10 uphill and downhill gems – both classics and lesser-known routes.”
Snow is starting to clad the summits, and your ski tips are already quivering in anticipation! Are you a ski tourer seeking new ideas for winter wanders, or a future tourer looking for a good reason to start? The Lafuma team have now been based in Annecy for two years. We know plenty about this part of the Alps, and are keen to share it with you. We’ve therefore picked 10 uphill and downhill gems – both classics and lesser-known routes.
The Charmant Som is an easy winter hike with 540m elevation gain – a great way to explore the Chartreuse Massif via one of its best-known peaks. Starting from Col de Porte, follow the summer route and its series of snow-covered hillside twists and turns. Fancy trading your snowshoes for touring skis? Well, the Charmant Som is ideal for novice skiers. With luck, you’ll even be able to glimpse Mont Blanc from the top !
One of the best ways to sample ski touring is to travel a secure route. More than 20 French resorts have laid out such routes. Others, like Val d’Isère, open a touring-only run from 7-9am and from 5-8pm… And if you’ve got a good headlamp, you can even try a ski-touring taster by night.
Le Sulens at Manigod is a perfect route for a bucolic, tranquil ski tour. Hire touring skis plus boots in Thônes, and relish a day lifting your heels. This looped route really lets you discover the scenery.
In Sainte-Foy-Tarentaise, set off to discover the hamlet of Le Monal, a listed site at 1,874m altitude. Along the waymarked 617m climb, journey back in time and find yourself between the 18th and 19th centuries. The hamlet, comprising a chapel surrounded by traditional chalets, has kept all of its authentic character. On the way back down, check out the superb view over Mont Pourri’s glaciers.
The Crête de Reychard, in the Department of Hautes-Alpes, is a classic tour. It begins on a forest trail, then rises through a larch forest and opens onto a summit ridge. The 850m climb begins in Saint Vincent, along an attractive route above Vallouise, and the larch forest provides a fun downhill slalom to delight spunkier skiers !
The Pointe d’Andey is a tour overlooking the Arve Valley, and tourers can easily tweak the start point so the gain is 400m or 900m. It’s a pleasant route, with as your backdrop the Solaison Plateau and the areas of Bargy and Jalouvre. On the way down, choose slopes just right for carving turns! It’s a well-known excursion for the locals: the route and lack of steep gradients make it a great spot on days of low-key action in sub-par conditions.
Tête Pelouse, near the resort of La Clusaz, offers a superb playground thanks to the shape of the coombs in the Aravis Massif. This spot will punch the ticket of sheer-gradient fans, and they’ll cross paths with the many ski mountaineers who go there to train. From the top, soak up the terrific view encompassing Mont Blanc and the peaks of Les Bornes Massif.
Your destination? The top of the Légette du Mirantin near Arêches-Beaufort! This little mountain village is the temple of ski touring, and enjoys worldwide renown thanks to ski-mountaineering race La Pierra Menta. You will follow in the racers’ grooves on the slopes of the surrounding mountains. We have a very soft spot for the Légette du Mirantin, a handsome peak with a testing final slope – but it offers views over the entire Beaufortain Massif, to help you plan your excursions for the following days. One thing is certain: in Beaufort country, you won’t be short of skiing ideas !
Fancy some glacier sking in the Mont Blanc Massif, while steering clear of the crowds in the celebrated Vallée Blanche? Then have a crack at the Passon Pass! Starting at the top of the ski lifts at Les Grand Montets in the Chamonix Valley, set off for 750m of elevation gain and 2,160m of loss. You will cross the Argentière Glacier, heading for the pass to the left of the Aiguille du Chardonnet. A guaranteed high-mountain vibe, and there’s often good snow to let loose on the way down.
Always felt like an adventurer at heart, but want something that’s doable this winter, so you can discover great expanses of pristine whiteness? The wildernessis within touching distance: head out in snowshoes across the Vercors. Plenty of unguarded huts dot the route for overnight shelter. This is a self-sufficient tour: pack toasty down jackets and a stove. You won’t be disappointed – you’re guaranteed that alone-in-the-world feeling! Plan 4-6 days, depending on your level and ambition: the full crossing or just part of it.
WARNING : Wnter trips in the mountains may involve risks due to weather and snow conditions. Know the risks you face and equip yourself accordingly: (suitable clothing, avalanche victim detector, shovel, probe…).
Also consider the human factor: before going on a tour, check the route to be sure you are capable of completing it (uphill and downhill). If in doubt, do not hesitate to book a professional guide.