Our Family Ski Touring Course is great for families with fit and active children who would like to escape the pistes and experience the magic of ski touring. Based from a comfortable hotel in Chamonix, we will explore some of the fun local day tours, learning all the essential ski touring skills along the way. Then for the second half of the week we’ll head to a friendly mountain hut for a taste of proper hut based ski touring, well away from the resorts.
Please visit our Covid-19 Ski Information page for Covid FAQs, details of our new participation requirements, travel advice and what to expect on your trip.
We base ourselves in a family friendly hotel in the Chamonix valley, just one hour from Geneva airport and with quick access to a wealth of ski touring terrain, lots of which has lift access for an easy start to the day. From midweek onwards we’ll travel through the Mont Blanc tunnel for a 3 day/2 night trip into a cosy mountain hut with amazing views of the Mont Blanc massif and some superb gentle touring terrain. This is a perfect way to introduce your children to the world of ski touring, to learn some new skills and explore a beautiful area of the Alps.
This is an introductory level trip. To take part you should be at Fitness Level 2 and Tech Level 2-3 (see our Fitness/Experience guidelines below). You don’t need any previous ski touring experience in order to join this tour as full instruction will be given, but you should be a competent off-piste skier able to handle most snow types in safety and control. The week includes 5-6 hour days with generally steady climbs and typically 300-800m of ascent a day – so you can expect to be skinning for 2-3 hours a day.
Advice to Parents: Ski touring is brilliant, but clearly it doesn’t appeal to all teenagers(!) – ie only to those who enjoy a physical challenge and actually like going uphill… – so please ensure everyone is keen for this kind of trip. The following are required to ensure they are robust enough for back to back days of off-piste skiing and skinning and that suitable hire kit is available.
- Minimum recommended age: 12/13+ years old
- Must be good off piste skiers (see tech level 2-3 below) – ie typically they have skied annually from an early age
- Participate regularly in cardiovascular sports – eg running/cycling/hiking holidays in the mountains etc
- Weigh ~45kg and are 152cm (5ft) tall – so you can hire suitable kit
Please get in touch for more detailed advice on suitability for your own family.
One IFMGA guide skiing with a family of up to 6 people.
The price is on a sliding scale depending on the size of your family/team:
- 3 people = £1650 per person
- 4 people = £1450 pp
- 5 people = £1295 pp
- 6 people = £1195 pp
Included in price
- 6 days of guiding
- All guides expenses
- 5 nights hotel accommodation including breakfast and evening meal
- 2 nights mountain hut accommodation including breakfast and evening meal
- Transport during the course (for families up to 4 people)
Excluded from price (see factsheet for extra cost estimates)
- Lunches and drinks
- Equipment hire
Our base for the week is the Chaumiere Mountain Lodge, in Chamonix. The hotel is well set up for touring, with a comfortable bar, good local food and quick access to the local skiing. Hotel rooms are provided on a twin (or occasionally triple) sharing basis, but if you wish to book a single room please let us know and we will confirm availability. Hotel details can be found on our Accommodation page.
For our 2 nights in the high mountains we will use a mountain hut. This is usually the Bonatti Hut on the Italian side of the Mont Blanc Range, or another hut in a neighbouring valley. 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. Also, our Multiday Ski Touring FAQs page answers some of the most common questions we are asked about multi day ski touring and logistics etc.
You should arrange outward travel to Chamonix on Saturday, to arrive in time for the evening briefing. 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.
On day one, we start with some warm up runs and an introduction to ski touring kit, before practising skinning skills and doing some avalanche transceiver training, then we set off on a lift assisted day tour. We’ll choose a tour appropriate to your team, so that nobody struggles and everyone has the time to learn new skills and ask questions etc en route – typically at Le Tour at the end of the Chamonix valley above Argentiere. You’ll need to bring a packed lunch, as we’ll be out in the backcountry all day, enjoying the skiing and scenery.
A day tour in the Mont Blanc region; eg Petit Croix Baulet above Le Combloux. Further skills training (see below). Overnight in the hotel.
A day tour in the Mont Blanc region; eg Col du Fenetre from Les Contamines. Overnight in the hotel.
Morning departure for Italy – a short drive through the Mont Blanc tunnel into Italy and up the picturesque Val Ferret on the south side of the Grand Jorasses. From there it’s a gentle skin to the wonderfully situated Bonatti Hut. Overnight in the Bonatti Hut.
Ski touring from the hut – there are some great peaks and cols to explore, directly above the hut – all with amazing views of the Mont Blanc massif. Overnight in the Bonatti hut.
