Italian Haute Route
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.
Aosta is not primarily a tourist town and still has a really nice atmosphere with old cobbled streets and Roman ruins. You don’t have to look far to find a back alley wine bar with an old guy who is keen to show you every bottle of in his collection while serving you exotic cheeses and meats.
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 Ad Podium. It is easy walking distance from the train and bus station. I will book us for the nights of March 16 and 17. If you want to arrive earlier you can handle your own bookings for dates preceding. It is not a busy time of year so there are always rooms. We can leave extra baggage at the hotel while we are in the mountains.
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. You can stay where ever you like but people tend to be tired and a hot shower and bed are appreciated. I have booked Ad Podium for the night of March 26 in case we want to stay there. Once you know your plans for after the trip, please let me know if you want to stay there that night so I can cancel rooms if needed. Transport is pretty good in the area and there is time to move on to Milan or Chamonix the same day.
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. The sleeping quarters are very similar to the nicer club huts in New Zealand. 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 have a warm duvet or blankets 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 16 - 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.
Acclimatization day. After meeting in Aosta the next day we will catch a bus to Courmayeur and ride the spectacular cable car to the top of the Valle Blanche. This is literally the side of Mont Blanc and the epicentre of European alpinism. After descending this famous glacier we take a train into Chamonix, have a drink with the beautiful people and then back to our hotel in Aosta.
A taxi takes us to the start of the route (30min). Aosta to Refugio Bezzi, 10.5km, 750m gain. Easy day touring up a stunning valley.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 either doing a nice day tour or lounging in the sun.
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 Spectacular!
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.
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 taxi/bus back to Aosta. Possible to get to Milan, Turin, Chamonix or Geneva that evening.