The Otztal Ski Tour in the Austrian Tyrol is another great ski venue, with excellent north facing descents, quality glacier skiing and a chance to climb the Wildspitze (3770m) – the highest summit in Tyrol. Along the way we also visit the spot where ‘Ötzi’ the 5000 year old ice man was discovered on the east ridge of the Fineilspitze in 1991. With comfortable huts and a convenient course meeting in Innsbruck, this is an excellent way to see one of Austria’s famous ski touring regions. **This trip includes free hire of safety equipment, and an early booking price of £1195**
This is a part linear, part star hut to hut tour, with a number of excellent ski summits and high quality north facing descents. The huts in the area are some of the best in the Alps, with hot showers, bar and restaurant service being the norm. The route follows a classic horseshoe around the head of the Ventnertal, that can be completed in most conditions. We spend a couple of nights in two of the huts, allowing for lighter packs and the flexibility to tailor the itinerary to varied abilities and conditions.
NB We meet in Innsbruck because it’s easy to get to and if you turn up early there’s good warm up skiing using the city centre funicular just 400m from our hotel. Onward travel to the Otztal is also much easier and quicker, as we are able to hire a private transfer minibus, rather than relying on public transport.
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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 more relaxed or more challenging along the way, so you can expect to be skinning for 3-4 hours a day. Type of ascent: 100% skinning – 6000m of skinning up, and 6000m of skiing down on the tour.
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
- All guides expenses
- 2 nights accommodation in Innsbruck, including breakfast.
- 5 nights accommodation in mountain huts, including breakfast and 3 course evening meal
- Return transfers between Innsbruck and the tour start/finish point
- Equipment hire: avalanche transceiver, shovel, probe, ice axe, crampons, harness
Excluded from price (see course factsheet for cost estimates)
- Evening meals in Innsbruck
- Lunches and drinks
- Flights and transfers
- Equipment hire
Our base in Innsbruck is the excellent Hotel Weisses-Kreuz, centrally located in the historic old town near a good range of restaurants, an excellent ski hire shop, and with the airport service bus stop very close by. The staff are super friendly and helpful, and everyone really enjoys their stay in Innsbruck: it’s a great way to end the trip, seeing the sights and having a nice meal out in the town. 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. Any extra luggage not required on the tour can be left until the end of the week. Hotel details can be found on our Accommodation page.
For overnights in the high mountains we will use mountain huts. The Austrian hut network is the finest in Europe – many have hot showers, a very well stocked bar, and the food is usually excellent. 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. 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.
PM Overnight in Innsbruck.
Approach Day – AM Travel to Vent in the Otztal.
Skin up to the Martin Busch Hut. This is a steady climb up a valley, with 600m of ascent and takes about 3 hours. From the hut, we’ll then head out to do an avalanche safety/transceiver training session, before making a short ski tour up the valley in order to warm up a bit and get some turns in before dinner.
Martin Busch Hut – Day Tour
A day to enjoy ski touring with a lighter pack on. There are numerous good day tours from the Martin Busch Hut, many of which enjoy long glacier descents on north facing terrain that often holds powder.
One such is a great circular tour around the Mutmal Spitze. From the hut the route climbs up the Marzeller Glacier, curving round steadily eastward to the Hinter Schwarzen Joch (3393m), which is then crossed in order to reach the top of a long north facing powder descent that leads down onto the Schalf Glacier and back to the hut.
Alternatively, we could make the ascent of Similaun on this day, which would make the following day a bit shorter.
900m ascent and descent, ~4-5hrs
Similaun and Otzi’s Cairn – en route to the Hochjoch Hospitz.
Similaun is a classic day tour from the Martin Busch Hut and a lovely summit that can be taken in en route to the Hochjoch Hospitz. Lying at the head of the Neiderjoch Glacier, the summit takes about 3hrs to reach from the hut, with the final couple of hundred meters up the NW Ridge usually being climbed on foot. The views south, to the distant Bernina and Ortler ranges are fantastic from here.
Once back at the ski depot, the other reason for climbing Similaun becomes self evident – a perfect angled north facing glacier descent awaits, passing the Similaun Hut before putting skins back on for a 300m climb up to the Hauslab Joch. Just before the col, we make a short detour to visit the memorial cairn to Otzi the Iceman.
From the Hauslab Joch, another great north facing run takes us down to the Hochjoch Hospitz, where we spend the next 2 nights.
1400m ascent and descent ~7hrs including Similaun, 900m and ~4-5hrs just visiting Otzi’s Cairn.
