If you’ve started backcountry skiing and touring and would like to improve your ski standard so you can enjoy a wider range of tours, then our level 2 off piste skiing and skills course is designed specifically for you! Aimed at off piste skiers and ski tourers who want to improve their ski technique, the course is run by an IFMGA Guide who is also a BASI ski instructor; so you get the benefit of the same guide and instructor all week, to improve your technique and enjoy some great touring and descents. Free safety equipment rental is included with this course.
The key focus of the week is to improve your ski ability in varied off piste snow conditions and different types of terrain, so we’ll be working on this every day. In order to practice in real backcountry terrain, we’ll be using touring kit most days to get further away from the lifts and find the best snow to practice on. Coaching and training sessions are always incorporated into ‘real’ days out skiing, with a mix of structured coaching, off piste practice and ski tours – so that you’ll get to enjoy a great weeks skiing (ie it’s a fun ‘holiday where you’ll learn’, not a whole week of ‘ski school’!). On this course we aim to sample the best areas Chamonix has to offer, plus other nearby venues in Italy, Switzerland, Les Contamines and the closer Aravis/Portes du Soleil resorts, as conditions dictate. Private transfers are provided between the hotel and ski venues each day.
This is an to introductory/intermediate level course. To take part you should be at Fitness Level 2 and Tech Level 2/3 (see our Fitness/Experience guidelines). As a minimum standard, you need to have used skins and touring equipment before and be able to ski black runs and resort off piste terrain.
This is the minimum requirement and teams of mixed ability/fitness are quite common, but the pace and scope for each day is determined by teaching objectives rather than a time critical journey – ie we have focused learning objectives each day, but the atmosphere is quite relaxed!
The week includes a mix of off piste days and ski tours. The touring days may start with some uplift and have steady climbs, with typically 200-800m of ascent a day – so you can expect to be skinning for 2-3 hours on a touring day. The type of ascent we use is 75% uplift and 25% skinning during the week.
One IFMGA guide skiing with 6 clients.
Included in price
- 6 days of guiding/instruction
- All guides expenses
- 7 nights hotel accommodation, including breakfast and evening meal
- Transport between hotel and ski venues during the course
- Safety equipment hire: avalanche transceiver, shovel, probe
Excluded from price (see factsheet for extra cost estimates)
- Uplift and local travel
- Lunches and drinks
- Travel to resort
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. Evening meals can be taken in Argentiere in the hotels partner restaurant. Other hotels we may use at busy times include the Chaumiere Mountain Lodge in Chamonix. Hotel details can be found on our Accommodation page.
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. 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.
Warm Up Off Piste Day
Day one is planned as a lift served off piste day. We start with some warm up runs, so you can find your ski legs and we can take a look at your current skiing, then move into coaching and improving on a variety of core ski techniques.
We’ll choose terrain appropriate to the level of the group, so everyone has the time to practice, ask questions and work on their skills.
During the day we’ll pause for the odd coffee break and at lunchtime, we’ll stop at a mountain restaurant for a meal.
Monday to Friday
5 further days of off piste skiing and ski tours, incorporating daily ski technique coaching. We tailor each week to the group, making best use of current weather and snow conditions – ski venues are approximately 10 minutes to 1 hours drive from our hotel.
In order to maximise downhill practice time, we’ll be using some uplift on most days, plus skinning to access the best terrain and snow. Depending on conditions and the group, we are also likely to do a couple of full day long tours during the week. On touring days you’ll need a packed lunch, as we’ll be out in the backcountry all day, enjoying the skiing and scenery.
The main elements we focus on each day are:
Simon will give you the skills and confidence to enjoy off piste skiing, whatever the snow conditions. You’ll learn how to ski smooth linked turns in powder, enjoy tree skiing rather than fearing it(!), ski bumps and uneven terrain in better style and deal with steeper terrain and difficult conditions with greater control and confidence. We’ll also teach you strategies to deal with crusts and other difficult snow types, to get down safely and in control.
In addition, we’ll have time to refresh and update on your touring skills and avalanche safety knowledge as appropriate during the week.
Fri PM – course debrief and advice for the future.
Return travel should be arranged on Saturday 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.
To enjoy this trip you should be comfortable operating at Fitness Level 2, 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 30-40 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 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.
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
- 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 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.