The Haute Route Ski Tour is the most famous ski tour in the world and a classic mountain journey. Connecting the two alpine centres of Chamonix and Zermatt, the route offers everything you’d expect on a high mountain ski tour – with glacial terrain every day, amazing scenery, tough climbs and big ski descents. Our ski guides are ski touring specialists and know the Haute Route intimately. Like most high altitude ski tours, reasonable weather and snow conditions are required on critical sections of the route, but with our 7 day itinerary your chances of reaching Zermatt are greatly increased.
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The Haute Route ski tour is an intermediate level trip. To take part you should be at Fitness Level 3 and Tech Level 3 (see our Fitness/Experience guidelines below). You should have at least one week’s previous ski touring experience (hut to hut preferably, or day touring). However, if you are both a stronger skier and also very fit (Levels 4+) then, in our experience, you can get away with a shorter period of focussed ski touring prep, such as our ski touring skills long weekend.
The touring skills you should have before setting out include:
- Familiarity with touring kit – know how to use touring boots/bindings/skins/harscheisen and other touring kit.
- Skinning skills – have efficient skinning technique and be able to skin safely, including on icy traverses.
- Uphill Kick Turns – safe and efficient uphill kick turns on exposed, steep (up to 35deg) and sometimes icy slopes.
- Skiing with a rucsac – ski well whilst wearing a heavy rucsac (~8kg) containing safety and overnight gear.
- Confidence on steep ground – ability to boot track up steep snow, whilst wearing crampons and being tied onto a rope.
- Steep descents – happy being lowered down steep snow on a rope (either side slipping on skis, or on foot wearing crampons).
- Avalanche Awareness – must have worn an avalanche transceiver before and be aware of basic avalanche safety protocols.
Type of Ascent
We use approximately 30% uplift and 70% skinning on this tour. Skinning VS Skiing – 4350m skinning up, 7300m skiing down on the tour, plus a lift assisted day tour/off piste on day 1.
One UIAGM guide working with 6 clients. Max group size 2 guides and 12 clients.
Outline itinerary (see detailed itinerary for full info)
- Saturday – meet guide Sat PM for briefing.
- Sunday-Saturday – 7 days of guiding and instruction.
- Sunday – travel home.
Included in price
- Guides fees and all guides expenses
- 3 nights accommodation in the Chamonix valley, including breakfast.
- 4 nights accommodation in mountain huts, including breakfast and evening meal.
- 1 nights accommodation in Zermatt/Chamonix, including breakfast (or an additional hut night).
Excluded from price (see course factsheet for cost estimates)
- Evening meals in the Chamonix valley and Zermatt
- Cable cars and taxis
- Lunches and drinks
- Travel to resort
- Equipment hire
Our base and meeting point is the Hotel de La Couronne in the alpine village of Argentiere, 15 mins from Chamonix. The Couronne is a friendly place in the centre of the village, close to ski hire shops, bars, restaurants and bakeries, and within walking distance of the famous Grand Montets ski area. Rooms are provided on a twin (or occasionally triple or quad) sharing basis, but if you wish to book a single room please let us know and we will confirm availability. The hotel has ski and general storage facilities, so any extra luggage can be left until your return to resort at the end of the week. Evening meals can be taken in Argentiere in the hotels partner restaurant. Hotel details can be found on our Accommodation page.
For overnights in the high mountains we will use mountain huts. For more info please read the Using Alpine Huts article which provides an overview of typical facilities, average costs to help you budget for lunches/drinks and general info on hut etiquette.
Return to Chamonix
We will arrange any transport needed during the tour, including the return transfer back from Zermatt to Chamonix – you simply pay for these items direct as we go along.
Please Note: there are numerous different combinations of huts and accommodation along the route and we frequently vary our itineraries to make best use of bookings and current weather and snow conditions. For example – if there is a significant fresh snowfall, the guide will often re arrange hut bookings in order to keep the team safe and increase the chances of success.