Otzi the Iceman
On 19th September 1991, two German mountaineers found a body partly frozen in glacier ice, about a mile from the Similaun Hut. On removal to Innsbruck University, the corpse was identified as being a naturally mummified body of a neolithic man, who lived between 5350-5100 years ago.
To put this in some kind of context, Otzi was alive and roaming across glaciers in the Alps several hundred years before Stonehenge was built. A number of items of clothing, shoes, tools, a copper axe and a bow with arrows were found alongside his body – leading to an amazing insight into life during the neolithic age.
The body has been extensively studied, X rayed and scanned by scientists – revealing a great deal about how and where he lived and the nature of his death. Here the tale turns more sinister – a flint arrowhead was found lodged in his left shoulder, along with several deep cuts and bruises and a fractured skull. This, together with other evidence, indicates that he was involved in a serious fight shortly before death and died from the wounds he sustained.
Many theories have been put forward to explain the scenareo that may have lead to his death. Examination of pollens and tooth enamel indicates that he was out of home territiry, possibly part of an armed raiding party against a neighbouring tribe, but the attack went wrong and he and his comrades were forced to flee across the mountains, where he ultimately died.
Otzi was found just on the Italian side of the border, so nowadays he lives in the South Tyrol Museum of Archeology in Bolzano, Northern Italy.
Hochjoch Hospitze – Day Tour.
The Hochjoch Hospitz is the second hut on the Otztal Tour where we spend two nights in order to enjoy a day tour with a lighter pack on. Traversing from the Martin Busch Hut involves descending a long north facing glacier run – which can be tricky in poor visibility, but often holds powder.
From the Hochjoch Hospitz there are numerous tours in all directions, including:
- Langtauferer Spitze (3529m) at the head of the Hintereis Glacier – 1100m of ascent and descent, 6-7hrs.
- Weisskogel (3739m) also at the head of the Hintereis Glacier – 1400m of ascent and descent, 8hrs.
or for a shorter day:
- Kreuz Kogel Joch – 850m ascent and descent ~4hrs.
Fluchtkogel -Vernagnt Hut
Skinning diagonally up and left from the hut, leads to the snout of the Kesselwand Glacier, which we must climb in order to reach the summit of Fluchtkogel (3500m).
Here the descent is mostly on south facing slopes, with spring snow conditions being the likelihood.
Dropping down from the summit, we then cut left through the Ober Guslar Joch and across the Guslar Glacier to the Vernagt Hut.
This is a shorter day, with 1100m ascent, 750 descent, ~4-5hrs.
Big final day – Wildspitze and the descent to Vent.
First we cross the Grosser and Kleiner Vernagt Glaciers to reach the Brochkogel Joch, where we turn east and skin up to a ski depot on the SW ridge of the Wildspitze (3770m) – the final rocky ridge being climbed on foot.
From the ski depot, the final big 1700m descent begins with a short ski down to the Mitterkarjoch, followed by a steep descent onto the Mitterkar Glacier. The route then leads down past the Breslauer Hut and finally onto pistes in the valley leading back to Vent.
1050m ascent, 1800m descent, ~6-7hrs.
PM Travel back to Innsbruck, last night in the hotel.
Return travel should be arranged on Saturday morning, after your final nights accommodation.
Your trip starts and finishes in Innsbruck, the most convenient access point for touring in this part of Austria, on the doorstep of the Stubai, Hohe Tauern, Otztal and Silvretta ranges. The airport shuttle bus stops next door to our hotel in the heart of the old town, and just minutes from the city centre uplift too – have a quick ski on Saturday afternoon to kick start your trip! After a comfortable stay in Innsbruck, a private taxi transfer gives quick access to the mountains to start the tour.
The most convenient way to reach Innsbruck in winter is fly directly to the city airport, then take a short shuttle bus journey into the city. Alternatively fly into Salzburg or Zurich and catch the train to Innsbruck.
Flights and transfers
- Fly to Innsbruck: check Sky Scanner website for best options.
- Shuttle bus from the airport to the city centre (20 mins): www.innsbruck-airport.com/en/train-bus
- Or, fly to Salzburg or Zurich.
- Train from there to Innsbruck: www.oebb.at/en/ (excellent Austrian integrated train/bus timetable)
- Alternatively hire a car at any airport: www.arguscarhire.com / www.holidayautos.co.uk
Other travel options
- Driving from UK, take the ferry or Eurotunnel to Calais/Dunkerque, then 12-14 hours driving.
- Eurostar train from the UK to Paris, then TGV to Zurich, and onward train to Innsbruck: 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, 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).
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.