Alps: France & Switzerland
6 Days – Hut to Hut Ski Touring / Backcountry Skiing in the Alps from Chamonix to Zermatt
Optional: Mont Blanc Ski Ascent or Valley Blanche Descent
Haute Route Ski Traverse Highlights
- Most classic ski traverse of all!
- Stunning, glaciers of the Alps
- Awesome Huts around 3000 m
- Matterhorn and Mont Blanc
- Manageable backpacks
- Great food & wine!
- Chamonix and Zermatt
The Haute Route, the High Route between Chamonix, France and Zermatt, Switzerland is “the mother” of all ski touring traverses. From Europe’s tallest mountain, the Mont Blanc to the Matterhorn, our route leads along some of the most exciting mountain scenery to be found anywhere. After spending a week in the winter backcountry of the Western Alps walking down Zermatt’s bustling main street will feel like returning into a different world.
We offer both, the “easier” and nowadays more popular Verbier variation (i.e. “Regular Haute Route”) as well as the classic Haute Route via the Valsorey. On a custom trip basis, we invite you to take advantage of your good acclimatization after the Haute Route and do some ski ascents of the high peaks, such as the Monte Rosa or even the Mont Blanc! Or why not extend your trip by two days and finish off in Saas Fee after a day of resort skiing in Zermatt?
We will lodge in remotely and spectacularly located huts of the Swiss and French Alpine Club. The food is good and plentiful, the dormitories clean – but you should be able to survive without a hot shower for three days in a row.
Haute Route Regular Variation via Verbier (For Classic Variation via Valsorey see italic font below)
Detail and Logistics
At our Hotel in Argentiere, located at the beginning of the traverse (about 15 min. up-valley from Chamonix, hotel night included in our trip package) – Meet your guide at 8AM on the first ski day after breakfast and trip meeting,
We gladly assist in organising any pre/post trip lodging and airport transfers.
Climate, Weather, Temperatures
Beginning of March – Mid May, with April being the most popular time. Avoid the long Easter weekend as well as starting the trip on a weekend to skip the crowds. Late winter season makes for more settled weather, more settled snowpack and better coverage on the glaciers (less crevasse issues!).
Temperatures can vary hugely: If wintery weather patterns prevail, you can expect temps between -5 C and -22 C. In spring the temperature spread increases from -10 C overnight to +15 C, especially on sunny days and when descending to the valleys.
Services Included in the Total Price
includes 6 Days Guiding by an internationally (UIAGM/IFMGA) certified, multilingual, mountain guide or guide aspirant under supervision, all guide expenses. All lodging: 3 nights in a Double room in 2 and 3 star hotels in Argentiere, Champex and Zermatt with breakfast plus dinner in Champex; 4 nights in huts (dormitories) of the French or Swiss Alpine Club with half-board dinners and breakfast, transfer from Champex to either Verbier or Bourg St. Pierre by taxi or bus, Grand Montets gondola in Argentiere. Use of technical equipment: Harnesses, crampons, rope, carabiners, avalanche transceivers, shovels and probes.
Air fares, rental of ski touring equipment (we can provide you with a discounted rate with our partner shop in the Chamonix Valley), lunch (Sandwiches, snacks can be purchased in the huts or in the valley), drinks (beer is about CHF 7/ can, wine starts at CHF 30 / bottle), dinner while lodging in Zermatt and Argentiere (2 nights), gondola cost for the Verbier resort (CHF 60) or for the Furi Gondola in Zermatt (CHF 15), should the snow coverage not be sufficient to ski all the way into Zermatt, single room supplement for all lodging in the valleys, any additional transport or lodging cost due to unforeseen itinerary changes.
Additional Trip Services Available
Airport shuttles Geneva to our Hotel in the Chamonix Valley: from Euro 40/ person
Luggage Transport from our Hotel in the Chamonix Valley to Zermatt: Euro 60 / bag
Lodging in Zermatt: Double room B&B, clean two star standard: From Euro 65 / person.
Lodging Chamonix Valley: Double room B&B: From Euro 60 / person.
Single room supplement for all lodging in the valleys (surcharge applies).
Return trip from Zermatt to Chamonix, (please enquiry if quote needed).
Any additional cost in case of itinerary changes.
Optional Ascent of Mont Blanc (two additional days):
The Mont Blanc ascent is technically more difficult than the Haute Route, implies more objective dangers and requires a client to guide ratio of two to one. Please inquire for a quote.
Strenuous backcountry ski tour in alpine, mostly glaciated terrain on alpine touring (randonnée) or sturdy telemark equipment. You must be able to ski safely and controlled at all times while wearing a mid-weight backpack (7-10 kg /15 lb-22 lb). Depending on the conditions, we might have to rope on while skiing both up and downhill. You need to be in very good physical and mental condition, ready to be on your feet for about 8 – 10 hrs including, steep, continuous uphill climbs of up to 1200 meters (4100 ft) on some of the days. Being on your feet every day for 7 days requires a good deal of stamina! If in doubt wether you have the required skills and fitness level, feel free give us a call to discuss your options! We do not recommend this trip for backcountry ski touring beginners!
