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Ski Touring in the French Alps

Ski touring combines off-piste skiing with mountaineering allowing you to escape the crowds and enjoy some of the best backcountry terrain in the French Alps.

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The best Ski Touring in the French Alps

The French Alps is renowned for its easily accessible yet wild and extensive ski touring terrain. Strike out from Chamonix and access the Haute Route, possibly the most famous ski tour in the world. Less than 2 hours drive from Chamonix and you’re in the Vanoise National Park in the Tarantaise Valley, which is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful areas of wilderness in Europe and a ski touring paradise. Head further south and explore less frequented terrain in the stunningly remote Queyras Regional Park.

Hut-To-Hut Ski Touring

A superb network of mountain huts or refuges makes multi-day hut-to-hut ski touring expeditions straightforward to organise. The standard of the accommodation in the refuges is generally basic but comfortable with rooms arranged dormitory style. Bunk-beds are equipped with bedding, so you don’t need to carry a sleeping bag. Food tends to be on a set menu basis consisting of a hearty three course evening meal and cereals and bread and jam for breakfast. Often there is no running water, so you have to buy bottled water to drink and wash with. You can usually buy tea, coffee, wine, beer, soft drinks and snacks. You can expect a good atmosphere, and weather permitting, to wake up to a stunning view!

Ski Touring Gear

In the Alps, backcountry skiers favour freeride skis, such as Dynastar Cham’s or K2 Pinnacle’s, with touring bindings and skins. Snowboarders will either use a splitboard, or snowshoes and carry their board. Ski touring climbing skins come in either nylon or mohair, or a mixture of the two. Nylon provides more grip, and mohair gives more glide. If it’s your first time it’s safer to err on the side of more grip – you might be slightly slower, but you’ll still get there. More extreme routes require crampons and some ropework. Your guide will provide you with an avalanche rescue kit, including transceiver, probe and shovel. You’ll also need a technical backcountry backpack with ski/snowboard carrying capacity. Good ones are the Osprey Kode or Patagonia Snow Drifter.

One thing’s for sure, equipment failure can have serious consequences, so you’ll need to have a firm grasp of how to use your ski touring gear before you strike out into the backcountry. As always, the advice is, take a guide. You’ll be safer and you’ll have a lot more fun.

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Ski Touring in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc

The mountainous terrain around Chamonix is epic in proportion and provides a huge opportunity to free yourself from the confines of the pistes and access fantastic backcountry skiing and huge vertical drop with relatively little effort. With just 30 minutes to 2 hours of skinning from the top of the ski lifts you can find yourself on top of a steep ridge or broaching an isolated summit and looking down on 2 km of untracked powder.

All the routes in the Mont Blanc range require you to be a solid off-piste skier and have a decent level of fitness. Saying that, the climbs are generally quite short with plenty of bang for your buck.

Ski Touring Mont Blanc to Mont Rose

© Chamonix Aventure

Mont Blanc to Mont Rose Ski Tour

Huge glaciers, couloirs, steeps, forest runs, massive vertical drop and stunning views of the mountains throughout. This 5-day ski tour takes you from Chamonix to Gressoney in Italy’s Aosta Valley. You’ll spend 3 days in the Mont Blanc range, skiing the Aiguille du Midi, Grand Montets, Courmayeur, and Balme, and 2 days in Mont Rose skiing Gressoney and Alagna. If that’s not enough, there’s the possibility to bolt on a day’s heli-skiing in Italy or Switzerland.
Duration: 5 Days. Level: Intermediate. Price: From 1195 € per person
Contact: Chamonix Aventure | +33 (0)9 77 76 13 62.

