Now that the snow has descended on the valley, La Chapelle d’Abondance is a great base for wonderful ski touring. But, what is it and how do you get started? Elke, waitress at Hotel Esprit Montagne, figured it out. After two weeks of trying it out, dabbling a bit, but mostly enjoying it, she lists the pros and cons, along with some easy beginner’s mistakes and great ski touring near Hotel Esprit Montagne.

What is ski touring? In ski touring, you stick hairy skins under your skis that allow you to step up a mountain without sliding down. You have special touring bindings and shoes that allow you to move your heel up freely and step smoothly. For descending, you put your shoes and slats in ski position, remove the skins and fly down the mountain.

The benefits: why tour skiing never disappoints

Ski touring is an excellent workout. Especially if you are an avid runner, but can’t get out on the snowy trails in winter, ski touring is a great alternative. And it burns off the cheese fondue nicely, too!

No more elevator! No more waiting like a sardine at the elevator. In high season, you can sometimes find yourself waiting longer for an elevator than you end up skiing. Besides, if you don’t use the elevators you don’t need that expensive ski pass. 

You enjoy nature extra. The world is at your skis/feet. On touring skis you can go where other skiers never go, yielding spectacular peaks and descents. If you really get the hang of it, you can even go on a multi-day hut tour on tour skis.

The cons: ski touring is not always a walk in the park

You descend less, and between each climb and descent you have to adjust your equipment. Sheets under the slats, take off or put on layers of clothes, adjust your slats, clip in shoes, … You do take a while to change, although it gets faster and faster the more you do it. The pros even do it in seconds.

It is quite tiring. Your heart rate shoots up immediately because you go up with a lot of extra weight on your feet. If you’re unlucky, a bunch of snow will also stick to your skis, and you’ll have your backpack with all kinds of gear on your back.

When you are touring on a ski slope you are a ghost rider, and that is not without danger. Especially for novice skiers, you are sometimes an unexpected obstacle in the turn. That’s why it’s best to stay on the side of the slope and not cross over.

Avoid these rooky mistakes

Flying upward like a rocket
Go slow enough in the beginning. Ski touring is tougher than hiking and if you want to go too fast you’ll soon burn out. Slow & steady is the way to go.

Pick the steepest slope
Even though you have coltex skins, you don’t literally stick to the mountain. When the sections are too steep, you sometimes slide backwards. Therefore, it is better to pick a slope with less steep gradient and cross over. (Unless you are touring on the ski slope, then you stay on the side of the slope as much as possible so as not to interfere with other skiers).

Leaving without preparation
If you go off-piste you should always have an avalanche kit with you. So don’t venture there until you have the necessary prior knowledge and equipment. Make sure someone else also knows about your plan, even share your live location if necessary.

Touring in your normal ski clothes
It’s best to dress in layers. Touring is very tiring and the sweat can soon break out, but once at the top of the mountain it quickly gets a lot colder. When you start a descent, the wind can also be very strong. So make sure you have plenty of layers to take off and put on, breathable fabrics and warm clothes for the descents.

Eating too little
When you’re touring you’re putting in nice effort. So the best excuse to play in some extra calories! Bring plenty of drinks, tasty snacks and a hearty midday meal.

Ski touring near the Hotel Esprit Montagne.

La Chappelle d’Abondance is an excellent base for ski touring. You will find several mapped out routes, for every level.

Ski touring around Châtel:

  • Ski tour Franco-Suisse : 4.5 km, 226 D+. From the télécabine from Super-Châtel, you go to a magnificent panorama over the Dents du Midi. You descend via the blue piste ‘Le Lac’.
  • Ski tour Barbossine : 3.6 km, 495 D+. From the télécabine of Petit-Châtel to the aid post at Tour de Don. Descend via the red slopes ‘Tour de Don’ & ‘l’Écureuil’. 
  • La serpentine : 6 km, 341 D+. From Pré la Joux to Plaine Dranse. You descend via the green or red piste.
  • The Morclan : 3.8 km 305 D+. At the top of the télécabine from Super Châtel to the summit. Down you go via the red piste, ‘Chermillon’.

More information about the routes around Châtel can be found here.

Ski tours around Abondance:

  • La Fauvette: 2 km, 230 D+, suitable for beginners, from Lac des Plagnes parking lot. 
  • La Relais: 744 D+, level red, from the telecabine in Abondance the route climbs to la Pointe des Follys, where you have a magnificent view of the Dents du Midi and Lac Leman. Alternative : 294 D+. If the télécabine is open you can take it, then the route is level green.

More information about the routes around Abondance can be found here.

Ski touring around Morgins

In Morgins you will find a large marked off rando-parc, especially for ski touring. Some of the offerings:

  • Bellevue: 3.9 km, 750 D+, level red, from the parking of the elevator ‘Corbeau’ you ascend the south slope to a 360° panorama.
  • Myet: 6 km, 750 D+, level red, a very diverse and long trail with a choice of two different summits as final destination.

More information on the trails near Morgins can be found here.

Have fun on the slopes!