Southern Alps / Italy (Sud Tirol and Lombardia)
6 Day Backcountry Ski Traverse Hut to Hut on Large Glaciers with Peak Ascents, Long Descents and Italian Hospitality
Ortler Ski Traverse Highlights
- Italy’s best Ski Traverse
- Luxurious Mountain Huts / Lodges
- Warm Showers in all Huts
- Excellent Italian Food
- Ascent of 6 glaciated peaks en route
- Breathtaking scenery / big glaciers
- Add a day of resort skiing in Sulden
The Ortler Ski Traverse is certainly one of the Alps greatest and one of our personal favorites! More of a “skier’s traverse” than a “ski touring” traverse, given the abundance of good ski descents and the fact that we start out with a good boost by the gondola in the quaint town of Sulden / Solda, our start and ending point, right below the mighty Ortler Peak, which gave the range its name.
The Ortler Range boasts some of the largest glaciers in the Eastern Alps with peaks rising to 3900 meters (12800ft). The trip is also of interest from a cultural and historical view, as we travel both through the German speaking South Tirol and the Italian speaking Trentino and Lombardia Provinces. The front lines of WW1 ran straight across the highest ridgelines with remnants from the war still visible high on the glaciers today.
What also puts this trip ahead of many ski traverses in the Western Alps is the high standard of the huts. While located well above tree line next to the glaciers, the huts always offer excellent food, beer on tab and often double or 4 bed rooms with showers / toilets down the hall.
Of course the landscape is breathtaking and the descents are long. Most runs are northerly aspects which preserves powder well into May.
The Ortler Alps Ski Traverse: Day-to-Day Itinerary
Day 1: Travel day: Arrive at our Hotel in Sulden / Solda (BZ) reachable by car or public transport from Innsbruck (2.5 hrs), Munich (3.5 hrs), Bozen / Bolzano (1.15 hrs), Verona (2.5 hrs) or Venice (3.5 hrs). Usually, our guides can provide a ride from a train station or airport close by. Dinner with the guide, equipment check, trip briefing and lodging in our hotel.
Day 2: Gondola ride to the Schaubach Hut, then a chairlift to the Madrtischjoch to just over 3100 m. Short climb to the Hintere Schoentaufspitze (Jorg, the head guide’s first ski touring summit at the age of 11 when the lifts didn’t go quite so high…..), then descend to the Zufall Huette (Rifugio Nino Corsi, 2265 m) for a short brake. From there, a well trodded track leads in about 1.5 hrs to the higher Marteller Hut (2600m). Time and fitness allowing, we often manage an ascent of the Cima Marmotta (3330) followed by a fun northern aspect run back down to the hut for lodging and dinner.
Day 3: Many options to get to the Branca Hut today: 1) Either straight via the Casati Hut (stop for Cappuccino!) and via Pizzini and Forno Huts or 2) climb the Monte Cevedale (3760 m) and descent the Cedec Glacier, then re-ascend steeply to the Monte Pasquale Col (and the short side trip to the summit) or 3) climb the summit of the Palon del Mar (3690m) to descend straight down to the Branca Hut (2500m) which is famous for it’s great food and ambiance. This is only one reason why we will stay there for three nights.
Day 4 and 5: Day trips from the Branca Hut, which offers many excellent options including the Pizzo Tresero (3550m), Punta San Matteo (3680m), Monte Cevedale (3760 m) or Palon del Mar (3690m). The Branca Hut is one of the very bast possible bases for day trips in glaciated terrain in the eastern Alps offering lots of northern aspect skiing, which tends to preserve good powder snow well into the spring.
Day 6: Changeover to the Pizzini Hut (2700 meters), either via the steep climb to the Cevedale / Pasquale Col (3430 Meters) folowed by a climb of the Monte Pasquale. Rewarding descent down the northern aspect Cedec Glacier or more mellow up the Cedec Valley, the latter would give us some options for shorter afternoon skiing around the hut.
Day 7: Climb via Casati Hut (with the option to continue to the Monte Cevedale (3780 m)), then to the Sulden Spitze (3200 meters) and descent (eventually on the ski runs of the resort) all the way to Sulden for lodging in our hotel. .
Day 8: Departure after breakfast or continuation with one of our other ski touring trips in the Alps.
