Gran Paradiso Ski Tour
From the high mountains above Chamonix a beautiful mountain towers to the South. This is Gran Paradiso (4061 m/13,323'), the only 4000 meter peak entirely in Italy, located in Italy's first National Park, Parco Nazionale del Gran Paradiso. The National Park has limited development and the mountains here have a relaxed feel with far fewer people than hubs such as Chamonix. Gran Paradiso provides a nice summit experience and can be skied from within a few hundred feet of the top by your average competent backcountry skier. Views from the summit and high ridges include: Mt. Blanc, the Grand Jorasses, the Matterhorn and Monte Rosa.
We start and end in Chamonix to ease the logistics of getting to and from the tour and make sure our equipment is in order while still close to good ski shops. In Chamonix we utilize a hotel that we have been visiting since the early 1990's and the group will be transported by private shuttle from Chamonix to the starting point.
The Gran Paradiso tour follows a semi-circular route linking two of the areas major valleys. We begin at the road’s end in the Val di Rhêmes and spend two days exploring the summits and glaciers of the upper valley. We then head east and spend the next two days skiing towards Gran Paradiso. Day five puts us in position to to climb Gran Paradiso. Our final day we finish with an exit to the Valsavarenche. Not a point to point tour like the Haute Route, nor quite a circuit like the Ortler, this tour gives us great flexibility wake up each morning and maximize the good skiing keyed to current conditions and the group.
Grand Paradiso Ski Tour Itinerary
Gran Paradiso Ski Day 0: Evening meeting in Chamonix, France.
Most people fly into Geneva, Switzerland and then take a 45 minute shuttle directly to the hotel. Feel free to arrive a day early and ski one of the Chamonix valley's many excellent ski areas.
Gran Paradiso Ski Day 1: Transfer from Chamonix to Val di Rhêmes in Val d’Aosta, Italy. Skin up to the Rifugio Benevolo (2287m-7503').
We take a taxi/bus through the Mont Blanc tunnel and into Italy. In about 2 hours we are far up into Val di Rhêmes where we begin our approach to the Refugio Benevolo (2287m, 7503 ft) . We should arrive at the hut for a late lunch and enough time to take in an afternoon tour near the hut to survey the valley.
Gran Paradiso Ski Day 2: Touring from Rifugio Benevolo.
We dedicate a full day to take sample the many options for good touring above the Benevolo hut. Classics include Punta Calabre (3445m-11,302'), Punta Galisia (3346m-10,978') or Becca Traversière (3337m-10,948'). The upper Val di Rhêmes has a wide variety of aspects and elevations that let us sniff out the best skiing. There are also numerous summits that can be tagged with a bit of scrambling; a great warm up for climbing on the Gran Paradiso. We return to the Rifugio Benevolo for a second night.
Gran Paradiso Ski Day 3: Rifugio Benevolo to Rifugio Chivasso (2600m-8,530').
A hut-to-hut day where we climb up to and cross the Colle Basei (3176m-10,420'). Once over the ridge we make our way down to the small Rifugio Chivasso (2600m-8,530').
Gran Paradiso Ski Day 4: Rifugio Chivasso to the Rifugio Vittorio Emanuelle II (2732m-8963').
From the Rifugio Chivasso we make our way to the Col di Punta Foura and ski down onto the Grand Etrèt glacier. We continue our traverse, making our way along the toes of impressive peaks like the Becca di Monciair (3544m-11,627') and the Ciarforon (3642m-11949'). Lastly we descend to hut to soak up the views on their spacious terrace.
Gran Paradiso Ski Day 5: Rifugio Vittorio Emanuelle II to Rifugio Chabod (2710m-8,862') w/ Gran Paradiso summit attempt.
An early breakfast gets us ready for our ascent of Gran Paradiso. We leave the hut and gain the Gran Paradiso glacier. In good conditions the peak may be ascended on skis within only a few hundred feet of the summit. When necessary we’ll don crampons and make our way towards the rocky summit. The final summit blocks are easy, but quite exposed. After our visit with the Madonna we return to our skis. On the descent we veer north down the Lavaciau glacier and enjoy a long ski into the Rifugio Chabod.
Gran Paradiso Ski Day 6: Rifugio Chabod to the road & transfer to Chamonix.
Our final day we’ll gauge how our legs are feeling. It’s a direct descent down to the road. If we have some energy left we might consider one of several options to climb up and seek out a rewarding ski down to the valley. Once at the road we’ll transfer back to Chamonix.
Ski Skills Assessment - Gran ParadisoDetermining an individual's ski ability over the telephone works to some extent, but the ideal situation would be to have a chance to ski with you in advance of your trip. As this is not always possible, we provide the following information to help you evaluate your ski touring skill set as you look for the most appropriate program for your ability and experience level. Feel free to also give us a call with any questions.