Ski Touring in the Vanoise National Park

The Vanoise National Park is France’s first national park and borders Gran Paradiso National Park in Italy to cover a massive 1,250 km², the largest protected area in the Alps. Several large ski resorts are contained within its boundaries including Les Trois Vallées, Tignes, Val-d’Isère, Les Arcs, La Plagne and Sainte-Foy. In between the bustling winter resorts, vast tracts of wilderness are criss-crossed with remote backcountry ski touring itineraries. The high altitude terrain of the Vanoise is crammed with big ascents and epic descents, which makes the ski touring challenging yet highly rewarding.
Vanoise National Park ski touring with TopSki

© TopSki

Tour of the Vanoise

The Vanoise range offers a spectacular backdrop for ski touring. This relatively easy 4-day itinerary heads out from Val d’Isère and takes in the south face of the La Grande Casse and La Grande Motte. If you’re feeling fit you can take on the 3330 m Méan Martin summit. Stay overnight in mountain refuges or local gites with their cosy wood fires.
Duration: 4 Days. Level: Beginner/Intermediate.
Contact: TopSki | France +33 (0)7 82 85 88 89, UK +44(0)7968 732 115

Ski Touring the Tarentaise Valley with TopSki

© TopSki

Ski Touring the Tarentaise and Aosta Valleys

The area between France and Italy between the Tarentaise and the Val d’Aosta is spectacular for ski touring. This moderately challenging 5-day itinerary heads out from the Fornet in Val d’Isère and takes in the Grande Aiguille Rouge (3227m) and the Pointe de la Galise (3343m), and over the border to the beautiful italian valleys of Val de Rhemes and Valgrisenche. Stay overnight in French and Italian mountain refuges with their warm hospitality and rugged “ambiance”.
Duration: 5 Days. Level: Intermediate.
Contact: TopSki | France +33 (0)7 82 85 88 89, UK +44(0)7968 732 115

Ski touring in Piemonte, Alps

© Roman Boed

Tarentaise and Piemonte Ski Safari

This moderately challenging 5-day itinerary heads south from the Fornet in Val d’Isère and takes in the beautiful Levanna Glacier and the spectacular Albarron, passing the authentic villages of the Vallée de la Maurienne and over the border to Piemonte. Stay overnight in French and Italian mountain refuges with their warm hospitality and rugged “ambiance”.
You can finish this trip with a memorable helicopter flight from Bonneval back to Val d’Isère.
Duration: 5 Days. Level: Intermediate.
Contact: TopSki | France +33 (0)7 82 85 88 89, UK +44(0)7968 732 115

Ski Touring in Queyras Regional Park

Occupying a remote corner of the southern French Alps to the south east of Briançon on the border with Italy, the Queyras mountains are regarded as one of the top ski touring destinations in Europe. With an abundance of light powdery snow, plenty of southern sunshine and high altitude, rugged terrain, the area is perfect for ski touring. Testament to this is the fact that France’s major ski mountaineering event Le Grand Béal is held here each year.

The high-altitude terrain, early season snow and diversity of the slopes means that ski tourers can carve fresh lines from the season’s first snowfall in November right through to spring. The Queyras is crisscrossed with more than 250 ski touring itineraries and whether you’re planning a hut-to-hut, a grand traverse or a short two-day loop, the dense network of refuges and gîtes makes logistics straightforward.

Base yourself in one of the ancient mountain villages in the Queyras, which steeped in tradition provide a welcome change from the purpose built ski resorts of the northern French Alps. The park itself is a protected environment known for its larch trees, wild flowers and wildlife, including chamois and golden eagles.

Ski Touring in the Queyras

© adventurebase.com

Ski Touring in the Remote Queyras

If you’re looking for a remote multi-day trip with high altitude skinning and great off-piste descents each day, then this ski touring itinerary from Adventure Base is for you. Starting in the picturesque mountain village Guillestre, you spend the first day warming up the legs and practicing your ski touring technique. The route includes high altitude traversing between cols and skinning up some of the regions major peaks such as the Tete de Longet (3146 m). Your efforts are rewarded with long and floaty descents on untracked powder.
Duration: 6 Days. Level: Intermediate. Season: mid-Feb – mid-May
Contact: Adventure Base | +33 (0)4 80 80 60 99.

Please leave a comment below if you need specific advice for your Ski Touring trip to the French Alps, or if you have any recommendations to help us improve this guide. Happy holidays!