Haute Route Ski Tour

ski_haute2The Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt was the first “high level route” in the Alps. It was first imagined and realized on foot by the British Alpine Club in 1861. It wasn’t until 1927 that skiers made the first traverse from the Majestic slopes of Mont Blanc to the jagged beauty of the Matterhorn.

The Haute Route literally takes the high road, linking spacious mountain plateaus by a series of cols (passes). You spend your mornings climbing over a col and your afternoons descending pristine terrain to your next hut along the route.

Itinerary for the Classic Haute Route

Day 1: Ski the Vallee Blanche.
This is a warm up day to test equipment and legs as we ski one of the most scenic descents in the Alps. We ride the Aiguille du Midi cable car from downtown Chamonix for over 10,000 ft. into the heart of the Mont Blanc range. From this scenic viewpoint (you can just see the Matterhorn in Switzerland on clear day) we walk down a snowy ridge and click on our skis. There are many variations, depending on conditions, that wind us through the magical setting of glacier and rock. The view of this rugged range will keep you in awe the whole day. We’ll stop and eat lunch midway through our run, then glide out the Mer de Glace glacier back to Chamonix. We’ll stay in our hotel in Chamonix and have a chance to attend to last minute details. 5-6 hours.

Day 2: Grands Montets Ski Area to the Cabane de Trient via the Col de Chardonnet.
This scenic day takes us from the highest point of the Grands Montets Ski Area off piste down the Glacier de Rognon into the huge and cathedral like Argentiere Basin. I often find great powder snow down this 2,300 ft. run. We have a snack, put our climbing skins on and ascend the cold de Chardonnet into Switzeland. Another quick descent and climb bring us onto the Trient Plateau where we’ll traverse across to the welcoming Cabane de Trient. This welcoming hut is surrounded by the Aiguille Dorees and as the sunsets and we eat a warm tasty Swiss meal, you’ll see why this place is so special. 6-8 hours.

Day 3: Cabane de Trient to Champex Village, via the Col des Ecandies and the Val d’Arpette.
This is an easy and rewarding day as we leave the Cabane de Trient and ski down and around to the Col des Ecnadies. After a short 5 min. climb we descend almost 5,000 ft. down the beautiful and enigmatic Val d’Arpette. It starts in a big open bowl where I almost always find nice powder then winds through an Aspen forest through a meadow, then we into one of the smallest ski areas I have ever seen and slide into the village of Champex. From Champex we transfer via bus to the village of Bourg St. Pierre for the next leg of our trip. 3-5 hours.

Day 4: Bourg St. Pierre to Cabane Valsory.
After a relaxing evening in town (a small village actually), we begin this day winding our way up a sparse open valley under the mighty Grand Combin Peak. This is one of the most massive peaks in the Alps and we circumnavigate it for the next few days. The hike is usually begun on foot and skis are donned when the snow appears, normally after an hour. The last stretch up to the hut is quite steep and the hut seems so close….. When at last we reach it, the guardian of the hut offers us a cold drink and as you look out over the vista all is forgotten. 5-7 hours.

Day 5: Cabane Valsory to Cabane Chanrion via the Plateau de Couloir.
One of the most adventurous days on the trip, we don our boot crampons for the first climb over the Plateau du Couloir. And after one more small climb over Col de Sonadon we descend to the Chanrion Hut. This area is most remote of the trip and quite rugged and beautiful. 6-8 hours.

Day 6: Cabane Chanrion to Cabane Vignettes.
There are three option for this day, the most interesting and aesthetic being between the Otemma and the Brenay Glaciers over Les Portons. This is a high plateau which winds along the ridges and gives us some of the most spectacular scenery so far! After a long climb on skins we summit the Pigne d’Arolla and descend to our hut, which is spectacular in its own right—hint you wouldn’t want to fall of its balcony! 6-9 hours.

Day 7: Cabane Vignettes to Zermatt Village via the col de L’Eveques, col du Mt. Brule, and finally the col de Valpelline.
This is definitely the most rewarding day of the trip. At the last col, the Matterhorn shows its mighty north Face welcoming you to the Zermatt Valley. You just have a 7000 ft 15 mile descent to get you to town. 7-10 hours.

Day 8: Weather day or optional skiing in Zermatt.
The Schwartztor is the Vallee Blanche of Zermatt and is well worth the short skin. Other options include an on-piste trip to Cervinia, Italy for lunch and back or continuing up and over to Saas-Fe.