With unlimited potential for fresh tracks the backcountry is where the heart of every true skier resides. Recent years has seen a surge of interest by many skiers from resort based skiing into travelling beyond the resort boundaries away from the lifts and crowds. Although lifts come in handy for accessing the backcountry, ski tourers often climb on their skis as much they descend. The Val d'Anniviers has many fabulous touring possibilities; summits, remote valleys, steeps, multi-day excursions. Our certified instructors and guides will teach you how to use the gear, travel on 'skins' and help improve your backcountry skiing technique. Whether your objective is to ski untracked powder or simply to experience the tranquility of touring away from the masses, look no further than GZBA.
This exciting and challenging ski touring safari in the Swiss Alps gives adventurous skiers the chance to ski some of the most impressive terrain in the Swiss Valais region. We use a combination of lift access and ski touring with the goal of providing the ultimate week of freeride adventure. The skiing here is as exciting and varied as you'll find anywhere!
The Val d'Anniviers in the Valais area of the Swiss Alps is one of ski touring's best kept secrets and offers huge potential for the adventurous skier. The area is characterised by high alpine terrain, deep valleys and charming alpine villages. This area is a fantastic antidote to the more heavily developed areas of the western Alps. Powder descents of 1,500m abound and there are many vast bowls where fresh tracks can be found even weeks after the last snowfall! The area features a high and comprehensive lift system and multiple slope aspects which ensure good conditions throughout the season. No mass tourism, no high-rise buildings, and few skiers off piste; the area is attractive and traditional with only tentative signs of any new developments.
A single lift pass covers 4 areas: Zinal, Grimentz, St Luc and Vercoran - and the sheer volume of terrain on offer ensures that it's unlikely we ski the same run twice!
Travel to Zinal, In the evening you will meet your guides who will give a briefing on the plans for the week.
The week starts with a warm-up day with no guiding. You can explore the local Zinal ski area and we will be happy to advise on the best places to ski.
We'll start off with a day in Zinal or Grimentz where your guide will do an avalanche safety briefing and then some warm up skiing on and off piste. You will do some skills sessions on ski touring and familiarise yourselves with the equipment and go for a short ski tour in the afternoon. Return to the chalet.
Our first touring day - head up into the Zinal ski area and ski the north slope of Corne de Sorebois before turning left and skiing round to Grimentz. Take an early lunch and then go to the top of the Roc d'Orzival (2816m) to ski the north slope in to Orzival followed by a long easterly traverse back into the Grimentz lift area. Take the Bec du Bosson lifts and skin and ski to the Bec du Bosson hut (2983m) where we stay the night. Approx 150m of skinning.
From the hut skin up to the Pointes de Tsavolire (3026m) before skiing the north east face. Skin back to the hut (150m) and ski into the plateau of the Lac de Lona (2640m) followed by the skin to the Basset de Lona (2792m) and the excellent ski down to the Moiry dam and back to Grimentz. Return to Mottec on the bus. In total: aprox 400m (2 hours) of skinning.
We start with a road journey to St Luc where we take the lifts up to the top of the Bella Tolla (3025m) and traverse round the west side of the summit to ski the north north east facing bowl. This is followed by a 150m climb west to the Parilet. Ski down to above the dam and another short skin to get back in to the St Luc ski area where we stop for lunch. Back up to the Bella tolla and ski down the Bortertalli valley to Oberrems on north and east facing slopes. We descend with the cable car from Oberrems in to the Rhone valley before returning back to Mottec using public transport. This is a big day with rather complex travel arangments but it all fits together if you make an early start. A total of 250m (1.5hrs) of skinning.
Back to Grimentz via Zinal ski area and then up to the Roc d'Orzival. This time go south west and ski north west from the Col du Tsan and skin north east to near la Brinta for 250m (1.5hrs). This gives accsess back to the orxival and the Grimentz lift area.
These tours will involve around 3-5hrs of skinning per day, achieving around 800 – 1000m of vertical ascent. We would expect you to be able skin to a pace of 300m of vertical ascent per hour. You need to be able to execute good uphill kick turns on steeper slopes and have some familiarity with use of crampons and ice axe. You need to be a reasonably strong off-piste skier able to deal with a variety of snow conditions (powder, crust, slush) and able to ski on steeper and narrower slopes with the requisite ability and confidence for exposed sections.
You can ski all day comfortably off-piste and ski tour at an ascent rate of 300m per hour for 3 to 5 hours per day (a total of around 800m – 1000m vertical ascent per day). Your stamina and endurance fitness is good and you work hard to maintain a good level of fitness. You will be exercising 3-4 times a week and also at the weekend; thus running a half marathon, doing a 50 mile cycle ride, 3-4 hours on a mountain bike or a full day's hill walk would all prove possible with this stamina level.
This is an extensive list of the recommended clothing and equipment you will need if you are coming on one of our Ski Touring programmes. When skiing you only need to carry a small day pack, which contains your safety equipment and any personal items you may need.
to include warm hat and sun-cap or wide-brim hat for extra protection from the sun. Although we do recommend helmets for off-piste skiing, for ski touring they are not essential and actually can be a hindrance – they are hot, heavy and you can't hear very well when wearing it
- Roll-neck 'Buff'
a light, stretchable microfibre tube. Excellent, despite the name!
