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, Bolzano, reachable by car or public transport from Innsbruck (2½ hrs), Munich (3½ hrs), Bozen / Bolzano (1¼ hrs), Verona (2½ hrs) or Venice (3½ hrs). Sometimes our guides can provide a ride from a nearby train station or airport. Dinner with the guide and group, equipment check, and trip briefing.
Day 2: Gondola ride to the Schaubach Hut, then a chairlift to the Madrtischjoch at just over 3,100 m. It is a 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 we will descend to the Zufall Hut (Rifugio Nino Corsi, 2,265 m) for a short break. From there, a well-trodden track leads in about 1½ hrs to the higher Marteller Hut (2,600m). Time and fitness allowing, we often manage an ascent of the Cima Marmotta (3,330 m) followed by a fun, north-facing run back down to the hut for lodging and dinner.
Day 3: Many options can get us to the Branca Hut (2,493 m): 1) Either via the Casati Hut (stop for cappuccino!) and via Pizzini and Forno Huts or 2) climb the Monte Cevedale (3,760 m) and descend the Cedec Glacier, then re-ascend steeply to the Monte Pasquale Col (and take a short side trip to the summit) or 3) climb the summit of the Palon del Mar (3,690 m) and descend straight down to the Branca Hut which is famous for its great food and ambiance. This is only one reason why we will stay there for three nights.
Days 4 and 5: Day trips from the Branca Hut, which offers many excellent options including ascents of Pizzo Tresero (3,550 m), Punta San Matteo (3,680 m), Monte Cevedale (3,760 m) or Palon del Mar (3,690 m). The Branca Hut is one of the very best bases for day trips in glaciated terrain in the eastern Alps, offering plenty of northerly-aspect skiing, which tends to preserve good powder snow well into the spring.
Day 6: Move to the Pizzini Hut (2,700 meters) via a steep climb to the Cevedale / Pasquale Col (3,430 m) followed by a climb of Monte Pasquale (3,553 m). We can choose between a rewarding descent down the north-facing Cedec Glacier or take more mellow terrain in the Cedec Valley. The latter would give us the option for afternoon skiing around the hut. The Pizzini Hut has a great sauna – towels provided!
Day 7: Climb via Casati Hut (with the option to ascend Monte Cevedale (3,780 m)), then to the Sulden Spitze (3,200 m) and descend (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).
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.
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 :
2 participants: 50% premium in addition to our advertised per person price
3 participants: 30% premium in addition to our advertised per person price
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.
Our Ortler Ski Traverse begins from Sulden / Solda (BZ) at the Gondola Station. Sulden/Solda is reachable by car or public transport 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.
Public Transport: From the South (Bozen / Bolzano, Verona, Venice, Milan)
1. Train with via Trentitalia to Bozen / Bolzano – Meran / Marano to Prad am Stifserjoch / Prato Allo Stelvio (Venosta Valley)
2. Then Public Bus to Stilfs / Stelvio and on to Sulden / Solda: STA – Sudtiroler Transport for train & bus timetables.
Public Transport: From the North (Munich / Innsbruck / Vienna)
1. Train to Landeck
If you arrive Munich, then train with Deutsche Bahn DB to Landeck-Zams
If you arrive Innsbruck, train with OEBB services to Landeck-Zams
If you arrive Vienna, train with OEBB services to Landeck-Zams:
2. Public Bus from Landeck / Zams to Sulden/Solda
From Landeck then Bus to Nauders, Mals / Malles, Prad / Prato, Stilfs / Stelvio and Sulden / Solda
Click Here for current bus schedules from Landeck to Sulden/Solda
For detailed bus schedules with the relevant carrier for each leg, you can also use the following links of each national bus carrier (Please enter departure and arrival into the web site and adjust for your travel date):
1) Landeck Zams Bahnhof – to Nauders Muehle
Departures are roughly hourly and there is a direct connection (takes about 1 hour) or a connection that requires switching to a Swiss bus coming across the Swiss border (“confin”) and then going to Nauders (1.20 hrs). In either case, in Nauders the bus connects with the Italian / South Tirolian bus, which tends to be waiting there.
The first leg from Nauders to Mals features hourly departures through the main valley named Vintschgau / Val Venosta to Mals. This leg takes about 37 minutes to Mals Bahnhof, where one connects to the bus to Stilfs / Stelvio and Sulden / Solda. Unfortunately, there are only 3 bus departures to Sulden from Stilfs, the last one departing Stilfs at 17.02. Total trip duration from Nauders is a little over 2 hrs to Sulden / Solda and requires two or three bus switches. Should you miss the last departure to Sulden / Solda your options are to take a taxi (cost around Euro 70) or we can recommend the Hotel Traube in the center of the village of Stilfs / Stelvio right next to the bus stop, which offers excellent food and good value rooms. The first bus leaves shortly after 7 in the morning.
