Expert Guided off-trail skiing France 2019

Comments off

Overview of our Expert Alpine Guide led off-trail guided program in the European Alps

Rf: EXPERT guided off-trail skiing in France Ski Weeks 2019



Note: To break up all this information, I am throwing in some awesome photos of the backcountry skiing from the past few years in the hopes it will motivate you to read all of this!

Yes, it really was THAT good!  Our head guide Paolo explodes out of a cloud of powder on Monte Rosa.

Yes, it really was THAT good! Our head guide Paolo explodes out of a cloud of powder on Monte Rosa.

We guarantee pow for you … just like last year in Italy!!! (yeah, right! No guarantee, but sure hopin for same.)

     If you are receiving this email, it is because Skiman believes you are interested in joining him in the backcountry of France on either or both ski weeks in 2019. I have recently sent you an email explaining why any expert is nuts to not ski the backcountry of the Alps once there. As per my previous email, it is the main reason why I have gone back for the past 24 years to ski in the Alps. I personally have learned more about skiing from my 48 weeks with the Alpine Guides of Europe than anything else I have done on skis. It is a privilege to ski with them. They know where the best snow is, they are fun to be with, and they keep everyone safe. To hire a guide for just one or two skiers is an expensive proposition and cost @ $600 a day. The beauty of what we offer with our backcountry program is that you are afforded you the experience of skiing with these folks at a greatly reduced price. Because we split up the cost between 6 to 8 people it makes for a very good price for a normally expensive experience.


deb ice wall s

Deb dwarfed by a wall of beautiful blue glacier ice on a backcountry day on a glacier last year… breathtaking.

Putting together the guided ski days is something I have done for decades now. I enjoy doing it, but I also have to say that it is one of the trickier things that I do. There are lots of moving parts, personalities, level challenges, and other factors that go into planning this so it does not become a frustrating cluster for everyone. I have learned from my many weeks of doing this activity and from putting together literally hundreds of guided groups. I have learned the hard way on some of the issues and believe that I know what needs to be done to make this an awesome never-to-be-forgotten experience for everyone involve. I attempt below to explain in detail how the program works and all the caveats. Read everything carefully please and your questions will probably be answered.

On the heli day, starting in Italy, skiing to the Matterhorn in Switzerland, and back home to Italy.. all on skis. Epic!

On the heli day, starting in Italy, skiing to the Matterhorn in Switzerland, and back home to Italy.. all on skis. Epic!

   This is about as good as it gets for Skiman… Bluebird, pow, pristine glacier with no resort hordes… a dream.

WHAT IS THE COST PER PERSON FOR EACH DAY? In recent  years, the cost per person has been between $65 to $75 per person, based on groups of 7 or 8. The cost this year will be determined ONCE WE KNOW HOW MANY OF YOU ARE IN  based on your responses via email BY JANUARY 31.  I cannot calculate the cost per person until I know the mix. If it works out to less than 8 people per group, the cost is a bit more.  Honestly, it is better if the groups are at 6 or 7 max.  The cost per person per day goes up a little, but the less people in the group, the better the experience.  So, it is a balancing act to get everyone in who wants in but to keep the group sizes within the limitations expressed by the guides and their agencies.

What will happen cost-wise? When will I know how much? I will collect the data concerning  who is in by January 31.  I will email everyone back and let you know the cost per person per day.  If at that point you change your mind, just let me know and you are out. I will then recalculate the final cost based on the last folks standing (i.e. who is in for sure). 

No words needed.

The pow was AMAZING last year for both ski weeks in Courmayeur and Monte Rosa, Italy. It was the best back to back ski weeks snow-wise in 24 Alps tours. Sure are hoping for same in France this year!

WHAT IS THE RISK LEVEL? These Alpine Guides are as good as it gets. They know the mountains they guide on intimately. They know all avalanche threat daily and for what areas. They are truly excellent at what they do. Their number one goal is to keep their skiers safe and they do that very well. Skiman opinion: I feel safer in the back country skiing with these guides than I do on a crowded intermediate slope at the end of the day. The risk level of this skiing is low. I will tell you what IS high risk: skiing off trail in Europe without a guide. I repeat: do NOT ever do this. That is truly high risk and I don’t want any of my group getting hurt or worse. Stupid people die every year in the Alps doing exactly that. I am passionate about this.                   Ski with our guided groups and you will have a safe, wonderful, experience. Ski without a guide off trail in Europe, and you may get anything but a pleasant experience

HOW GOOD DO YOU HAVE TO BE? If you can ski black diamond runs in America with no problem AND you can ski all types of snow (hard pack to powder and all in between) AND you are in decent physical condition, you can do this skiing! This is not skiing off cliffs like the crazy ski movies. It is nothing like that. Don’t worry! Skiman has been skiing over 50 years now and I don’t think I would still be making turns if I had been doing insane stuff. IF you are a solid black skier who can ski powder and every other kind of snow, you can do this skiing. If you CANNOT ski black runs at home, don’t even think about this.