Subject to weather and snow conditions, we aim to take the Skiers Verbier Route which gives the most reliable passage to Zermatt:
You should arrange outward travel on Saturday, arriving by 6-7pm latest in time for the briefing at your accommodation. Your guide will run through kit checks and safety routines, as well as hand out any rental equipment, before going on to discuss the current weather and mountain conditions and how these affect our plans. Overnight in the valley.
Before setting off on the Haute Route, we do a warm up and training day – ski touring in the Mont Blanc Massif.
The aim is for you to get in a days acclimatisation, enjoy some good skiing and refresh on your touring skills. During the day we will recap on skinning and kick turns, do some transceiver training and either some crampon and ropework, or glacier skiing.
Each day is a little different, as we tailor the training to peoples’ experience levels, strengths and weaknesses in order to ensure that everyone is properly prepared for the trip.
NB this is a refresher day, not a complete beginners training day – ie some of the skills may be new to you, but you must already be a good off piste skier and have done some ski touring using skins before joining the trip.
Typically ~400m ascent, 2000m descent ~5-6hrs
Grand Montets to the Trient Hut or Albert Premier Hut
From the top of the Grand Montets cable car, a great 600m descent with stunning views leads down on to the Argentiere Glacier, where skins are donned for the first big climb of the trip.
A choice of routes now presents itself – either the Col du Chardonnet or Col du Passon. Both are the same distance, but in recent years the Col du Passon has become more and more popular, since the Col du Chardonnet dried out in 2003 and is now more often a roped down climb rather than a ski descent.
We follow which ever route is in best condition, as both lead on to either the Swiss border and the Trient Hut, or the Le Tour Glacier and the Albert Premier Hut. This first day is quite long, with 1050m of climb and a couple of sections of roped climbing on foot – however the views and high mountain ambiance are amazing. Hut choice depends on the group, current conditions the best combination of hut bookings for the week.
1050m ascent, 1200m descent ~7-8hrs
Val D’Arpette – Verbier – Prafleuri Hut or Mont Fort Hut
The day begins with a few hundred metres of descent down the right bank of the Trient Glacier, followed by a short boot track to reach the Col des Ecandies at the top of the Val D’Arpette.
This deep, north facing valley gives a wonderful long ski run right down to Champex, where we meet a pre arranged minibus to take us the few kilometers down the valley to the Verbier lift system. After lunch on the slopes in Verbier, if heading to the Prafleuri Hut we set off in the afternoon to traverse 3 cols with short descents in between, which leads to the glacier below the Rosablanche and a good north facing decent down to the Prafleuri Hut – this is a long day and we usually arrive at the hut around 5pm.
If staying at the Mont Fort Hut at the end of the day, we can get up a little later and enjoy a quiet descent of the Val D’Arpette before having an afternoon’s off piste skiing around Verbier, as the Mont Fort Hut lies within the Verbier lift system.
700m ascent, 2400m descent ~8-9hrs.
Prafleuri (or Mont Fort) to Dix Hut
From the Prafleuri Hut, an hours skinning leads to the Col des Roux, where the long descending traverse above the Lac de Dix begins. This section of the route is south facing, so in warm weather, must be completed early in the day.
In good conditions with a fast team, various alternatives may be taken here, in order to find some fresh snow. If starting from the Mont Fort Hut, it takes a couple of hours longer to reach the traverse above the Lac de Dix, coming around the North side of the Rosablanche before making a good descent off the Col de Sovereu. Although longer (1400m of ascent to Dix Hut), this route is quieter and offers good skiing.
Either way, at the end of the lake the long climb up to the Dix Hut begins – usually in the afternoon sun. On paper this is quite a short day from the Prafleuri Hut, but the uphill finish in the afternoon heat makes it feel much harder. Luckily the Dix Hut is in a superb position, with a great sunny terrace where you can enjoy the view and a well earned beer before dinner.