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.
Private Transport: We can also arrange airport / train station pick ups / drop offs and we gladly assist our participants to coordinate their local transport.
An example of costs: Innsbruck airport to Sulden: starting from euro350 one way
Often our guides can provide a ride or pick you up at a train station / airport from either Innsbruck or Brixen / Bressanone.
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.
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.
Do we need boot crampons?
Boots-crampons are always a delicate subject. Whether clip-binding in front or behind, one fits on one shoe and not on the other or vice versa. The crampons that always fit are paradoxically the ones that are slowest to put on, those with a strap-binding front and back. The weight is a very important factor, as well the protective cover to store them safely in the backpack. On Monte Cevedale, for example, we would not make it up to the summit (in certain weather conditions) without crampons. And on Monte Pasquale can be challenging without crampons because of 15 meters of hard ground.
Please bring a pair along and if the guide feels you do not need them, they can be left with your luggage at the hotel.
Additional extra’s we can purchase at the huts and will need cash for?
All of the huts offer a three to four course dinner (soup, at times salad, meat entrée and dessert) and breakfast (coffee or tea, bread, butter, jam, cheese, at times also sausage) which is included in your trip price.
Special dietary needs can usually be only accommodated to a limited extent in the huts, be sure to remind your guide each day upon arrival at the huts.
Drinks are also available at the Huts from € 3-6. Good bottled wine is € 20-35/bottle. The water at Branca and Pizzini is officially not drinkable (but our guides say “although it is good”).
When showers are available they cost around € 3, or shower + towel is around € 5.
A Sauna is available at Rifugio Pizzini for € 15.
Make sure to take some EUR cash for the extras in the huts (no credit card at Branca).
You can purchase lunch food at the huts no problem! You can also buy lunch food in the valleys before departing on the ski traverse. Snacks and sandwiches are also for sale in the huts from € 14 to 20 (1 pasta or meat + 1 big drink à la carte).
What is the best Topo Map for the Ortler Range?
The best printed topo map is the #8 Tabacco “Gruppo di Ortles / Ortlergruppe” which can be ordered from Omnimap in the US$ and Canada at US$16 plus shipping or you can buy it just about in every shop around Sulden for Euro 8.50. PWhile carrying a printed map is a good idea we also recommend mapping apps for smart phones like Gaia and Alpenvereinaktiv.
Can we refill our BCA canisters or rent ABS packs in Europe?
We haven’t seen the BCA System in South Tyrol. If the cartridges are different from those of ABS, Mammut etc. then it might be difficult to find them. Anyway, you should look for it in bigger cities before arriving in the area. Generally in spring in higher mountain regions people use less airbags. The glacier equipment makes the backpacks quite heavy, so for some people adding an airbag system seems too much.
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 a very good guide. We felt secured in the mountains with him. He also knows the area a lot. His company was good although he seems to be a little tired after many days in the mountains. We also had a very good time with Kurt. He is a real gentleman! We really liked him! General trip organisation and the communication were perfect. The itinerary was also very good. We decided together to stay 3 nights at Branca Hut for better skiing and it was a good choice. Incredible lodging and food quality. It was one of the highlights of our trip. I will definitely recommend Ontop to my friends. 10/10” Eric B., Quebec, Canada
“Everything went great on the trip save a little bad weather. Walter was great and lodging etc exceeded expectations. I would recommend OnTop in the future.” Micah H., USA
“Long story short, we could not have asked for a better guide than Kurt. He was incredibly professional and accommodating of everybody in the group, made us feel safe throughout the expedition, provided consistent, helpful feedback on how we could improve our own techniques and knowledge in the mountains, and was generally just a great guy and fun person to hang out with. We would 100% go on another trip with Kurt (and intend to!), and would highly recommend him to anyone looking to do the Ortler or any other kind of similar trip! I thought all of the communications and trip information sent out was incredibly helpful and thorough. It’s difficult to know exactly what you’re going to need for a trip like this given the hut conditions and physical requirements on the mountains, and you all definitely helped us navigate these unknowns well. My only suggestion might be to provide one or two quick check in emails closer to the start of the trip, more to help prevent people from rushing to buy things at the last second than anything else 🙂 Itinerary was perfect in every way (for us at least). I really don’t have anything to add here, great work!
