The Ortler Alps Ski Tour explores the Stelvio National Park, in the South Tyrol region of Northern Italy. Extremely comfortable huts with great Italian food, high mountain glacial scenery and big ski peaks abound. There are many long, north facing glacier descents to enjoy.
This is a classic hut tour, with a number of great ski peaks and long, north facing glacier descents. The huts in the area are very comfortable, with hot showers available in some, en suite rooms in others and even a sauna at the Pizzini Hut! We spend more than one night in each hut, allowing us to enjoy day tours with lighter packs on – and plenty of options are available in the area, so it’s possible to tour in most weather and snow conditions.
Cevedale – one of the areas ski touring jewels and the highest summit on the tour is best guided at 1:4 ratio, especially if conditions are icy. This, combined with tricky access to the tour start, means the trip is now being offered at 1:4 ratio, so that the guides vehicle may be used for local transport.
Recent Trip Reports:
Need further information? enquire about this trip.
This is an intermediate level trip. To take part you should be at Fitness Level 3 and Tech Level 3 (see our Fitness/Experience guidelines below). You need previous ski touring experience to enjoy this tour. Typically there will be 900-1200m of climb a day, with options to make things easier or harder along the way, so you can expect to be skinning for 3-4 hours a day. Type of ascent: we use 100% skinning on this tour – approx 6000m of skinning up, 6000m of skiing down.
One UIAGM guide skiing with 4 clients.
This trip is protected against financial failure through our membership of the Association of Bonded Travel Organisers Trust (ABTOT) – Alpine Guides Ltd, Membership Number 5394. For further information, please visit our Financial Protection page.
Included in price
- 6 days of guiding
- All guides expenses
- 2 nights hotel accommodation including breakfast and evening meals
- 5 nights accommodation in mountain huts, including breakfast and evening meals
Excluded from price (see factsheet for extra costs info)
- Uplift and local travel
- Lunches and drinks
- Flights and transfers to resort
- Equipment hire
Our meeting point in Zernez is the Hotel Spoel, a friendly family run hotel, with good food and offering comfortable accommodation. Rooms are provided on a twin (or occasionally triple) sharing basis, but If you wish to book a single room please let us know 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 stays in friendly Italian huts with great food, good coffee and a super relaxed atmosphere. 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 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. Overnight in the valley.
AM Travel to Ortler. Skin up to the Branca Hut, including a shorter day tour with skills refreshment and safety training along the way.
Isla Persa – Branca Hut
After an early breakfast, we drive over to Italy and then on up to the village of Santa Caterina in the Stelvio National Park. Our tour starts here, with a steady skin up the Valle di Forni.
Along the way we’ll do some skills refreshment and make a short tour further up the valley to Isla Persa. This is a great little summit which has an excellent series of north facing powder bowls leading back toward the Branca Hut – which is a very comfortable spot, with great food and hot showers available for the next three nights.
750m ascent, 450m descent ~3-4hrs
Monday – Tuesday
Branca Hut – day tours
Monday and Tuesday are spent day touring, returning to the Branca Hut each night. There are numerous excellent day tours from the Branca Hut, a typical classic being Punta San Matteo (3678m), which gives a great north facing glacier descent. The scenic climb up the Forno Glacier holds no undue difficulties, before finally reaching the east ridge of Punta San Matteo a short distance before the summit.
On the descent, the upper reaches of the Forno Glacier consists of a lovely series of powder bowls making the long climb to the summit well worth while.
1250m ascent and descent, ~5-6hrs
Branca Hut to Pizzini Hut
Depending on weather and snow conditions, there are several different ways of traversing between the Branca and Pizzini Huts.
The classic way is to make the traverse of Monte Pasquale (3553m) – this involves climbing the SE Ridge of the peak, in order to ski down the NW Face and on down the north facing Cedec Glacier, which often holds powder.
The Pizzini Hut itself is a large, well equipped building – which even boasts a sauna!
1000m ascent, 800m descent ~5hrs
From the Pizzini Hut, the day starts with a long skin up the Cedec Glacier in order to gain a high plateau at an altitude of 3500m, just above the Casati Hut – depending on conditions, this point can also be reached via a roped climb up to the Casati Hut.
Heading southwards, the glacier climbs up to a final steepening and a short snow ridge leading to the summit of Cevedale (3769m), which marks the high point of our tour. In good conditions it’s sometimes possible to skin all the way to the summit, but more often the ascent involves a roped climb from a ski depot below the summit. The views from here to the nearby Konigspitze are particularly spectacular.
The descent begins by skiing some steep, north facing pitches down onto the Cedec Glacier, which takes us back to the Pizzini Hut for a second night.
1100m ascent, 1100m descent ~5-6hrs
Cima dei Forni
On our final day we climb one of the cols and summits of the Cima dei Forni, before making a long descent back to the valley.
Which route we follow depends entirely on conditions, as there are both north facing powder bowls and south facing spring snow descents on either side of the mountain.
Both ways lead back to the valley where the tour starts, in order to drive back to Zernez in Switzerland for the final night.