Detail and Logistics
Meet your guide at 6PM for drinks and dinner at our Hotel in Sulden / Solda (BZ) or in Stilfs / Stelvio (BZ).
Arrival Airports / Distances to Starting Point
Stilfs / Stelvio (BZ) is quietly located on a terrace high above the Etsch / Adige Valley about 14 km = 20 minutes from the starting point of our trip at the Gondola Station in Sulden / Solda (BZ). Stilfs / Stelvio is reachable by car from the Airport Bozen / Bolzano (95 km, 1.5 hrs), Airport Innsbruck (160 km, 2.5 hrs), Verona Airport(240 km, 3 hrs), Venice Marco Polo Airport (360 km, 4 hrs)Munich Strauss Airport (300 km, 4.15 hrs) and Milano Malpensa Airport (410 km, 4.45 hrs). Most of our guests seem to fly into one of the the latter three airports as they tend to offer much higher volumes and lower fares, which Munich probably being the most popular and economical.
For private groups / custom itineraries we also offer to start the trip in St. Caterina di Valfura (230 km, 3.15 hrs) close to Bormio on the southern side of the Ortles / Ortler range.
For entire groups arriving together or individual participants we can assist in arranging shared transfers / airport shuttles.
Public Transport / Travel Logistics
Public transport from the South (Bozen / Bolzano, Verona, Venice, Milan):
Train via Bozen / Bolzano – Meran / Marano to Pad / Prado, then switch to Bus to Stilfs / Stelvio and on to Sulden / Solda.
Public transport options from the North (Munich / Innsbruck / Vienna):
Train to Landeck, bus to Nauders, Mals / Malles, Prad / Prado, Stilfs / Stelvio and Sulden / Solda
We gladly assist you by providing current bus schedules and helping with your local travel logistics. The public transport sounds very complicated requiring quite a few switches from bus to bus, especially when arriving from the north (Munich and Innsbruck) but it works surprisingly well as continuing buses are usually already waiting such as when switching in Nauders from the Austrian to the Italian / South Tirolian public bus system.
We can also arrange airport / train station pick ups / drop offs and we gladly assist our participants to coordinate their local transport. Often our guides can provide a ride or pick you up at a train station / airport.
Mid February – Mid May, with mid March – end of April being the most popular time.
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
Guiding by an internationally (UIAGM/IFMGA) certified, multilingual, mountain guide or guide aspirant under supervision, 5 nights in huts / mountain lodges in multi-bed rooms with half board, 2 nights hotel lodging with dinner and breakfast, use of technical equipment: Harnesses, crampons, rope, carabineers, all trip organization and assistance with your pre-and post trip arrangements.
Not Included (but can be quoted separately)
Air travel, lunches (sandwiches and snacks can be purchased in the huts), beverages (except for breakfast), transport from and to the meeting point in Sulden / Solda, use of avalanche safety equipment (shovel, probe and avalanche transceiver), gondola ride to Madritschjoch on the first day of the trip, any added cost due to itinerary changes.
Strenuous backcountry ski tour in alpine, often 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). In other words, you don’t have to be an excellent skier but rather a solid mountain skier with good “survival skiing skills” to where you are able to negotiate even adverse snow conditions without falling while still raveling at a decent pace. You need to be in very good physical and mental condition, ready to be on your feet for about 8-10 hrs on your feet daily including, steep, continuous uphill climbs of up to 1200 meters (4100 ft) on some of the days. Some of the peak ascents require scrambling along exposed ridges on crampons, however the more challenging peak ascents can also be “waited out at the ski depot” and the guide will carry a rope for those clients who prefer a belay. There is the option for a midweek rest day as we will be staying two nights in the same hut. We do not recommend this trip for backcountry ski touring beginners
Can the Ortler Ski Traverse be done on a split board?
Generally, the Ortler Ski Traverse gets done quite regularly on a split board, however it takes a very boarder, who is comfortable boarding with a heavier pack and who can negotiate some of the low angle descents and wavey sections in “walk mode”. You would need ski crampons for your board and needs to be comfortable to descent in “ski mode” in the low angle and wavey bits as otherwise it’s too time consuming to step out of the board every time a small hump needs to be climbed up. All in all, the Ortler trip is probably most suited for a split boarder.
