Chamonix Valley – 3 of the best ski tours

 
Ski Tour 1 – Breche de Bérard or “keyhole”
 
This is a super day tour, lesser known than the other popular tours starting from the same place. The tour is accessed from the Flegere lifts and the first of the 2 climbs takes you to the Col de Crochues via a skin and then a boot pack of 250m up. Once at the col there is a short ski down on the other side and a traverse towards the Combe d’Envers de Berard. From here the second climb starts with a ski tour towards the higher part of the ridge separating the combe from the Berard Valley. A further 400m height gain takes you to the “Key Hole or Breche du Berard” a narrow gap in the ridge which you have to climb through to access the ski descent on the other side. The ascent usually takes a total of 3hrs.
 
Breche Berard
 
The descent route in the Berard Valley is a classic ski with 1500m of descent. It’s easy to find great snow on the way down and the rolling terrain hides some stashes of powder snow. The bottom of the valley is reasonably flat and you have to negotiate the narrower terrain next to the river by skiing and traversing on a path, often involving side-stepping up short hills and skiing some moguls and avoiding the trees. The finish is in the hamlet of Le Buet right next to the hotel and bar where one can enjoy some refreshment before taking the train back to Chamonix.
 
Start Point: La Flegere
Finish Point: Le Buet
Highpoint: Brèche de Berard 2600m
Altitude Gain: 635m Loss: -1770m
Maps: IGN 3530ET 3630 OT Chamonix Massif du Mont Blanc
Time: Allow 4 – 6hrs for the traverse
Toponeige Technical Grade: 3.1
Transport: You can catch the bus or train to the Flegere cable car and the train back to Chamonix from Le Buet.
Tip: Advisable to set off first thing in the morning on first lift, the route is popular and will be busy on the first climb, later in the morning it can be hot in the sunshine. The end of the ski in the Berard valley needs to be done with care as negotiating the various obstacles like the stream crossings, bushes, trees and narrow walking path can be tricky!
 
Ski Tour 2 – Col des Autannes
 
This is a great ski tour onto the wilder Swiss side of the mountain, accessed from Le Tour you start by taking the lift system to the top of the Autannes chairlift. The tour takes you to the Col des Autannes which is a 560m skin with a short boot pack to reach the summit ridge line; usually this will take 2 – 2.5hrs.
 

Once on the ridge the views into Switzerland are spectacular. You have a number of choices for the descent – straight down from the ridge leads onto the small Glacier du Bron and the end goal of the Trient valley. You can also traverse a short distance further and cross the ridge line to reach the Glacier des Grands and making a long arcing ski descent towards the Trient Valley. Both descents offer fantastic skiing with a 1400m descent finishing in Trient in Switzerland. From Trient its usually necessary to catch the bus or a taxi back to Vallorcine where the lifts will link us back into the Le Tour ski area.
 
Start Point: Le Tour ski lifts
Finish Point: Trient Village (Switzerland)
Highpoint: Col des Autannes 2777m
Altitude Gain: Around 600m Loss -1477m
Maps: IGN 3630 OT Chamonix Massif du Mont Blanc and Swiss Map Martigny
Time: Allow 4 -5hrs ski time and around 6-7hrs including travel
Toponeige Technical Grade: 3.2
Transport: You can catch the bus to the Le Tour ski area. From Trient there are 2 buses per day that leave the village so it’s important to ensure you arrive in time for the last bus back to Vallorcine, from there you can catch the ski lift back into the Le Tour ski area or get the train back to Chamonix.
Tip: Make sure you know the bus times back from Trient, otherwise it’s a long walk or a taxi ride.
 
Ski Tour 3 – Col du Passon
 
A true Chamonix classic ski tour accessed from the Grands Montets ski area. Taking the lift to the summit of the Grands Montets you need to ski one of the off piste routes to reach the Argentiere Glacier. Crossing the glacier lower down and heading towards its right bank under the slopes of the Aiguille du Chardonnet and the Bec Rouge you’re looking for the point where you can climb the moraine wall so you can begin to ski tour up.
 
Once the moraine wall has been negotiated there is an ascend the 750m to the Col du Passon. Parts of the skin will be a little steeper and the last 150m vertical is done on foot carrying your skis on your rucksacks. The final short climb to the ridge is done wearing crampons and using your hands to pull yourself up. Once the ridge is gained it’s the perfect place to rest and eat your lunch on the wide plateau of the Glacier du Tour. The ascent will usually take between 2.30 – 3hrs.
 
Col Du Passon
 
The descent route is via the vast Glacier du Tour a whopping 2500m down to finish in the village of Le Tour. You can either ski the left side or the centre of the glacier for the best route. The terrain is smooth and rolling with some short, steeper sections (35 deg). Towards the bottom you will approach the trees and bushes behind the village and need to traverse out crossing the river by the bridge before ending the day at the bottom of the Le Tour ski area.
 
Start Point: Grands Montets Ski Area
Finish Point: Le Tour Ski Area
Highpoint: Summit of Grands Montets 3230m & Col du Passon 3050m
Altitude Gain: 650m
Maps: 3630 OT Chamonix Massif du Mont Blanc
Time: Allow 4 -5hrs ski time and around 6-7hrs including travel
Toponeige Technical Grade: 3.2
Transport: You can catch the bus or train to the Grands Montets and the bus back to Chamonix from Le Tour.
Tip: skiing in the centre of the route near the end as you approach Le Tour makes it easier to negotiate the bushes and trees at the bottom of the run.
 
Useful Links:
 
Chamonix Valley information
Chamonix Valley Transport information
mountaintracks.co.uk
tracks-and-trails.com
 
Accommodation in Chamonix:
 
www.chalet-in-chamonix.co.uk
www.hotelcouronne.com
www.hotel-lanchers-chamonix.com a 3* hotel in Les Praz, great in the summer for hiking and trail running, good restaurant
 
To read Ollys previous blog on 3 best hiking routes in Chamonix Valley