900m ascent, 600m descent ~5-7hrs
Pigne D’Arolla to Vignettes Hut or Nacamuli Hut
At 3790m, the Pigne D’Arolla marks the highest point reached on the trip and is a wonderful viewpoint across the whole of the Western Alps.
The ascent from the Dix Hut involves 900m of climb and takes about 3 hours, passing through some steep glacier terrain, including the passage of the Serpentine, which often has to be climbed on foot.
From the summit, it’s a 600m descent down to the Vignettes Hut, which lies perched in a spectacular position on a rocky ridge crest. Here again, in the right conditions it’s sometimes possible to take a different line in order to find fresh snow.
If staying at the Vignettes Hut, this is quite a short day. However, in good weather it’s also possible to continue a further 2.5 hours to the Nacamuli Hut in Italy, which is less well known and makes the last day a couple of hours shorter
950m ascent, 700m descent ~4hrs (1250m ascent, 1350m descent ~6.5hrs to Nacamuli).
Final Day to Zermatt
The final day of the Haute Route is always one of the most memorable days out in any ski mountaineers career – crossing three cols and six glaciers, with a final huge descent down to Zermatt under the North Face of the Matterhorn.
An early start is required to make the first climb up the Col de L’Eveque, before a nice descent and second climb up to the Col du Mont Brule. The final section of this is steep and frequently climbed on foot.
From the Col Brule, the Col Valpelline doesn’t look that far away, but it always takes a good two hours to reach. Cresting the final col, the Matterhorn rears up ahead, opening the way to the final 1900m descent down the Stockji and Zmutt Glaciers to Zermatt.
750m ascent, 2400m descent ~8-10hrs from the Vignettes (or 650m ascent, 7-8hrs from the Nacamuli)
Spare Day – to allow for weather delays.
We’ve been guiding the Haute Route for many years now and our guides are well aware that having an extra day in the itinerary greatly increases your chances of completing the route. It makes the trip a little more expensive, but you get 7 days skiing instead of 6 and it’s definitely worth it if you are serious about reaching Zermatt. If we reach Zermatt on Friday, then Saturday morning will be spent skiing in Zermatt, before returning to Chamonix in the afternoon. PM Overnight in Chamonix valley.
Return travel should be arranged on Sunday morning, after your final nights accommodation.
Location and Travel
Your course starts and finishes in the Chamonix valley.
The most common way to reach Chamonix is fly to Geneva, then take a shared minibus taxi transfer to the Chamonix valley (must be booked in advance).
Flights and transfers
- Fly to Geneva with numerous budget airlines, for an overview of the best options check out the excellent Sky Scanner website.
- Airport transfer from Geneva to Chamonix: www.chamexpress.com / www.alpybus.com / www.mountaindropoffs.com
- Alternatively hire a car at Geneva airport (1.2 hrs drive to Cham).
Other travel options
- Driving from UK, take the ferry or Eurotunnel to Calais/Dunkerque, then 9-10 hours driving on the French Autoroutes (budget approx 80 Euros each way in tolls).
- Euroline coach UK to Chamonix (takes 1 day): www.eurolines.co.uk/en
- Eurostar train from the UK to Lyon, then onward train service to Chamonix (excellent fast service): www.eurostar.com/uk-en
Further information and travel links can be found on our Travel Planning page.
Fitness and Experience
To ski the Haute Route safely and enjoyably you should be at Tech Level 3, Fitness Level 3 and have done at least one weeks previous ski touring (hut to hut preferably, or day touring). If you are both a stronger skier and very fit (ie Level 4 or above for both) then, in our experience, you can get away with a shorter period of focussed ski touring prep beforehand e.g. our Ski Touring Skills Long Weekend. If you are relatively new to ski touring, please read our article – Skiing the Haute Route.
If you need to top up your fitness for this trip, please see our training guidelines.
