The Bernese Oberland Ski Tour traverses the premier high altitude ski touring region of the Western Alps. On this varied and challenging week, we take in some of the finest ski summits in the region, culminating in the famous 2000m descent down the Lotschental at the end of the tour. This is a popular classic aimed at skiers looking for big glacial scenery, great ski summits and plenty of long descents, with the added bonus of some great huts!
The terrain offers flexibility in terms of objectives and is a reliable place to tour in all weathers – as various routes are possible through the range. Two nights are spent at a couple of the huts, allowing lighter packs on some days.
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This 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 need previous multiday ski touring experience in order to join this tour. The week involves continuous 6 hour days and some big (1000m+) climbs, so you can expect to be skinning for 3-5 hours a day. Type of ascent: we use 30% uplift and 70% skinning – approx 5300m skinning up (all at altitude), and 6700m skiing down on the tour.
One UIAGM guide skiing with 6 clients.
This trip is protected against financial failure through our membership of the Association of Bonded Travel Organisers Trust (ABTOT) – Alpine Guides Ltd, Membership Number 5394. For further information, please visit our Financial Protection page.
Included in price
- 6 days of guiding
- All guides expenses
- 2 nights hotel accommodation in Brig including breakfast.
- 5 nights accommodation in mountain huts, including breakfast and 3 course evening meal.
Excluded from price (see course factsheet for extra cost estimates)
- Evening meals in the valley
- Uplift and local travel
- Lunches and drinks
- Flights and transfers to resort
- Equipment hire
Our meeting point for the Bernese Oberland Ski Tour is the Hotel Europe*** in Brig, which is just 80m from the railway station in the centre of town. 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. Any extra luggage can be left until in the hotel until your return to resort at the end of the week. Evening meals can be taken in Brig. Hotel details can be found on our Accommodation page.
For overnights in the high mountains we will use mountain huts. This tour uses modern and super efficient Swiss huts in the heart of the Oberland’s huge glacier systems. 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.
You should arrange outward travel on Saturday, arriving by 5-6pm 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. We’ll have maps and guidebooks of the area to show you, so if you’ve any further questions or last minute requests, then this is the ideal time to bring them up. Overnight in the valley.
Trugberg (3880m) to Konkordia Hut
Trugberg makes an ideal first day objective en route to the Konkordia Hut. After an early morning train ride round to Grindelwald, the Jungfraujoch Mountain Railway leads right up through The Eiger to 3500m. Along the way there are several opportunities to view the famous North Face – first at Kleine Scheidegg, then again at the Gallery Windows where it’s possible to look right out across the face.
From the top station, a steady skin across to the Monschsjoch serves as a good warm up, followed by a gentle descent down the Ewigschneefeld to where the main climb up to Trugberg begins. It’s a 500m ascent up to the shoulder and depending on conditions it may be possible to do the final boot track up to the ski summit.
The classic descent off Trugberg is via the South Face however, so if it’s already warm it may be best to ski this straight away in order to find good snow conditions. The Konkordia Hut lies 2km away from the bottom of the main descent and a combination of gliding, poling and maybe a short skin finally reach the infamous hut steps. Due to glacial recession, these are getting longer each year, so it’s now quite a pull up to the hut at the end of the day!
550m ascent, 950m descent ~4-5hrs
Kranzberg (3666m) Day Tour
Kranzberg is a great ski peak and a classic day tour from the Konkordia Hut. After the initial steep slope up off the glacier, the main ascent is at a very steady angle, making for comfortable skinning all the way.
At 3400m a shoulder is crossed, which leads to the final bowl up to the summit ridge. At the ridge there’s a ski depot, from where it’s just a short climb on foot to the top. The views out across to the Aletschhorn are stupendous.
Back at the skis, it’s time to enjoy the descent, which is just the right angle for doing lots of long wide open pitches. Lower down, a series of little valleys lead to the final steep drop down onto the main glacier. Then it’s just a case of getting back across to the hut and up the steps (again..) for a well earned lunch.
1000m ascent and descent ~5-6hrs
Wysnollen (3590m) to Finsteraarhorn Hut
Wysnollen is often done in combination with a traverse of the Grunhornlucke en route to the Finsteraarhorn Hut. Athough on paper this looks like quite a bit of climb, it’s split into two very steady ascents – the first of which is done in the shade – so overall it’s not an especially long day.
From the top of the Grunhornlucke a short descent leads down to the base of Wysnollen, where it’s time to double back and head up to the summit. This is another very even angled climb, leading right to the top on skis.
The descent is particularly good after a dump of fresh snow, when there are a lot of good powder pitches to be had.
1200m ascent, 900m descent ~6hrs
Gross Wannenhorn (3905m) Day Tour
The Gross Wannenhorn is one of the best ski peaks in the Bernese Oberland and a real must during any visit to the Finsteraarhorn Hut.
The architecture of the mountain is simple – a long glaciated bowl leading to a broad summit ridge. It’s this that makes it such a good ski peak, as the whole of the climb can be done on skis, right up to the summit rocks.
On the way down, it’s generally always possible to find good snow by carefully selecting different slope aspects depending on the current conditions. At the bottom, there’s just the final skin back to the hut where lunch and a beer or two on the terrace await..
