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 our 7 day itinerary has a contingency day built in, so your chances of reaching Zermatt are greatly increased. For the Haute Route we offer both weekend and mid week departure dates.
Skiing the Haute Route in 2021
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.
The Haute Route starts in France and finishes in Switzerland, which leads to the obvious question: ‘What happens if one of the countries visited on the Haute Route is ‘closed’ – will the trip still go ahead?’ A – If Switzerland is ‘closed’, the trip will be cancelled and you will receive a full refund. If France is closed but Switzerland is open, we will meet in Martigny and ski the Haute Route to Zermatt from there. Please ensure you are happy with this before making a booking.
Please Note – As a UK based travel company, we follow UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) travel advice when making decisions about whether to run or cancel a trip – ie if UK FCO are advising against all but essential travel to a country, then it is regarded as ‘closed’ for UK travellers and we will have to cancel. You need to bear this in mind if you are booking on one of our trips and live in a different country, where your own governments’ travel advice may be different. With international groups, we will try to put all eg. all US based skiers in the same group, in order to make such decisions easier. Please get in touch if you have specific questions on this matter, as there are different situations for people living in different countries.
One IFMGA guide skiing with 6 clients.
Included in price
- 7 days of guiding
- All guides expenses
- 3 or 4 nights accommodation in the Chamonix valley, including breakfast.
- 4 or 5 nights accommodation in mountain huts, including breakfast and evening meal.
Excluded from price (see course factsheet for cost estimates)
- Evening meals in the Chamonix valley
- Cable cars and taxis (organised by Alpine Guides)
- Lunches and drinks
- Travel to resort
- Equipment hire
For 2020 we are again offering midweek departures through March, alongside our standard weekend departures. Those wishing to join a midweek trip should arrange outward travel on a Wednesday (ski days being Thursday to Wednesday), and arrange return travel the following Thursday.
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. Also, our Multiday Ski Touring FAQs page answers some of the most common questions we are asked about multi day ski touring and Haute Route logistics etc.
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.
For Mid Week Departures, days are shown in brackets.
Subject to weather and snow conditions, we aim to take the Skiers Verbier Route which gives the most reliable passage to Zermatt:
Saturday (Wednesday for mid week departures)
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 at least one weeks’ previous ski touring on alpine touring kit 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 system, a 45 min skin leads up a great 600m descent with stunning views leading down on to the Argentiere Glacier, where the first long climb of the trip begins.
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 a long one, with 1250m 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.
1250m ascent, 1400m 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 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 and it’s definitely worth it if you are serious about reaching Zermatt. If we reach Zermatt on Friday, then Saturday will be a spare day to ski off piste/tour either in Zermatt or Chamonix. PM Overnight in Chamonix valley.
Return travel should be arranged on Sunday morning, after your final nights accommodation.
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.
Haute Route Experience Requirements
There are 3 pre-requirements for a safe and enjoyable Haute Route journey on skis:
1. Technical Ski Ability > your off-piste ski ability should be at Ski Tech Level 3. NB If you are a Telemarker, then it needs to be at Level 4.
2. Physical Fitness > you should be at Ski Fitness Level 3.
3. Alpine Ski Touring Experience > you should have at least one week’s previous ski touring experience on Alpine touring kit. This needs to be in the Alps, or on equivalent terrain eg. in North America, New Zealand, Scandinavia etc (ie ski touring in the Uk is not enough!) – preferably hut to hut touring, but a week’s day touring is ok. NB By a day tour, we mean a minimum of 2-3 hours uphill skinning in the day – ie a shorter skin off the top of a lift in order to get a nice descent is something we’d consider as a regular off piste day.
However, if you are both a very strong skier (ski level 4+) and very fit (fitness level 4+), you can get away with a shorter period of focussed ski touring skills training beforehand e.g. our Ski Touring Skills Long Weekend. In any event, 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.
Splitboards on the Haute Route
The Haute Route is possible on a splitboard, but being a long A to B tour, the route traverses a lot of terrain that it’s far quicker and easier to cover on skis. Using a splitboard, different techniques and lines are required on a number of sections of the route, which means we are unfortunately unable to accept bookings for splitboards on our Haute Route trips. If you’d like to do the Haute Route on a splitboard (either as an individual, or as a group of friends containing both skiers and splitboarders) then you need to get in touch with a guiding company that specifically offers Haute Route splitboarding tours. If you need any help with this, then drop us a line and we’ll give you some recommendations. A number of our other touring trips are suitable for splitboards however, so if you’d like some advice and recommendations on these, then please get in touch.
If you need to top up your fitness for this trip, please see our ski touring training advice page.
For further information, please check out our Haute Route Advice Article. This a great source of info about fitness and experience requirements, the route, average weather and snow conditions through the season and what to expect each day before signing up.
Required Ski and Fitness Levels
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.
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).
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 (more info here)
- 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)
Technical Equipment (more info here)
- 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
- Helmet – a lightweight ski touring or climbing model – you may need this on certain parts of the route depending on conditions
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.
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.