New Itinerary for 2020! – Mont Thabor is a brilliant ‘off the radar’ touring region and also makes a great first hut to hut trip. We meet in the legendary freeride mecca of La Grave, to do a day’s warm up skiing and skills refreshment, before travelling to Nevache to complete an excellent five day tour around Mont Thabor. The area is little visited by ski tourers from outside France, so the huts in the region are small and friendly, with a great atmosphere.
The terrain offers flexibility in terms of objectives and snow conditions, as various routes are possible around the range. We also plan to make a ski ascent of Mont Thabor itself, which is the highest peak in the range. Numerous different objectives are available, to suit the ability and experience of the group.
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This is an introductory level trip. To take part you should be at Fitness Level 2-3 and Tech Level 2-3 (see our Fitness/Experience guidelines). You need some previous ski touring experience in order to join this tour – eg a weeks’ day touring is usually enough. As this is a multi day tour, if you haven’t skied with us before, then we may ask for a reference to confirm your experience/ski ability for the trip. The week includes 5-7 hour days with 700-1000m of climb a day, so you can expect to be skinning for 3-4 hours a day. Type of ascent: We use 100% skinning on this tour – approx 4600m skinning up, and 4600m skiing down, plus approx 5-600m skinning on the warm up day, which will typically use some uplift and some skinning.
One UIAGM guide skiing with 6 clients, or occasionally 2:7, with one Aspirant guide joining the team too.
Included in price
- 6 days of guiding/instruction
- All guides expenses
- 3 nights accommodation in La Grave, including breakfast and evening meals
- 4 nights accommodation in mountain huts, including breakfast and evening meals
- Local travel, including transfer from La Grave to Nevache
Excluded from price (see course factsheet for cost estimates)
- Lunches and drinks
- Flights and transfers
- Equipment hire
Our course base and meeting point is the friendly and comfortable Hotel Edelweiss in La Grave, run by British/Dutch couple Robin and Marlon. The Edelweiss is an excellent base with very good food (and a huge wine list!), drying room, wifi access, a sauna/spa, and a cosy bar – a great place to relax after a day in the mountains. Situated in the centre of the village, it’s close to bakeries, supermarkets and a couple of equipment shops, and within walking distance of the lift. 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.
For overnights in the high mountains we will use mountain huts. The huts in this region of the Alps are small, quiet and very friendly, with excellent food. For more info please read the Using Alpine Huts article which provides an overview of typical hut facilities, average costs to help you budget for lunches/drinks, and general info on hut etiquette.
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 La Grave.
Warm Up Day
Off piste skiing and half day tour near La Grave.
Warm up runs, checking everyone’s kit and brushing up on touring skills.
Numerous excellent ski tours are available around La Grave, including those from the tiny ski station Les Chazelets with its amazing views of La Meije and classic day tours from the Col du Lauteret 15 mins away. If conditions are good, we may alternatively use the La Grave lift itself, for a day of off piste and glacier touring.
We’ll choose an appropriate objective for the group, taking into account local snow and weather conditions. Typically ~500-600m ascent and plenty of descent!
Overnight in La Grave.
Skin up to Refuge de Laval
Early start in order to transfer to Val Claree/Nevache (40-50 mins drive). First we cross the Col de Lauteret, before heading north of Briancon.
We’ll drive as far as possible (ie however far the road has been ploughed!) before skinning up the Val de la Claree to the Refuge de Laval.
En route we’ll leave the main valley floor, in order to explore a side valley before skiing down to the hut. ~900m ascent, 500m descent, ~5hrs.
Overnight in the hut.
Refuge de Laval to Refuge des Dreyeres
Depending on snow conditions, two possible routes are available here – either east or west of the main valley – with both options traversing a high col to pick up a good descent to the hut. There is also a lower level route up the main Nevache Valley between the two huts if conditions are poor high up. We’ll choose whichever route is best for current conditions.
~900m ascent, 800m descent, ~4-5hrs.
Overnight in the hut.
Traverse to Refuge du Thabor
Our route to the refuge du Thabor involves making a high level traverse through remote terrain, crossing 3 different cols.