Please make a self assessment against these levels, and refer to the trip requirements. These are based on what types of snow and conditions you can confidently do regular linked turns in – and just as importantly, what conditions you begin to struggle in. (By ‘linked’ we mean moving from one turn into the next without traversing in between).
Tech Level 1
Intro Off Piste Skier (Advanced Piste Skier). You cruise reds, black runs are challenging but fun and have ventured off piste with varying degrees of success (ie deep snow is still something of a mystery…)
Likely to say: ‘I’d love to learn how to ski well off piste and/or try ski touring’
Our Advice: Definitely go on an Off Piste Skiing Course to improve your ski technique first, before trying ski touring – you’ll get a lot more out of it that way around!
Tech Level 2
Improving Off Piste Skier. You enjoy black runs and the kind of tracked out off piste terrain found around many big resorts, but you haven’t skied too much in properly deep snow without a base to it yet.
Likely to say: ‘I’d like to ski well in powder/link lots of short radius turns/go ski touring’
Our Advice: An Off Piste Skiing Course is highly recommended. If you’d like to try ski touring, then do either an intro ski touring course or an intro level ski tour.
Tech Level 3
Confirmed Off Piste Skier. You can put down a reasonable set of tracks in powder, but difficult snow types – eg heavy wet snow, crusts, poor visibility or 40dg slopes – can all cause problems (though you can cope with them safely, if not elegantly!)
Likely to say: ‘I’d like to handle difficult snow/steep slopes more confidently in better style’
Our Advice: Off piste coaching still useful. Intermediate off piste weeks are at your level too. If you want to get into ski touring, try a touring course or intro level ski tour. If you’re an established ski mountaineer, then intermediate level tours are generally suitable.
Tech Level 4
Advanced Off Piste Skier. You can put turns in through heavier snow and on icy 40dg slopes, but difficult breakable crusts and skiing a fresh track off piste in zero visibility are still somewhat challenging!
Likely to say: I’ve been skiing ten/twenty years – I’d like to do your ‘……’ tour.
Our Advice: You will enjoy our advanced level trips. If you are new to touring – then you could do a Haute Route with two or three days of skills training beforehand (but don’t overlook the physical fitness needed as well). Mileage is the best way to improve your ability level.
Tech Level 5
Expert Off Piste Skier. You can ski all snow types including crusts in control and are happy on slopes of 45dg or when putting in a fresh track in zero vis.
Likely to say: ‘Bring it on…’
Our Advice: Stay strong – and may the force be with you… Advanced level trips and ski expeditions are the way forward.
Please make a self assessment against these levels, and refer to the trip requirements. These are cardiovascular (CV) fitness and activity levels eg. running, cycling, hillwalking or competitive sports that get your heart and lungs working for extended periods of time (not strength training in the gym!). They include mountaineering fitness and ski fitness benchmarks for context.
Fitness Level 1
You do 1-2 hours of cardiovascular training/sport per week. On foot: you should be able to climb Snowdon from Pen y Pas in around 2 hrs carrying a day sack, or Bow Fell starting from Langdale in the Lake District in about 2 1/2 hrs. On skis: you are happy piste skiing all day with just the odd break for food and drink, but would struggle to ski off piste all day without finishing up very tired for the following day.
Fitness Level 2
You do 2-3 hours cv training/sport per week. At this level you should be happy doing either a 3-4 hr hillwalk, cycling 30 miles or mountain biking 2-3 hours without being exhausted. On foot: you should be able to walk from Ogwen Cottage in North Wales up Glyder Fach – Glyder Fawr – Y Garn – Ogwen in ~5hrs. Or in the Lake District Langdale – Bowfell – Esk Pike – Angle Tarn – Langdale in ~ 6hrs. On skis: you are capable of off piste skiing all day or doing a couple of hours skinning with out finishing up exhausted – ie you can do this for a number of days without taking a rest day.