1100m ascent and descent ~6hrs
Grunhornlucke to Hollandia Hut
This is primarily a mountain travel and relocation day – but we get one good descent as we retrace our steps over the Grunhornlucke and on down to the Aletschfirn, before a long easy angled skin up to the Hollandia Hut.
The route is obvious – just keep on skinning to the col – but the views are a great distraction from the effort, as we pass by the mighty North Face of the Aletschhorn – a 3 mile long, 800 metre high wall of rock and ice that dominates this part of the Oberland.
800m ascent, 600m descent ~5-6hrs.
Abeni Flue (3963m)
At nearly 4000m, Abenifluhe is the highest peak in the Bernese Oberland that can be easily skinned to the summit of. This makes it one of the finest viewpoints in the range and a perfect place to start the final long run at the end of a weeks touring.
The ascent from the Hollandia Hut isn’t too long and it’s set at an easy angle for most of the way – ie two other bonuses at the end of a hard week!
The initially the descent returns down past the hut, before crossing the Lotschenlucke and plunging 2000m down into the Lotschental. This is one of the most beautiful valleys in the Alps and finally leads to the road head, where a post bus takes us down to the railway station and back to Brig.
700m ascent, 2200m descent ~5~6hrs
PM return to Brig via train and postbus.
Return travel should be arranged from Brig on Saturday morning, after your final nights accommodation.
The other classic way to ski out of the the Bernese Oberland is via the Vorder Galmihorn, heading down to either Munster or Reckingen in the upper Rhone Valley.
To head out this way, you need to either make an early start from the Finsteraarhorn Hut, or spend a night at the Oberaarjoch Hut (doing this this makes the final day much shorter, but the previous day much longer after skiing the Wannenhorn – take your pick!)
From either hut, the Vorder Galmihorn can be climbed by skinning up the north face and onto the ridge, which leads to an amazing summit viewpoint. A choice of excellent descents are possible, either going straight down to Reckingen, or skiing down past the Galmihorn Hut to Munster. A third, slightly shorter route avoids the climb up onto the Galmihorn by traversing through the Galmilicke instead.
Early in the season or in a good snow year, it’s possible to ski right down to the village.
Your course starts and finishes in Brig in the Rhone Valley, with easy access and good links to the Bernese Oberland, Valais Alps and the SE Swiss Alpine chain.
The most convenient way to reach Brig is fly into Geneva, then take a train along the Rhone Valley – Brig is on the main railway line, and our hotel is a short walk from the train station.
Flights and transfers
- Fly to Geneva with numerous budget airlines, for an overview of the best options check out the excellent Sky Scanner website.
- Train from Geneva airport to Brig (1.5 hrs): https://www.sbb.ch/en/home.html (integrated Swiss travel website)
- If you plan to arrive by train, then purchasing a Swiss Travel Pass (details on website above) could save you some money on this course, as you get half fare on the cable cars in many resorts, as well as on the trains and buses. If you purchase a Swiss card the journey from the airport to Brig and back will be included.
- Alternatively hire a car at any airport (all 2-4 hours driving time).
Other travel options
- Driving from UK, take the ferry or Eurotunnel to Calais/Dunkerque, then 10-11 hours driving.
- Eurostar train from the UK to Geneva, then onward train service to Brig (excellent fast service): www.eurostar.com/uk-en
Further information and travel links can be found on our Travel Planning page.
If you need to top up your fitness for this trip, please see our training guidelines.
NB All of our trips are 100% off piste/backcountry skiing, so the following descriptions refer to your off piste ski ability, not your piste skiing ability (on a typical 1-10 piste skiing scale, level 7-10 = level 1-2 on our off piste scale – ie it’s a different ball game!)
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 turns’ we mean skiing confidently and in control, moving from one turn into the next without traversing in between – just ‘getting down it’ or survival skiing doesn’t count here!)
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…) *Equivalent to Ski Club of GB Off Piste Level: Red – Aspirer*
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. *Equivalent to Ski Club of GB Off Piste Level: Silver – Intermediate*
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!) *Equivalent to Ski Club of GB Off Piste Level: Purple – Advanced*
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! *Equivalent to Ski Club of GB Off Piste Level: Gold – Expert*
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. *Equivalent to Ski Club of GB Off Piste Level: Gold – Expert*
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
- Lightweight head torch
- 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
- (Hut slippers for indoor use, blankets/duvets and pillows are provided by the huts)
- 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 (safety equipment is provided free of charge on certain courses – please consult price inclusions).
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.
Please arrange your insurance as soon as your trip is confirmed to run.
Insurance for UK residents
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.
European residents (non-UK)
Austrian Alpine Club. Available to all European residents. 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. For US citizens – a range of policies with comprehensive cover.
For any nationality
Global Rescue. Cover offered to all nationalities via a combination of GR membership and their separate insurance policy.
If you choose an alternative provider, or if there is any doubt about the scope of your chosen policy we recommend that you send your insurer the link to the relevant Alpine Guides trip webpage, and ask them if cover extends to those activities and has the required components (search/rescue, medical, repatriation and cancellation). It’s worth mentioning that rescue and medical expenses in Switzerland can be significantly more expensive than in other countries, so a decent level of cover is required for Swiss tours.
We recommend that you send us your insurance details before the trip commences, and they must be brought to the course briefing at the start of your trip. However, we cannot check the detail of every individual policy, and it is your own responsibility to ensure you are adequately insured.
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.