Also, in case a party needs to rope up in bad visibility, skiing tends to be easier than boarding thanks to the availability of the snow plow position. Generally, split boarders tend to take more time as the transitions from climbing to downhill tend to take a bit longer and the low angle descents are a bit more time consuming on a board.
Ortler Ski Traverses – One of the Alps greatest and one of our personal favorites!
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
“Walter was excellent, the best guide I have had. Very informative and tolerate in every way. Food and lodging was for the most part good. You guys were great as far as trip organization / communication
Itinerary was good which we had to change due to weather conditions 10/10.”
—Richard, K,. CA, USA
“Very good performance by Walter, a positive energy and great guiding! Lodging was top quality except the one highest in the Ortler System. Communication/trip organisation was very good. 10/10 ”
—Timo P, Sweden
“In summary I was really happy with every aspect of the trip that OnTop we responsible for. The administrative support from you too, and Jorg at times, was super – quick, helpful, accurate – from beginning to end. When we had questions about travel planning you went out of your way to get answers and make suggestions.
Once we arrived in the Ortler area, everything worked great – Walter met us as planned. As you know the big wrinkle was the skis not showing up for 4 of our party and boots not showing up for 2 (you might suggest to future parties that they not put their boots in their ski bag). Walter was super-flexible (it probably drove him crazy) and went out of his way to work around this problem, he got on the phone and found skis and boots that worked as well as could be expected, and was creative in thinking up itineraries that gave us flexibility in case the gear showed up after we started. As a guide he is very competent in a quiet but appropriately-present and directive way. He was clear about safety concerns and about the implications of decisions and explained his thinking well. He made sure we were travelling at the right times and places given snow conditions. All in all we were really happy with him.
The lodging was super – as you know better than we’re used to in the mountains. Traube Hotel in Stills seemed to work fine, it was very quiet when we were there so we had good service, and the drive up to Sulden is short.
I’d give the experience and OnTop support – ski issues aside – a 10/10 and would unreservedly recommend the trip and you to friends.”
—David T., BC, Canada
“Enjoyed the trip very much. Walter did a good job, given the fact that we were 4 individuals with different personalities / expectations. I would use OnTop again.”
—Richard D., London, UK
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 (457 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)
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. Hut lodging
• Spare underwear, socks
• Toiletries (minimum supply with small containers for soap and shampoo)
• Very small towel
• 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 or duvets are provided by the hut
• Light hut slippers (optional). Some huts provide them, others don’t.
• Alpine Club card, if you are a member
• Ear plugs (optional but can be very useful)
4. 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. – chocolates and candy bars can also be purchased in the huts)
• 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
Ortler Ski Traverse Custom Trips / Private Group Departures:
Ortler Private Group Pricing:
Why not find some friends and put together your own group? For private groups, we can offer the following pricing assuming the same inclusions :
4 participants: Our advertised per person price
5 participants: 8% discount of the advertised per person price
6 participants 13% discount
7 participants 16% discount
8 participants 20% discount
Ortler Private Group / Custom trips Itinerary Options:
A great way to acclimatize and to expand your trip by a day or two is to add ski touring days based at the starting point of our Ortler Traverse, the town of Sulden / Solda. The large gondola and two long chairlifts (Kanzel and Langenstein) provide a morning boost into the alpine and also offer really good off piste skiing options that are available with only relatively short ascents.
For custom departures, we can also extend or shorten the trip. Each hut offers enough ski touring terrain to keep us well entertained for an entire trip in itself.
For groups arriving from the south (Milano) it makes logistics much easier to start and end the trip at the Forno Hut just outside of the Italian resort town of Bormio. If so, we can reverse the entire loop or quite often we stick with the Italian speaking side of the range only (Forno Hut, Branca Hut, Pizzini Hut and Casati Hut) which makes the traverse less committing and overall a bit easier.
- Up to 9hrs/day
- Requires stamina!
- roped glacier travel
- exposed, steep trails
- some scree slopes
7 nights, 6 days of touring
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 6
Custom trips any time, duration and itinerary!
Included: Guide & Guide expenses, 2 x hotel, 5 x hut, 7 x 4 course dinners, 7 x breakfast, equipment rental (harness, crampons, rope, carabiner)
Not Included: Gondola ride, taxis, airport shuttles, drinks, lunches, avalanche safety equipment (shovel, probe and avalanche transceiver)