Fitness Level 3
You do 3-4 hours cv training/sport per week. At this level you are happy doing a 5-6 hr hillwalk, 50ml cycle or 3-4hr mountain bike ride without being totally exhausted. If you are into challenges – then the thought of doing a road sportive, or training to do a 1/2 (or maybe even a full) marathon, wouldn’t seem too ridiculous. On foot: you should be able to do the full Langdale Horseshoe: Langdale – Pike of Stickle – Angle Tarn – Bow Fell – Crinkle Crags – Pike of Blisco – Langdale in a day without finishing up exhausted. On skis: you can skin uphill at 300m/hr for 3-4 hrs a day (ie 8-1200m of ascent each day).
Fitness Level 4
You do 4+ hours CV training/sport per week. A 70+ mile cycle ride, or 20+ mile hillwalk on a weekend would hold no fears. If so inclined, you might be the kind of person who has done longer road sportives/challenge rides, a ~3.30hr marathon or other similar endurance events. Keen hillwalkers who happily knock off 3-4+ munros in a day also have this kind of fitness and endurance. On skis: you can skin at 400m/hr or could handle 4-6hrs skinning a day. (ie 1000-1400m+ of ascent each day).
Fitness Level 5
You do 5-6+ hours training for competitive sport per week, have a background in the same, or you are annoyingly talented! Either way, doing a 100 ml bike ride or about a 3hr marathon wouldn’t be unreasonable. On skis: you are happy skinning at over 400m/hr or could skin all day if neccesary (ie 1400m+ days).
Please be realistic in your assessment, and remember you need both the required fitness level and ski ability level in order to enjoy any given trip – it doesn’t matter how fit you are, if you can’t ski well enough you won’t keep up on the descents – and vica versa on the ascents! If your fitness or skills are in doubt there is a risk you could be excluded from an activity or required to leave the tour, if your participation could risk the safety, success or enjoyment of the rest of the party.
Hut to Hut Touring Equipment List
Just remember, every extra kilo on your back knocks 10% off your enjoyment on the descents – so try and keep the weight down!
- Waterproof Jacket – preferably lightweight and breathable
- Overtrousers/ski pants – preferably with side zips
- Fleece mid layer – or equivalent
- Socks – specialist ski socks or a warm loop lined pair of mountain socks
- Wicking thermal top – not cotton please…
- Thermal leggings or ski pants
- Thin inner gloves
- Warm ski gloves or mittens, if you suffer from cold hands
- Warm hat
- Spare fleece/lightweight duvet jacket
- Water container – at least 1 litre
- Personal medications and blister kit – regular meds, zinc oxide tape, compeed and painkillers etc
- Ski goggles
- Sun glasses – CE rated 3 or 4 with side protection
- Sun and lip cream – factor 30+
- Wallet, passport, Alpine Club/BMC card (hut discount) and insurance docs
Hut Overnight Items
- Small wash kit
- Spare lightweight t-shirt/socks/pants
- Silk sheet liner
- Ear plugs
- Rucsac 35/45l – try and avoid ones covered in too many features, just ski and ice axe attachments required
- Ski mountaineering boots
- Skis with touring bindings – some ‘freeride’ bindings are also suitable
- Velcro ski strap – to keep skis together on your rucksack if we need to carry them
- Ski poles – with good size 5cm+ baskets (telescopic poles are not needed)
- Climbing skins – they come with the skis if you hire your kit
- Harscheisen (ski crampons) – they come with the skis if you hire your kit
- Metal snow shovel – must be a full metal shovel (plastic blades don’t work in real avalanche debris!)
- Avalanche probe
- Avalanche transceiver – must be a modern digital model (older analogue models are now obsolete)
- Harness, with 120cm sling and locking karabiner
- Crampons – lightweight model
- Ice Axe – lightweight model
Your guide will have all other safety kit, first aid and survival equipment.
Recommendations and Advice
Visit the Knowledge Base section of our website, where we publish an annual review of the years best new skis, boots and touring equipment, plus a range of other interesting tips and recommendations. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, please get in touch!
