix – 45°

Brice Bouillanne at the bottom of the 45° Rectiligne Couloir in Grands Montets, Chamonix
Brice Bouillanne at the bottom of the 45° Rectiligne Couloir in Grands Montets | © HELISKIMONTBLANC.COM

Aiguille d’Entreves Arête – East Face, Chamonix – 45°

Brice Bouillanne ascends the east face of the Aiguille d'Entreves in Chamonix
Brice Bouillanne ascends the east face of the Aiguille d’Entreves | © HELISKIMONTBLANC.COM

Please leave a comment below if you need specific advice for your French Alps Extreme Steep Skiing trip, or if you have any recommendations to help us improve this guide.