Advanced Ski Skills
- Able to ski fall line in most snow conditions (powder to wind affected snow).
- Able to make parallel or stem-christie turns on 35° groomed or firm snow.
- Able to side-slip on firm slopes up to 35°.
- Able to ski moguls in soft snow.
- Able to do kick turns facing in or facing out on 30° slopes.
- Able to skate on level terrain.
- Able to ski fall-line in tight radius turns in good conditions.
- Able to ski black diamond runs at ski areas efficiently and in most snow conditions.
Physical Condition Evaluation for SkiingThe bottom line is that you need a decent physical fitness level to have an enjoyable ski touring experience. All tours have the potential for variable snow conditions. Aerobic training will help tremendously with uphill skinning and overall core fitness will assist you with skiing with a backpack. Ski touring is the ideal training that you can do for this trip. We also recommend that you find time to tour a bit in the weeks leading up to your trip to make sure your feet are ready for the trip and that you have worked out any issues with blisters, which are the most common injury on backcountry ski programs.
Very Good Physical ConditionFull day tours with 3000-4500 feet of elevation gain while carrying a pack weighing between 20 and 30 lbs. on tours lasting 3-6 days
How do the huts work?These huts all have dormitory style lodging and meals are served family style to each group, generally at their own table. The huts in Italy are legendary for their food, hospitality, espresso machines, and an occasional hot shower. We are usually in bed by 9 PM and up between 6 and 7 AM. Dinner and breakfast is included in the your hut fee (covered by your trip fee). Dinner is generally an elaborate affair of appetizer, pasta dish, main course, and desert with the option of wine, beer, or soft drinks. Breakfast is simpler, but always well supplied with dark, hot coffee.
What do we do in the huts?At the end of some days (particularly sunny ones) people often stop in the hut for lunch and then after lunch go back out to ski. On some days we may decided to nap, play cards, or read in the afternoon prior to dinner. Usually after dinner everyone puts in breakfast orders, we settle our bill with the hut manager, and retire early in preparation for an early start.
Insurance ConsiderationsThere are several different types of insurance to consider. Travel insurance can protect all of your non-refundable trip expenses (i.e. guide fees, airline reservations, etc) and in some cases might also provide some rescue insurance. NMS does not carry rescue insurance for its guests. We do carry commercial liability insurance, but you are responsible for the cost of your evacuation if injured.
There is huge variability between insurance policies and providers, and even within policies depending on your residence and citizenship. All of the information provided in this document is only meant to help you start to educate yourself about insurance. It is your responsibility to select the products that provide the amount of coverage that you are comfortable with.
Once you have purchased travel insurance please pass this information on to the NMS office. Also make sure to CARRY YOUR PROOF OF INSURANCE DURING THE TRIP.
Travel InsuranceIn addition to providing you with protection should you have to cancel your trip unexpectedly, some travel insurance policies can cover many other aspects of your trip itself. Examples of possible additional coverage include search & rescue for accidents, medical expenses while traveling, and allowances for lost or delayed luggage.
We are a provider of Travelex travel insurance. The following link will take you to the page on our website which deals with this Travelex insurance information »
Our Location Number is 47-0108. You can purchase insurance from another company but we picked Travelex because they seem most well represented by other mountaineering and ski companies. We have also had customers successfully receive compensation for trips interrupted by family emergencies. This sort of insurance has eased the process for both our customers and ourselves as it seems reasonably priced, and takes much of the financial risk out of the equation for you and for us. In order to be eligible, this insurance needs to be purchased within 21 days of the day we receive your application & deposit. The main site for this insurance is: www.travelex-insurance.com
Please make sure to speak with a representative of Travelex to ensure you select the correct coverage. Some of the policies have exclusions for backcountry skiing or mountaineering so you need to make sure these activities are covered. As we understand it the Travel Select Plan with the added adventure pak is probably what most of our customers will need.
Rescue InsuranceIf your travel insurance does not provide rescue insurance you may need to consider adding some other policy to cover this. The list below is by no means comprehensive but should give you a starting point for looking into this. In Europe the cost of rescue is payable on the spot (unlike the US), and can be very expensive.
Members of the American Alpine Club (AAC) are automatically enrolled in Global Rescue (GR). The cost for an AAC membership is $75 per year or $125 per year for couples. Follow this link to learn more about Global Rescue. This seems like a good way to go as they have evidently dropped a requirement that Global Rescue be called first in the event of an accident and they raised the payout from $5000 to $10000. We recommend joining the American Alpine Club simply to get this additional insurance. Be sure to bring your card with you on the trip as you will need it if you need to be evacuated or assisted.