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Author Topic: Ski Mountaineering in the Alps  (Read 2221 times)
abreibart
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Ski Mountaineering in the Alps
« on: 12/12/03, 01:32 PM »

I would like to ski in the Alps this winter taking advantage of the hut system in Europe.  Has anyone skiied in Europe?  Does anyone know the time to go for the ideal snow conditions?  Does anyone know which country has the best skiing?

Thanks,

Andrew
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ski_photomatt
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Re: Ski Mountaineering in the Alps
« Reply #1 on: 12/12/03, 02:25 PM »

I've only skied the Alps once, for three weeks, two springs ago so am not as familiar with them as I'm sure others on the board are.  The highest and perhaps most well known mountains are along and near the Haute Route between Chamonix and Zermatt/Monte Rosa.  The whole area sits between France, Switzerland and Italy.  There are tons of other lesser known (but still popular) high quality places elsewhere the Alps: into Switzerland and across into Austria/northern Italy, or south into France.  There are plenty more moutains farther east if you'd like to venture there.  What type of skiing do you want to do?

If you want to do a lot of glacier skiing it might be better to wait until spring, March-April.  Better weather with longer days, plus a more stable and deeper snowpack.  Before going to any hut, call ahead and see if it's open, or to make a reservation in busy times as some sometimes fill.  Because you don't have to carry overnight gear or much food, stringing together several day trips while staying in the huts is considerably easier than here.  The extensive public transit system makes the logistics for one way trips, near and far, far easier too.
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abreibart
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Re: Ski Mountaineering in the Alps
« Reply #2 on: 12/14/03, 12:25 PM »

Thanks for the beta.  I want to stay high and combine some good descents with a good tour.  I plan to stay away from the "Haute Route" between Chamonix and Zermatt.  I am considering Austria, Italy, and Slovenia and want to utilize the hut system. A friend here said the hut system in Austria is great and the atmosphere bona fide.  

I telemark and can pretty much hold my own on anything in "good conditions".  Skiing steep couloirs with glacial ice does not excite me, however if it was corn or powder, I would be into it.  Where did you go during your three weeks?

Thanks,

Andrew
« Last Edit: 12/14/03, 12:26 PM by hydro_dork » Logged
sag
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Re: Ski Mountaineering in the Alps
« Reply #3 on: 12/14/03, 05:41 PM »

A buddy and I went to Chamonix this last march and the tour through to Courmayer had a neat little hut by the giants tooth. There is also a hut in the Valley Blanche, both tours we did left from the Chamonix valley. One from the top of the Agguille du Midi and one from a train to the Vally Blanche ice caves. The snow this time of year was great and the snow itself was very much like the east side of the cascades. I can't remember the names of the huts but I'll dig out some pics and try and post their names if your interested.
« Last Edit: 12/14/03, 05:42 PM by sag » Logged
ski_photomatt
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Re: Ski Mountaineering in the Alps
« Reply #4 on: 12/15/03, 03:49 AM »

We skied in Austria near Wildspitze, up valley from a resort town named Solden; in the Bernese Oberland near the Eiger, et al.; on Gran Paradiso in Italy; up to Monte Rosa from Zermatt; and a day near Chamonix, down the Vally Blanche and Mer de Glace.  The mountains are definitely less crowded the farther east you go.

All of the huts we stayed at were easy to reach in terms of skiing ability, but nearly all involved at least some glacier travel.  Solid glacier skills are as important as skiing ability in the Alps.  And navigation skills - the weather can be quite unsettled and we had to navigate a few unfamiliar glaciers in whiteouts.

Each country has their own Alpine Club that runs the huts.  Most have webpages, a few in English, with information about the huts.  You might want to check with the American Alpine Club about hut stamps which give good discounts for stays.  Membership in the AAC also gives you free rescue insurance, which is probably a good idea in Europe.

Here's a photo of an Austrian hut we stayed at..

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wolfski
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Re: Ski Mountaineering in the Alps
« Reply #5 on: 12/15/03, 08:12 AM »

You have already received some good information on previous postings.

The Alps offer unlimited ski-mountaineering. It depends on what you are looking for. Solitude may be harder to find than in the Cascades or the Rockies. But if peak bagging and particularly 4000ers is what you're after you should go to the Monte Rosa Area. There you can ski-climb eight (8) 4000 m peaks within a few days, even 5 on one day. This area straddles the Italian/Swiss border south of Zermatt and is in the backyard of the Matterhorn. The best time to go there is probably April, but like all such best-time-for-the-area-information it varies, depending on the snowpack of that particular winter. This area is more stable as far as weather is concerned than the Bernese Alps, but in no way less challenging.

A good web site on European ski-mountaineering is http://www.skirando.ch Most of the trip reports are in French and German. Only some of the introductory information is in English.

[url]http://www.bergtourismus.ch/e/huetten.cfm [/url] brings to the best overall information on Swiss mountain huts, unfortunately not in English. Most of the huts have their own web sites, where you find detailed information and can make reservations. Some huts are closed in the winter, opened up for the ski touring season (March & April) and closed again until the summer season starts (early July through September). Closed means that they are not manned, but they have so-called winter rooms some of which can accommodate up to 30 people and where you can do your own cooking. Most such huts are operated by the Swiss Alpine Clubs. Yes, check with the AAC. Swiss huts are generally smaller and cozier and have better food than those in Germany or Austria, but they are also more expensive, approx. US$ 50 for a bunk bed with breakfast and a 4-course dinner.

Austria, France and Germany also offer superb ski opportunities. As I live in the Southwest of Germany. Switzerland is where I go most of the time.

If you e-mail me directly I could supply you with more specific information.

Wolfgang
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matthaeus
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Re: Ski Mountaineering in the Alps
« Reply #6 on: 12/19/03, 04:38 AM »

Hi !
I did an awesome 4 day trip this spring in the Italian Alps in the Ortler Area. I was suprised when I got to know that the Pro Ski guys are guiding in the same area. If you are interested, please let me know. You can get a 1:50000 map which covers the whole trip and offers a lot of options. And Italy is still not as expensive as Switzerland. I will be back in Germany by January.
Best time might be spring to late spring, but last year was just horrible as it was far to warm from spring to fall.

        Ciao Matthaeus
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abreibart
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Re: Ski Mountaineering in the Alps
« Reply #7 on: 12/22/03, 11:29 AM »

Hi,

I wish to thank everyone who provided me with some information about their trips to the Alps.  I have been out of town and haven't yet digested all the information.  All of the beta helps and I appreciate your responses.  In addition, I found two guides written by Bill O'Connor on alpine ski mountaineering.  After reviewing all the info., I am sure I will ask you more questions.  

Happy Holidays!

Andrew
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