Italian Haute route
March 24 - April 3
Join me for an Italian Haute Route Ski Touring Adventure - 10 days of fantastic skiing and high hut luxury. Multiday, big mountain ski touring with not much more than a day pack, what could be better? Europe is famous for it's tradition of hut-to-hut ski touring. There are hundreds of alpine huts and routes. This trip is designed to give strong skiers the best possible introduction to this ski touring paradise. If you have always wanted to experience European hut to hut ski touring, you can not do better than this. Based out of Italy's Aosta Valley the trip is designed to give you the broadest possible view of this amazing area. This trip recognizes that you may have not been on skis for a while and eases you into the bigger days and higher altitudes. With spectacular views of famous peaks like Mnt. Blanc and the Matterhorn this trip is the ultimate in European hut-to-hut skiing.
The way the trip is set up we arrive in Aosta the afternoon/evening of the 24th. The next day we have a day skiing locally in Aosta to get sorted out and make sure every one has everything. We are at the same hotel the second night. That way if there is a problem with missed flights or lost baggage it can usually be sorted out before we are due to go into the hills on the 26th. Sometimes people arrive a day or two early to get over jet lag etc.. which I tend to encourage since I can breath a sigh of relief once everyone is actually in Aosta with their gear.
Getting to Aosta from Milan
When you arrive in Milan airport you can get a taxi to the appropriate bus or train station in Milan city, and then catch a train or bus to Aosta. https://www.rome2rio.com/s/Milan/Aosta. It all depends on what time of day you arrive in Milan. Either bus or train will probably involve one or two changes (at towns called Chivasso and Ivrea) to get to Aosta and take from 2.5 to 5 hours. It all depends on when you arrive in Milan. If you arrive late at night and are burned out from travel you may prefer to stay in Milan and come to Aosta the AM. I can answer any questions if you need advice. I will be in France before the trip and will be arriving by bus from Chamonix.
Aosta railway and bus station (Italian: Stazione di Aosta; French: Gare d’Aoste) is in the centre of Aosta and about 15min walk from the hotel. You can get a taxi if you are tired. Have a map and address for the hotel, it is in an alley and can be hard to find (perfect location once you know where it is). Note that Aosta is the name of the region as well as the name of the city. Kind of like New York, New York. Don’t get confused when looking at web sites.
You can always just get a taxi straight from the Milan Airport to Aosta for about $200. (2 hrs). Fast, easy and expensive but if you have had a tough flight it may be worth it. If 3-4 Kiwis arrived together it could be reasonably cheap. I have had people rent a car in Milan and drop it off in Aosta because they wanted to sight see, so I know that works but not sure of the cost.
We will be meeting at the HB Aosta Hotel It is a nice hotel with a good location and reasonable price… and has a killer breakfast. I will leave it up to you to do your own booking since people arrive at different times and it can get complex if we try to do it as a group. It is not a busy time of year so there are always rooms. If you book through booking.com it is easy but you can book direct if you want. Unless you arrive earlier you will need to book for the nights of March 24 and 25. If you want to stay on the 3rd when we finish you can book at the same time or wait until you are at the hotel at the start of the trip.
I will be taking care of all the hut/hotel bookings for when we are in the hills, you don’t need to worry about booking anything from when we leave Aosta on the 26th until we return on the 3rd.
On the final day skiing we will have a big day skiing to get to the village of Lillaz and then return to Aosta by bus or taxi. Transport is pretty good in the area and there is time to move on to Milan or Chamonix the same day. You can stay where ever you like but people tend to be tired and a hot shower and bed are appreciated. More than likely I will plan on staying the night at the same hotel (HB Aosta) we are using at the start but people can make plans to go wherever they want on the night of April 3.
We will be staying in mountain huts that open in the spring for trips like ours. They usually have rooms with 4 beds, toilet down the hall, and many have showers available. They serve breakfast and dinner and have lots of goodies available such last cheese, meats and pastries, beer and wine. We usually carry a little food with us each day and stop and have a snack but wait until we get to the next hut to eat a late lunch. Traditionally most european skiers carry a small thermos and have hot tea. The huts can accommodate gluten free or vegetarian if we let them know ahead of time. The beds usually have a warm duvet but no sheets, you supply your own sleeping bag liner or sheet.
