Glacier de Toule

Gavin bravely plugged a gap in the market 26 years ago with the concept of short ski breaks. Back then, of course, there were no budget airlines, no Eurotunnel, no autoroutes south through France to the Alps and precious few hotels willing to take bookings for anything less than a Saturday-to-Saturday stay. Gavin and his wife Sue steadily built up the business, persuading a range of properties, mainly in the Chamonix Valley but also in other Alpine resorts, to accept guests on weekend and midweek breaks. Profile by Fiona Bruce – read more here:

Gavin Foster shares his secret spots in Chamonix and the Mont Blanc Massif.

Route: Toule Glacier with Glacier de Vierge or La Noire to finish back in Chamonix

Summary: Off Piste skiing in Glaciated terrain, (SkiWeekendMountain guide required)

Skiable: December – end April

Access: Cable car to 1400m, summit 3500m. Access from the Entreves Cable Car 2 stages, this year (2012/2013) the 3rd stage has been taken out as they are building a completely new lift system to replace the old one.


The Morning starts with an obligatory Cappuccino in the cafe opposite the ticket office, where you revalidate your Mont Blanc Unlimited Chamonix ski pass.

Cable car departure to the mid station Pavillion, then on up to the 2nd stage

When you arrive at the top of the second stage cable car, there are some very steep steps inside the building that are a great way to find out if you are altitude acclimatised, about 200 steps and 50ms vertical, the clever Italians have a rigged a system this year where you put your skis and rucksacks inside a basket that runs up beside the steps. When you arrive at the Torino Refuge, it is a good walk along a pisted track to the Flambeau. This is where you put your skis on and traverse around to the ladders. The glacier has moved so much that there is now a large ice wall where it used to be possible to side slip down. The piste machine, however, has pushed snow down at the head wall and it is easy to get down to the ladders.

The ladders are not vertical, but fairly steep. The view and exposure is quite something! At this altitude (3500m) it is often cold but as soon as you descend the ladders on the south facing slope the sun is intense. The snow conditions are frequently tricky, changing quickly because of the aspect. The reward if you catch it right is being able to ski all the way to the walley floor an incredible descent from 3500m down to 1400m.


Route options

It is possible to ski the left, middle or right side of the glacier.

There are numerous couloirs that also access the same terrain.

The terrain is glaciated with the middle route through seracs. The right hand side has a very steep section.

It is essential that you hit the traverse line back to the mid station – Pavillion. From the Pavillion there are excellent descents to the valley floor, route finding is complex! Skiing down to the valley floor is on the right side, but it is essential to know where you are going otherwise you can get stranded on cliffs or even end up above the Mont Blanc Tunnel platform – the Italians take a dim view of this…

The cable car closes between 13.00hrs and 14.00hrs for lunch. The restaurant at the Pavillion serves superb pasta, and is a great break before you go back up to the summit.

The classic end to the day skiing the Vallee Blanche, back toChamonix, either via the La Noire, or the easier Glacier de Vierge.

A Proper day out!

Equipment required

Transcivier, ABS Back Pack Harness, crampons, Ice axe, midsized fat skis. Spare layer -it is often cold at the start and warmer later on.

NB A Mountain Guide is essential.

Photos are on the Ski Weekend Face book page