Silvretta Ski Tour - Austrian Alps
One of our more recent offerings in the alps, the Silvretta has quickly become one of our favorite places to tour. In the 1920's Hemingway spent a winter here writing and skiing with his young family. In his day the huts were simple affairs that have since been remodeled into backcountry hotels tucked in the middle of the best touring terrain. Hot showers, comfortable rooms, and home-cooked meals are standard. The skiing is phenomenal as the area holds powder long after the last storm. On any given day you have the opportunity to reach a summit or two without spending too much time out of your skis. The huts open around Christmas and are well utilized throughout the winter. We run these trips in early March in advance of our Haute Route season.
The Silvretta is often billed as a good choice for those new to ski touring. While this is true, the area also holds great attraction for the most seasoned off-piste skier. We utilize the best huts in the region and tours can be scaled to accommodate those looking for a moderate day followed by an afternoon spent lounging in the sun outside the hut, or can easily be adjusted to allow for long days chasing turns.
The terrain provides a few reasonable escape routes if the avalanche hazard kicks up with plenty of steep skiing opportunities when the stability is good. The tour forms a loop above the town of Galtur during which we zig-zag back and forth across the Swiss-Austrian border so many times that it is easy to lose track of which country you are in. Illustrating the international flair of the area, the Heidelberger Hut considers itself an Austrian Hut, but is actually located in Switzerland and run by the German Alpine Club. Galtur is easily accessible by rental car or public transportation from Munich or Innsbruck, both places with well-connected international airports.
Silvretta Ski Tour Itinerary
Silvretta Day 0: Arrive in Galtur, Austria
The evening before the tour we all meet in the small village of Galtur, just up valley from Ischgl. Here the group will be briefed on the week ahead, we will do equipment checks, and get a good’s night rest before starting our tour the next morning. The hotel we utilize serves a family style dinner and breakfast allowing for a central base for the group to get to know one another.
Silvretta Day 1: Ischgl to Heidelberger Hut (2264M)
After breakfast in Galtur we take a short bus ride to the ski area at Ischgl where we utilize the lifts to either the Paliner Kopf (2864M) or the new lift to Piz Val Gronda (2812M) and then ski to the Heildelberger Hutte (2264M). Getting to the hut only takes a few hours, leaving time in the afternoon to ski some of the terrain near the Heidelberger Hut.
Silvretta Day 2: Heidelberger Hut to Jamtal Hut (2165M)
In the morning we collect our gear and then tour up the Val Fenga to the Kronenjoch (2972M) the high pass that leads to the Jamtal Valley where we will spend two nights. The skiing on the backside of the Kronenjoch is consistently very good and along the way we have the option to make the short ascent of the Breite Krone (3079M), which can be ascended on skins with a very short boot section at the end. As usual, there are many opportunities for an afternoon tour for those looking for more vert.
Silvretta day 3: Gemspitze (3107M) and Hinter Jamspitze (3156M) from Jamtal Hut
We could easily spend the entire trip touring out of the Jamtal Hut. Excellent summit objectives include: Piz Blaisch Lunga (3230M), Chalauskopf (3118M), Vorder Jamspitze (3176M), Hinter Jamspitze (3156M), Dreilanderspitze (3197M), Ochsenkopf (3057M), and a variety of other peaks and ridge crests. We like to climb the Gemspitze, which can be a day in itself, with the option to also ski the Hinter Jamspitze on the same tour.
Silvretta Day 4: Jamtal Hut to Wiesbadner Hut (2443M)
There are a variety of ways we can get to the Wiesbadner Hut, but the most often used is the trip up and over the pass just North of the Dreilanderspitze. This climbs takes a few hours and then drops us onto the NE facing slopes of the upper Vermunt Glacier, which also provides good power skiing down to the Wiesbadner Hut. Along the way we can grab the summit of the Dreilanderspitze (3197M) before skiing down to the hut. In good stability there are more aggressive lines for those looking to challenge themselves a bit.
