Top ski touring routes
Most skiers hang up their boots by mid to late spring, when lifts stop turning in ski resorts, but if you are in the growing band of folk who like to earn your turns, there’s riches to be found when the mountains go quiet.
Ski touring is by far the most environmentally friendly form of skiing; and perhaps one of the most rewarding. Climbing far away from the madding crowd on skis equipped with mohair skins, with nothing but pristine mountains, blue skies, clear air and good food and like-minded company on dark nights, is about as good as it gets.
Powderhound has put together a wish list of the most awe-inspiring ski touring routes around the world. They’re in no particular order, but enough to get us dreaming!
The Haute Route
Distance: Approx 75 miles
How long: 5-6 days
While the term “haute route” translates literally to “high route” and applies to any high-mountain route for hikers, cyclists and skiers, when skiers speak of The Haute Route they mean the one from Chamonix to Zermatt, probably the most famous off-piste ski-touring route in the world. This iconic trip was initially conceived for walkers, in 1861, but morphed into the must-do tick on any ski tourer’s list thanks to its iconic scenery and the start and finish in two historic Alpine centres.
Colorado’s 10th Mountain Division
Where: Colorado, USA
Distance: Approx 350 miles in total
How long: your choice
Not a specific touring route per se, but a system of mountain huts in Colorado for one or multi-night stays. Huts are not as common in the US as they are in Europe, so this collection of 34 close to some of Colorado’s big-name resorts including Aspen and Vail, are one for the list. Tour from hut to hut in any combination, or start with an overnighter, with the average route to any hut being six or seven miles from a ski area, with a climb of between 1,500 to 2,500 feet. Routes to some of these huts last well into early summer.
Bernese Oberland Traverse
Where: Interlaken / Munster or Grimsel
Distance: Approx 52 miles
How long: 5-6 days
This is an immense and classic tour, through huge terrain, that can be tackled right up until June, thanks to the fact that much of the skiing and touring is on giant glaciers. There are various options for routes, all high and remote, including the possibility of skiing 4000m peaks. This is big glacier skiing at its best, through some of the wildest and very best scenery the Alps has to offer, including the Jungfrau, Mönch and, of course, the Eiger.
Where: Bormio, South Tyrol, Italy
How long: Around 6 days
A lesser-known corner of the Alps, the Ortler Alps is in the South Tyrol, close to Italy’s borders with Austria and Switzerland. While the terrain is glaciated and dramatic, the peaks are slightly lower than in the Western Alps — there’s nothing over 4,000m — but the area is quiet, with Stelvio National Park being one of the largest in Europe. Like most ski tours, the exact start and finish and route depend on the mountain guide’s plan, and the conditions of the day, but the Ortler isn’t a point-to-point ski tour and Bormio is a good central springboard.
Where: Kulusuk, Greenland
How long: The longer the better
You’ll struggle to find more remote mountains than on Greenland, basically a huge icecap in the middle of the Arctic Sea. Late spring to early summer is the best time to visit, when light starts to return to a wild land, inhabited only by a small number of Inuits, where peaks rise to a relatively easy 1000m offering boundless ascents and descents to melting fjords. Reach the mountains by boat, dog sled or helicopter, for one of the world’s last great ski touring experiences.
Ötztal Ski Traverse
Distance: Approx 46 miles
How long: 5-6 days
Starting at the end of the Ötztal valley, in the quaint village of Vent, surrounded by wild and huge scenery, this classic ski tour takes skiers over the Wildspitze, at 3770m the highest peak in the Tyrol and the second-highest in Austria, as well as five of the other highest mountains in Austria. Most of the runs are on northerly aspects, which means this is a good ski tour for late spring. The comfy, well-furnished huts on Ötztal Ski Traverse are what also make it special — with excellent food, good beer and often small rooms with duvets.
Check out the Powderhound Touring range to take you back to your best Touring days on high.