|St. Moritz to Davos - Albula Ski Tour|
This tour connect two of Switzerland's most iconic ski resorts, St. Moritz and Davos. But the terrain between is anything but developed.
To visit this part of Switzerland truly feels like stepping into another world. Generally sunny weather with good snow cover (we've had amazing powder on several of our trips); sparse open woods and rugged peaks; picturesque Italianate architecture in beautifully preserved villages and historic sites; a cuisine all its own; luxurious spas and sparkling lakes; the sound of the Romansch language (this is the only part of Switzerland where it’s a native language spoken on a daily basis)—combined together, all this makes for an exotic feeling, different from any other part of Switzerland or anywhere else in the world for that matter.
There are two qualities that make this tour stand out. The first are the numerous and very fine north-facing descents. The quality of the skiing is often exceptional. The second is the quiet, lonely nature of this little corner of Switzerland. Thought we will likely meet other skiers on the trail, there will be some days where we feel all alone in ski touring heaven.
Our itinerary begins with a day tour out of a comfortable hotel in the Engadine valley. From there we head for the hills, staying in several mountain huts as well as one night in the cute little town of Bergün. With the exception of the lifts there and on our first, warm-up day, the whole multi-day tour will be “muscle powered”.
Extend your trip
An option that really shouldn't be missed is a day at the Roman-Irish baths in spa in Scuol. More info here. Scuol is about 50 km to the northeast and a very pretty train ride away.
Last, for the more ambitious among you, join us for the Silvretta Ski Tour, which usually follows our Albula tour. Six days touring in the mountains not far away.
|A short movie from early March 2012.|
|Albula Traverse Ski Touring Itinerary|
Rendezvous in Pontresina in the Upper Engadine valley. The train service to nearby Saint Moritz and also to Pontresina is excellent. For example, from the Zurich airport, you'll need about 3 hours and 45 minutes to reach Pontresina. There are hourly departures from about 6 am to 10 pm.
We'll meet in the early evening.
Our first day of skiing is a warm-up, almost all downhill. It offers a good way to shake off the jet-lag and test all of our equipment.
There are several options for good day tours in the area. One of the best is the off-piste run down to Morteratsch from the Diavolezza lift. First we take the train from Pontresina to the Diavolezza lift, not far up valley. We'll ride the lift to the summit at 2973 meters.
We descend a short way before skinning up to Point 3186 meters on the Fortezza. We then have a beautiful north-facing run down to the lower ski down to Vadret da Morteratsch. We continue down the gentle glacier to the train stop at Morteratsch, a short way and another train ride to Pontresina. Second night in Pontresina.
Our objective on day 2 is to reach the Chamanna Jenatsch, our hut for the night. There are several ways to get to the hut, but our preferred route starts from the Julierpass which we reach with a quick taxi ride. From here we skin up the valley to cross the Fuorcla d'Agnel at 2986 meters. We ski downhill to about 2500 meters before making the short climb back up to the hut at 2652 meters.
For those with more energy: If we arrive early at the hut, we can take an easy afternoon tour up to the summit of point 2962, just west of the hut. This gives us a great run down the perfect slopes of the Vadret Calderas. Another option is to tag a summit on the way to the hut, the most sensible option being the Piz Surgonda at almost 3200 meters.
Day 3 starts with a steep climb up and around the Crasta Jenatsch to reach the valley just south of Piz Laviner. We cross the southeast shoulder of Piz Laviner at about 3020 meters, then descend the very long north-facing valley, past Alp Mulix, finally reaching the railway line at Nax. With a bit of luck we can ski down the sled run all the way to Bergün at 1370 meters.
Overnight in hotel in Bergün.
|Day 4||We start day 4 with a ride up the Bergün ski lifts to to about 2561 meters We then skin up nearly to summit of Piz Darlux before traversing the long ridge to the summit of Tschimas da Tisch at 2872 meters. We then have a long descent down the east face of the Tisch to the valley below at 2090 meters. We continue north, down-valley, to about 2000 meters before turning uphill and east to climb up to the Kesch hut at about 2620 meters.
