Tour du Ciel, Zinal • 6-day tour

6 days skiing

Maximum Group Size
6 skiers with 2 guides

Required skills

Booking info

Guiding Fees

Equipment list

See also:
Ski programs overview
Alps skiing advice
Valle Maira, Italy
Queyras, France
Lofoten, Norway
Albula, Switzerland
Ortler, Italy
Haute Route Verbier
Haute Route Plateau
Mont Thabor
Gran Paradiso
Zermatt to Saas Fee
Berner Oberland
Vanoise Haute Route
Tour du Ciel
Tour du Soleil
Chamonix off-piste
Private ski tours

Skiing below the Obergabelhorn.

The Tour du Ciel is arguably the most spectacular ski tour in the Alps. Several other tours also include giant glaciers and peaks, (most notably the Haute Route and Berner Oberland tours) but they don't have the same sense of being so close to huge alpine faces and tumbling icefalls.

Starting in Zermatt, we cross over a high pass, and enter the Zinal Valley, just to the west of the Mattertal. The Tour du Ciel contours the west side of the immense peaks that form the watershed above Zermatt — Obergabelhorn, Wellenkuppe, Trifthorn, Zinal Rothorn, Shalihorn, Weisshorn, Bishorn.

This is a difficult tour, with quite a bit of steep skiing, both up and down, with much of it on complex and very crevassed glaciers. There are quite a few sections that are normally negotiated on foot (an indication of the difficulty). Because of the complexity of the route, days are long, typically with many "transitions".

This is a tour only for skiers with expert ability both in downhill as well as in uphill modes. Skill with crampons on steep terrain is necessary, as well as a cool head for heights.

The Tour du Ciel is probably the most technically demanding tour we offer. Please take seriously the required skills list below.



The start of the Arête Blanc on the Blanc de Moming.

Skills Required

This ski tour requires a high level of fitness and excellent skiing abilities. Most days include over 1000 meters of ascent. You need to be in good shape.

Skiing skills need to be at an expert level. There is quite a bit of steep ground, where falls could result in long and dangerous slides, particularly if the snow is firm. The uphill sections can also be steep, and skiers need to skilled, comfortable and reliable with uphill kick turns on firm 30+ degree slopes.

There are sections on this tour where we will be skiing slopes of up to about 35 to 40 degrees in steepness. This is quite steep, and usually in this terrain we will be traversing or perhaps side slipping down to easier ground. However, we also need to be able to do turns on these very steep slopes, usually parallel hop turns, or other quick turns where little momentum is generated. On slopes of this steepness, if the snow is firm (as it often is) a fall will most likely result in a slide, and, with hazards such as rocks or crevasses below, such a slide will lead to potentially very serious injury. If you fall on these slopes you will get hurt!

Ski skills required;

  • Ability to turn comfortably through the fall line in difficult deep, heavy snow, or bad breakable crust.
  • Ability to consistently execute parallel hop turns or pedal-hop turns on 40° firm snow.
  • Ability to ski the fall-line with short-radius, rhythmic parallel turns in deep light snow.
  • Ability to side-slip, both forward and backward, on firm 45° slopes.
  • Ability to skate on level ground.
  • Ability to perform consistently and easily, uphill kick turns on 30° firm snow.

Climbing skills required;

  • Cramponiing mastery on steep firm snow.
  • Good ability with quick transitions, ski to boot crampon, skins on and off, etc.

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 this is probably not a good tour for you. 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 you ability is 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 fairly steep 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 route, please join us in the Alps for a shake-down training session. See our page on Chamonix off-piste skiing.

You need to be able to do quick and easy kick turns on steep very firm slopes.

Approaching the Mountet hut.

Tour du Ciel

This itinerary is suitable for expert skiers in excellent condition.

Day 0

We rendezvous in Zermatt in the early evening. Zermatt is easily reached by train in about 4 hours from either Geneva or Zurich. A great idea is to spend a few days on the extensive pistes prior to starting our tour.

Day 1

We start by taking the cable car from Zermatt to Schwarzsee, at 2587 meters. A quick off piste descent leads us down to just below the terminus of the Zmutt Glacier at about 2200 meters. From here is it skins on to the Schönbiel hut at 2694 meters.

This is relatively easy and short day, the easiest on the tour, and a good warm up.

Ascent - 550 meters (1800 feet)
Descent - 435 meters (1425 feet)
Distance - 8 km

Day 2

From the Schönbiel hut we backtrack slightly towards Zermatt before climbing steeply up to the Hohwang Glacier and then more easily to the Col Durand 3436 meters. If the weather, conditions and energy levels are all good we can make an optional ascent of Mont Durand (aka Arbenhorn).

From Col Durand, we have a great ski down the Durand Glacier before a final short climb up to the Mountet hut at 2886 meters.

Ascent - 1490 meters (4890 feet)
Descent - 1300 meters (4260 feet)
Distance - 12 km

Day 3

Our goal for day 3 is to reach the Cabane d'Arpitetta. There are a number of options, but the most exhilarating is to traverse the Arête Blanc on the Blanc de Moming.

From the Mountet hut we climb easily up to about 3700 meters reaching the sharp crest of the Arête. We follow he knife edge arête to the west and reach the Blanc de Moming. A great descent north follows before we can traverse on skins to the Arpitetta hut at 2786 meters.

Ascent - 1100 meters (3608 feet)
Descent - 1200 meters (3936 feet)
Distance - 10.3 km

Day 4

From the Arpitetta hut, we climb up to the Col du Milon, some 200 meters above the hut. From the Col we descend steeply to about 2700 meters where we again put on skins and climb (also steeply) up to the Tracuit hut at 3256 meters.

If energy levels are high, and time allows, we can continue up to the summit of the Bishorn, at 4151 meters, the highest point on the tour.

If conditions are not ideal, the Bishorn can wait until the next day, or be skipped altogether.

Including the Bishorn

Ascent - 1810 meters (5940 feet)
Descent - 1345 meters (4410 feet)
Distance - 9.2 km

Without the Bishorn

Ascent - 880 meters (2890 feet)
Descent - 415 meters (1360 feet)
Distance - 4.8 km

Day 5

From the Tracuit hut, we ski to the Turtman hut. Though the stats below make the day look easy, the steep terrain, in combination with the frequent transitions make it more difficult that it would appear here.

Ascent - 250 meters (820 feet)
Descent - 980 meters (3215 feet)
Distance - 6 km

Day 6

Our last day is long and complicated. From the Turtman hut we climb up to the pass of the Pipjilicke at about 3050 meters. We descend steeply a short way, before turning uphill again to reach the Jungtaljoch at 3220 meters, again with some steep climbing.

Another steep descent brings us down to easier skiing in the long valley of Grindji. More traversing across the steep hillsides bring us to Jungen and the top of the cable car which we take down to St Niklaus. We return to Zermatt by train.

Ascent - 960 meters (3150 feet)
Descent - 1500 meters (4920 feet)
Distance - 11 km

Skiing below the Mountet hut.

Kathy Cosley & Mark Houston
UIAGM Internationally Licensed Mountain Guides

AMGA Certified • SNGM members
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