The Monte Viso Ski Tour is renowned as one of the finest multiday ski tours in Europe, circumnavigating the most famous peak in the Southern Alps. Tucked away at the back of the Queyras National Park, this is a wild and remote region with unparalleled scenery and great skiing.
This is a wild and remote ski tour with superb scenery and few other people around. The tour is long and intricate, traversing the French-Italian border. At least one night is spent in an unmanned hut, so we’ll be taking food and stoves along.
NB Stable weather and avalanche conditions are required to complete the circuit around Monte Viso, but good alternative tours are possible in the region in most weather and snow conditions.
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This is an intermediate to 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 previous multiday ski touring experience in order to join this tour. It is a strenuous and commiting route (where we need to carry food for an unmanned hut night) and includes 7-9 hour days with some big (1000m+) climbs, so you can expect to be skinning for 3-6 hours a day. Type of ascent: we use 100% skinning on this tour – approx 4600m of skinning up, 4600m of skiing down.
One UIAGM guide skiing with 6 clients.
Included in price
- 5 days of guiding
- All guides expenses
- 6 nights accommodation including breakfast and evening meal, in a mix of gites, huts and hotels
- Transport during the course
Excluded from price (see course factsheet for cost estimates)
- Lunches and drinks
- Travel to resort
- Equipment hire
Our initial hotel and meeting point is the Hotel Lacour in Mont Dauphin. The hotel is often used by ski tourers, offering comfortable accommodation, good access to the Queyras and Haute Ubaye regions, and is only 50m from the train station in Mont Dauphin. 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. This tour uses a mixture of small friendly huts and an Italian gite – very rarely busy, and offering great home cooked food. There is also one night in an unguarded hut which really adds to the special wilderness feel of this trip! 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. 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.
Overnight in Mont Dauphin.
AM Drive up into the Queyras. Skin up to the Refuge du Viso from L’Echalp.
Refuge Du Viso
It’s a long skin up to the Refuge Viso from L’Echalp, but the journey is up a beautiful valley with fresh views constantly unfolding, as Monte Viso grows ever larger in the distance.
The hut itself is modern and well equipped and amongst other things, sports a climbing wall in the dining room(!) and a reading area upstairs with a full sized sofa – there’s a nice wood burning stove too and good food in plentiful supply.
750m ascent ~4hrs.
North Side of Monte Viso
Traversing round the north side of Monte Viso to the Quintino Sella Hut is a long day by any route, but one of the best days ski touring in the Alps. From the northern end, the views are astounding – sweeping right across the entire arc of the Alps.
There’s then a long descent down toward Riale for lunch, before the final slog up to the col a kilometre before the hut – where we sleep in the unmanned winter room for the night, cooking for ourselves in this remote location.
900-1500m descent ~7-10hrs
South Side of Monte Viso
The traverse round the south side of Monte Viso is thankfully much shorter than the northern side the day before – but the route goes into some very remote terrain. After crossing a couple of small cols quite near to the hut, a long descent then follows, leading eventually to the forest and a nice picnic spot down in the valley floor.
From here, the route heads down into the main Val Variata which we must head up for another 3 miles in order to reach the gite – either on foot, on ski or in a taxi depending on energy levels! Either way – a warm italian welcome awaits, with hot showers and plenty of excellent food.
450m ascent, 950m descent ~5hrs
Refuge de la Blanche
The route back into France starts with a long climb through lovely scenery at the head of Val Variata.
This leads to the Col Blanchet, with more excellent views of the nearby Tete des Toillies, before enjoying a great north facing descent to the Refuge de la Blanche.
This hut is one of the best in the area – with very friendly staff, hot showers again and more great food and drink.
1100m ascent, 450m descent ~5hrs
The route north from the Refuge de la Blanche crosses the Col de Chamoussiere and Col Vieux in order to make the final 1400m long descent back to our car at L’Echalp.
This is a big descent, at first down open slopes, before dropping into extensive larch forests to reach the cross country trails in the bottom of the valley which take us back to the road.
650m ascent, 1400m descent ~4-5hrs
PM Drive back to Mont Dauphin for our final night in the hotel Lacour.
Return travel should be arranged on Saturday morning, after your final nights accommodation.
Mont Dauphin, near Guillestre, is a convenient access point to the Queyras National Park, Monte Viso, and the Haute Ubaye regions. It is a quiet, unspoilt corner of the Alps, enjoying excellent mid season snow conditions and a huge variety of non glacial touring terrain, far away from the hustle of the main alpine resorts. Our hotel is just 50 mts from Mont Dauphin train station.
The best way to reach Mont Dauphin in winter is fly to Turin (the nearest airport), then take a transfer bus to Briancon and then a train to Mont Dauphin, or alternatively fly to Grenoble, Lyon, or Geneva where bus and train connections link to Mont Dauphin (see details below). Check Sky Scanner flight comparison site for the best flight options.
Flights and transfers
- Fly to Turin
- Transfer bus from Turin airport to Briancon (6 times per day Sat/ 4 per day Sun): Visit Linkbus website – linkbus-alps.com/en/ for tickets and timetables.
- Train from Briancon to Mont Dauphin (every 2 hrs): voyages-sncf.com/billet-train/horaires
- Fly to Lyon
- Train from Lyon Airport to Mont Dauphin (via Grenoble and Gap): voyages-sncf.com/billet-train/horaires
- On Saturdays Linkbus run 3 transfer buses to Briancon and on Sundays 2 transfer buses – then train to Mont Dauphin.
- Fly to Grenoble (Isere)
- On Saturdays Linkbus run 2 buses to Briancon (check times and book tickets on Linkbus website), then train to Mont Dauphin. NB They run no buses on Sunday for this route.
- Bus from Grenoble Airport to Grenoble Gare Routiere (45 mins): actibus.com/aeroport/#aeroport
- Then: train from Grenoble to Mont Dauphin (3 hours via Gap): voyages-sncf.com/billet-train/horaires
Fly to Geneva
- Bus from Geneva Airport to Grenoble (2 hrs, 6 buses a day): www.aerocar.fr
- Train from Grenoble to Mont Dauphin: voyages-sncf.com/billet-train/horaires
For 2 or more people travelling together, airport car hire is also a cost effective option – NB you must hire a car with winter tyres or snow chains – all routes cross high mountain passes in winter, where special equipment is compulsory. Driving times to Mont Dauphin from the various Airports are: Turin 2.30hrs, Grenoble 3hrs, Lyon 4hrs, Geneva 4.30hrs (via Frejus Tunnel).
Other travel options
- Driving: from UK take the ferry or Eurotunnel to Calais/Dunkerque, then 12-13 hours driving on the French Autoroutes (budget approx 90 Euros each way in tolls).
- Train: Eurostar from UK to Lyon, then onward train to Grenoble and MD
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.