Haute Route - Plateau du Couloir
8 days skiing

Maximum Group Size
6 skiers:2 guides

Required skills

Booking info

Guiding Fees

Equipment list

Day to day detail

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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

Col des Portons

Chamonix to Zermatt Haute Route - Plateau du Couloir Route

This version of the Haute Route is the hardest ski tour we offer. It includes the difficult passage of the Plateau du Couloir, the crux key to the persistent efforts fo the ski pioneers a hundred years ago.

Because of its difficulty this tour is recommended for very advanced to expert skiers only, in very good condition. If you are not sure you are up to it, please contact us, or consider the Verbier version instead.

This is the "Alpine" Haute Route, closely following the original line taken by Marcel Kurz and Professor Roget in 1911. The crux section, where the route passes high over the Grand Combin via the Plateau du Couloir, is quite steep and, when the route was first done, presented a considerable obstacle. Now, with the comfort of the Valsorey Hut and modern lightweight equipment its fearsomeness is somewhat lessened. It remains, however, an occasionally intimidating slope and is suitable only for those comfortable on steep snow. We climb this section on foot with skis on our back.

The crux of our route, the climb to the Plateau du Couloir requires reasonable weather and fairly stable snow conditions. If the weather and avalanche forecast looks questionable, we may need to alter our plans to another alternative, most typically the route via Verbier.

Our other versions of the Chamonix to Zermatt Haute Route

Skier's Haute Route via Verbier
Summer Haute Route Glacier Trek
Summer Walker's Haute Route

Photos from previous
Haute Route ski trips

We run this Haute Route trips at a low skier to guide ratio of 3:1. The low ratio increases security on steep ground and allows us to better customize the trip to the groups needs.

Our tour begins with a spectacular 9000 foot descent of the Vallée Blanche. For the next 7 days we ski hut to hut beginning in France and soon passing into Switzerland through the heart of the Alps. We cross into Switzerland, arriving at the Trient hut on our second day of touring. On day 4 the Verbier version and the Plateau version of the tour diverge. The former continues on to the Mont Fort Hut, then the Dix and Vignettes huts. This, the Plateau du Couloir route, carries on to reach Bourg-St-Pierre, and then continues on the Valsorey hut on the afternoon of Day 4. The following day cross the Plateau du Couloir to reach the Chanrion hut. A number of options present us at this point, but all leading to the Vignettes hut. The last day of either itinerary continues on to Zermatt.

We have included an additional day to our itinerary. One more day may allow us to complete the tour, when bad weather or conditions force a halt. If all goes according to our original planned 7-day itinerary, we have an extra 8th day to ski in the Zermatt area or to carry on to Saas Fee. Please see the last part of the itinerary below for more details.



Val d'Arpette

Skills Required
Climbing to the Plateau du Couloir.

As we mentioned before, this is our most difficult tour. Skiing abilities need to be very good, and fitness at an equally high level. Every day of this tour is fairly long. Unlike other versions of the Haute Route, no day can really be considered a rest.

Skiing skills need to be at a high-advanced to expert level. The reason for this 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 such as the descent to the Col des Ecandies on Day 3, 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 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.

There are sections on this tour where we will be skiing slopes of up to about 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 injurly. 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 execute hop parallel 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.

Skiers who regularly enjoy 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. 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 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 classic route, please contact us to discuss options.

You need to be able to do quick and easy kick turns, facing into the mountain. We will review these skills en route, but you'll have to be expert at them by the second day!

Previous mountaineering experience is very useful, but not required. The traverse of the Col de la Gouille on Mont Vélan includes some steep snow and rock, climbed in crampons. You'll need a good head for heights here. If you are an expert skier, you should not have difficulty picking up these new skills, as you will already be comfortable on very steep slopes.

Val d'Arpette   The thoroughly modern Vélan hut.  

Chamonix to Zermatt Haute Route

This itinerary is suitable for advanced/expert skiers in excellent condition. The two itineraries we offer are both described below.

For more detailed information and photos, see the day-to-day description.

Day 1

Vallée Blanche ski descent. Night in Chamonix

Day 2

From the Grands Montets, down to the Argentière Glacier and up to the Argentière hut.

Day 3

Over the Col du Chardonnet and the Fenêtre de Saleina, to the Trient Hut.

Day 4

Over the Col des Ecandies to Champex.

Taxi to Bourg-St-Pierre and continue up to the Valsorey hut at 3030 meters.

Day 5

Over the Plateau du Couloir, the Col du Sonadon and down to the Chanrion hut.

Day 6

To the Vignettes hut. A number of option are available for this day, with our favorite being the traverse of Les Portons.

Day 7

A great day's skiing to Zermatt. First up over the Col d'Evêque, then over the Col du Mont Brulé, the Col de Valpelline, and finally a fantastic run down the Stockji Glacier to Zermatt

Day 8

This is our extra day, which if not needed for weather during the tour gives up one more day of skiing to enjoy in the Zermatt area. Three possible options include

  • Schwarztor, the ultra-classic glacier descent from the Klein Matterhorn.
  • A ski ascent and descent of the Cima di Jazzi, a fun ski peak above the Gornergrat and Findel Glacier.
  • Over to Cervinia for lunch and back again to Zermatt. A day skiing the pistes of Zermatt and Cervinia.
  • A ski ascent of the Breithorn, the local ski 4000er.

Cabane de Chanrion

Kathy Cosley & Mark Houston
UIAGM Internationally Licensed Mountain Guides

AMGA Certified • SNGM members
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