The Alps are the birthplace of modern alpinism and are filled with European culture that changes from valley to valley. The world famous Haute Route ski tour connects the mountain towns of Chamonix and Zermatt by a series of high glaciers and passes broken by beautiful mountain towns. This spring ski package is an extended version of the Haute Route in which we will visit out of the way monasteries, quiet villages and alpine huts off the beaten path.
Join us on our European ski tours through France, Italy and Switzerland while enjoying excellent skiing, views and European mountain culture.
Day 1: We will meet at 1:00 pm at our hotel (included in price) in the town of Argentiere (10 min from Chamonix). This will allow us to check in, check equipment and prepare for the start of the trip.
Day 2: We will board the Grand Montets gondola and ski the glaciers descending the Aiguille Verte to the Argentiere Glacier. A short but stunning climb to the Refuge d’Argentiere will allow us to acclimatize and also touch up on companion rescue.
Day 3: With an early start we will either climb to the Col du Chardonnet or to the Col du Passon. This is the first technical section of the trip which usually involves either being lowered or rappelling (Col du Chardonnet) or steep snow climbing (Col du passon) with skis on your back. We will traverse the high glaciers of the Trient plateau to reach the Cabane du Trient. This is a beautiful and challenging day on the glaciers above the Chamonix Valley.
Day 4: Breaking off from the traditional Haute Route itinerary, we will cross the Swiss 3 Cols route. This allows us to enjoy one of the longest descents of the trip and will bring us to the beautiful ski village of La Fouly. There will be time to purchase additional lunch supplies and explore the quaint village where we will be spending the night.
Day 5: With an early start we will climb towards the col du Pointe de Drone. This off the beaten path portion of the route will climb steep slopes past 2 alpine lakes before descending to the Historic St Bernard Monastery. The Monastery which was established in 1049 sits at the highest point between Martigny in the Canton of Valais in Switzerland and Aosta in Italy. The pass has been a trade route since well before the Monastery was constructed and yes, this is the area that made the St Bernard rescue dogs famous!
Day 6: After departing the St Bernard Monastery, we will descend to a taxi pick up and shuttle to Verbier. We will ride the lift and return to the traditional Haute Route. Our objective for the day will be to reach the Cabane de Prafleuri. The route leaves the ski area and crosses 3 alpine passes before descending the glacier below Mt Rosablanche. It is possible to ascend Mt Rosablanche on route which adds an excellent ski descent.
Day 7: We will require an early start to traverse above the Dix reservoir and climb to the Cabane des Dix. There are possibilities for additional touring above the Cabane des Dix if your legs allow!
Day 8: This is a spectacular day in the mountains. We will climb from the Cabane des Dix up a twisting glacier to the summit of Pigne d’Arolla which provides excellent views towards the Matterhorn and back to Mont Blanc. After we have reached the summit we will enjoy a scenic descent to the exposed Refuge Vignette.
Day 9: With an early start we will descend from the Vignette hut and climb to the Col de l’Eveque. Our descent will once again take us off the beaten path as we descend into Italy. We will ski past the Refugio Nacamuli and continue down valley through European Larch forests to the Refugio. This comfortable hut has showers and an excellent cultural feel.
Day 10: This is a rarely visited area. There are a variety of options depending on conditions but our objective will be to crest the ridge separating the Bionaz Valley and the Valley d’Aosta where we will enjoy a long descent. We will take a short taxi or bus ride into the ski village of Cervinia where we will spend the night.
Day 11: Using a gondola we will gain the high plateau straddling Cervinia and Zermatt. We hope to reach our high point above 4000m by climbing the Breithorn (4164m) or Mt Pollux (4092m) before making a long glacial descent into Zermatt. Over a final diner with the group we will wrap up an excellent trip. (hotel accommodation included)
Instructors & Group Size
Your guides are certified by the internationally recognized Association of Canadian Mountain Guides. There will be a maximum of 6 participants per guide. There will be a maximum of 12 guests, minimum 5.
We will meet the group at 1:00 PM on the first day at the hotel in Argentiere. Please come prepared with all of your personal gear and clothing.
You will be responsible for your costs to arrive in Argentiere, France and depart from Zermatt, Switzerland. Included in the price of the program is all transportation costs starting from Argentiere on day 1 return to Zermatt on day 11.
Weather and Conditions Note
This is a challenging program in complex terrain and as with any trip into the mountains neither weather nor avalanche conditions can be guaranteed. Poor weather or avalanche conditions may require a change to the itinerary. Regardless expect the trip to be a great adventure in a beautiful area.
You will need to bring adequate clothing and equipment for a backcountry ski traverse. Yamnuksa will supply group equipment and can provide certain pieces of technical equipment (harness, transceiver etc.) if required. Please see the list below.
