AMA title

Haute Route Ski Tour

The Haute Route is without a doubt the world’s most famous ski tour.  It is an incredible journey through the heart of the glaciers and high peaks of the West Alps.  Its long tradition dates back into the 1800′s when the rugged Haute Route traverse was done for the first time from Chamonix, France to Zermatt, Switzerland.  The Haute Route is high on the wish list of many accomplished ski-mountaineers as the high peaks and long glaciers of these mountains are remarkably beautiful .

skiing powder on the Haute Route

Getting off the beaten track!

For our Haute Route tour we begins with a 9000 foot descent of the Vallée Blanche. For the next 7 days we ski tour hut to hut weaving through countless glaciers, passing over spectacular cols, eventually ending up in the renowned Swiss village of Zermatt.  Along the Haute Route, there are wonderful skiing opportunities, breathtaking views, and relaxing evenings in the huts. Though there is some technical terrain, particularly on the first day at the Col du Chardonnet, and later on the ascent of the Sepentine, for the most part the Haute Route is reasonably straightforward and difficult days are interspersed with easier ones.

The Haute Route is a ski mountaineering tour of average difficulty, which should be easily managed by strong intermediate ski mountaineers.  You do have to be physically healthy and able to acclimatize to elevations of up to 13,000 feet (the highest hut we will sleep will be at 12,000′).

Photos of Haute Route

Haute Route Itinerary:

Day 0 Arrive in Chamonix no later than today. Meet for dinner, equipment check, and go over itinerary.
Day 1 Warm up with a descent of the Vallée Blanche.  We will include a short tour to check everyone’s equipment and warm our legs up.  We spend the night in Chamonix
Day 2 The first day on the Haute Route; from the top of Grands Montets tram at 10,762′ (3280 M) we do a nice long descent down to the Argentiere Glacier where we put skins on to skin up and over the Col du Chardonnet, then up and over the Fenêtre de Saleina, and finally making it to the Trient Hut (welcome to Switzerland!).
Day 3 If you prefer steeper skiing there are amazing couloirs into the Val d’Arpette we can choose, or we can stick to the classic route going over the Col Des Escandies and skiing over 4,000′ into the town of Champex.  Here we take a bus to Verbier, ride the lifts, then ski down to the Mont Fort hut for the night where hot showers await.
Day 4 From the Mont Fort hut we follow the piste to the Col de la Chaux 9,646′ (2940 M), weave through rolling terrain and head for Rosa Blanche which is just under 11,000′.  After a beautiful summit we descend to the Prafleuri hut.
Day 5 With another early start we climb up to the Col Des Roux 9,200′ (2804 M) and then start a very long descending traverse above the Lac du Dix.  Once we get to the end of the lake we climb over the Col du Chat then head around and eventually on top of the Tete Noir where the Dix hut is positioned.  Here we have amazing panoramic views including Mont Blanc de Chelion’s north face with its hanging glaciers, seracs and steep walls.
Day 6 From the Dix hut we have about a 4 hour climb up to the Col de Brenay 11,940′ (3639 M), then past the Serpentine and onto the summit of the Pigne d’ Arolla 12,455′ (3796 M) our high point for the tour. From the summit, we have a nice descent to the Vignettes hut.
Day 7 Today is the longest day of the Haute Route.  We generally get a very early start (around 5:30 a.m.) and have three cols and 19 miles (30 kilometers) to cover; luckily more than half of this is downhill. From the hut we ski down a short ways and then skin up the Col de L’Eveque. After a short but sweet descent, we climb up and over the Col du Mont Brule and finish on a long low angle ascent to the Col de Valpelline 11,680′ (3560 M).  Here we are welcomed by the majestic Matterhorn and now have over 6,400′ (1950M) of skiing.  We start on the impressive and massive Stockji Glacier, which eventually weaves into the Zmutt Glacier and finally we make our way down to Zermatt to celebrate all our successes.
Day 8 Flights home or travel to your next destination.

Required Skills and Fitness:

The Haute Route is a grand tour for strong intermediate/advanced skiers who are able to ski in variable snow conditions. Skiers should be able to ski “off piste” (backcountry) in all types of snow (firm, wet, heavy, and breakable crust). There are a few steep sections along the tour,
but for the most part the slopes are not overly steep. The challenge comes in managing poor snow conditions and not losing too much energy in the process. For the climbs, skiers should be able to execute uphill kick-turns without difficulty. We will review these skills day 1, but it is imperative we have them dialed by day 2. Also, basic mountaineering knowledge is helpful, but not necessary as it can and will be taught along the way.

Fitness is another very important component as days can be long and tiring. You should have good fitness and be able to tour for 5 to 6 hours every day with a pack varying from 20 to 30 lbs. On the longer, steeper days we will typically ascend between 3,000 and 4,000 feet.

Skiing Ability:

  1. The ability to ski in difficult, deep, heavy snow, or bad breakable crust. You never know what it will be like!
  2. The ability to make turns on firm 40° snow slopes in a controlled fashion; either using parallel hop turns or the more conservative Stem-Christie.
  3. The ability to manage firm 45° snow slopes using either a “falling leaf” (sliding back and forth without turns) or side stepping/sliding down as a safe means of descent.
  4. The ability to ski powder. Skiing down the fall-line with short-radius, rhythmic turns. You know, the real fun stuff!
  5. Basic backcountry ski touring experience; using skins and simple understanding of transceiver, shovel, and probe use.

Price Includes:

    • - UIAGM / IFMGA guide for 7 days
    • - Two nights lodging in Chamonix
    • - One night lodging in Zermatt

Control is the name of the game.

  • - Five nights lodging in huts
  • - Breakfast and Dinner in Huts
  • - Use of avalanche transceiver, climbing harness, shovel and probe (must reserve)

Price Excludes:

  • - Travel to Chamonix or from Zermatt
  • - extra food items and drinks in huts
  • - Lunches
  • - Lift tickets
  • - Rescue insurance
  • - Travel insurance
  • - Gratuities

Getting To and From

Getting to Chamonix and going from Zermatt is generally quite easy. Geneva (GVA) is the closest international airport to Chamonix (about an hour).  There are numerous shuttle services providing very affordable transport around 30€ each way to and from Chamonix.  We recommend arriving in Chamonix no later than mid-afternoon the day before we start as baggage and flight delays can become problematic. Once you have your flight itinerary please send it to us so we know your ETA, then book your final leg to Chamonix through one of these shuttle services.

Leaving Zermatt is quite easy as well. If you booked a roundtrip flight through Geneva (probably the easiest and cheapest) you will take the train right from Zermatt to the Geneva airport changing trains just once. The trip takes just under four hours and trains leave on average every half hour starting around 5:30am. Here is a link to the Swiss rail system so you can check departure times for your specific itinerary.

You may also fly out of Zurich. It is a bit shorter train ride being about three and a half hours and one must change at least once heading to Zurich from Zermatt. Use the same Swiss Rail link above to see specific departure times.

  • ———
  • Dates: March 30-April 5, 2014
  • ———
  • Cost: $2,695
  • ———
  • Ratio: 4 skiers to 1 guide

Pertinent Info

Ski Trips


IFMGA LogoAMGA Logo

IFMGA & AMGA certified guides