The Alps

10 of the Best Hut-To-Hut Ski Tours in the Alps


, by Charlie Boscoe

Photo: zedspider

With comfortable, catered huts, roads in virtually every valley, and cable cars to skip out on the approaches, backcountry ski touring in the Alps is a unique experience with a highly favorable effort-reward ratio. Even hut-based backcountry ski tours in North America, like the Wapta and Bonnington Traverses, require you to carry your food and sleeping bag, but in the Alps, you need only take a day pack plus a few overnight supplies - the huts take care of everything else. It turns multi-day ski touring from a physically arduous mission into an accessible adventure, available to anyone with day touring skills and the robustness to keep going for a week. 

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In this article, I'll list 10 of the best hut-to-hut ski tours in the Alps, from the most famous of them all to hidden gems in peaceful corners of Europe's mightiest mountain range. All the tours listed here use the famous Alpine huts, but their luxury varies greatly! On some of the tours listed here, you can expect twin rooms, showers, and 3-course meals, but on one of the journeys described (the Ecrins Traverse), the huts are far more basic and are unstaffed wilderness shelters. That's easily the most adventurous trip described here, so do the other nine to gain some experience before tackling it! So, without further ado…

Looking across to the Matterhorn midway along the Haute Route. Photo mountainpix Shutterstock.

1. The Haute Route

This legendary journey is the most famous ski tour in the world. Yes, it's busy, and the skiing could be more exciting, but if walking in the pioneers' footsteps and traveling from the Alps' highest mountain to their most famous sound like your thing - the Haute Route is a must.

Starting at the foot of Mont Blanc and ending at the foot of the Matterhorn, the Haute Route is a rite of passage for any ambitious ski mountaineer, and the huts along it are quintessential alpine refuges, dripping in history and offering comfortable lodging and hearty food. The mind-blowing views, famous huts and peaks en route, and the logical and beautiful route make this, rightly, the most famous ski mountaineering trip on the planet.

RELATED: How to Complete an Overnight Backcountry Ski Tour

2. The Bernese Oberland Traverse

This is likely the second most popular multi-day tour in the Alps, and with multiple 4000ers en route and some of the most spectacular huts you'll ever see, it's easy to understand why. The tour is easily (but expensively!) accessed from Grindelwald on the famous train, which goes through the Eiger and up to the Jungfraujoch. From there, an easy, scenic cruise accesses the Konkordia Hut and an epic week of adventure. While I'm mentioning the Konkordia Hut - it might just have the best view of any alpine refuge. It's a big call, but sit on that deck and tell me I'm wrong! The options from the Konkordia are almost unlimited, but if you get a good weather forecast, then high alpine huts and wild, barren summits await!

Touring across the Konkordiaplatz in the Bernese Oberland. Photo matteo bedendo Shutterstock.

3. The Tour du Ciel

Any tour named "Tour of the Sky" is likely to be scenic, but when it starts right beneath the Matterhorn, you know you're in for something extraordinary. The Tour du Ciel can be done in either direction, although it's known as the Haute Route Imperiale and takes a slightly different route if you go southbound. It's a classic high mountain journey passing through some of the most impressive terrain in Switzerland, and that's saying something! It's a committing and serious tour, so only attempt it in good weather and be prepared for one of the most adventurous ski journeys in Europe.

4. The Urner Alps Traverse

For those in the know (which now includes you!) this is a fabulous tour through mountains that only true connoisseurs could name. Lacking any 4000ers or any particularly famous peaks, the Urner Alps will never attract crowds like the more celebrated alpine regions. That's excellent news for those who make the journey to Andermatt (which is also a superb base for lift-served freeride skiing and day touring) and make the effort to explore the region because it's infinitely quieter than virtually every other major Alpine range. The quaint huts, peaceful ambiance, and excellent skiing make the Urner Alps Traverse a classic ski journey and a just reward for those willing to look beyond the usual Alpine hotspots.