We have two nights in Kesch hut, planning a day tour between them. Day tour options include skinning high up onto the Vedret da Porchabella. We can climb on ski up to about 3220 meters, the location of the ski depot for climbers on Piz Kesch. Above this is more serious climbing terrain and we'll need low ratios, skilled climbers, and good snow conditions to consider going higher.
Another day tour option is to ski up to the Fuorcla Viluoch at 2999 meters. We can continue up to Point 3040 north of Piz Porchabella then skiing the north-side bowls, looping back to the hut.
And yet another option is up to the summit of the Passhörli 2964 meters. Plenty to chose from. In any case, we are back in the Kesch hut this night.
Our objective is to reach the Chamanna da Grialetsch. We start by skiing down the Val dal Tschüvel to the Alp Funtauna at 2192 meters. Then up into the Vallorgia, then almost to the summit of the Piz Grialetsch. We cross a very high pass on the south side of the peak to gain the Vadret da Grialetsch. We then ski down to about 2700 meters before traversing to the hut at 2542 meters.
There are many ways to complete this tour. The simplest (and one we may choose if the weather is poor) is to descend directly from the hut down the Dischma valley, which leads directly into Davos.
Our more preferred option, however, is to continue north a bit, crossing either the Rothorn Furgga, or the Fuorcla Radönt to reach the Flüelapass road, which is closed in winter. We continue down the Flüela valley northwest, and reach the fantastic restaurant at Tschuggen. Normally we take a taxi from here into Davos, but if conditions are unusually snowy, skiing further down the valley may be an option. Once in Davos we are back on the train, passing through Bergün to return to the Engadine valley.
And one last, more ambitious exit option is to cross over Piz Sarsura. Then follows a very long descent to the valley at a point between Susch and Zernez. While the first thousand meters is a great ski down, once in the woods, the skiing is "variable" at best with a range of obstacles including avalanche debris and fallen trees.
Overnight in hotel in Pontresina.
|Skiing from Piz Darlux to the Tschimas da Tisch on day 4.|
This tour requires a high level of fitness and very good skiing abilities. On a number of days the total elevation gained is over 1000 meters (3300 feet). Being in good shape will ensure you have enough energy to manage (and have great fun as well!) on the long descents which follow. The reason that skiing skills must be at an advanced to expert level has more to do with the conservation and expenditure of energy over a long day than the absolute technical difficulty of the skiing. There are a few steep sections, but for the most part the slopes are not overly steep. The challenge comes in managing poor snow conditions (heavy wet snow, crud or breakable crust) and not losing too much energy or risking injury in the process. Great skiers look like they are hardly working, and this is in fact the case. If your skiing is not up to par you will spend far, far more energy than a better skier.
Ski skills required;
Skiers who regularly enjoy black or double black runs in most western American ski areas should do fine. If you like to get off the piste and into the crud, ski the trees, and in general look for the steeper shots, you'll probably have a great time on this tour. If you tend to stick to the groomed slopes and find the wild untracked a bit intimidating you should think twice about this option. We will likely encounter all different kinds of snow, from the best to the worst, and you need to have sound, energy-efficient strategies to cope with them.
A good gauge of your ability can be found in mogul skiing. If you are good in the bumps and seek them out, then you most likely have developed the rhythm and balance needed for steep or difficult snow. You must be able to ski moderate bumps in good conditions, skiing rhythmically and fluidly, following a line near the fall line with good speed control. If you have any doubt about your ability to manage the skiing on this tour, please contact us to see if we can answer your questions.
Previous ski touring or mountaineering skills are useful, but not required. If you are a good skier, you will not have difficulty picking up these new skills, as you will already be comfortable on steep slopes.
|The Swiss town of Bergün, where we spend our second night out.|
Kathy Cosley & Mark Houston
AMGA Certified • SNGM members
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