Chamonix Ski Touring Guide

Christmas & New Year, Winter 2020 – Chamonix Ski & Mountaineering Conditions 

5 January 2020, Ski La Thuile – Good Cover But Well Tracked & Winded

A day of clear blue skies skiing around La Thuile and Le Rosiere with stunning views from Monte Bianco to the Matterhorn.  Across to the Tarentaise & down Val d’Aosta.  The prevailing good weather is matched by the impressive snow volume with basically the whole resort being open and looking good.  However a week+ of dry sunny weather over the busy holiday period means the side country is well tracked and more remote areas higher in the resort are windblasted!

Ski touring guide La Thuile

There were a few teams booting up Mont Valaisan from the top of the new chairlift at Le Rosiere and a few others ski touring on the steep sunny slopes South of the Petit St Bernard, but snow quality was, on the whole, varied with a mix of nice light velvet, wind crust and old tracks.   There were lots of old tracks on the North Face of Mont Valaisan, now much more easily accessed from the new high chairlift.   There was a free ride competition on the face below the Fort at Le Rosiere…but we didn’t enter!

4 January 2020, Chamonix – Le Tour Ski Touring Conditions

Fiona and I enjoyed some good ski mountaineering training in the Vormaine Couloirs this morning and saw 40 Chamois on the way up the valley.  It was quiet in the Vormaine bowl today as the snow conditions were better for going up than down!   However the bigger couloirs on the shady side of the valley had plenty of tracks in and looked like they had been good fun a few days ago:

Chamois Chamonix
Chamois cruising the steep slopes and couloirs in the Vormaine Valley, Chamonix
The shady couloirs above the Vormaine Bowl, Le Tour, Chamonix
Fiona ski Mountaineering Training in the Vormaine Bowl, Le Tour with the Chamonix Valley behind.

There were loads of teams skinning up the marked trail at Le Tour and then plenty were continuing on up in to the Autannes bowl with some teams climbing up the Autannes Col itself and down towards Trient.  Snow conditions sounded variable with plenty of wind effect nearer the ridges but still some light soft snow in places.  Numerous teams were also skiing in the steep couloirs off the Arollette and one team skied off the Tete de Balme and down towards the Nant Noire and carried on down to Trient.

Variable snow conditions on the shady Swiss side of Le Tour

On the other side of the Chamonix Valley tracks could be seen on the steep skiers left bank of the approach to the Col d’Encrenaz as well as some steep tracks coming down from the lower slopes of the Col de Passon.   Kenny and Max did 16000m of vertical descent at the Grands Montets and said nearly 10m of that was not big bumps…good effort!

2 January 2020, Skiing & Climbing From Skyway Monte Bianco

A strong wind with plenty of blowing snow gave pretty robust conditions at times for our ski touring sortie into the Vallee Blanche, accessed from the Italian side via the Skyway Monte Bianco.   There was a team straight in to the steep couloir starting at the new Skyway station and down via the Rifugio Torino into the more defined couloir leading to the Toule Glacier.  The snow did not look, or sound, great but they made rapid work of it and there were plenty of tracks in the Toule considering the normal / easiest access route via the steps is closed at the moment.

Skyway Steep Skiing
Steep skiing from the Skyway Monte Bianco down in to the Glacier de Toule

We skied the Combe Vierge which was well filled in and gave some fun skiing on soft windblown snow.   The winds were strong all the way down to the plateau above the Geant Icefall and whilst there was no major crust, it wasn’t light powder either!   Some teams were skinning over to the Glacier Noire and the reports from the Italian right hand passage round the icefall were favourable on New Years Eve at least.

Chamonix Ski Guide
The mid winter traverse of the Vallee Blanche, with Monte Bianco beyond

There were only a few teams seen skiing the Vallee Blanche from the French side although there were plenty of tracks in most of the main variations and reports from lower down were good with teams skiing all the way to Chamonix with decent conditions albeit a bit stony on the lower glacier.   Quite a lot of teams made the ski touring journey across to the Italian side from the Aiguille du Midi and only a few were heading up in towards the Col d’Entreves in the strong and gathering winds.

Off Piste Skiing Chamonix
The lower Combe Vierge leading in to the Vallee Blanche

There were a couple of teams climbing on the newly equipped crag on the Grand Flambeau close to the Skyway top station with numerous tracks seen on various other routes.   There were also tracks coming off the Aiguilles Marbrees at the S end of the ridge where the abseils lead down to the glacier.  The North Face of the Tour Ronde had some icy patches but with plenty of white and grey on the actual line of the route.  There were reports of some teams going over the back of the Tour Ronde and skiing the Brenva Glacier.

31 December 2019, Good Conditions For Our First Ski Vallee Blanche Of The Season…

Whilst it’s unusual for us to start guiding the Vallee Blanche before the New Year – the snow volume is good this year and we had heard early season conditions were impressive.  Our small team of good skiers today had a really enjoyable descent despite the slow progress actually descending the Midi snow ridge due to many other parties, some not so well equipped!  Before this section of the ridge is fully equipped – crampons, ice axe, rope and mountaineering skills to use them all are required!   Once the skis were on the going was good and our team skied all the way down to Chamonix via the boot up to to the Buvette and reported good conditions on the James Bond Track with a decent cover of soft snow.

We have availability for more guided descents for small strong teams this week – please check our Ski Vallee Blanche page for all the details.