Along the way, there may also be the opportunity to take in a ski summit.
A choice of routes is possible for the final col, so we’ll go for whichever option currently offers the best snow conditions. ~1050m ascent, 700m descent, 5-6hrs.
The Refuge du Thabor is a great hut, run be Cedric and Fanny who always offer a warm welcome and serve excellent food,
Overnight in the hut.
Mont Thabor (3175m) to Refuge I Re Magi
Mont Thabor is the big, classic ski peak of the area and a fitting high point for the tour.
The route is long and intricate, crossing two cols and intervening valleys, in order to gain the final long summit slopes.
Here the skinning track leads up past the famous Chapelle du Mont Thabor, perched high on the mountain, before cutting left up to the summit.
The descent is first class, skiing long open slopes and bowls, down into the lost Vallee Etroite and the superb Refuge I Re Magi, where a warm welcome is assured. 800m ascent, 1450m descent, 5-6hrs.
Overnight in the hut.
Ski out to Nevache
On our final day we ski out to Nevache, back to our start point. There are lots of options and different routes available depending on conditions, but one popular way out is to start the day by skinning back up the Vallee Etriote, before climbing around to the west and up to the Col du Vallon.
This gives access to an excellent, long 1000m run leading directly back down to Nevache. 900m ascent, 1000m descent, 4-5hrs.
There’s usually time to visit a local bar or café for drinks and lunch here, before the pickup back to La Grave.
PM Transfer back to La Grave.
Course debrief and final hotel night.
Return travel should be arranged on Saturday morning, after your final nights accommodation.
Your course base is La Grave on the northern edge of the Ecrins National Park. This tiny village sits amongst spectacular scenery below the north face of La Meije and is built around the mountain road between Grenoble and Briancon to the east.
The most common way to reach La Grave is to fly to either Lyon St Exupery airport on a Saturday/Sunday or Grenoble Isere Airport on a Saturday and then take a transfer bus from the airport to La Grave.
Flights and transfers
- Fly to Lyon: https://www.skyscanner.net/
- 3 buses run each Saturday to La Grave, leaving the airport mid morning, mid afternoon and tea time and 2 run each Sunday leaving mid morning and tea time Visit the Linkbus website: https://www.linkbus-alps.com/en/ to download timetables and buy tickets.
- Return buses back to Lyon airport leave La Grave on Saturday (6.30, 9.30, 12.30 – 2018/19 times: awaiting 19/20 timetables)
- For travel on other days of the week it’s possible to get a train from Lyon airport to Grenoble, then a bus to La Grave – but times are restricted.
- Fly to Grenoble:
- There are 2 direct transfer buses to la Grave each Saturday, leaving the airport at lunchtime and teatime, but non on Sunday – book tickets on the Linkbus website.
- Two Saturday return buses run from La Grave back to Grenoble airport (06.30 and 11.15 – 2018/19 times: awaiting 19/20 timetables)
- For Sunday flights, it’s possible to get a Bensbus – https://www.bensbus.co.uk/ – transfer to Lac du Chambon, then arrange a taxi pick up with Taxi de la Meije – http://www.taxidelameije.com/home/ (tel: +33 679 53 45 67)
- For travelling on other days of the week it’s possible to get a bus into Grenoble, then another one on to La Grave – but these are also time restricted.
- Fly to Geneva.
- Bus from Geneva Airport to Grenoble GR (6 buses a day, travel time ~2hrs): www.aerocar.fr
- Bus from Grenoble GR to La Grave.
Alternatively, hire a car from any airport – driving times to La Grave are 1.45hrs from Grenoble airport, 2.30hrs from Lyon airport and 3 hours from Geneva airport. NB you must hire a car with winter tyres or snow chains – as you will be crossing high mountain passes in winter, where special equipment is compulsory.
Other travel options
- Driving from the UK, take the ferry or Eurotunnel to Calais/Dunkerque, then 10-12 hours driving on the French Autoroutes (budget approx 90 Euros each way in tolls).
- Euroline coach: www.eurolines.co.uk/en
- Eurostar train from the UK to Lyon, then onward train/bus as above: 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 2/3, 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 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)
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
- 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.