Ski Touring: Explore Chamonix’s Backcountry

9 April, 2021 | Reccy Guide

You love being on skis, but the crowded runs of your ski resort make you miss the peaceful mountain air that you were seeking? Ski Touring and Snowboarding in Chamonix might be for you. The town and its surrounding ski resorts offer spectacular trails to explore the remote areas of the Valley, so put on your skis and get ready to have your breath taken away.

Explore trip itineraries, accommodation, transport, required gear, fitness plan, insurance and more

Backcountry Skiing/Snowboarding and Ski Touring: what is it and who is it for?

You might find backcountry skiing/snowboarding and ski touring used interchangeably as they refer to the same activity – the term used depends on where you are coming from. 

Just as freeriding, ski touring takes place on off-piste terrain (check out our article on freeriding in Chamonix and learn more about the practice). However, ski touring presents two differences from freeriding:

  • It will take you to remote areas and allow you to enjoy the mountain at its most pristine state, without anyone disturbing the silence and wildlife around you. If you are looking to reconnect to nature and get away from the noise of daily life, this is an adventure you might enjoy. 
  • The second main aspect of ski touring is that it focuses on the ascent rather than on the descent. Avid ski tourers find satisfaction in the challenge of climbing uphill using skins, a piece of fabric attached to the base of the skis, rather than using ski lifts. If you want to descend using a snowboard, you can ascend with a splitboard – a snowboard that separates into two ski-like halves. Despite not being the focus, the descent will still bring you the thrills you’re looking for as you will be able to ride down on the fresh powder of the mountain you just climbed.

Ski touring is targeted at physically fit skiers/snowboarders with previous experience on off-piste terrain, as you will have to handle varying types of snow and higher risks of hazards such as crevasses and avalanches. Because of this, it is also necessary to hire a local mountain guide to ensure your safety and enjoy your expedition worry-free.

View of Amazing Snow SlopesView of Amazing Snow Slopes

When should I go?

Ski touring can be enjoyed in winter and in spring, each season offering different experiences. Winter will offer greater chances to ride on powder snow, the ultimate wish of any skier or snowboarder. Powder snow, however, will require better skiing/snowboarding skills. Spring on the other hand will be more suitable for intermediate/beginners, as skiing on what is called corn snow will be easier while still enjoyable.

Backcountry/Ski Touring in Chamonix

There are few places in the world as famous as Chamonix when it comes to winter sports, and ski touring is one of the activities for which the region is renowned for. Ski touring can be enjoyed either as day trips or as several days excursions during which you will be sleeping in mountain huts – a practice called hut-to-hut skiing. No matter what your preferences are, the town and its surroundings offer countless options to enjoy the beauty of the neighboring mountain ranges while ski touring, and here are some of the most popular ones:

  • Chamonix-Zermatt Haute Route: amongst the most classic ski traverses in the world, this route linking France and Switzerland will take you between 5 and 8 days to complete. You will cross the heart of the Alps, ascending and descending through glaciers and steep slopes and sleeping in mountain huts amongst fellow skiers and mountaineers. The views you will get on this route are second to none and will make the challenge of the physical effort and high altitude much easier to deal with.
  • Mont Blanc Massif: if you want to admire the highest mountain of Europe from close-up, ski touring on Mont Blanc can be a dream. Many incredible runs can be enjoyed within the Mont Blanc Massif, and some of the most well-known ski touring areas include Courmayeur (on the Italian side) and la Vallée Blanche. For more information about Vallée Blanche, check out our article about it. Any expedition in this area will present challenges, but the views in front of you will make you forget all about it. 
  • Grand Massif: Le Grand Massif offers three main areas for ski touring, namely Flaine, Les Carroz, and Morillon. Flaine has been a destination for ski touring for some time already and is known for its great snow conditions. You will also be able to enjoy 360° views of the nearby Mont Blanc. Les Carroz and Morillon on the other hand have only recently implemented signposted ski touring tracks, so make sure to hit the trails while it is still relatively unknown.

The region of Chamonix is a heaven for ski touring, whether you are an experienced or intermediate skier/snowboarder. If you want to find peace through physical challenge, breathtaking views and secluded trails, this experience might be just for you.

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