Ski touring in Chamonix
Whether you’re an experienced tourer or looking for a new challenge, Chamonix has some of the best ski touring in the world. The slow accent can allow you to appreciate some of the nuances that are overlooked (pun intended) when you get the lift up. Most routes are off piste and require the necessary equipment and training before undertaking this challenge. They may also be glaciated, which requires a knowledge of crevasse rescue and all the necessary equipment. If you are worried or new to the area, we recommend organising a tour through a guiding organisation. This is essential if you aren’t confident in your experience or knowledge for crevasse rescue.
Here are a few suggestions for touring in the valley:
Les Houches ski touring track
The ski touring track in Les Houches is probably the best place to start if you are a complete beginner as it is a predetermined route. You start from the Prarion lift station and pick up the red paneled signs that indicate where to go. The route starts off near to the piste until you pass the maison neuve veering into a more natural setting. The route has a couple of paths towards the top, but both directions will eventually bring you to the top of the prarion lift. You can then either take the gondola down or ski down the main piste. There is a steep section towards the end that can be a little bit tricky, just to keep that in mind. It is great training for your kick turns, especially if you want to try out some more difficult routes at a later date.
Le Tour / Charamillon
Similar to the ski touring track in les Houches, the Compagnie du Mont Blanc have created a route that runs from the bottom of the Charamillon lift right up to les Autannes chairlift in the le Tour ski area. Running near adjacent to the piste and predetermined on the map, it is a great place to practice the basics of touring. You can also choose to come off the route at a halfway point if you are finding it difficult or looking to make it a quick tour. This is a great option if you are choosing to do this to build up your fitness for longer tours at a later date. There is also a steep section under the top of the charamillon lift station which will give you the opportunity to practice those kick turns.
Aiguillette des Houches
The tour starts from a little hamlet above the train station called le betty, it looks like a group of old stone chalets at the base of the forest. The track twists and turns through the forest, with the occasional glance down over the valley and Mont Blanc . It isn’t an incredibly steep climb, but it does take about an hour and a half to reach the plateau at Les Chailloux. The view from here is absolutely incredible, and there is a little hut which makes for a great spot to stop for a snack and a flask of something hot. Now for the descent… You can either head back down the way you came or take the steep couloir towards la Pierre Blanche. Both options have their pros and cons, however we wouldn’t recommend taking the second option unless you are an experienced off piste skier.
Rochers des Enclaves
This route is actually located in les Contamines about a 40 minute drive from the Chamonix valley. Rochers des Enclaves is good for beginners, the ground isn’t too steep making it a good place to use your kick turning technique. The route starts from the top of the Buche chairlift, where you traverse towards the south.Then you skin up to the Col de la Gittaz, from here you can either carry on to the summit or change over and ski down along the ridge. If you stick to the north-facing slope you can ski pretty much to the bottom of the Ruelle telecabine and make your way back over through the Hauteluce lift system. This terrain is off-piste, so we wouldn’t recommend undertaking this challenge if you aren’t an experienced off-piste skier.
Col du Passons
This incredible route is more difficult and glacier travel. Even some of the most experienced skiers can run into trouble with glaciers. This tour is remote, so unless you are with someone that knows the area, hire a guide. Start the route from the top of the Herse lift and climb the track to the left of the lift which you can skin up to reach the top of the Glacier des Rognons. This first climb is difficult on its own; you need to be well practiced in kick turning and boot packing for the final leg. From here, ski down the left of the Glacier des Rognons descending 1000m and traverse the heavily crevassed Argentière glacier. Skin up the moraine slopes left of the Aiguille du Chardonnet. It is about 750m of altitude gain to reach the Col with a short steep boot pack to reach the top. For the descent, you head north towards Glacier du Tour, keeping to the left until you are able to see clearly the village of Le Tour. From here, you can choose your route all the way down to the village.
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