500-800m ascent, 1300-1600m descent ~4-5hrs
PM return to Zernez in Switzerland.
Return travel should be arranged on Saturday morning, after your final nights accommodation.
Your course starts and finishes in Zernez near St Moritz, a convenient access point for touring in this region of Switzerland and tours in Italy nearby.
The most common way to reach Zernez is fly into Zurich, then take a train along the main line towards St Moritz – Zernez is just a few stops away from its famous neighbour (3.5 hr journey time from Zurich).
Flights and transfers
- Fly to Zurich with numerous budget airlines, for an overview of the best options check out the excellent Sky Scanner website.
- Train from Zurich to Zernez: https://www.sbb.ch/en/home.html (integrated Swiss travel website, displays all connecting bus and train services)
- Alternatively fly to Milan, hire a car and drive to Zernez in around 2.5 hrs (public transport is tricky).
- If you plan to arrive by train and you also plan to travel around Switzerland before/after the trip, then purchasing a Swiss Travel Pass (details on website above) could save you some money, 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 Zernez and back will be included. It isn’t worth buying one for this course alone however.
- Alternatively hire a car in Zurich (approx 4 hours driving time): www.arguscarhire.com / www.holidayautos.co.uk
Other travel options
Driving from UK, take the ferry or Eurotunnel to Calais/Dunkerque, then 11-13 hours driving.
Eurostar train from the UK to Zurich, then onward train service to Zernez (excellent fast service): www.eurostar.com/uk-en
Further information and travel links can be found on our Travel Planning page.
If you need to top up your fitness for this trip, please see our training guidelines.
NB All of our trips are 100% off piste/backcountry skiing, so the following descriptions refer to your off piste ski ability, not your piste skiing ability (on a typical 1-10 piste skiing scale, level 7-10 = level 1-2 on our off piste scale – ie it’s a different ball game!)
Please make a self assessment against these levels, and refer to the trip requirements. These are based on what types of snow and conditions you can confidently do regular linked turns in – and just as importantly, what conditions you begin to struggle in. (By ‘linked turns’ we mean skiing confidently and in control, moving from one turn into the next without traversing in between – just ‘getting down it’ or survival skiing doesn’t count here!)
Tech Level 1
Intro Off Piste Skier (Advanced Piste Skier). You cruise reds, black runs are challenging but fun and have ventured off piste with varying degrees of success (ie deep snow is still something of a mystery…) *Equivalent to Ski Club of GB Off Piste Level: Red – Aspirer*
Likely to say: ‘I’d love to learn how to ski well off piste and/or try ski touring’
Our Advice: Definitely go on an Off Piste Skiing Course to improve your ski technique first, before trying ski touring – you’ll get a lot more out of it that way around!
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.
Tech Level 4
Advanced Off Piste Skier. You can put turns in through heavier snow and on icy 40dg slopes, but difficult breakable crusts and skiing a fresh track off piste in zero visibility are still somewhat challenging! *Equivalent to Ski Club of GB Off Piste Level: Gold – Expert*
Likely to say: I’ve been skiing ten/twenty years – I’d like to do your ‘……’ tour.
Our Advice: You will enjoy our advanced level trips. If you are new to touring – then you could do a Haute Route with two or three days of skills training beforehand (but don’t overlook the physical fitness needed as well). Mileage is the best way to improve your ability level.
Tech Level 5
Expert Off Piste Skier. You can ski all snow types including crusts in control and are happy on slopes of 45dg or when putting in a fresh track in zero vis. *Equivalent to Ski Club of GB Off Piste Level: Gold – Expert*
Likely to say: ‘Bring it on…’
Our Advice: Stay strong – and may the force be with you… Advanced level trips and ski expeditions are the way forward.
Please make a self assessment against these levels, and refer to the trip requirements. These are cardiovascular (CV) fitness and activity levels eg. running, cycling, hillwalking or competitive sports that get your heart and lungs working for extended periods of time (not strength training in the gym!). They include mountaineering fitness and ski fitness benchmarks for context.
Fitness Level 1
You do 1-2 hours of cardiovascular training/sport per week. On foot: you should be able to climb Snowdon from Pen y Pas in around 2 hrs carrying a day sack, or Bow Fell starting from Langdale in the Lake District in about 2 1/2 hrs. On skis: you are happy piste skiing all day with just the odd break for food and drink, but would struggle to ski off piste all day without finishing up very tired for the following day.
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).
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).
Fitness Level 5
You do 5-6+ hours training for competitive sport per week, have a background in the same, or you are annoyingly talented! Either way, doing a 100 ml bike ride or about a 3hr marathon wouldn’t be unreasonable. On skis: you are happy skinning at over 400m/hr or could skin all day if neccesary (ie 1400m+ days).
Please be realistic in your assessment, and remember you need both the required fitness level and ski ability level in order to enjoy any given trip – it doesn’t matter how fit you are, if you can’t ski well enough you won’t keep up on the descents – and vica versa on the ascents! If your fitness or skills are in doubt there is a risk you could be excluded from an activity or required to leave the tour, if your participation could risk the safety, success or enjoyment of the rest of the party.
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.