A week in the Chamonix back-country with one of France’s best-known ski areas is a real treat for advanced off-piste skiers. I should know. I just enjoyed this wonderful experience. Chamonix, with its dramatic setting surrounded by jagged peaks at the foot of Mont Blanc, offers virtually limitless possibilities under the expert guidance of a true professional.
Much of the area is accessible by lift, while some of the very best terrain requires around an hour’s hike. Possible highlights include the Pas de Chevre from the top of the Grands Montets, descending to the Mer de Glace and down into Chamonix; Glacier du Toule down towards Courmayeur, taking the cable-car back up and skiing the Italian side of the Vallee Blanche; Le Tour and its fabulous back-country towards Vallorcine and Switzerland; the legendary Vallee Blanche from the Aiguille du Midi cable car. At extra cost, heli-skiing is also available on the Italian side. Itineraries will vary according to conditions and group composition.
This advanced off-piste adventure course is for strong all-round back-country skiers with plenty of experience. You must be able to cope with most conditions with confidence and competence, if not much style. A wide range of snow conditions is likely – everything from steeps, to breakable crust, ice, spring snow and deep powder. We will mostly use lifts, but some hiking should be expected.
Safety is the number one priority, and the course includes mountain awareness training, especially avalanche avoidance. We see this as integral to professional guiding, with the opportunity to enjoy the best off-piste skiing in one of the most renowned areas in the world.
Everyone needs to carry the three essential avalanche safety items – transceiver, shovel and probe. A small day-pack for personal gear is required. You will also need touring skis and skins. These can be hired from Namaste Sports in Argentiere.
Half-board in the comfortable Chalet-Hotel Cairn, just 150 meters from the La Flegere lift and 20 minutes’ walk from Chamonix village. Facilities include hot-tub and sauna. Excellent food includes breakfast, afternoon tea and 3-course evening meal with wine. Single supplements apply.
It is a condition of booking that you are insured for off-piste skiing covering personal accident, rescue and third-party risks. You are strongly advised also to take out cover against cancellation and curtailment.
Geneva is the nearest airport, with a transfer of around an hour. In-resort travel will normally be by the local buses included on the lift card. Occasional taxis may be required, depending on the day’s itinerary.