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Hut-to-hut ski touring is one of the Alps’ great wintertime traditions. People have been doing it for more than 100 years and as a result the central European mountain chain is chock-full of excellent huts and amazing routes.
Unlike off-piste skiing or resort skiing, there is a real sense of purpose on a hut-to-hut adventure. While you’re still able to disconnect from the modern world and enjoy nature’s sublime beauty, it also feels like you have a daily mission.
One of the best qualities of a hut-to-hut ski tour is how diverse they can be in terms of landscapes and terrains. They also come in a range of difficulties, so ski tourers of every level have something that suits their needs.
Head out on the Haute Route for some excellent high-altitude skiing and great views or conquer Gran Paradiso as you trek around the base of the massif. There are so many possibilities that it’s hard to fixate on just one.
To help you get your priorities straight, we’ve taken the liberty of compiling a list of places, facts and useful information for some of the Alps’ top spots!
The Haute Route is the most classic of ski touring routes that one could imagine. For more than 100 years skiers have headed out from under the shadow of Mont Blanc past the Matterhorn and into Switzerland.
Known also as the High Route, the week-long trek takes you across sections of the two highest Alpine ridges: the Mont Blanc massif and the Swiss Valais. Most of the tour takes place well above 3.000 meters and includes 1.000 to 1.2000 meter ascents and descents each day.
While you do not need to be an expert skier, you do need to have a high level of physical fitness and be a competent off-piste skier in order to enjoy yourself properly.
As you go from one quaint little mountain hut to the next, you will enjoy some of the Alps’ finest scenery, including views of massive glaciers, pristine forests and valleys as well as steep mountain slopes.
In the middle of the route, there are two variations: the Verbier and Valsory. The Verbier is the easier route and by far the most popular, while the Valsory requires a bit more climbing in order to traverse the Plateau du Couloir.
Some guides also offer the route in reverse or combine it with a ski mountaineering ascent of Mont Blanc prior to the beginning of the trip. If you are up for it, these are excellent options as well.
Located in central Switzerland and home to the Jungfrau, Mönch and Eiger massif, the Bernese Oberland ski traverse is a real treat for ski tourers of every level.
The traverse is widely considered to have some of the best views in all of the Alps, as the bulk of the skiing is done high up in the mountains and there is no need to descend all the way to the valley floor. For this reason as well, it’s the perfect late season ski tour, with solid snow packs into May.
The tour, which takes about a week but can be done in less time, crosses the massif high up on its mountain slopes. You will be able to take advantage of excellent glacier skiing as you head from one to the next until you reach the Aletschgletscher, which is the largest in the Alps.
Descents are not very steep during this tour, 30 degrees or fewer, so it is a great ski touring opportunity for intermediate skiers. However, you should be prepared to trek in skins for four to five hours each day.
The traverse is also an excellent opportunity to head up some of the more minor 4.000 meter summits on the massif and enjoy thrilling descents down.
Circumnavigating the Gran Paradiso massif, the tallest mountain solely in Italy, this hut-to-hut traverse takes you through one of the most beautiful national parks in the entire mountain range.
The tour is incredibly pleasant with fewer skiers generally on the massif than would be on Mont Blanc or in Switzerland and the Italian hospitality at the mountain huts is simply marvelous. The trip generally culminates with a ski mountaineering venture to the summit of the massif.
This requires a high level of physical fitness as well as the use of crampons and ice axes toward the top. The climb can be a bit strenuous and finishes with a short rock scramble to the summit at the very end. Even so, no formal mountaineering experience is required.
Once you’ve made it to the top, the views out over the Aosta Valley and toward Mont Blanc are simply stunning. Skiing back down is also excellent, with nothing steeper than 35 degrees and many long uninterrupted descents boasting fantastic views.
Since most of the skiing takes place within the national park, there is very little infrastructure meaning that views are unimpeded and a lot of wildlife may be seen throughout the trip, perfect for nature lovers.
Idyllic little villages are also located throughout the mountain’s flanks and half the fun of this ski tour is enjoying the lovely mountain culture. Fresh coffee, delicious food and incredible wine await each morning and evening as you prepare or unwind from our day out on the slopes.
Perfectly suited for first-time ski tourers, the Silvretta traverse combines gorgeous scenery with fantastic snow and excellent skiing conditions.
Located along the Swiss Austrian border, just to the south of the well-known Arlberg resort, this traverse takes you across the Silvretta Range. It is perfect for intermediate off-piste skiers with no ski touring experience and relevant skills can be taught en route.
Along the way, you will cross gentle glaciers and cols and have the opportunity to climb some of the smallest summits in the Alps. These range from about 3.000 to 3.300 meters, but some require the use of ice axes and crampons to climb.
The traverse takes you from east to west and the huts are perfectly located, allowing you to head over a few steep mountain passes per day before heading down into lower valleys.
You should expect to ascend between 600 and 1.000 meters each day and will be rewarded for these efforts with incredibly pleasant descents that are never more than 30 degrees.
Lovely mountain huts are interspersed throughout these valleys and offer another great aspect of the trip, unwinding with local food and beer. Take advantage of cozy surroundings and hot showers, which are always welcome after a five to eight hour day of skiing.
Situated in the South Tyrol region of northern Italy, the Ortler ski traverse boasts big glaciers and stunning scenery. These two factors alone make it one of Alps’ top hut-to-hut skiing destinations.
In the shadow of Ortler Peak, you will enjoy summiting several 3.000 meter mountains as well as thrilling runs back down their glaciated slopes again.
Each day brings you something slightly different, with expeditions to the top of La Confinale (3.370m), Piz Tresero (3.594m), Piz Palon de la Mare (3.703m) and Piz Cevedale (3.769m) serving as daily highlights.
Along the way, you will also tour the big and beautiful Forni glacier, enjoying spectacular views from its summit out over the Adamello massif, and finish the tour skiing on the Colle Pale Rosse, which is arguably the most beautiful part of the entire trip.
Be prepared to spend about 3.5 to eight hours skiing each day, taking in as many views and making as many runs as you can. The end of each day is met with a spectacular stay at a different mountain hut.
These mountain huts offer hot showers, comfortable beds, incredible food and local wine. What could be better to unwind and recharge than these?
Another equally lovely part of the tour is experiencing some of the culture. This part of Italy is a German-speaking region and enjoys unique traditions compared with the rest of the country. Take advantage of this on your trip as well.
With so many different options, it’ll certainly be hard for you to choose which of these itineraries to try this season. Make sure to book at least one and regardless of where you go, you’re sure to enjoy fantastic scenery, great mountain huts and plentiful powder!
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