Where can I rent equipment?
What if the weather is bad or avalanche hazard is high
Nobody can guarantee excellent weather and low avalanche hazard throughout the Haute Route traverse! Generally, we manage to move on to our next hut destination even in relatively bad weather, if our clients are up for it. Avalanche hazard can be a larger problem (and it often goes hand in hand with bad weather) and may cause delays or itinerary changes. Should itinerary / schedule changes be necessary, (1) we sometimes rearrange hut reservations and make up for a lost day or (2) we may have to skip a day or two by using public transport and pick up again at trailheads in either Verbier, Bourg St. Pierre, Evolene or Champex, depending on the itinerary chosen. To give an estimate, about 80% of our Haute Route trips run in accordance with the schedule and in about 20% itinerary changes are necessary, more often due to lack of fitness and preparation on our client’s side than weather and avalanche hazard issues.
Can the Haute Route Ski Traverse be done on a split board?
Generally, the Haute Route Traverse can be done on splitboard however not highly recommended on a split board. Other ski touring trips would be more enjoyable for a Splitboarder: Ortler Ski Traverse
Will I be able to access a Cell Network or Wi-Fi?
Wi-Fi is available in Chamonix/Argentiere, Champex & Zermatt at our hotels and many bars / cafes. Currently the huts have no Wi-Fi; most people rely on the cell service, which is pretty good for most of the Haute Route traverse. Make sure to inquire with your cell phone provider as to your roaming capabilities in Europe
Each hut has plugs to recharge phones etc. but there is a bit of competition for them these days. All plugs are at 220 volts.
Haute Route Ski Traverse – Most Classic Ski traverse of all
We will gladly put potential clients in touch with previous participants of each trip in order for interested guests to get more personalized references and their questions answered from a more objective point of view than what our office could provide.
References of prior guests
“Didier was excellent. He was professional, patient, and very aware of how we were all doing every step of the way. Most of all, he puts safety first and makes good decisions. I learned a lot from Didier. All information was very good and questions were answered very quickly via email. The trip preparation info was very useful along with the trip itinerary.
Good itinerary, at least as far as we made it. About the right effort each day, although I think the jet lag and altitude made the first couple days very challenging. By day 3 and 4 it was getting much easier. Next time I would plan to spend 2-3 days skiing the local resort, just to get warmed up and adjusted.
All the food was excellent, everywhere we went. The hotel was perfect. The huts were very organized and people were helpful. Earplugs – good suggestion! One bit of info – we found all the huts took Euros – even in Switzerland.”
—Paul G., Manitoba, Canada
“Phillipe was the perfect guide, colourful, funny, laid back, stocked with Genepi and an all round great guy. We all really enjoyed his company! Safe but not too overly precious, perfect level for us.
Communication and organisation was top notch. Someone asked me how I got to chose you guys and my reply was that I found you through Google and you responded immediately to my query and every email I sent after which was just great.
Itinerary was perfect, all the booking were spot on, no problems at all.
Lodging were all great and the food fantastic, no negatives at all.
A definite 10/10 from us, we had a great time. Missed the last day through weather but that’s just one of those things and the Vallee Blanche on the first day made up for it. We also climbed the Breithhorn and skied the Schwaze Glacier the day after which was amazing.
All up was a fantastic trip and we all would like to express our gratitude and satisfaction with your service!”
—Lester K., New Zealand
HAUTE ROUTE SKI TOURING
1. Technical Equipment
• Telemark or Alpine Touring skis* Only bring your telemark skis if you are at least an advanced/intermediate telemark skier with backcountry experience.
• Telemark or alpine touring boots*
• Collapsible or non-adjustable ski poles*
• Climbing skins (stick-on) that fit your telemark or alpine touring skis*
• Avalanche transceiver (475 Megahertz)
• Lightweight snow shovel
• Avalanche probe
• Backpack, medium sized (about 40 liters) with rain cover and outside straps to attach skis and crampons. Some have built-in rain covers (eg. Deuter backpacks). Rain covers can also be bought separately. Otherwise bring a big plastic (garbage) bag as an inside liner for your backpack.
• Climbing harness for glacier travel
• Crampons, lightweight if possible
• One locking carabiner
• Crevasse rescue equipment, if you are familiar with it. (Prusik slings, webbing, pulleys, auto-locking device). Your guide will bring a full set.
• Ski crampons
• Repair kit / spare parts for your bindings (optional)
All items marked with ‘*’ can be rented from a rental shop locally.
