Nordic Lights: The Best in Cross-Country Skiing

France and Switzerland: The Haute Route

Europe's classic Haute Route through the Alps links the Swiss resorts of Saas-fee and Zermatt with the Chamonix ski area in France.

This is the ultimate Alps adventure—and a real test of a skier's skill, stamina, and determination. Haute Route skiers must carry heavy packs and climb as much as 3,300 feet each day up steep slopes more than 30 degrees in grade. Strong powder skills are essential.
Haute Route tours normally run from May to June, when high-altitude snow conditions are optimal. Climbers' huts fill up during holidays, so avoid these busy times. You'll find qualified guides at major resorts along the route, or you can check the web before you go for a list of internationally accredited guides (

Most trips being with a two-day, off-trail skiing seminar at Chamonix. You then set off for a full week of steep climbing and descend from the Aiguille du Midi and the Grandes Jorasses. Eventually, you arrive at Zermatt via the Matterhorn.

The cost is around $1,925 per person, and the most programs run from late April to early May.

If you're not up to the Haute Route but still want a Swiss ski-touring experience, there are other options available. Experienced guides can take you through four spectacular valleys in the Upper Engadine region on trails that link numerous small villages; venture as far afield as you like before taking public transport back to the village of Pontresina, where you can glide right to the door of a four-star hotel.

Paul McMenamin is the author, editor, and photo director of the original Ultimate Adventure Sourcebook.

Published: 21 Aug 2001 | Last Updated: 14 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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