5 of the best backcountry tours you’ve never heard of

We thought it about time we spill the beans on a few day tours that you’ve (probably) never heard of. From a surprise peak off the back of a busy resort to an exciting new venue, we hope there will be something to whet everyone’s whistle

1. THE HOCKENHORN TO LEUKERBAD TOUR, OBERLAND, SWITZERLAND

I suspect that Wiler is a place you’ve never heard of? Unless you’ve skied the classic Lötschental valley (out of the Bernese Oberland), or read our piece on the area last month, then there is a good chance you haven’t heard of that either. But here in the gap between the Western Oberland and its infamous big brother is a fabulous area for ski touring. Buy a one-way touring ticket and, if conditions allow, ride to the top of the resort on the Gletscherbahn gondola. An airy traverse on skins brings you to the dramatic ridge from where you’ll enjoy fantastic views over the surrounding Valais and Bernese peaks.
#lötschental #skitouring #petersgrat #hockenhorn #armadaskis #powpow #freeride

The mountaineers among you may wish to don the spikes, and crampon quickly to the summit of the Hockenhorn. Either way, you’ll soon be skirting the impressive rock tower and skiing the broad plateau of the ridge to the Lötschenpass Hut. If you’re early, grab a coffee at the hut before putting the skins back on for the short climb up to the Gitzifurggu. Here’s where it really kicks off, with a long descent to Leukerbad. By the end of the day, you’ll have skied some 2040m of descent for only a few 100m of ascent, and Swiss public transport will quickly whisk you back home.

Map: Swiss Topo 264s Jungfrau

2. THE PISGANA, ADAMELLO REGION, ITALY

Don’t worry if you have never heard of Pisgana – most Brits haven’t – but it’s held in a certain awe by the locals, and for good reason; a mere 400m ascent is followed by a 2000m+ descent. Plus, it’s possible to lap this classic outing three times in a day if the conditions allow.

From Paso del Tonale (1883m), take the lifts to the final T-bar and boot over the Pass Presena. Enjoy the grandiose panorama onto the Vedrette della Lobbia and Mandrone. Descend diagonally right towards Lago Scuro. From here, continue diagonally right or enjoy a second breakfast (a fantastic slice of cake made by Flavia at Rifugio Mandrone).

Tracce, Pisgana @Regrann from @diana.orso80 – #mountains#mountainscape#alps#landscape_lovers#winter#snow#nature#nature_lovers#adamelloski#vallecamonica#valledeisegni#ghiacciaio#freeride#presena#pisgana#loves_mountais#ig_italy#ig_captures#visititalia#skialp#volgolombardia#volgobrescia#exploretheworld#exploreitaly#frozen#outdoor#adamello #parcoadamello #adamelloski #pontedilegno #tonale

Put the climbing skins on and ascend west to Passo Pisgana (2933m) where an 1800m descent awaits! The first section leads to Vedretta del Pisganino and powder snow can be found even late-season. The route then joins Pisgana and traverses a ‘ski cross’ across fun and varied terrain. This leads to the little road that leads to the Pegrà piste; ski down this to reach the lift that leads to Corna d’Aola piste. Ski this, down the legendary black piste, to reach the start of the cable car Ponte di Legno – Tonale.

More info at www.mountainguides.it

Maps: Tabacco Adamello Presanella 1:25000; Kompass Adamello Presanella 1:50000

3. PIZ DAVO LAIS, SILVRETTA ALPS, AUSTRIA

For years I’ve made an annual pilgrimage with clients along variations of the classic Silvretta Traverse. For as long as I can remember, the Ischgl ski map has had a ‘project’ that never arrived: the new lift to Piz Val Gronda. Well, after years of waiting, it has finally opened up acres of terrain between the Ischgl lift system and the Heidelberger Hutte.
#fimbartal #touringski #heidelbergerhütte #silvretta #mountains

Love it or hate it, this is a game changer, providing quick access to a host of superb tours. Our hidden gem of choice is the Piz Davo Lais. Non-glaciated, it allows you to tour early in the season, with a day-pack containing all the essentials and little more. Heading down from the new lift, if the conditions are cold and the weather set, pop in for a coffee in the hut as you cruise by.

Leaving the hut with skins on, it’s a gentle cruise up the left side of the valley. The appealing-looking shortcut will go in good conditions, as will the more direct line from the summit on the descent, but if conditions are sub-optimal, wind your way up round the right-hand side of the peak. A few steep zig-zags get you in the mood for the summit (3027m) with 1650m of descent ahead of you. Click skis off at the door of the dancing bear in Ischgl – some 15km away.

See Plas y Brenin for intro courses and the classic Silvretta Traverse.

Map: Swiss Topo 249s Tarasp

4. COMBE DU TARDEVANT, ARAVIS, FRANCE

The cosmic blacksmith had ski touring in mind when the Aravis were forged. Deep north-facing bowls set at the perfect aspect to catch the snow, and the perfect gradient to ensure no turns are wasted. As if that wasn’t enough, there are several of them in a row! Our itinerary of choice is the Combe du Tardevant: far enough from the road head to lose some of the competition, yet not so far to get tired of shuffling up the valley.
Pause ❄️ 2 jours ☀️❄️⛄️ #lesconfins #jepeuxpasjailuge

Driving out of La Clusaz, head up past the chapel of Les Confins. Drive further than it looks like you should, and you’ll find a parking area. With the skins on, head along the valley to the chalets at Paccaly. Make sure you’re following the right track as you weave round under the Rochers de la Salla and get the right bowl!

Turn the corner and pick your way up to Chalet de Terdevant, sat atop a steep moraine wall and guarding the entrance to the valley proper. Weave your way through enticing rolls, dips and hollows, before heading to the skyline at the back left corner of the bowl. With 1000m of fresh tracks around 25-30°, there is not a duff turn or any tedious flats to spoil the fun on the way down. Remember, these deep north facing bowls turn out to be effective avalanche machines in the wrong conditions – so take care in there!

Map: IGN 3430 ET ‘La Clusaz Grand Bornand’ 

5. THE GRAND AREA (AND VARIATIONS), HAUTES ALPES, FRANCE

One of the best things about the skiing in La Grave and Serre Chevalier being so darn good, is that folks forget to look over their shoulders at the wealth of ski touring potential in this magnificent area.

There are loads of options to choose from, but our hidden gem is the summit of the Grand Area. Drive over the Col du Lautaret from La Grave and head down to Le Villard Late – opposite the Grande Alpe lift of Serre Chevalier. Park at the road head, click into your skis and skin up the pleasant meadows of Les Tronchets. From here, the Petit and Grand area form an impressive cirque, and you’ll make a sweeping incline across the valley. The last section of the climb follows a summer path and is impressively steep as you gain the col between these two peaks.
One reason why we climb! #backcountryskiing #frenchalps #ecrins #steepskiing

Some technical skinning (or even a short carry) will soon despatch the ridge to the summit. From here, the whole of the Ecrins stretch out before you. If conditions allow, the descent down the south-east slopes is simply awesome. Dropping off the summit you’ll ski the impressive bowl you ogled on the way up. Take care, as there are cliffs below, and these SE slopes get plenty of early sunshine. Having spied the line from the way up, you’ll know you have to traverse left before the rock band, and enjoy the open couloirs all the way back to safe tracks across the meadows.

 Murray Hamilton is a British guide who’s been living in the Ecrins for years. As well as guided trips, he is a great source of information: 

Map: IGN Les Tracks Grand Air series – No 6: “Ecrins Haut-Dauphine”

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