For those folks who have already skied the Haute route, or are wanting a more skiing focused trip with smaller huts, better food and a flexible itinerary, the Ortler tour is the answer. We spend several nights at a few of the huts on this circuit, allowing us to focus on going out in search of great skiing each day as opposed to just having to make it to the next hut. With amazing Italian food and wine, Cappucino and hot showers at every hut and amazing glaciated terrain, this has become one our favorite trips each year.
Program Cost Inclusions:
- 2 Nights lodging in Santa Caterina Valfurva
- Hut lodging fees
- Breakfasts and Dinners in huts
- All ground transport during trip
- 7 days of guided skiing with IFMGA-certified guides.
Program Cost Exclusions:
- Travel Insurance
- Travel to and from Santa Caterina Valfurva
- Drinks in huts
- Meals in Town
- Skier rescue insurance
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 Santa Caterina Valfurva, 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 difficult, especially with poor visibility. Starting in Santa Caterina 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.
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 Santa Caterina Valfurva, 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 Santa Caterina Valfurva has a ski resort and is accessible by public transportation from Milan, Venice or Innsbruck.
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. Our typical itinerary looks like this:
Day 1 ~ Leave Santa Caterina, 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.
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.