Ski touring from the hut in the morning and ski out to the valley. Alternatively – head to the Helbronner lift at the bottom of Val Ferret, take the lift to 3300m and ski the Vallee Blanche Italian variant. This is one of the most famous off-piste runs in Europe, through the heart of the Mont Blanc range through superb glacial scenery. This finally takes us back to Chamonix via the Montenvers railway. This would require a taxi dropoff in Italy on Wednesday morning. Overnight in Chamonix.
Skills training will be incorporated into the week in a fun way, making use of natural breaks in the day and suitable terrain during each days touring (some of these are essential touring skills and others may be covered if time and interest allows):
Knowing how to skin uphill is pretty fundamental to all types of backcountry skiing away from resorts. Once you’ve got the basics of how to put skins on and off and how the ski touring bindings swap over from uphill to downhill mode, then it’s time to head off and practice some skinning.
The technique is to slide your skis along the snow in smooth strides – ie don’t lift them up off the ground with each step – it’s more of a ‘shuffle’ than a ‘walk’. Your lower boot buckles need to be snug in order to prevent heel lift, whereas the upper buckles need to be loose in order to allow maximum ankle flex.
Putting in a good skinning track is also quite an art and needs to take account of the terrain, as well as dangers such as avalanche risk. The normal way to ascend a slope is in a series of zig zags, in order to maintain a comfortable track angle.
As the terrain gets steeper, eventually uphill kick turns are needed to change direction. These are difficult to master, but it’s important to practice them until you become proficient, as they are your ticket to travelling through the high mountains. In icy conditions, harscheisen (ski crampons) may also be needed for extra grip.
There are different spacing protocols for travelling on terrain such as glaciers and steeper slopes, in order to reduce the loading on the slope – so it’s important you know how and when to spread out within a group. All of the above skills are best practiced ‘on the hill’, so we plan appropriate routes each day, that keep up with your learning curve and allow time to fit in skills sessions along the way.
Avalanches are the number one cause of serious accidents to backcountry skiers, so it’s essential that you know how to plan a safe day in the light of the current avalanche forecast, as well as make observations and ski defensively on the ground.
This is an area that we look at constantly throughout the course, both at a planning level and during each day out – on the way up and on the way down.
Danger signs to look out for, how to select a safe route, skin up safely and then back down again in a way that minimises risk are all covered, as well as emergency procedures and avalanche rescue.
Having all the skills and knowledge is one thing, but being aware of how group dynamics, peer pressures and other psychological factors cause people to make poor decisions in avalanche terrain is equally important, so we teach strategies to avoid these heuristic traps and improve your decision making.
Training and practice in how to carry out a coordinated avalanche rescue is an essential skill for regular off piste skiers and tourers.
There’s a lot more to it than simply doing a transceiver search:
Knowing how to protect the rescuers, coordinate a group search, divide up jobs, do a final pin point search, probe for the victim and finally, undertake a coordinated conveyer belt dig out are all essential skills needed to cut the rescue time down to a safe margin.
Route Planning and Navigation
Careful pre route planning is essential for any ski tour or backcountry outing, whether a single day trip or a multi day hut to hut tour. The latest weather and avalanche reports must be obtained and understood in order to plan a safe route and find good snow. This is the aspect of ski touring that many people under estimate, but it’s more important than even your ski ability – as the best way to ensure a safe days skiing is through thorough planning.
We’ll show you how and where to find information and make informed decisions for tour planning, as well as go through the process of selecting routes from maps and guidebooks. We also look at group dynamics and planning strategies for making good safety decisions on the hill.
During the day, good navigation skills and careful observation of current conditions and terrain are equally important if you are going to follow your planned route, or decide to change it in light of conditions. In addition to map and compass work, we look at other important navigational aids for skiers including altimeters and GPS.
Your course starts and finishes in the Chamonix valley, at our base in Argentiere – the Hotel De La Couronne. 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: Mountain Drop-offs offer the best all round service, with regular reliable transfers through the season. They offer a shared minibus taxi service which meets you in the airport and drops you off at the door of your hotel. Book your transfer here and use promo code ALPGUID to receive a discount on your journey.
- Alternatively hire a car at Geneva airport (1.2 hrs drive to Cham).
For flights and other travel options, including train, coach and driving, visit our Travel Planning page.
To enjoy this trip you should be comfortable operating at Fitness Level 2, and Ski Tech Level 2/3:
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 30-40 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.
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.
To view all of our Ski Fitness Levels and Off Piste Technical Levels, please visit our Ski Ability page.
If you need to top up your fitness for this trip, please see our Ski Touring Training Advice page.
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
- 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 Otley 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 off piste skiing and ski touring, as outlined in the trip itinerary. 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.
Further details can be found on our insurance info page.