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Skiing the Toula Glacier, Courmayeur (2020 update)

The Toula Glacier is a classic off-piste route accessed from the Courmayeur side of Mt Blanc. We look at all the important details you need to know...

 

Route: Toula Glacier to Courmayeur (or Vallée Blanche to finish back in Chamonix)

Summary: Intermediate off-piste skiing in glaciated terrain. Mountain guide required.

Skiable: January – May 

courmayeur skyway


Typical Itinerary:

The morning starts with a short transfer from Chamonix (unless staying in Courmayeur), followed by an obligatory cappuccino in the cafe opposite the ticket office.

 

We then take the impressive Skyway Monte Bianco cable car from Entreves at 1300m to the mid-station at 2173m, and then the final stage to Pointe Helbronner at 3466m.


Inside the top station at Punta Helbronner there are two lifts that take you down to Torino Refuge level, reached by walking along a 150m tunnel carved from the mountain.

 

Going out of the door, marked ‘Alpinists only’, you walk past the telecabine (closed in winter) that crosses to the Aiguille du Midi. The Italian version of the famous arrete is in front of you, a long gantry that leads to some steps and access to the glacier.

 

From here it is a schuss and then a skate to the Petite Flambeau. Crossing the Col it is a gentle uphill traverse to a long metal ladder, installed as the glacier has moved so much over recent years. It used to be possible to side slip down.

 

At this altitude it is often cold but as soon as you descend the ladder on the south-facing slope the sun warms quickly. The snow conditions can frequently be tricky, changing quickly because of this aspect.

 

The reward if you catch it right – and have the right snow conditions - is being able to ski all the way to the valley floor - an incredible vertical descent of over 2000m.

 

 

Route Options: Italian side

 

Generally, the options are relatively gentle with variants on the left, middle or right side of the glacier. There are also numerous couloirs that also access the same terrain.

 

The middle route is glaciated terrain 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 at Pavillon.

 

The Pavillon mid-station

 

The restaurant at the Pavillon serves superb pasta, so depending on timings and the snow, it can be a great break before heading back to the summit for another lap or continuing your descent.

 

From Pavillon there are excellent descents to the valley floor, but route finding is complex – another reason why a guide is essential.

 

Skiing down to the valley floor is on skier’s right. 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!

 

Route Options: French side

Another option is to choose a classic end to the day by skiing the Vallée Blanche back to Chamonix. This can be either via the La Noire, or the easier Glacier de Vierge.

 

Equipment required

  • Transceiver, probe and shovel
  • ABS backpack
  • Harness
  • Crampons
  • Ice axe
  • Mid-sized fat skis
  • Spare layers
  • Water and snacks

 

 

How to book

When you book your ski weekend with us, just let the team know you'd like to ski this route. We'll liaise with you and your group, arranging your travel from Chamonix to Courmayeur (if required), as well as knowledgeable, local guides.