Silvretta Day 5: Silvrettahorn (3244M) &/or Piz Buin (3312M) from Wiesbadner Hut
From the Wiesbadner Hut we can see the improbable line leading to the Ochsental Glacier and the plateau beneath the Silvrettahorn and Piz Buin. We wrap hard from the hut and then traverse onto the glacier, skinning alongside a spectacular icefall. Once on route the travel is much easier and less exposed than it appears from the hut. Eventually we gain the plateau and have our choice of scrambling to the summits of the Silvrettahorn or the Piz Buin. It is unlikely that we would do both, but we can easily fit in one summit and also get a good ski from the Fuorcla dal Cunfin, which provides fantastic views down into Silvretta Glacier. The run back to the hut is north facing and provides more north-facing skiing followed by a short skin back up to the hut and well earned cold beverage.
Silvretta Day 6: Wiesbadner Hut to Wirl (1622M)
Up early as usual, we climb directly from the hut to the Bietaljoch. Most will want to climb the Rauhen Kopf (3101M) and then have a long, sheltered ski out an impressive valley to just below the Bielerhohe (1897M). From here we glide down a groomed nordic track all the way to the ski area at Wirl. From Wilr it is a short, five-minute, bus ride back to Galtur, where we began our trip. Some tour participants will choose to spend one last night in the region, while others will move towards their flights home the next day.
Getting to/from the Silvretta TourClosest Airports: The two closest airports are Munich, Germany (MUC) and Innsbruck, Austria (INN). Munich is 3 hrs. by car (5 hrs 15 min by public transit) and Innsbruck is 1 hr. and 15 mms. by car (3 hrs 15 mins). As people register for the trip we will help with either putting together shared transport via rental car, or assist with booking public transit. If your flights arrive early on the day it is possible to reach Galtur on the same day that you fly into Munich or Innsbruck at the start of the trip and on the exit you will want to book your flight no earlier than the day following the last day of the trip.
Silvretta Ski Tour QualificationsSki Ability: This is not an extreme ski route in any way. It does, however, require participants to be decent skiers. Things you should feel comfortable doing include: skiing with a backpack, skiing a wide variety of snow ranging from powder to breakable crust to corn, and climbing and descending 3500-4500' on skis for a week. It is not advised to undertake the Silvretta Ski Tour without any experience outside of a ski area. You will want to do some AT skiing in advance of the trip and will want to show up having used your boots in the time prior to the trip.
It is not uncommon for people to develop very bad blisters if they go from not touring at all to putting in successive long ski touring days. You should be able to efficiently get down black diamond runs in most ski areas. Again, you do not need to be an extreme skier to do this, but there will be spots where it is best not to fall, and you need to be able to efficiently link turns in a wide variety of snow conditions. You should also be aware that skiing on a glacier is much different from skiing in bounds at a ski area. Real hazards exist in these mountains and none are marked. Prior to your trip you want to focus on skiing in control and being able to ski for long periods without falling. You do not need any previous mountaineering experience to do this, but it is nice to have some level of familiarity with the climbing harness, crampons, and ice axe. We use these items very rarely, but you will be more confident if you show up with some level of comfort with them.
Ski Skills Assessment - Silvretta Ski TourIt can be difficult to determine where different people are in terms of ski ability without skiing with them in advance of a program. As we don't always have the opportunity to ski together in advance of all trips we have provided the following list so that potential customers can evaluate their ski skills and choose the most appropriate program.
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 SkiingSki touring requires a certain basic level of physical fitness to minimize risk and be enjoyable. In addition to a solid base of aerobic conditioning you need to have the basic core strength to ski in a variety of conditions while carrying a ski pack. The best training you can do for ski touring is ski touring. It is best not to go into any extended trip without finding the time to get in a few days of touring in advance to make sure that your feet are conditioned to your boots.
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 have both small rooms that sleep 4-6 people and dormitory style lodging. We generally try to get the smaller rooms, but this is not always possible. Different people have different opinions of hut living. Most nights we are in bed by 9 p.m. and most mornings we are up by 6 am. Dinners are things like pasta, meat, potatoes, a desert, bread, and soup. Breakfast is generally a very simple affair consisting of bread and jam, lunch meats, coffee or tea, and cheese and is designed to get large numbers of people fed and out the door. All of the items sold in the hut are either prepared there or brought up in snowcats from the valley below.
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 you 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 morning 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. In Europe the cost of rescue is payable on the spot (unlike the US), and can be very expensive.
For this trip we recommend everyone to consider a membership with the Austrian Alpine Club. They have very good rescue insurance and it is available to people that do not live in Austria and are not Austrian Citizens. Austrian Alpine Club