MORE FROM CHARLIE: 10 of the Best Ski Resorts in USA & Canada

5. The Silvretta Traverse

With mellow terrain and exceptionally comfortable huts, even by Alpine standards, this is a tremendous first hut-to-hut glacier tour. The tour begins in the Ischgl ski resort, and the first day is all downhill to the hut, so you can spend the day riding the lifts and then head over to the Heidelberger Hut just as the day trippers are heading back down to town. From the Heidelberger Hut, a lovely journey awaits, full of cruisy skiing and a handful of interesting peaks to scramble up. As if the civilised terrain wasn't enough, the huts in the Silvretta are some of the finest in Europe - expect comfy, small rooms, huge quantities of Austrian fare, and a beer on tap, and you won't be disappointed! 

Skiing in the heart of the Silvretta mountains. Photo: makasana photo, Shutterstock.

6. The Vanoise Traverse

While describing tours close to famous ski resorts, it would be remiss of me not to mention the Vanoise Traverse - a tour that passes close to the Trois Vallées - the world's biggest ski area. Ironically (given its proximity to such a legendary resort), the Vanoise Traverse is one of the quietest and wildest hut-to-hut tours in France. It was only developed in recent years but is already becoming something of a classic—the terrain it passes through is jaw-dropping. There are no 4000ers on the tour, but some of the most famous almost-4000ers in the Alps, such as the Grande Casse, can be seen throughout the trip. The huts on this tour are one of its highlights - they're rustic, traditional refuges, and staying at them adds significantly to the enjoyment of a classic mountain journey.

RELATED: How To Get Your Kids Into Skiing

7. The Tour de Soleil

Not to be confused with the Portes du Soleil, this tour is reminiscent of the Urner Alps Traverse in that it goes near but not through any truly famous mountains. That means you get the classic big mountain views without the crowds! The skiing is also excellent (which is not always the case on hut trips), and the huts are welcoming, rustic affairs. The Tour du Soleil was a smuggler's route long before people ski toured for fun, but nowadays, the only crime is that it's not more popular!

8. The Queyras Traverse

A completely non-glaciated journey, this is one of the simpler tours listed here and takes you through a tranquil corner of the French Alps. Unlike so many Alpine tours, this one begins in forests and never takes you too far from the tree line, making it a wonderful contrast to more barren journeys like the Haute Route. The trip can be done in 3 days, with nights at the Refuge de la Blanche and Refuge Agnel, but adding the circumnavigation of the Pain de Sucre as a day tour is highly recommended. If varied terrain, reliable snow conditions, and no glacier faff sound like your thing - head to the Queyras!

Beautiful ambiance in the trees of the Queyras. Photo OUESTUSA Shutterstock.

9. The Bernina Traverse

The Piz Bernina is the easternmost Alpine 4000er, and it's surrounded by peaks that don't quite make it over the magic 4k mark but are more spectacular than many that do. The Bernina range is an extraordinarily dramatic part of the Alps, and the traverse across it is a true high-mountain adventure. This tour is as much about mountaineering as it is about skiing, and if you climb every possible summit en route, you'll need solid all-round mountain skills. The undoubted highlight of the tour is climbing the stunning Biancograt on the Piz Bernina itself, but there are several other exceptional summits on the five-day journey.

10. The Ecrins Traverse

I've saved the wildest til last! In stark contrast to the tours described above, this journey is more akin to North American ski trips than the comfort and civility of Alpine ski adventures. Accessed from La Grave, which is wild enough itself, the traverse across the untamed Ecrins mountains is reserved only for fit, experienced, and skilled ski mountaineers. Plenty of determination won't go amiss either…

The huts on the Ecrins Traverse are unstaffed, so you'll need to carry all your food and sleeping gear. If it's been a snowy winter and you're the first people to make this trip, you'll also need to do some shoveling to dig the huts out! This is a big adventure in every sense - which will either make it very appealing or one to stay away from!

The options for hut-to-hut touring in the Alps are limited only by your imagination, but if you tick off the trips above, you'll be off to a (very!) solid start to your Alpine touring career! And, for further inspiration, here is a tour that could consider itself unlucky not to make it into the Top 10 but which is an ideal first hut trip:

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