Backcountry UK in Ilkley offer an excellent ski boot fitting service, one of the best ranges of ski mountaineering equipment in the UK and top notch advice.
Please visit our Equipment Hire page for recommended hire shops in your resort, and Alpine Guides hire equipment price list.
For this trip you must have specialist travel insurance providing medical, emergency search/rescue and repatriation cover for the following activities: off piste skiing and ski touring in glaciated areas requiring the use of ropes, up to 5000m altitude. We also strongly recommend that you purchase cancellation cover, in case you’re unable to attend your trip due to personal circumstances or injury. Cancellation cover is only effective from the date you take out the policy, so please arrange your insurance as soon as your trip is confirmed to run.
Insurance for UK residents
British Mountaineering Council. The gold standard in insurance for UK residents. Very competitive annual cover.
Snowcard . A popular alternative, great website with instant quotes available.
If you use another insurance provider, then please check terms and conditions very carefully to make sure your activity is covered.
European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This gives you reciprocal health care in European countries. You can apply for an EHIC card online here or from most Post Offices. You need an EHIC in addition to your travel insurance.
Insurance for non UK residents
Austrian Alpine Club. The AAC provide worldwide rescue insurance for all their members. AAC insurance is cheap and works ok for minor accidents and rescues, but is not as comprehensive as many other insurance providers. The medical cover included would not be enough for complex treatment or a prolonged stay in hospital. It also doesn’t include cancellation cover. If you choose to use AAC we recommend you take out extra medical cover with another provider, to ‘top up’ the AAC medical limit, as well as a separate cancellation policy.
Travelex. A range of policies with comprehensive cover, for customers based in the USA.
Details of your insurance must be sent to us before the course starts, and brought to the course briefing at the start of your trip.
What happens to my deposit if I book a trip, but it isn’t confirmed to run due to insufficient bookings?
You may transfer your booking to different dates, a different course, or choose a full refund.
What happens if the weather or snow conditions are poor, or the avalanche risk is high?
We will make every effort to stick to the itinerary, but sometimes its necessary to change plans and ski in a neighbouring area or even further afield. Many of our itineraries are designed with flexibility in mind, and it’s usually possible to ski in most conditions with some careful alternative planning.
What happens about accommodation, if the weather is very poor and we end up spending extra nights in the valley instead of in huts?
We will make any necessary last minute bookings for the team. On trips taking place outside the Chamonix valley, any extra valley hotel nights will be on a BnB basis rather than half board.
Does Alpine Guides ski with customers from overseas, including the USA and Canada?
Who goes on our trips?
We climb and ski with a broad range of ages and experience levels, and a large number of our customers come back year after year. We’ve guided 10 year old Ollie up the Old Man of Hoy in Scotland – now the youngest person to climb it. And 70 year old David has climbed the Matterhorn with us, as well as out-skiing people half his age!
How do I book a ski trip?
For scheduled ski trips it’s easy to book online, directly from your course page. For hire a guide/bespoke courses please get in touch for a quote.
Is there an age limit on any of our ski trips?
Under 18’s must be accompanied by a parent/legal guardian. There is no upper age limit, but please get in touch to discuss suitability if you are concerned about your age, with regard to fitness and pace.
How do I rent ski equipment?
You can rent certain items of specialist equipment from us, and the rest can usually be hired in resort.
What happens if I need to cancel my course?
If you wish to cancel you must notify us in writing, where upon the following charges will be applied from the date we receive your notice of cancellation:
- More than 8 weeks (56 days) before start date – loss of deposit.
- Between 4 and 8 weeks (28-56 days) before start date – 50% of course fee or loss of deposit, whichever amount is greater.
- Less than 4 weeks (28 days) before start date – full course fee.
Can I book a single room on my ski trip?
Yes – this can be done during the online booking process. Please add the single room option to your order, and we will confirm availability asap.