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Luxury Ski Tours

Ski holidays are versatile types; they can be anything from spa based relaxation to high intensity tours across the mountains. In fact, some Alpine holidays have little more in common than the stunning mountain vistas that form a backdrop.
 
For anyone looking for a way to combine stunning Alpine chalets with action packed adventure that takes you further afield than the closest high wire course, a ski tour is a great way to hit some of the best powder caches in the Alps while enjoying some superb local cuisine and heading to places far away from the beaten path. Day tours that end with happy adventurers heading back to the chalet for an evening of pampering are well worth the effort of finding something to suit your fancy.
 
Heli-skiing is one of the more commonly accepted forms of finding fresh powder on the mountains, with most major resorts running heli-ski operations, but for anyone looking to hit the powder spots in a slightly greener fashion might find that hiking up the hill under your own power is just as satisfying as hopping into a helicopter and swooping across the Alps.
 
Whether you’re in Zermatt, Verbier or Val d’Isere, there are programmes running that will offer you backcountry that you really earned through hikes up to secret sweet spots of fresh powder. 
 
Obviously, when it comes to heli-skiing and ski touring some resorts are better than others, be it because of secret tunnels or sharp rock faces that open out into huge powderfields. So, here’s a quick rundown of some of the best places to enjoy ski touring.
 
Ski Touring Europe photo credit Benediktv
Ski Touring Europe photo credit Benediktv
 

Chamonix

 
This is the first place you think of when you mention ski touring, due to the famously fantastic off-piste skiing. That means that ski touring is one of the easier ways to see Chamonix’s stunning off-piste; bear in mind that Chamonix’s skiing includes the iconic Mont Blanc, and what adventurous soul would pass up the chance to see that up close? 
 
Those people wanting to see the other side of Chamonix can some of the many known routes in the area, with multiple routes running. Skiers must be capable of 3-5 hours of skinning a day, with decent off-piste ability and some familiarity with crampons and ice axes. 
 
Whether you choose to get a guide to take you touring for multiple consecutive days, or you just go for one day off the beaten track before heading back to the sunny terraces outside Alpine restaurants, Chamonix offers more than enough private guides and company run tours to go around.
 
Lone Ski Tourer photo credit Lukas Polacek
Lone Ski Tourer photo credit Lukas Polacek
 

Zermatt

 
As the home to one of the most famous mountain peaks in the Alps, Zermatt was always going to feature in an article like this; it’s one of the most breath-taking places to ski in the world –not to overstate the case, or anything– and with huge areas to explore, it’s one of the more interesting places to tour.
 
Tours can be strenuous at this level, with good fitness levels advised. Routes in Zermatt are either medium or difficult touring, so not for beginners (in this case, it might be best to begin small – off-piste beginners should go for heli-skiing instead)  
 
Anyone with a passion for ski touring can rest easy knowing that Zermatt is the home to ski touring contests, which range from the quite difficult one kilometre race, to the frankly overwhelming Patrouille des Glaciers, which is a cult favourite amongst ski tourers wanting to hop from famously fabulous Zermatt across to everybody’s favourite Four Valleys resort, Verbier, swapping Swiss pampering for Swiss pampering. 
 
Mont Blanc du Tacul photo credit virole_bridee
Mont Blanc du Tacul photo credit virole_bridee
 

Saas Fee

 
Anyone looking outside the traditional touring resorts will be delighted to discover that Saas Fee is another Swiss resort offering ski touring to anyone with enough skill to confidently head off-piste and the fitness levels required to skin up the side of mountains on the regular. Saas Fee is home to plenty of long powder descents, with an unusually high concentration of 4000m peaks in the area.
 
The area has plenty of tracks for skiers of all ability, but as with most places, touring novices should try out heli-skiing or lift accessed off-piste before taking on the full experience. Even day tours will be physically demanding, so working your way up to the full experience is wise. 
 
The ascent of the Alphubel and Strahlhorn are local highlights, being amongst the best peaks in the Alps, and a common objective amongst ski touring groups. Some of the descents require taxis or pick ups from nearby villages or valleys at the end of the day, while descents of over 2000m are common in the area.
 
Mountains photo credit distantranges
Mountains photo credit distantranges
 

Verbier

 
Obviously, any resort that sits at the end point of a cult touring race is no stranger to off piste. Verbier is, much like Chamonix, home to some of the best lift accessed off-piste in the Alps, and touring routes are as good as can be expected. Ski schools often offer off-piste lessons, while mountain guide listings are available for keen adventurers to hire for day tours.
 
Whilst much of the mountain’s off-piste tracks can be reached via the piste, there are some absolute hidden gems that you can easily hike to if you’re up for a day touring. The best mountain guides know where all the powder caches are, and the lifts mean that most of the time it isn’t necessary to hike too far. 
 
If you’re a good skier without too much experience away from the pisted and mostly groomed trails marked out, this is one of the better places to start. Trails up to the best off-piste sections range from easy enough for a first time touring group to navigate with ease, to areas where it’s downright tricky. 
 
Stunning views photo credit Hans
 

Tignes and Val d’Isere

 
The Espace Killy area is one of the harder ski areas around even without the off-piste sections. Much of the great off-piste in this area is lift accessed (which is handy), but anyone wanting to go a little further afield can find some excellent caches within a short hike from the top of various lifts. Tignes is lucky enough to have a glacier, so powder skiing isn’t exactly in short supply.
 
As with Verbier, this is the sort of resort where beginner touring parties can get to grips with hiking uphill in order to get to the great powder spots. Whether the Espace Killy area is used as a stepping stone for guests to gain the skills needed to tour Zermatt, Saas Fee and Chamonix, or just as a day of excitement for piste skiers, there’s plenty of powder for all. 
 
Much of the best skiing is in the Le Fornet area, while more experienced touring groups can choose to go on day trips or cross the wilderness on multi-day tours that include staying in remote mountain huts, before unwinding at the end of it all with some pampering.