North Cascades Mountain Guides has been guiding this trip since 2007.  Over the years this trip has turned into one of our favorite ski trips.  The Italian culture combined with amazing ski mountaineering terrain produces an unforgettable European Hut to Hut Ski Mountaineering Experience.

Over time we have evolved our Ortler Tour into what we believe is the perfect circuit.  We’ve moved our starting location from Sulden to Bormio, which makes travel easier and simplifies logistics if we end up getting a big storm towards the end of the trip.  We found that making it back to Sulden in high avalanche hazard could be pretty difficult, especially with poor visibility.  Starting in Bormio eliminates this problem and allows us a relatively easy out if conditions are hazardous.

This change of starting location also allows us to add a trip to the Roman Baths in Bormio at the end of the tour.  We stumbled across this place on a rest day during a trip in 2008 and have been going back every year since.  We look forward to this part of the program and feel like this little side trip goes perfectly with the theme of “highly refined” Italian ski mountaineering.

Skiing the Ortler

Climbing up to another spectacular summit on the Ortler Circuit.

The impetus for this trip began when several of our former Haute route participants wanted to set up another ski mountaineering trip in the Alps. They desired similar technical difficulties, a less frequented part of the Alps and if possible, slightly nicer huts. With that to go on we did some research and came up with the Ortler tour.

This tour is different from most in that it is actually a loop, which begins and ends in the same village of Bormio, Italy. The tour takes place in Stelvio National Park in the South Tirol region of Northern Italy, close to the borders of Switzerland and Austria. The park itself is one of the largest in all of Europe. It lays between the Bernina group of St Moritz to the West and the Dolomites to the East. The terrain is slightly lower than that of the Western alps, but still heavily glaciated and very alpine. Much of the tour takes places between 10,000-13,000′. There are a number of big peaks in the area (many of which can be skied off of), though they are all shy of the magic number of 4000 meters. This is the equivalent of a 14er in Colorado, and makes the area much less traveled by peak baggers.

The tour is very adaptable allowing for harder and easier variations most days. In general the tour is comparable in difficulty to the classic Haute route. There are very few places that you are forced to carry skis, unless you opt for some of the peak ascents. The huts are well known for great food, incredible coffee and many even have hot showers. The town of Bormio has a major ski resort and is accessible by bus or train from Milan, Venice or Innsbruck.


Perfect Ski Mountaineering Terrain

Due to the large number of options available on this tour, we will keep our itinerary flexible to adapt to
conditions and the groups desires. The route we are currently planning looks like this:

Day 1 ~ Leave Bormio, Take a taxi to the Forni hut. From there we will skin up to the Pizzini hut.

Day 2 ~ Leave Pizzini hut and climb past the Cassati hut (cappuccino!) on our way to skiing a peak en route to the Marteller hut.

Day 3 ~ From the Marteller hut, climb and ski one of the many awesome ski mountaineering peaks.

Day 4 ~ Leave Marteller hut and climb one of two ways over Mt Cevedale. Ski down to Branca hut.

Day 5 ~ From the Branca hut, climb and ski one of the many awesome ski mountaineering peaks.

Day 6 ~ From the Branca hut, climb and ski another one of the many awesome ski mountaineering peaks.

Day 7 ~ Leave Branca hut (sadly), and ski another peak on our way back to the Forni hut for our ride back to town. Finish with an afternoon at the famous ancient Roman baths in Bormio.

In our research we have found that there are many possible variations to this tour and generally the loop will
take most parties about 6 days. We have added an extra day to accommodate bad weather and if unused will add a peak climb or another day tour to complete the trip.

At the bottom of another amazing descent

Skills Required

To maximize your enjoyment on a tour of this nature, the most important skills to have are skiing skills. While most of the terrain is fairly moderate by resort standards, we typically encounter a wide range of snow conditions. It is important for skiers to be able to comfortably ski black runs at a ski area in any conditions. Further you must be able to perform survival turns (hop turns, stem christie etc.) down steeper terrain and in very difficult snow conditions. Skiers should have some touring experience and be adept at using skins, performing kick turns and skiing with a small pack.

Previous Mountaineering experience is not required though will prove beneficial. We will cover skills such as the use of ski crampons, avalanche transceivers, boot crampons, and ice axes as well as traveling as a rope team. We have factored time into the tour to cover these skills thus insuring a high degree of safety and comfort for all members of the team.

This tour will also demand a high degree of fitness. Obviously you don’t need to be an Olympic athlete, as hundreds of people complete the tour every year, though the more fit you arrive, the more you will enjoy the tour. Not to mention having energy to ski an extra run after arriving at the destination hut for the day.

If you have any doubts or concerns about your abilities or skiing skills, please don’t hesitate to call and address them. We will gladly offer training advice or we can arrange for some pre-trip training to insure your skills are up to speed before embarking on this trip of a lifetime.

Ortler ski mountaineering

High elevation powder skiing in the Italian Alps.

NCMG highly recommends skiers purchase trip insurance through a reputable company such as Travelex, or AIG travelguard prior to the trip. This can be purchased directly from NCMG for this trip. Please let us know when you register if you would like to add this peace of mind. This will insure you receive a refund if you get injured, have a schedule conflict or for whatever reason, cannot make the trip. Click here to get a free quote for this trip


Ortler Tour Guiding Fees

  • 4 – 8 Skiers with 2 Guides – $2500
Ortler ski mountaineering

Refreshments after a hard day of ski mountaineering

2014 Dates

  • April 6 – 12, 2014

Program Cost Inclusions

  • 2 Nights lodging in Bormio
  • Hut lodging fees
  • Breakfasts and Dinners in huts
  • All ground transport during trip
  • Use of avalanche transceiver
  • Side trip to the Roman Baths in Bormio (think super cool Italian Mountain Spa)
  • 7 days of guided skiing with IFMGA certified guides
    Jeff Ward and Larry Goldie.
Ski Mountaineering Ortler Region of Italy

Checking out the WWI cannons near Mount Cevedale.

Program Cost Exclusions