30 December 2019, Champex & Chamonix Ski Touring & Snow Conditions Update

Despite the forecast freezing level going super high today it stayed pretty cool in the shade.  Helped by the temperature inversion, there was still some frosty crystals on the surface and snow still in the forests around Champex.  The snow cover around the resort seemed really good for this time of year and, likewise, we enjoyed a great tour up the Val d’Arpette, towards the Col des Ecandies.  This will be familiar territory to anyone skiing the Haute Route as it provides a key passage below the Trient Hut en route to Champex and onwards to Verbier / Mont Fort.

Ski Touring Guide
The ascent of the Val d’Arpette, with lots of great couloirs being skied above on the Breya – Orny – Trient Faces.

Lots of teams were enjoying the fine snow and good conditions skiing the steep couloirs on the big Breya – Orny – Trient Faces above the Val d’Arpette…some with human powered access and probably some with Heli powered access! Many different lines were skied including the impressive curving couloir lookers left of the Col des Encandies.  The snow was generally cold, light and excellent shallow powder on a firm base, with only the odd patch with a light wind crust.

Valais ski touring guide
Great snow in the Val d’Arpette with the Col des Encandies beyond and some great steep couloirs getting skied above the valley. Fine conditions in late December 2019.

There were also teams on the sunny side, heading up a steep couloir on the Six Carro before possibly traversing to the shady side and down in to Barmay north facing valley below the Genepi, next to Pt Ronde above the Col de la Forclaz, which helps pieces together the geography of the drive around to Champex from Chamonix!

Swiss Valais Ski Touring
Great snow in the Val d’Arpette with the Col des Encandies beyond and some great steep couloirs getting skied above the valley. Fine conditions in late December 2019.

Our Chamonix off piste teams enjoyed the great weather and decent snow at the Grands Montets with some fun soft side country and hopefully a team skiing the Vallee Blanche tomorrow.  There were plenty of teams ski touring above the Grands Montets lifts with some heading over in to the Argentiere Glacier and beyond and apparently decent conditions for the exit from the Argentiere Glacier back in to the Montets.

Ski Grands Montets
Team Philadelphia enjoying the sun at Grands Montets

Plenty more sunshine on the way for much of the rest of the week apparently…

28 December 2019, Aosta Ski Touring & Chamonix Snow Conditions Update

Lots more fresh snow this week has been combined with a significant thaw and a mix of fun skiing and awareness of the considerable or even high avalanche risk.   The significant top up yesterday gave a welcome boost on the eve of what looks like the first period of settled sunny weather for a while!

Ski Pila
Fine ski touring conditions above Pila, Aosta in late December 2019. The Matterhorn, Monte Rosa et al across Val d’Aosta beyond…

We enjoyed some great pistes above Aosta to warm up for some nice fresh tracks in the soft side country and then some touring from the lifts at Pila.  Very enjoyable conditions albeit with a wind crust higher in the resort, and a rain crust lower down…but some fun fresh tracks in the sweet spot in-between!

Off Piste Ski Guide
Lovely velvet snow in the shady forests of Pila above the Aosta Valley. Grand Combin & Mont Velan beyond. Great conditions in late December 2019

The Christmas and New Year week is busy at Pila but the lifts open at 0800 and are run very efficiently so the crowds rapidly disperse and it is possible to do a lotta skiing during the long life of your day pass up to 1700!   Some great piste conditions with nearly everything open save for the very lowest piste down below the village itself.

Ski Touring Aosta Guide
Good ski touring conditions above Pila, Aosta in late December 2019. Mont Emilius to the right and Matterhorn & Monte Rosa beyond.

In Chamonix teams have been enjoying the improving snow conditions and there was some good skiing and fresh tracks around the Mont Blanc Massif today with teams reporting some nice powder, while it lasted, at Grands Montets and a few teams even skiing the Vallee Blanche.  Very early season for the glacier skiing but there is already some good snow volume at high altitudes and a good start to the season there.

Fine weather and snow for ski touring in the Aravis and Les Contamines also today with fresh tracks on the classic Contamines Cols and teams descending down the Roman Road with some lean conditions lower down due to the thaw earlier this week.  Crampons always recommended if you are not sure there!

Great snow conditions and very enjoyable skiing on the descent of the Rochers des Enclaves

23 December 2019, Saint Gervais Powder Meadows

Another wet morning with heavy rain all night up to around 1000m but heavy snow above that giving some great skiing above Le Bettex and particularly higher in the resort with deep powder on a decent base, a pre-christmas treat!  Fun skiing all round the Mont Joux – Mont D’Arbois and St Nicholas de Veroce areas.

Heading down towards St. Nicholas de Veroce village from the ‘mid-station’


Grand St Bernard Intro Ski Touring Weekend – March 2020

March 23-27, 2020.  In late March you can choose from either our classic or progression Chamonix off piste & mountain skills / ski touring courses…

Chamonix Off-Piste Ski & Mountain Skills – March 2020

Chamonix Off-Piste & Mountain Skills – Progression Course – March 2020

April 13-17, 2020.  In mid April you can choose from either our classic or progression Chamonix off piste & mountain skills / ski touring courses…

Chamonix Off-Piste & Mountain Skills – Progression Course – April 2020

Chamonix Off-Piste Ski & Mountain Skills – April 2020

West Oberland Ski Touring Weekend – April 2020

2020 Spring Ski Summits

2020 Spring Ski Summits & Mont Blanc