Family Ski Touring Course

Fitness level
Tech level
Number of guiding days
6
Guiding ratio
Up to 1:6

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.

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From £1195

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We were all super happy with the trip, it certainly gave us everything we were expecting and more. The hotel was perfect – In fact I have stayed in it before!  It’s a nice relaxed hotel and the service/food etc is of a very good standard. They were super flexible regarding which nights we are etc and were ok about leaving the car whilst we were away at the hut.  Gav was excellent, really knew his stuff and was able to help us through all the start up stuff and familiarisation with gear etc. He was extremely professional in his approach at all times.  Safety was his first priority at all times and we were confident he wouldn’t compromise that.
Greg Pearson

Trip overview

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.

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.

Need further information? enquire about this trip.


Suitability

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.


Guiding ratio

One UIAGM guide skiing with a family of up to 6 people.


ABTOT Protected

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.

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Price

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
  • Flights
  • Insurance
  • Equipment hire

Accommodation

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.

Detailed Itinerary

Saturday

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.


Sunday

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.


Monday

A day tour in the Mont Blanc region; eg Petit Croix Baulet above Le Combloux. Further skills training (see below). Overnight in the hotel.


Tuesday

A day tour in the Mont Blanc region; eg Col du Fenetre from Les Contamines. Overnight in the hotel.


Wednesday

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.


Thursday

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.


Friday

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.


Saturday

AM, departure.


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):

intro-skinningSkinning Skills

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.


intro-avalanche-avoidanceAvalanche Avoidance

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.


intro-avalanche-rescueAvalanche Rescue

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.


intro-planningRoute 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.

Location and Travel

Your course starts and finishes in the Chamonix valley.

Arrival

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).

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

Training

If you need to top up your fitness for this trip, please see our training guidelines.


Tech Levels

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.


Fitness Levels

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.

Equipment

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!

Technical Clothing

  • 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

Personal Items

  • 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)

Technical Equipment

  • 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!

Purchasing Equipment
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.

Hiring Equipment
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).


Insurance

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

British Mountaineering Council. The gold standard in insurance for UK residents. Very competitive single trip or annual cover for all climbing activities. Use this link to book your BMC insurance.

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.


USA residents

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.

FAQ's

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.

See our terms and conditions


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.

Keeping the ball rolling - Val Claree


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.

See our accommodation page for more details


Does Alpine Guides ski with customers from overseas, including the USA and Canada?

Yes!

See our tips for overseas customers


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!

The Matterhorn at 70 yrs young


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.

More booking information


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.

See our fitness and training article


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.

Ski equipment rental info


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.

See our terms and conditions


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.

More hotel information


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From £1195