Vanoise Backcountry Access Course

Lee Townend, Snoworks instructor, reports on the amazing ‘Vanoise Backcountry Access Ski Course’, March 2017.



Over the last 3 winter seasons at Snoworks we have been running ski courses involving the use of skins and touring bindings to access new and exciting off piste terrain. This course is titled ‘Backcountry Access’ and I have been asked on many occasions to describe in more detail what the Vanoise Backcountry Access Course entails and to describe the routes we take.

Below is the itinerary we took on the Brides le Bains March 2017 course. This is a sample itinerary, not fixed to each course, as we can adapt the itinerary on every course based on the prevailing snow conditions, the weather and clients levels and aspirations.

Day 1
Starting in Meribel in the 3 Valleys we use lift access to get from Meribel to Courchevel 1650 with a warm up ski on the way. We then enter the huge off piste area called ‘Les Avals’ where we can take short ski tours (under 1hr). There are many touring options in this area from under an hour to up to 3hrs. Day 1 is all about off-piste training, learning about ski touring, practising kick turns and getting used to the equipment. Lunch at a local restaurant followed by lift access off piste skiing for the rest of the day. A classic warm up day.


Day 2
We take a short early transfer to the resort of ‘Valmorel’ with time for a quick coffee in a local cafe and a review of the day ahead. Using the lifts to access the Lauzière mountain range we ski tour up to the ‘Col du Sarvatan’ (2439m), a 1-1.5hr tour. This open up a fantastic off-piste descent. A picnic on route with plenty of time left to use the local lift system to access further off-piste skiing.


Day 3
A short minibus journey (30mins) to Champagny-en-Vanoise with access in to the La Plagne ski area. Using the lift system we then ski tour (1-1.5hrs) up Mont Jovet (2558m). A short off-piste descent followed followed by another short ski tour (30 mins) up the ‘Dou du Moûtiers’ (2489m). An amazing off-piste descent awaits. This year we had the most fantastic spring snow on the south facing slopes. A ski tour back up to the Col du Mont Jovet to ski the north facing slopes (powder this year) followed by east facing slopes (perfect spring snow this year) to end up lunching in the fabulous ‘Chalet de la Roche’ restaurant in La Plagne before using the lifts to return to Champagny.


Day 4
With Day 3 being a bigger ski touring day we can head back up to Champagny and use the day to access as much off-piste as we can using the lift system. A ski across to ‘Roche de Mio’ and over to the ‘Sommet de Bellecôte’ where we can ski the north face, a 2000m vertical descent! We can lunch at the idyllic Le Fer à Cheval refuge, followed by using the lifts to take us across to Les Arcs for our shuttle bus back to Brides le Bains.


Day 5
For the last day we went back up the Cable car from the hotel in Brides up to Meribel and made our way with the lifts to ski tour the ‘Col du Bourne’ (3039m) a 1.5 – 2hrs skin.  A picnic lunch at the top with incredible views over the Vanoise national park, followed by powder on the North face at the top, then transformed spring snow for the rest of our descent. A wrap up meeting with celebratory beers, to finish off a fantastic week.

I shall write another blog soon explaining a little more about the Vanoise Backcountry Access courses with Snoworks in the hope of welcoming more of you onto them, as there appears to be some confusion as to what and whom it is for. All will become clear, watch this space!

Backcountry Access Course Details


3 valleys (1) Backcountry (30) backcountry access (9) off-piste (27) Three Valleys (5)