Zinal Backcountry Skiing
Zinal 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 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.
These are great holidays in themselves and a good way to build skills needed for ski tours.
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. Here you can check the course dates and availability
Zinal, in Switzerland’s Valais Alps has truly world class off piste skiing. The Val d’Anniviers is one of the Alps’ hidden off piste destinations. Extensive, varied terrain, big vertical drop, north and east facing slopes and a good snow record combine with the essential and hard-to-find ingredient – no crowds. Throughout the season, even days after the last snowfall, you can find untracked snow.
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
We stay in Chalet Edelweiss in the hamlet of Mottec, just a minute or two outside the village of Zinal itself. This comfortable chalet provides us with half board accommodation with afternoon tea & cakes and includes beer/wine with the three course evening meal. We really are well looked after here! They also have a selection of skis to demo, being a Scott Ski test centre.
Saturday: Arrive Zinal and settle into chalet Edelweiss.
Sunday: Unguided warm up day for you to find your skiing legs. We meet in the evening
Monday – Friday: 5 days guided adventure. We use the entire Zinal region (including St Luc and Grimentz) to explore and find outstanding descents. some of which we will need to do upto 1-2 hours uphill effort for. We are not giving away anymore secrets to the locations!
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 Zinal
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.
The train service from Geneva to Zinal runs regularly and takes around 2 hrs.
There are several cash points in Zinal and Maestro/visa/mastercard are all readily accepted.