Harness, carabiner, transceiver, crampons, snow-shovel and avalanche probe can be provided by OnTop. Please bring your own equipment if you have it, also let us know!
We suggest using the ‘layer system’: Light technical clothing that doesn’t take much space in your backpack and dries quickly if sweaty or wet. Layers can be put on and taken off fast if weather conditions change during the day.
• Wind and waterproof shell jacket with hood (Gore Tex or similar)
• Wind and waterproof over pants (Gore Tex or similar)
• Warm pants (insulated / fleece/ polypro)
• Fleece or wool pullover or jacket
• Medium weight fleece shirt
• Capilene, fleece or wool underwear, top and bottoms
• 2 Pairs of gloves (lightweight and heavier weight)
• Scarf or neck gaiter
• Socks: thick (wool) outer and thinner liners
• Wool or fleece hat, covering the ears
• Gaiters (unless pants lock tightly to your boots or ski pants have integrated gaiters)
• Sun hat, preferably with wide rim
• Bandana (optional)
3. Hotel lodging
• Spare underwear, socks
• Toiletries (minimum supply – most huts do not have running water!)
4. Hut lodging
• Down vest or light insulated jacket (optional)
• Light stuff sacs or zip lock bags to keep your backpack organized (optional)
• Light-weight sleeping bag liner (preferably silk) – wool covers are provided by the hut
• Very light jogging shoes or slippers for town (optional). Most guides don’t take any and walk around town in inner boots.
• Light hut slippers (optional, see above). Usually huts provide slippers, especially in France and Switzerland (Haute Route)
• Alpine Club card, if you are a member
• Ear plugs (optional but very useful)
5. Other items
• Sun Glasses (with very good UV protection, extra pair is a good idea)
• Sun screen and lip protection
• Water bottle, preferably insulated, minimum volume: 1 liter
• Head lamp with spare battery and bulb
• Blister kit (optional)
• Snacks (candy bars, dried fruit, sandwiches, nuts, etc.)
• Personal items (Prescription medicine, extra contact lenses and maintenance equipment, extra pair of prescription glasses etc.)
• Pocket knife or Leatherman tool
• (Health/Travel) insurance documents
• Zip-lock bag for wallet and other documents to keep them dry (recommended)
• Camera, batteries (optional)
• Compass, maps and GPS (optional)
• Ski wax / skin wax (optional)
Here’s a description from Carl Von Mirbach who joined our 2017 Haute Route Ski Traverse:
I’ve had the Haute Route on my “radar” since I lived in Toronto and skied in the western states and occasionally saw Rossignol Haute Route alpine touring skis. It is probably the most well-known ski tour in the world. Therefore, also the busiest! It runs from the Chamonix area near Mont Blanc to the Zermatt area beside the Matterhorn. There are many route variations both for skiing and for hiking. Ours was probably the easiest. Appropriate for a ski tour company (such as our On Top Mountaineering out of Canmore) to organize without very careful vetting of the participants.
March 31-April 1
Manfred and I flew Calgary-Montreal-Geneva and were picked up for the transfer to Argentiere a few km above Chamonix.
A tourist day for Manfred but as long as I was in the area I had to get in a day of resort skiing. Probably not a big surprise. It was awful. The snow was fine but most of the hill was in a thick fog. All morning I skied from one bamboo run marker to another never seeing anything else. It was a little better in the afternoon. But now I can say that I’ve skied at Chamonix! And the final run from Grands Montets down to Argentiere was the longest I’d ever done 2000m.
Tour Day One
We met our guides Thomas (German but with many years spent in BC) and Phillipe (from Chamonix) and the other participants. Don and Malcolm about my age from BC and Craig, John, John and Mike just turned 50 from Toronto.
It took a while to get everything organized and the whole crew up to the top of the Grands Montets via trams.
Luckily the weather was the polar opposite from the day before. We had a somewhat challenging ski down to the Argentiere glacier and a modest climb to the Refuge de l’Argentiere hut. Hut is a misnommer. These things accommodate well over 100 people, serve everybody at once for dinner and breakfast. The eight clients slept in dorm rooms for ten. The easy first day allows the guides to get some idea of our fitness for the trip and to do a little avalanche procedure training.
A tricky ski down the frozen snow on the glacier a ways to a point where we strapped our skis to our backs and donned boot crampons to climb a steep pitch. Then there was a stretch using ski crampons and another boot pack (this time short-roped to a guide). All to get to the Col du Passon, the first of three steep cols through gaps in the ridges between glacial valleys. Then we skied down to the Glacier du Tour and up to the Col du Tour. The weather to this point was pretty good. It was generally overcast, sometimes foggy, occasionally drizzly for the rest of the day. The ski down the Trient glacier was at times similar to a resort hill several days after a snowfall. There are probably close to 100 people skiing each leg each day! The climb to the Col des Ecandies was actually a challenging scramble up loose rock and dirt. But the ski down to the town of Champex was great. A little mushy and the snow ran out about a km before town. But we got to stay in a lovely hotel, have a shower, and a great dinner. Champex was the 6th night on my Tour du Mont Blanc hike with Anders two years ago.