Huts/Lodging: The endless pasta helpings kept us alive and energized on the trip, and the food was great for the trip, not to mention delicious. Lodging conditions were actually better than expected, which was a great surprise as well.
That said, there are a few things I would suggest emphasizing more strongly in the trip details / itinerary that’s sent out in advance of the trip:
1. HIGHLY encourage people to bring earplugs (not just an optional nice to have) — we ended up bunking with some serious snore-ers and the ear plugs saved the night for me. A few of my bunk-mates were less lucky and I know this was definitely a point of frustration for them.
2. Make sure people bring extra cash for the huts. Even with buying lunches, showers, and post-trek beers, we cut it a bit too close. Perhaps suggesting 50-70 euros per night per person or something similarly specific.
3. Bring extra ski socks. For our crew at least, this was the larger contributor to the lodging “stink” factor and could have been helped by one or two extra sets per person.
12/10! But seriously, we had THE best time on the trip and haven’t been able to stop bragging about it to our friends and family. Keep up the great work and we can’t wait to embark on another adventure with OnTop (and Kurt)!” Carl T., CA, USA
“Kurt was fantastic. Literally could not have asked for better. His knowledge and respect of the mountain were encouraging. He not only inspired confidence in us, he took ample time throughout the trip to share his knowledge from improving skinning/kickturns to highly technical rescue techniques. He was positive and encouraging while pushing us the exact right amount so that we got the most out of our trip. Organization was great. The one thing that might have been helpful, is doing some sort of video/virtual gear check before the trip. Everything worked out fine but I did do some scrambling last minute to make sure I had the right gear. Doing a gear check a month out or a few weeks out would allow ample time to replace anything that was insufficient for the trip. Due to uncertainty, I definitely brought wayyyyy to much stuff. Help paring that down in advance of the trans-atlantic trip would be helpful. Itinerary was fantastic. Loved the starting point and welcome dinner. The first and last days were by far the easiest which was great. Having the hardest days as the 2nd and 2nd to last was perfect. Each of the huts we stayed at were great, well located. The lodging and food was fantastic. We didnt eat a bad meal. Definitely a 10! …especially if I get some sort of referral discount 🙂 haha ” Simon W., CA, USA
“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
“Outstanding. We really enjoyed Walter’s guiding style and his ability to quickly assess our group and adjust the touring appropriately. The trip was very well organized and everything went as planned. A great tour and well designed itinerary. We appreciated the Hotel Cevedale and the ability to ski to the hotel. Plenty of food and comfortable huts. 10/10!! We hope to be back again soon.” Stefan S., USA
“Martino was excellent. Knowledgeable, professional. Went above and beyond both on and outside the trip. A little more direction about how to get to solda in terms of options may have been helpful but we appreciate the communication. 9/10 – Thanks guys. We had fun!!” Matt P., Canada
1. Technical Equipment:
- Alpine touring skis, for spring ski touring no wider than 100mm underfoot
- Alpine touring boots, compatible with touring binding.
- Adjustable ski poles
- Climbing skins, well glued and precisely fitted to your skis (leaving the edges free once applied to ski base).
- Digital avalanche transceiver
- Lightweight, metal snow shovel
- Avalanche probe
- Backpack, medium sized (about 40 – 50 liters = 180 – 210 square inches) with outside straps to attach skis and crampons
- Climbing harness (preferably without padding) for glacier travel
- Ski crampons compatible with your skis and bindings
- Boot Crampons, lightweight if possible, compatible with your ski boot
- One triple action locking or two conventional locking carabiners
- Crevasse rescue equipment, if you are familiar with it. (Prusik slings, webbing, pulleys, auto-locking device). Your guide will bring a full set.
- Repair kit / spare parts for your bindings (optional) Ski touring or skiing helmet (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, nose protection for spring ski touring useful)
- Sun screen and lip protection
- Thermos bottle (ideally 0.7 liters) and / or water bottle
- 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
- Hand Sanitizer or Sanitary hand wipes
- Up to 9hrs/day
- Requires stamina!
- roped glacier travel
- exposed, steep trails
- some scree slopes
7 nights, 6 days of touring, Sunday-Sunday
Feb. 24 – Mar. 3
Mar. 3 – 10
Mar. 10 – 17
Mar. 17 – 24
Mar. 24 – 31
Mar 31 – Apr 7
Apr. 7 – 14
Apr. 14 – 21
Apr. 21 – 28
Apr. 28 – May 5
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)