Gran Paradiso National Park was the first national park to be established in Italy 1922 in order to protect the animal Stambecco/Alpine ibex (Capra Ibex) from hunters, nowadays it has become the famous symbol of the park. For those backcountry skiers who enjoy untouched snow conditions, majestic views, Italian food and a great atmosphere this is a place not to be missed. The journey will take place over five intense days including a marvel ascent of the Gran Paradiso peak at 4061 meters, in other words a paradise for all backcountry skiers out there.
We spend the nights in some of the Alps most excellent and cozy huts, offering hearty and simple meals that satisfy most visitors, having the opportunity to ski tour with only a small pack, containing only clothing and personal effects. The result is evident, we can therefore enjoy all the grandeur of the national park without the effort and discomfort of becoming a human pack mule.
We will use an alpine ski touring setup, skins and binding that allow you to hike with a free-heel upwards. A normal day on the tour is intense, we start quite early and continue by hiking up and skiing down for 6-9 hours, so you should have a good level of fitness. However, there will be plenty of time every afternoon to enjoy the mountain scenery, dry the wet clothes and rest.
You need to have a good level of cardiovascular fitness since it is an intense week with many meters up and down to cover every day. It is suitable for skiers who have previous experience of backcountry and single day ski touring skiing, in order to be able to cope with variable off-piste snow conditions. Of course if you feel you lack some of these experiences or are uncertain of your own level, please feel free to contact us. We will do our best to give you the best experience possible.
This ski tour is suitable for the later part of the season. The mountain huts open mid-March and the best season is during April. This is a wonderful time in the Alps with lots of snow in the high mountains, cold temperatures at 3000 meters, while at the same time warm and pleasant down in the valleys. It is not uncommon that we often enjoy powder skiing or spring firn up in the mountains before we descend to the valley and sit outdoors in the sun with a beer in our hand.
Program for the week
The following program is a typical week. There may be changes due to weather or snow conditions, with alternative routes and huts to be used.
Day 1, Sunday
Arrival day in Courmayeur – meeting
In the afternoon the hotel will be available for check in, and in the evening we have a gathering to discuss the plan for the week. If you want to spend additional days before or after the tour please let us know.
Day 2, Monday
Courmayeur – Valnontey – Rifugio Vittorio Sella
We set off in the morning by taxi or bus towards Valnontey (1 hour) to start the tours first ski ascent, usually it takes 3-4 h. The goal for the day is Rifugio Vittorio Sella (2584 meters), originally it was used as a hunting cabin for the king Vittorio Emanuele II. This is where we will spend the first night. It gives us the opportunity to repeat the usage of the climbing skins, "kick-turns", as well as the avalanche transceiver and we try to do some practical exercises in the afternoon.
Day 3, Tuesday
Rifugio Vittorio Sella – Rifugio Federico Chabod
This is a long day where we climb and ski for 7-8 h. We start early in the morning together with the morning glow of the sun, heading towards the Gran Serra (3552 meters). The peak offers a fantastic view over the national park. To the north we have Grivola (3969 meters) and the goal for tomorrow to the south, Gran Paradiso (4061 meters). The slopes on the Timoron glacier offer fantastic runs before we again put the skins on and head up towards the Col du Grand Neyron (3401 meters). We finish the day with a run down to the cosy Rifugio Federico Chabod (2750 meters) and its warden.
Day 4, Wednesday
Rifugio Federico Chabod – Rifugio Vittorio Emanuelle by Gran Paradiso
The third day offers one of the week's highlights, a ski ascent of Gran Paradiso (4061 meters), a dream for many Italians. An early start puts us below and pass the north face using the Laveciau glacier towards Becca di Moncorve (3869 meters), where we will join the sun's first morning rays in a stunning high mountain environment. We head towards the top, where the last 50 meters require the use of crampons and ice-axe, and after 5 hours of hard work we can finally take the last step onto the top of Gran Paradiso. After having enjoyed the stunning views we head down again and a nice ski run takes us down to Rifugio Vittorio Emanuelle II (2730 meters).
Day 5, Thursday
Rifugio Vittorio Emanuelle – Rifugio Pontese
The goal for the day is Rifugio Pontese (2200 meters), which offers an excellent kitchen, however we first skin up to Colle del Gran Paradiso (3335 meters). A ski run down the Noaschetta glacier takes us to one of the areas hidden places, hopefully we are all alone, and then further up to Colle del Becchi (2989 meters) to the next valley. The last thing on the schedule for the day is skiing down to the hut, where something delicious is waiting for us.
Day 6 Friday
Rifugio Pontese – Lillaz – Courmayeur
With our last reserves we start the last day of the week heading towards Colle del Teleccio (3304 meters), where a fantastic panoramic ski run through Valeille down to Lillaz (1617 meters) is awaiting. After five days of hard physical work with stunning views, new experiences and excellent skiing we return to Courmayeur in the evening.
Day 7, Saturday
Day of departure back home.
We only take 4-5 skiers/guide during these weeks. Some weeks there are two guides with independent groups working together. However, we travel independently so that the groups can ski different lines.
The following is an equipment list. If you have any questions please feel free to contact us. Equipment marked with * can be provided by your guide when needed.
• Skis with AT bindings (Dynafit or Diamir type) that should be light but stable for the downhill skiing.
• Climbing skins adapted to your skis.
• Poles, adjustable with big baskets that can be mounted on a backpack.
• Ski crampons
• Ski touring boots
• Backpack, 35-45 liters, with straps for skis and poles.
• Ice axe, straight classic model 40-50 cm.*
• Crampons, light but durable. We do not recommend aluminum crampons.*
• Avalanche transceiver*
• Harness, light with adjustable leg loops.*
• Ski goggles, "orange/yellow" lenses to be used at bad weather.
• Sunglasses, category 3-4.
• Gortex jacket or similar.
• Gortex pants or similar with ventilation possibilities.
• Down jacket, lightweight.
• 2 pairs of base layer, synthetic or wool.
• 2 pairs of ski socks.
• Mid layer
• Thin gloves
• Insulated gloves
• Hat and balaclava to protect your face in bad weather.
• Sun hat to protect you against the Sun.
• Head torch with spare batteries.
• Sun block
• Water bottle (1-2 liters), since we do not recommend Camelback systems.
• Travel sheets to sleep in at the huts.
• Small repair kit.
• Small medical kit.
• Professional mountain guide authorized by UIGMA/IFMGA.
• All transports during the week including return to Courmayeur.
• Ski passes
• Hotel accommodation in twin double rooms including breakfast before and after the week (a single room can, where possible be arranged at additional cost).
• Nights at mountain huts including breakfast and dinner.
• Fantastic views and excellent skiing in the national park of Gran Paradiso.
• Lunch and drinks up in the mountain huts.
• Personal ski touring equipment (see list above).
• Travel to/from Courmayeur.
• Mandatory insurance to cover mountain rescue costs.