You need to bring:
- Skis We recommend a short (160 – 185cm) wide ski designed for powder skiing and ski touring
- Climbing skins ‘Stick-on type’
- Ski crampons
- Ski Poles
- Ski boots
- Avalanche Transceiver – digital transceiver with a triple antennae rentals available
- Avalanche Snow shovel – collapsible metal shovel designed for companion rescue – rentals available
- Collapsible Avalanche Probe rentals available
- Harness rentals available
- Lightweight non locking Carabiners (1) rentals available
- Lightweight “D” shaped locking Carabiners (1) rentals available
- Lightweight Munter Carabiner (1) rentals available
- 5 meter 6mm cord (1) rentals available
- 120cm sewn sling (1) rentals available
- 16-22cm ice screw (1) rentals available
- Light weight aluminum crampons
- Light weight ice axe (shorter the better)
- Daypack (35-45 L – large enough for spare clothes, lunch & equipment)
- Sunglasses and ski goggles
- Thermos flask and water bottle
- Sun block & Lip Cream
- Pocket knife
- Headlamp with fresh batteries
- Small Blister & 1st-Aid Kit
- Small repair kit for bindings, skis or splitboard (this may include straps, nuts, bolts, small leatherman)
- Personal Toilet Items
- Lightweight camp towel
- Ear Plugs (optional)
- Sleeping bag liner
Additional gear info:
- Skis/splitboard: There are three viable backcountry systems, Alpine Touring, Telemark, and Splitboard.
- Alpine Touring: Essentially downhill skis with a special touring binding which allows the heel to lift when going uphill and then locks down to become an alpine binding for the downhill.
- Telemark: Free-heel telemark bindings should only be used for this program if you are at least an intermediate/advanced telemark skier with backcountry experience.
- Splitboard: Snowboarders sometimes use a splitboard in the backcountry. This system is enjoyable on the descent, but frustrating on the flats. The transitions between uphill and downhill can also be very time consuming. If using this system, please ensure that you are proficient at switching your bindings.
- Boots: Backcountry boots are different from regular alpine ski boots. In the backcountry, boots need to have an uphill mode that allows a free range of motion in the upper part of the boot. You should not use your regular ski boots for touring and walking uphill.
- Climbing skins: The glue on the base of the skin should be in good condition and the skins need to be properly fitted. Try the skins on your skis/splitboard to make sure they are the right length and width before you arrive.
- Ski poles: Backcountry poles need powder baskets on the tips.
- Avalanche beacon: A three antennae transceiver is required. Yamnuska uses the Backcountry Access Tracker 2 for all of our winter programs.
- Probe: A minimum 240 cm in length.
- Shovel: A metal blade shovel is required.
We suggest bringing light clothing of varying thicknesses that can be ‘layered’ to achieve comfort and versatility. The most important consideration for clothing is the ability to regulate temperature as you change from periods of activity to periods of rest and from the ascent to the descent.
- Synthetic or wool underwear (top & bottom)
- Soft shell or Gore-Tex pants
- Warm shirts (not cotton)
- Medium weight fleece sweater
- Soft shell jacket (or equivalent)
- Light insulated jacket or vest
- Waterproof jacket with hood (Gore-Tex)
- Waterproof pants (Gore-Tex or nylon, with side zippers)
- Socks – ski socks (wool or synthetic), 2-3 sets
- Wool or fleece hat
- Waterproof ski mountaineering gloves or mitts (warm)
- Lightweight gloves
- Casual clothing to wear before and after the trip
Please book as early as practical to avoid disappointment. We require a 35% deposit on booking.
It is wise to ensure that your health plan will cover you in case of illness or accident whilst here. Obtain extra coverage if necessary.
Please note that you will be required to sign our waiver before commencing the program. Please view our sample waiver copy.
As well as the recommended travel insurance we will provide you with an Alpine Club membership which has mountain rescue insurance included.
$3800 CDN includes certified guide, local transfers, breakfasts and dinners, accommodations Day 1 to Day 11 and basic lift passes on route. There is no GST on this program.
Not included in this program is transportation to Argentiere at the beginning of the trip and transport leaving Zermatt at the end of the trip. As well, you will be responsible for your own lunches, drinking water and alcoholic beverages on the trip which can be purchased on route from the huts or villages. Additional cost involved for program changes due to weather or conditions are also not provided.
Is it for you?
This is a challenging trip with multiple days of touring in a row. There are days of ascent over 1000m (3300ft) and you should be comfortable skiing with a pack (20-25lbs/9-11 kg) on most terrain in variable conditions. This would be suitable for people who have completed the Wapta traverse, Bow/Yoho Advanced ski week or a lodged based touring week.
Understanding the prerequisites should help with your training throughout the winter. Winter ski tours and walks with a 20-25lb pack is recommended as the best training, however other activities such as cross country skiing and hiking can also be good training. Please read the itinerary and difficulty sections and be both physically and mentally prepared for the trip. If you are uncertain about your experience level, please call us.