There is the opportunity to charge cell phones and cameras, don’t forget to bring the appropriate charging wire and plug if this will be helpful. It is rare to have access to internet but there is cell phone coverage most of the time.
It will be spring and the skiing can be anything from powder to spring corn. Some years it has been quite cold and it did not matter what time we started each day since the snow did not thaw out. Other seasons we have had to start before dawn to get to the next hut before the snow got too soft. Most days involve skiing uphill for 3-4 hours and then a long ski down to the next hut. If the weather and snow are good the days are not too taxing, you notice the altitude a bit but the highest and steepest days are later in the trip and people tend to be well adapted by then. The skiing tends to be however good the snow is. We cover a lot of ground and will doubtless ski some fantastic runs as well as ones with crud. There are a couple narrow gullies but nothing where you should be worried about falling off the mountain. If it is foggy or breakable it can be hard going but nothing a bunch of seasoned campaigners like you guys can’t handle.
We carry some technical gear (Ice ax, harness, crampons) but we will rarely need it (see gear list). There is only one day with real crevasse travel and a few other spots where it could come in handy. As much as anything it is insurance in case something unforeseen happens and we find ourselves walking on steep hard snow or ice. It is not a technical mountaineering trip.
A good feature here is that if the weather or avalanche conditions cause problems we can almost always ski out a valley and alter the itinerary. For example if a pass was too dangerous to go over we could go down and around the bottom, stay in some village and pick up our route a day later. Last year we had tons of new snow and short term avalanche hazard and it did not negatively affect the trip. Most years the weather has been great.
The Austrian Ski Club is the cheapest option for this type of trip. They offer pretty good cover but I have never put in a claim with them.
- March 24 - Arrive in Aosta
Really nice small city in Italian Alps. People usually fly into Milan where you can get train /bus to Aosta (2hrs-ish). No tourists, great wine.
- March 25
Acclimatization day. Ski day to shake down equipment. Local ski area Pila with tram leaving from the middle of town or alternative to go ski the Vallee Blanche to Chamonix and bus back if people want.
- March 26
Aosta to Refugio Bezzi, 10.5km, 750m gain. Easy day touring up a stunning valley.
- March 27
Rifugio Bezzi–Rifugio Benevolo. 10km, 1100 gain, 1100 descent. Over Col Bassac Dere, 3000m. Not hard skiing but first chance to get used to altitude.
- March 28
Rifugio Benevelo–Refugio Chivaso 8km 1035 gain 837 descent. Over Col Basie and the chance to do some powder skiing on the summit if you have the lungs for it.
- March 29
Rifugio Chivaso – Pont 12km 712 gain 1335 descent. Another day-another pass – massive run down to village of Pont and chance to stay in a real hotel, will feel pretty luxurious.
- March 30
Pont – Rifugio Chabot 3.6 km 902m gain. Beautiful zig zag ski up trail in the forest to edge of the glacier and beautiful hut.
- March 31
Day tour to Col du Gran Neyron or rest day. Good to have an extra day built in as rest day or in case of bad weather. No problem doing a nice day tour from the hut.
- April 1
Rifugio Chabot – Grand Paradiso - Vittorio Emanuele 8.8km 1300m gain 1330 descent. Glacier travel to the summit of Italy’s tallest peak, just over 4000m Pretty spectacular.
- April 2
Rifugio Vitorio Emanuel - Rifugio Pontese 14.9 km 1150m gain 1786m descent. Really interesting terrain and big tour to my friend Mara’s hut. Best food in the Italian hut system.
- April 3
Rifugio Pontese - Lillaz 16.2 km 1415 gain 1851 descent. Big day, steep skinning to high pass and mega –run to village of Lillaz where we catch the bus back to Aosta