New Itinerary for 2020! – The Lepontine Alps Ski Tour offers a rare chance to enjoy a week of hut based touring in the high mountains in midwinter. At this time of year, North Facing powder descents are far more common – in an area which boasts dozens of superb ski peaks. Starting near Andermatt, we traverse the range across into Italy and back – taking in the best peaks and ski descents along the way. A variety of objectives are possible during the week, depending on snow and conditions.
This is a good midwinter touring area with plenty of powder descents and varied days. A variety of objectives are possible during the week, depending on snow and conditions. Touring is possible in the area in most conditions, but the itinerary may be subject to variation, taking into account the prevailing weather, snow and avalanche conditions.
NB We meet in Brig rather than Andermatt for this tour, as it is easy to reach from different airports to and importantly for a midwinter tour, it allows many more options if weather or avalanche conditions dictate a change of plan.
Trip Reports >> Lepontine Alps in Mid Winter
Due to the length of some days, this is an advanced level trip. To take part you should be at Fitness Level 3-4 and Tech Level 3 (see our Fitness/Experience guidelines below). You need some previous multi-day touring experience in order to join this tour. The week includes 6-8 hour days and some big (1000m+) climbs, so you can expect to be skinning for 3-5 hours a day. Type of ascent: 100% skinning – 4700-5500m of skinning up and skiing down on the tour.
One IFMGA guide skiing with 6 clients.
Included in price
- 5 days of guiding
- All guides expenses
- 2 nights accommodation in Brig, including breakfast
- 4 nights accommodation in mountain huts, including breakfast and evening meal
Excluded from price (see course factsheet for cost estimates)
- Evening meals in Brig
- Cable cars and travel to Andermatt/back to Brig
- Lunches and drinks
- Travel to resort
- Equipment hire
Our meeting point for this trip 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. 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 Sunday, arriving by 5-6pm latest in time for the briefing at your accommodation. Guide briefing: discuss plans, sort food and equipment, overnight in valley.
Ski in to Rotondo Hut. Early train to Realp or Andermatt. The standard approach to the Rotondo hut is to skin up the Witenwasserental from Realp. In stable conditions a longer route is sometimes possible, taking the lift system above Andermatt and touring across to the Rotondo hut – this involves nearly 1400m of climb, so good conditions and a fast team are necessary for this option! Standard approach: 1050m ascent, ~3-4hrs
Day tour from the Rotondo hut – there are numerous great day tours in this area: Witenwasserenstock, Piz Lucendro, Rottallihorn, Muttenhorn are all potential options. Our final choice will be determined by current weather and snow conditions. ~1000m ascent and descent ~5-6hrs
Traverse Val Bedretto to the Maria Luisa Hut. A big day, with many cols and sometimes a sting in the tail! – first we traverse the Witenwasseren pass, then the Rotondo pass, before making the long descent down to All’ Acqua in the Val Bredetto. After lunch a 700m climb leads up to the Passo San Giacomo, where we cross into Italy and finally head down to the Maria Luisa Hut (hot showers and a nice bar!) The final section of the day from the col to the hut is a long, gently descending traverse – in good conditions this is an easy schuss, but in softer snow it can sometimes take longer than you’d think…! 1100m ascent, 1500m descent ~7-8hrs
Maria Luisa Hut to Basodino Hut A shorter day! Our plan is to climb up the classic east couloir of the Kastelucke, then traverse beneath the Kastelhorn to pick up an excellent descent to the Basodino Hut. It’s also possible to take a slightly shorter route to the north if weather or conditions dictate. 800m ascent, 1100m descent ~4-5hrs
To exit the range, in the morning we head north to the Cristallina Hut, before a choice of long descents down into the Val Bredetto. PM Bus and train back to Brig, and final hotel night. 700-1100m ascent, 1250-1650m descent 4-6hrs
Return travel should be arranged on Saturday morning, after your final nights accommodation.
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.
To enjoy this trip you should be comfortable operating at Fitness Level 3/4, and Ski Tech Level 3:
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).
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
- 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.