Chamonix Backcountry Skiing
Chamonix Backcountry Skiing weeks are exciting guided ski holidays with the focus on skiing the best terrain and best snow further away from the pistes. Every day we will be exploring a new area to find the best snow and best descents. Some descents will be lift served off piste and some we will be boot-packing or skinning to get to.
As the week progresses you will pick up the essentials of Chamonix backcountry skiing . These skills include avalanche awareness, skinning, boot packing, glacier skiing and decision making. As conditions permit we can cover crampon/ice axe skills and crevasse rescue.
Clicking on the ‘Book Now’ button opposite, will open a new tab/window in your browser and direct you to our online tour booking system.
Chamonix has truely world class off piste skiing. We will be skiing all around Chamonix using the best conditions available, this may include skiing on the glaciers of les Grands Montets and from the Aig du Midi (conditions allowing). Chamonix is famous for its long off piste runs with big vertical in stunning surroundings. There is ample terrain to keep off-piste skiers of all levels happy, accessed either by chair lift or by ski touring!
What's not included
Who is this for?
We split the group into intermediate and advanced courses, so you will be backcountry skiing with people with similar ambitions and ability. You should be an Intermediate or Advanced off-piste skier to get the most from these holidays. We take both splitboarders and skiers, trying to match speed and ability so that everyone gets the most out of the weeks.
You can expect to be skiing from first lift each day. Most days you can expect to do some uphill work to get to the descents. If this all sounds like hard work, don’t worry! It’s your holiday and the pace is up to you – but a sniff of fresh powder and it’s often “maybe just one more run…”! There is also the option of a day’s heliskiing to open up more terrain (at additional cost)…
Accommodation and huts
You will be based in our central 3chalets, Chalet Iceman, Chalet Slider and Chalet Viper – see winter holidays for the listings. Rooms are normally on a twin shared basis with shared bathrooms. The chalets have a fun atmosphere, there are often other like minded people staying in the chalets who are on various other courses. Chamonix town is a short 5 minutes walk away with plenty of restaurants, bars and cafes.
Sunday: Arrive in Chamonix and settle in to the chalet. Meet with your Guide to discuss plans for the week.
Monday: Warm up day to get your skiing legs in shape!
Tuesday: Exploring the epic back bowls of le Tour with a descent to Trient and avalanche transciever training. There will be up to 1.5 hours bootpacking
Wednesday: Ski touring in the Aiguilles Rouges. Introduction to uphill skinning, route choice and avalanche awareness…and a great descent to le Buet. A short train ride takes us back to Cham. About 2 hours of uphill today
Thursday: Off piste skiing at the Grand Montets with crevasse rescue training. An afternoon descent of the classic Pas de Chevre powder run to the Mer de Glace. No uphill today!
Friday: Ski touring the Col du Passon route down to le Tour village. a classic tour with 2500m of descent for about 2.5 hours uphill skinning. Introduction to glacier skiing and further avalanche awareness
Saturday: A day skiing from the Aiguille du Midi. We skin for about 2 hours to make the most of the great skiing in this region, finishing with a descent of the Vallee Blanche
We may have to change this itinerary according to the prevailing weather and conditions (and we like to take into account your ambitions too!)
Good fitness will make it more fun and you’ll get more out of your week! Although we will tailor the course to your ability, we definitely recommend getting as fit as possible before you start. The process of training for your goal will help you focus on your goal – and having a goal will help you focus on your training. So all in all training is good!
Back country skiing and ski mountaineering is all about being able to exercise at a moderate intensity for several hours, and your training should reflect this. Probably the best training is cycling as this targets similar muscle groups and prepares the mind (exercising for long periods in poor weather requires mental strength!). However not everyone has the opportunity to do this and so alternatives such as jogging and gym workouts are also good.
The focus should be on training Cardiovascular Endurance as well as Strength for long days in the mountains – for cardio cycling/running/rowing machines are much better than weight training. Try and exercise for up to a couple of hours at a time at least twice a week. Try yoga, swimming, pilates etc too to help with core stability and balance. Squats and cycling are a good way to strengthen your legs. Remember to build up your workouts over time. If you are not used to exercising much, your muscles and joints need time to build up to avoid injury.
Try and choose an activity that you enjoy and keep a note of what you do and your times – this really helps with keeping the motivation up. If you are not used to training then your local gym will be able to advise you on a plan and schedule to help you achieve your goals. Training does not work overnight! The fittest athletes train as part of their lifestyles and have been doing it for years. Consider training for a good couple of months before coming out to the Alps.
Unfortunately we can’t recommend a specific brand and model for each item on the kit list, as what is available is constantly changing and, of course, different people are different shapes and sizes with different budgets! However, in general, we use and endorse Sherpa for clothing and Black Diamond for kit because in our experience they are excellent… If you go to a good retailers such as Snow & Rock, explain to them you will be back country skiing and they will be able to advise you on what is best for you. Bring this list with you…
Lastly, if necessary it is possible to rent most hardware items in Chamonix. You can hire boots too, but this is a last resort (no one likes uncomfortable boots).
1. Skis for off piste skiing – we recommend skis that you will enjoy skiing on, but are not too heavy/stiff. They should be ‘fat’ but not too fat. Wider skis make it easier to ski off piste, but too wide can be hard to control and hamper your technique progression. We would recommend an underfoot width of 80-90mm.
2. Poles –
3. Skins and ski crampons
4. Boots – these must fit and be comfortable. We feel it is best not to rent boots. Rather buy some and have them fitted professionally – this will make your week much more comfortable, fun and blister free! ‘Fit’ is more important than whether a boot is ‘stiff enough’ or not.
5. Rucksack – 40-50l. with ski straps
6. Water bottle
7. Transceiver, probe, shovel, harness with 1 screw gate karabiner (can be rented in Chamonix)
8. sunglasses, goggles, sunhat, sunscreen, lip salve/block
9. 3 sets socks and light coloured thermal tops
10. Lightweight Gore-Tex top/bottoms, warm hat, thick gloves, thin gloves
11. Insulating layers. I use a thin ‘100’ weight fleece and a synthetic duvet jacket (thin).
12. Personal first aid – blister kit, ibuprofen.
13. Cash for additional hot drinks / snacks on the mountain
Remember kit should be lightweight but functional – you have to carry it! We can help with equipment rental in Chamonix.
To find out more about our course, availability, or to ask any questions, please get in touch through the website or by phone on +33 (0)845 527 58 12.
We take a 20% deposit to secure your place on one of our courses, and we ask for the balance to be paid 6 weeks before the course start date.
We strongly recommend getting specialist travel insurance that covers cancellation, medical and mountain rescue.
Make sure that it covers glaciated mountaineering and climbing/ skiing. We recommend the Dogtag (www.dogtag.co.uk) – they have comprehensive policies and a good reputation.
Getting to Chamonix
It is best to book flights and airport transfers well in advance of your departure.
Easyjet have many cheap flights to Geneva from all over the UK. Swiss Air have cheap and convenient flights from London to Geneva.
Booking a place on a minibus airport transfer service is by far the best way to get from Geneva airport to Chamonix (it takes about an hour or so, is cost effective and is a door to door service). We can book your airport transfers at a competitive rate – just email us with your flight details…
There are several cash points in Chamonix and Maestro/visa/mastercard are all readily accepted.