Started with a taxi ride to the Verbier ski area and three lift rides and some skiing on the resort runs to our skin-up point. Then it was another up and down day. For the rest of the trip we had fabulous weather. Barely a cloud. We skied up to the Col de la Choux, had a modest run down, skied up to Col de Momin and down again. We had an option to climb our first peak in the afternoon. Thomas took me and Manfred, Don and Malcolm, and Craig up to Rosablanche 3336m from where we could see both Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn. It was a lovely ski down to the Cabane de Prafleuri where there was a real apres ski party going on in the sunshine on the deck.
A short climb to Col de la Roux and then the one forgettable portion of the trip. For about 6-8 km one must traverse high above Lac des Dix generally on frozen almost icy snow sometimes on foot where the snow had been taken out by an avalanche or melted always with the right foot significantly higher than the left. After that we had a climb up to the Cabane des Dix. We did arrive early enough for Thomas to take Manfred Craig and I up toward La Luette. Manfred skied down from just below the col. We three had a great view and a fabulous run down from Petite La Luette 3400m.
Started with our longest continuous climb (900m) to the highest point on the trip Pigne d’Arolla 3796m. There were so many people on the summit and it was so windy that this was a bit of a “shit show”. But the views (again Mont Blanc to Matterhorn and much else) were still nothing short of spectacular. So-so run down to the incredibly located Cabane des Vignettes.
Arguably the most spectacular day of the tour as we did it. Up and down three cols (Col de L’Eveque and Col de Mont Brulee on boot crampons and a nice ski over Col de Valpelline). Then we had a 2000m descent between glacier crevasses and under the imposing north face of the Matterhorn to the quintessential European ski resort Zermatt.
Drinks and pizza in town before our guides had to leave. And dinner with “the lads” as I came to think of the Toronto crew.
– completely different than any of my previous ski trips
– snow was rarely great, occasionally pretty crappy
– the speed of the group was never a problem for me. The lads were not experienced backcountry skiers, and much was new to them. Craig and Don were generally a little faster than me. And of course, Thomas and Phillipe were far stronger and truly great especially as a team.
– the fabulous weather and therefore views really made the trip for me.
– the number of people travelling with us was I guess to be expected. But I’m not used to seeing fifty people in eight groups ahead of me and a few less behind me
– I absolutely recommend the experience and could even imagine doing it again on a somewhat different route. But there are many other European Hut to Hut tours that are possible.
I skied on my own. Everyone else more interested in resting and sightseeing.
A day of skiing off lifts on groomed runs – 97 Swiss francs ($134 cdn). A day of skiing back and forth between Switzerland and Italy, on 14 vastly different and far apart lifts, on two sides of the Matterhorn, at up to 3880m, and in brilliant weather – Priceless!
Dinner with all eight of us and goodbye to the lads.
Manfred and I took the lift to the Klein Matterhorn (the highest ski lift in the Alps) and then ski toured up to the Breithorn 4160m. This is probably the easiest 4000m peak to bag in Europe. In the afternoon I skied the parts of the massive Zermatt ski resort that I hadn’t done the day before and Manfred enjoyed the Cervinia Zermatt runs that I saw yesterday.
As I write this Manfred and I are en route to Innsbruck for three days before we transfer to Stilfs/Stelvio for our second ski tour. This time the “Cappuccino Traverse” in the Ortler Mountains in northern Italy.
My better photos are on my Flickr album:
- Stamina required
- Up to 10 hrs/day
- Mid-size backpacks
- Steep, glaciated terrain
- Difficult skiing
- Rappelling Section
- As above but more strenuous, hazardous and more exposed climbing with crampons required
(6 days of touring)
Sunday to Sunday
Feb. 25 – Mar 4
Mar. 4 – 11
Mar. 11 – 18
Mar. 18 – 25
Mar. 25 – Apr 1
Apr. 1 – 8
Apr. 8 – 15
Apr. 15 – 22
Apr. 22 – 29
Apr. 29 – May 7
Custom trips any time, duration and itinerary!
Guide & guide expenses, 3 x hotel Chamonix, Champex & Zermatt, 4 x hut, 5 x dinners, 7 x breakfast, equipment rental, 1 x lift/ gondola, 1 x taxi.
Extra:Luggage transfer to Zermatt (Euro 60), air port shuttles (from Euro 40), 2 x dinner in Chamonix & Zermatt, drinks, lunches
US $90, CA $110
€ 73, £ 65