- An outer shell jacket
made of breathable material (Gore-tex or equivalent) with an excellent hood. The lighter the better and so a shell is recommended rather than an insulated jacket and you supplement this with some good quality thermal base and mid layer tops following the principle of layering – i.e. allowing you to easily add/remove layers depending on the temperature and the activity
- Ski trousers
Possible characteristics might include bib-style front with braces (to keep the snow out), side-openings (useful for when you get hot), breathable fabric (Gore-Tex or similar), stretch knee pads, integral snow gaiters. (NB: Bib-style trousers can be too warm in spring in which case waist-cut trousers would be better.)
- Top and bottom underwear made of a synthetic, wicking material.
Very popular at the moment are the wool based layers from companies such as Icebreaker and Smartwool. They are comfy, breathable and warm when needed and can be worn for days without your friends catching a whiff!
1-2 thin fleeces rather than fewer thick layers between your skin and the outer shell
an approach which gives better heat retention and good flexibility
good quality goretex gloves or mitts and a thin pair of softshell gloves for when it is hot and for skinning in
- Silk inner gloves
if you feel the cold
For our Touring weekends its is essential that you ski with 'freeride' type skis, ski touring boots and ski touring bindings. If you have your own skis but they do not have ski touring bindings then you will need to rent skis. The same applies if you have downhill ski boots, you will need to rent ski touring boots.There are many 'all-mountain freeride' skis to choose from and we highly recommend Scott, Movement and Dynastar's ranges of skis. Look for a ski that is the right size for you height, typically now the tip of the ski should be somewhere around your nose height. As for the width of the ski or side cut a mid-fat ski is the perfect all-rounder, the ski should also not be too heavy. A side cut of around 126-85-110 or a bit wider at 128-89-115 (tip, waist, tail) are the best to go for
It is essential that you have ski touring boots for these trips as walking up hill is much more comfortable in these types of boots with a walk mode and great flex.
If you are going to be getting into off-piste and ski touring, then rather than having a pair of downhill boots and a pair of ski touring boots, we strongly suggest that you opt for a good pair of ski touring boots. It just makes more sense; not only are they much more comfortable to walk in compared to ordinary ski boots, they are great to ski in too and you are not sacrificing any appreciable performance.
Almost all boot manufactures are producing some kind of ski touring boot these days, Garmont, Scarpa, Dynafit and Black Diamond are the market leaders in touring boots. You can get boots more suitable for downhill ski performance with a walk mode to very lightweight boots all about the uphill.
For examples of suitable ski touring boots check out these options:
- Lange XT: not compatible with Dynafit bindings
- Salomon Quest: not compatible with Dynafit bindings
- Scarpa Maestrale: compatible with Dynafit bindings
- Dynafit Titan: compatible with Dynafit bindings
- Dynafit Mercury: compatible with Dynafit bindings
- Black Diamond Factor: not compatible with Dynafit bindings
These boots are all suitable for off piste skiing and day and multi day hut-to-hut tours and can be used for general piste skiing too if desired. They are on the heavier side of what is available but offer a greater amount of stiffness for aggressive skiers
These days many manufacturers offer 'thermo-fit' liners as standard equipment. You may also want to consider a custom liner. Heated and moulded to your foot and boot for a perfect fit, they can make all the difference especially if you have trouble finding really comfortable 'off-the-shelf' boots. Zipfit liners are a great option for anyone seeking total customisation in fit and comfort. They will replace the original liner.
Fritschi have their well know Diamir bindings, Marker offer touring bindings in the form of the Baron and the F12 & 10 which work very well. Many more people are seeing the advantage of the Dynafit "pin" binding system; they are very light, offer excellent security despite their minimalist looks! Other manufactures are also producing this style of binding now and for the keen ski tourer it is highly recommended
Standard ski poles or adjustable poles are suitable for all our ski tours. They must have wide powder baskets (4-5 inches/100-120mm diameter) otherwise you'll be up to your armpits on the ascents. Go for an alloy rather than carbon poles which are lighter but have a nasty habit of snapping near the basket due to ski edge nicks.
- Ski Skins
these are skins which, now made of artificial fabric, stick to the bottom of your skis and allow you to walk up hill. They must be cut to fit your skis exactly.
- Ice Axe
general lightweight mountaineering / alpine pick, keep it short (50cm)
- Boot Crampons
ideally lightweight aluminum ones although steel crampons are required for more demanding tours
- Ski Crampons (aka Couteaux)
most ski touring bindings have ski crampons specifically designed for the binding. We always carry these just in case
- Climbing Harness
a simple lightweight harness. The key feature should be that it has fully adjustable leg loops for putting on over ski boots and crampons
On some tours in non-glaciated terrain an ice-axe, boot crampons and climbing harness may not always be required. However as conditions and itineraries can change we do generally recommend that you bring these items with you. If you do not own these items they can be rented to you by our guides or via one of the local sports shops.
- Avalanche Transceiver
- Snow shove
- Avalanche probe
- Ski Goggles
good quality with a lens for low light is essential in the event of snow and poor visibility
good quality with 100% UV protection
20-30 litre with straps for carrying skis
- 1 – 1.5 Liter water bottle
we don't recommend hydration systems (e.g. Camelbak) in winter as they have a tendency to freeze
- Hill nibbles (chocolate, energy bars)
- Suncream and lip salve
- See more at: http://mountaintracks.co.uk/trip/ski-touring-skills-week-zinal#sthash.ygovvy6U.dpuf
What does the cost include?
5 Days guiding with an IFMGA Mountain Guide