Our Haute Maurienne Off Piste Skiing Holiday is the perfect choice, if you are tired of skiing tracked out snow in bigger resorts. Very few off piste skiers visit this area – there’s plenty of great north facing terrain that remains untracked for days, as well as lovely day touring. If the snow comes from the East, you can also drive through the Frejus Tunnel to find fresh powder in Italy.
This is an excellent early season off piste skiing, lift assisted and day touring area, with plenty of good quality powder descents and very few other off piste skiers about. During the week we stay at a comfortable Hotel in the Haute Maurienne valley, which offers a warm welcome and skiing to the door. Due to the nature and variety of terrain, off piste skiing and touring is possible in the area in most weather and snow conditions.
This is an intermediate level trip. To take part you should be at Fitness Level 2 and Tech Level 3 (see our Fitness/Experience guidelines below). Touring experience is useful but not essential – coaching can be provided at the start of the week. Type of ascent: we use 90% uplift and 10% skinning on this week.
One IFMGA guide skiing with 6 clients.
Included in price
- 6 days of guiding
- All guides expenses
- 7 nights accommodation including breakfast
- Transport during the course
Excluded from price (see course factsheet for extra cost estimates)
- Lunches and drinks
- Evening meals
- Travel to resort
- Equipment hire
Our meeting point and base for the week is the comfortable Hotel Saint Charles in Lanslebourg Mont Cenis. Rooms are provided on a twin (or occasionally triple) sharing basis, but if you wish to book a single room please let us know at the time of booking and we will confirm availability. Hotel details can be found on our Accommodation page.
Travel to the Haute Maurienne. 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 to Friday
Off Piste Skiing and Day Touring in the Haute Maurienne. Some days we use uplift and ski part of the day near resorts, on others we skin from the road head. Possible areas and tours may include:
La Norma is a place you’ve probably never heard of – it’s a quiet family resort, built on a large north facing slope.
The off piste skiing in this resort is excellent, but hardly anyone skis it, because most folk in the resort are beginners.
As a consequence, it’s one of the best places in the valley for finding untracked powder straight off the lifts.
The top of the mountain has plenty of good open terrain to enjoy and when it snows hard, the tree skiing here is really exceptional.
The forests above Bramans offer excellent tree skiing in open larch forests, set in a beautiful and peaceful location.
Skinning up to the sound of birdsong in the woods, before a picnic lunch enjoying views of the Vanoise National Park, then finally enjoying a long fresh tracked powder descent takes some beating – and to top it off, the tour ends at a local bar!
Typical ascent for the day is about 1000m of skinning, ut the tour can either be made a bit longer or shorter, depending on snow conditions and energy levels.
Val Cenis has a lot of good off piste skiing, but you need to know the resort really well in order to make the most of it – as only a couple of the most popular areas are obvious from the lifts.
There’s plenty of great terrain on the upper mountain, with north facing bowls and steeper chutes, but also a lot of excellent tree skiing. However, many areas of the forest are protected nature reserves and you need to know exactly where you are allowed to ski and where not in order to ski here.
As a consequence, few people ski off piste away from the obvious places next to the runs, so for those that know the mountain, there’s always plenty of fresh snow.
The north face of Punta Bagna at Val Frejus has a lot of steep, open terrain that’s ideal for freeriding. This, coupled with efficient uplift, mean it’s a place you can ski a lot of challenging terrain in a day if the avalanche conditions are stable enough.
The back side of the mountain has plenty of less steep off piste terrain too, leading to a long, mellow return run that leads back down to the resort. Various day tours are possible in this area as well.
There’s also tree skiing on the lower mountain and day touring out the back, so it’s a versatile place to visit in a range of conditons.
Boneval Sur Arc
Boneval Sur Arc is the best known freeride spot in the Haute Maurienne. With large tracts of steep open terrain, it’s a brilliant place for skiing the bigger itinieres.
Best visited on a clear day, the skiing goes up to over 3000m and it’s practically all above the tree line – so there’s not many places to hide when the weather is wild!
There is also touring out the back on the Glacier du Vallonnet for those that prefer to get well away from the lifts and into the high mountains.
Termignon is linked into the Val Cenis lift system and it’s an ideal place to go for a lift assisted day tour.
Typically we start with a few laps of the off piste terrain at the top of the lift system, before skiing away from the resort and donning skins to head out into the backcountry.
Several different tours are available, including a circular route around Petit Mont Cenis, a visit to the Pas de la Beccia, or a nice out and back tour to a nearby ski summit above the resort
To finish the day we either ski back into resort, or if conditions are good, then it’s possible to ski right down to the valley floor via various different lines.
Your course base for the week is Val Cenis, Lanslebourg in the Haute Maurienne.
The most convenient way to reach the Haute Maurienne is to fly into either Chambery or Lyon airports, then take a bus transfer direct from the airport to Val Cenis, Lanslebourg. Return travel should be arranged on Saturday after your final nights accommodation.
Flights and transfers
- Fly to Chambery or Lyon – www.skyscanner.net
- Bus from Chambery or Lyon airports to Val Cenis, Lanslebourg – www.altibus.com
- Alternatively, hire a car at the airport.
- Other flights are possible via Grenoble and Geneva, but involve more changes if you are relying on public transport to reach resort – see factsheet for details.
- Flying to Turin and hiring a car is also a viable option, as it’s possible to drive through the Frejus Tunnel from Italy directly to the Haute Maurienne valley.
Other travel options
- Driving from UK, take the ferry or Eurotunnel to Calais/Dunkerque, then 10-11 hours driving on the French Autoroutes (budget approx 80 Euros each way in tolls).
- Eurostar train from the UK to Lyon, then onward train service to Chambery or Modane – www.eurostar.com/uk-en
Further information and travel links can be found on our Travel Planning page.
To enjoy this trip you should be comfortable operating at Fitness Level 2, and Ski Tech Level 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 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.
Day Touring/BC Ski Course 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
- Spare fleece or lightweight insulated duvet jacket
- 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
- 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 and insurance docs
- Rucsac 25/35l – try and avoid ones covered in too many features, just ski and ice axe attachments required
- Freeride boots or ski mountaineering boots – check detailed factsheet kit list for preferred boots
- Skis with touring bindings – check detailed factsheet kit list for preferred skis and bindings
- 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 – bring them if you have them
- Ice Axe – bring if you have one
- Ski helmet – a lightweight helmet is recommended for off piste skiing
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.
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.
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.