An intensive 3 day early season ski touring skills weekend, for learning new techniques and brushing up on avalanche safety training. This is an ideal Haute Route training course, or makes good preparation for joining a multi day hut to hut tour later in the season.
On the ski touring skills weekend we cover all the skills required to join a multiday ski tour as a safe member of a group. Techniques covered include skinning skills, uphill kick turns, transceiver training and avalanche safety and avoidance. Tips and coaching to improve your off piste skiing also form an important part of the weekend. We tailor each course to your future plans and ambitions, so glacier travel and using ice axe and crampons may also be included if appropriate. Teaching and training sessions are always incorporated into ‘real’ days out ski touring, so that you get to do as much skiing as possible over the weekend.
Recent Trip Report:
Need further information? enquire about this trip.
This is an to introductory level trip. To take part you should be at Fitness Level 2 and Tech Level 2 (see our Fitness/Experience guidelines). You need to be a regular off piste skier, but no previous ski touring experience is necessary.
One UIAGM guide skiing with 6 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
- 3 days of guiding/instruction
- All guides expenses
- Local travel during course (guides vehicle/local ski bus)
- 3 nights accommodation in the Chamonix valley, including breakfast
Excluded from price
- Lunches and evening meals
- Flights and transfers
- Equipment hire
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. NB in busy seasons we may use an alternative hotel as our course base, eg La Chaumiere Mountain Lodge, L’Eden and Cremerie du Glacier are some of our other regular hotels in Chamonix. Hotel details can be found on our Accommodation page.
Return Flights – Please book a late flight on Sunday night (ie after 9pm) in order to allow for a full days skiing on Sunday.
You should arrange outward travel to arrive at your accommodation on Thursday Evening.
AM Morning Briefing. 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.
On day one, we start with some warm up runs and an introduction to ski touring kit, before practicing skinning skills, kick turns and doing some avalanche transceiver training, then we set off on a lift assisted day tour.
Knowing how to skin uphill is pretty fundamental to all types of backcountry skiing away from resorts. Once you’ve got the basics of how to put skins on and off and how the ski touring bindings swap over from uphill to downhill mode, then it’s time to head off and practice some skinning.
The technique is to slide your skis along the snow in smooth strides – ie don’t lift them up off the ground with each step – it’s more of a ‘shuffle’ than a ‘walk’.
As the terrain gets steeper, eventually uphill kick turns are needed to change direction. These are difficult to master, but it’s important to practice them until you become proficient, as they are your ticket to travelling through the high mountains. In icy conditions, harscheisen (ski crampons) may also be needed for extra grip.
There are different spacing protocols for travelling on terrain such as glaciers and steeper slopes, in order to reduce the loading on the slope – so it’s important you know how and when to spread out within a group.
We’ll choose a tour appropriate to the level of the group, so that nobody struggles and everyone has the time to learn new skills and ask questions etc en route. You’ll need to bring a packed lunch, as we’ll be out in the backcountry all day, enjoying the skiing and scenery.
Saturday and Sunday
2 further days of ski touring, incorporating training and instruction in ski touring skills and avalanche safety. Areas covered include:
Avalanches are the number one cause of serious accidents to backcountry skiers, so it’s essential that you know how to plan a safe day in the light of the current avalanche forecast, as well as make observations and ski defensively on the ground.
This is an area that we discuss constantly throughout the course, both at a planning level and during each day out – on the way up and on the way down.
Danger signs to look out for, how to select a safe route, skin up safely and then back down again in a way that minimises risk are all covered, as well as emergency procedures and avalanche rescue.
Having all the skills and knowledge is one thing, but being aware of how group dynamics, peer pressures and other psychological factors cause people to make poor decisions in avalanche terrain is equally important, so we teach strategies to avoid these heuristic traps and improve your decision making.
If you are involved in or witness an avalanche incident, you only have 15 minutes to locate and dig out any buried victims, in order for them to stand a realistic chance of survival.
This is no easy task, so training and practice in how to carry out a coordinated avalanche rescue is vital for you to stand any chance of success.
There’s a lot more to it than simply doing a transceiver search:
Knowing how to protect the rescuers, coordinate a group search, divide up jobs, do a final pin point search, probe for the victim and finally, undertake a coordinated conveyer belt dig out are all essential skills needed to cut the rescue time down to 15 minutes.
Glacier skiing is a wonderful experience, but one that brings it’s own hazards. In order to travel safely across a glacier on skis, you need to know how to move correctly as a group and find a safe line through crevasses.
Carrying the right kit is equally important, so we’ll show you what you need to carry on your harness and in your rucsac, including how to set up a ‘cowstail’ to make recue from a crevasse easier.
It’s important to know how to conduct a safe descent, including the need for extra caution and control on glaciated terrain. In poor visibility or heavily crevassed terrain, you may even need to ski roped up – this is something you definitely need to practice before trying it for real.
Tours are planned to involve as wide a variety of terrain as possible, including glaciers and using ice axe and crampons if appropriate. Tips and coaching to improve your off piste skiing also form part of the course.
Course debrief and advice for the future.
NB Return Flights
If you are flying home on Sunday evening, then you must book a late evening flight. ie on Sunday it won’t be possible for you to leave the group early and ski to the valley on your own, as we will be out on a ski tour in the middle of nowhere and will all need to stick together until the end of the day!
Typically we are back at the hotel by 4-5pm latest, so book a flight departing after 9-10pm.
Your course starts and finishes in the Chamonix valley.
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).
Other travel options
- Driving from UK, take the ferry or Eurotunnel to Calais/Dunkerque, then 9-10 hours driving on the French Autoroutes (budget approx 80 Euros each way in tolls).
- Euroline coach UK to Chamonix (takes 1 day): www.eurolines.co.uk/en
- Eurostar train from the UK to Lyon, then onward train service to Chamonix (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.
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
- 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 – bring them if you have them
- Ice Axe – bring if you have one
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.
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.
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.