The Tour Soleil Ski Tour is a brilliant and varied week, starting and finishing in Switzerland, but travelling into the Italian Formazza Valley – home to the Walser people. Reliable snow and good weather, combine with small friendly huts and non of the crowds of the better known areas. Most days it’s not unusual to have a classic peak or great descent all to yourself.
This is an excellent quiet touring area with plenty of accessible ski summits and good varied descents, on both powder and spring snow. Their are several ways to traverse through the range, linking up the hut system. We may do the tour West to East as described, or the other way round depending on snow conditions. We start the tour with the adventure of a night in an unmanned hut (we’ll be taking our own food in), then for the rest of the week the huts have full guardian service and hot showers each night – two nights are spent in a couple of the huts, allowing us to enjoy skiing with a lighter pack on.
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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). You need previous multiday ski touring experience in order to join this tour. The week includes 6-8 hour days and some long climbs, so you can expect to be skinning for 3-5 hours a day. Type of ascent: we use 100% skinning on the tour – approx 5500m of skinning up, 5800m of skiing down.
One UIAGM guide skiing with 6 clients.
Included in price
- 6 days of guiding
- All guides expenses
- 2 nights hotel accommodation in Brig including breakfast
- 5 nights accommodation in mountain huts, including breakfast and evening meal
Excluded from price (see course factsheet for cost estimates)
- Evening meals in the valley
- Uplift and local travel
- Lunches and drinks
- Flights and transfers to resort
- Equipment hire
Our meeting point for this trip is the comfortable Hotel Europe*** in Brig, which is just 80m from the railway station in the centre of town. 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. Any extra luggage can be left until in the hotel until your return to resort at the end of the week. Evening meals can be taken in Brig. Hotel details can be found on our Accommodation page.
For overnights in the high mountains we will use mountain huts. 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.
Early train to Feisch, from where we skin up the Binn Tal to the unmanned Binntal Hut.
Inaccessible and hidden away in the back of beyond, the Binntal has a remote ‘lost world’ feel to it – and by the time you reach the hut after four hours march, you really do feel in the middle of nowhere!
The hut is comfortable and fully equipped – we just need to carry some food in. Wine and beer can be purchased from the hut supplies using an honesty box, so it makes for a great spot to spend the night.
850m ascent ~4hrs
Binntal to Margaroli Hut
There are several different ways of reaching the Margaroli Hut in Italy, from the Binntal in Switzerland – so this is a day that can be varied depending on conditions and the fitness of the party.
All involve crossing one or two cols in order to pick up good descents on either north facing powder, or south facing spring snow.
The Hut itself lies next to Lago Vannino – depending on the route taken, we may have to skate or skin across the lake in order to reach it. Like most italian huts, there’s a good bar and a friendly welcome awaiting – the Margaroli also has hot showers and free broadband, so it’s a good place to spend 2 nights.
600-1100m ascent and descent, depending on route taken ~4-6hrs.
Day Tour – Offenhorn
Like many peaks in the area, the Offenhorn has two names: one Swiss and one Italian (Punta D’Arbola). Either way, it’s a classic ski peak of the region – with extensive views east to the Monta Rosa chain.
Depending on conditions, a choice of descents is possible – if there is powder around, the north facing descent down the Sabbione Glacier is excellent, or if spring snow conditions are better, then the SE facing descent down to Lago Vannino is also a superb choice.
In the latter case, the route back to the Margaroli Hut involves skating across the lake over the ice – if the lake is snow covered, then it’s half an hours skinning instead!
1100m ascent and descent ~5-6hrs.
Margaroli to Maria Luisa Hut
The day starts with an hours climb up to the Passo di Nefelgiu, which gives access to a long north facing descent finishing at the tiny hamlet of Riale, which is the highest village in Val Formazza and a good example of the distinctive local architecture of the region.
There’s also a café and bar here, so it’s a good opportunity to enjoy a mid morning break and soak up the beautiful surroundings.
In the afternoon, we skin up a long, snowy track on the far side of the valley to the Maria Luisa Hut. Having an uphill finish makes this day feel pretty hard, but there’s hot showers and a good bar at the hut to aid recovery!
800m ascent and descent ~5hrs
Day Tour – Maria Luisa Hut
There are numerous good day tours all around the Maria Luisa Hut, allowing us to spend a day skiing here with lighter packs on.
To the north of the hut, the Rotentalhorn offers a good viewpoint and a great ski back down again, usually on spring snow.
To the east there are a number of options, including a circular tour of the cols north of Basodino. Stable conditions are required here, as there are a number of sections on steeper terrain, but the tour finishes with a superb descent down the long, broad couloir dropping off the Kastellucke.
Our final choice will depend on current snow and weather conditions.
~800m ascent and descent 5hrs
The Final Day
Skiing down into the Upper Rhone Valley near Munster is one of our favourite ways to finish the Tour Soleil. An early start and careful assessment of conditions are required, as the various descent routes all pass through steep sided valleys in order to reach the train line down in the main valley.
The reward is a long north facing descent that’s not often skied, so usually there are plenty of fresh tracks to be had.
Back in the valley, there’s time to enjoy a lunch time drink before hopping on the train back to Brig to finish the week.
1200m ascent, 2000m descent ~7-8hrs
PM return to Brig on the train
Return travel should be arranged on Saturday morning, after your final nights accommodation.
Your course starts and finishes in Brig in the Rhone Valley, with easy access and good links to the Bernese Oberland, Valais Alps and the SE Swiss Alpine chain.
The most convenient way to reach Brig is fly into Geneva, then take a train along the Rhone Valley – Brig is on the main railway line, and our hotel is a short walk from the train station.
Flights and transfers
- Fly to Geneva with numerous budget airlines, for an overview of the best options check out the excellent Sky Scanner website.
- Train from Geneva airport to Brig (1.5 hrs): https://www.sbb.ch/en/home.html (integrated Swiss travel website)
- If you plan to arrive by train, then purchasing a Swiss Travel Pass (details on website above) could save you some money on this course, 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 Brig and back will be included.
- Alternatively hire a car at any airport (all 2-4 hours driving time).
Other travel options
- Driving from UK, take the ferry or Eurotunnel to Calais/Dunkerque, then 10-11 hours driving.
- Eurostar train from the UK to Geneva, then onward train service to Brig (excellent fast service): 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.