WHAT GEAR DO I NEED? Everyone needs to ski with an avalanche transceiver. If you have your own, bring it. If you don’t, the guides usually have extras. Even if they don’t, it is not too much if you have to rent one there. It is easy. IF you have a probe and shovel, bring it along. Not everyone in the group needs this, so in most cases you won’t need to rent this locally. REGULAR skis with regular bindings is all you will need for this skiing. You don’t need skins or any specialized backcountry gear. This is regular downhill skiing. It is not cross country or touring.

The pow in the Alps is every bit as good in as in the Rockies. Ask Eric the wonder boy!

The pow in the Alps is every bit as good in as in the Rockies. 

IS THERE A LOT OF STRENUOUS HIKING…LONG DISTANCES? No. Almost all of our runs start from the tops of lifts and involve minimal poling or hiking. Occasionally we have hiked a bit in the past, but that is the exception. That is the beauty of the backcountry skiing in the Alps. So much of it is accessible from lifts, you don’t need to hike a ton to get to the goods. This is not to say we won’t ever do a bit of walking, but it is not the order of the normal day.

WHAT IF I INJURE MYSELF SKIING OR AM SICK AND CANNOT PARTICIPATE IN A PAID-FOR GUIDED DAY? There are NO refunds for guided days for any reason. This is yet another reason to GET TRIP INSURANCE! If something comes up, you go to a local clinic, see a doc, get a note, and you get your money back for any unused days as well as for your lift ticket cost. And the clinic visit is also paid for. GET INSURANCE!   


WHAT IF YOUR SKIING LEVEL IS JUST NOT UP TO SPEED AND YOU ARE ASKED TO NOT PARTICIPATE BECAUSE YOU ARE ENDANGERING YOURSELF OR ARE HOLDING UP THE GROUP? This will not be an issue if you read the above section about skill level and assess yourself honestly and correctly. That being said, we have on rare occasion had to ask people to not continue for the good of themselves and the group. We do not anticipate this happening to any of you this year, but we want to lay out the what-ifs here as much as possible. The problem if this occurs is mainly a financial question. The guides cost the same amount no matter the group count. So if someone cannot continue with the group, there is no reduction in the cost of the guide. So in the odd chance that this does happen, the person no longer skiing with the group will lose half of their unused daily guided fees. Skiman will eat the other half. But at the end of the day, that daily fee is paid no matter if you ski or not. It is the nature of the beast. As stated, I doubt this will be an issue with any of you. But we want to lay out all the contingencies up front.

la balma village

A lovely village accessible only in the summer or by skis, along the way on our 4 hour backcountry ski from Champoluc to Alagna last year.


ARE THERE ANY OTHER EXPENSES OTHER THAN THE DAILY GUIDE FEE Yes, a few. Every day we will stop for a short lunch. Of course, we always buy the guide lunch and this cost is split between the group. Further, if it becomes necessary to have safety equipment (avalanche transceiver, shovel, etc.) and the guide does not have enough gear for everyone, it may entail renting needed gear from a local shop. This hardly ever has happened in the past. Usually the guides have enough to provide for those skiers without their own gear. And renting this gear if required is not expensive. And, of course, it is customary to tip your guide at end of week… so worth every penny!

WHAT IF I GET A BIT TIRED IN THE AFTERNOON AND WANT TO LEAVE A BIT EARLY? ARE THERE BAIL OUT POINTS? On the vast majority of the guided days, there are many times in the day to head back to the barn should you decide to do so for any reason. With a few exceptions, most of the days will be centered around lifts in villages. There will almost always be established groomed trails to get you back home on your own should you chose to do so for any reason. On those days (should they occur) where we are going to be on long runs where there are no easy ways back home, we will let the group know this in advance. Having skied these two resorts before, I can think of only one day where this no easy bail out would apply. And it is an awesome day that is not involving hard skiing anyway. So, to the point: there are almost always bail out points. It is not an issue to worry about.

Dan the Ski Man having the time of his life on our first Haines, Alaska heli-week 10 years ago. We have done three of these weeks in Haines... Time for number 4!

Dan the Ski Man having the time of his life on our first Haines, Alaska heli-week 10 years ago.

WHAT ABOUT HELI SKIING? ARE WE GOING TO DO THAT? HOW HARD IS IT? Heli skiing involves catching a ride or two during the day to the top of glaciers and skiing down untracked, gorgeous powder in amazing scenic places with no one around. It is as good as skiing gets, in my humble opinion. I have done 4 weeks of heli skiing in Alaska and one in Canada. I have also done dozens of heli days in the Alps over the past 24 years. So of the best days of my life have been heli days. It is superb skiing.

   How difficult is it? It is not any harder than the regular guided ski days you will be doing during the week. The risk level sis no greater. Of course, the downside is that the cost IS greater. Helicopters are not inexpensive commodities, and fly time costs. Of course, heli days are OPTIONAL. You do not have to fly if you don’t want to for whatever reason. The cost of flying in the Alps is way less than in the United States or Canada. I don’t know why that is, but it is the case.

   IF we offer a heli day, we will give everyone the option of joining the day after informing of costs. Those who fly will fly. Those who do not fly will be offered a regular guided backcountry day as normal.                                      

   Heli skiing involves more expenses… fly time, extra guides, etc. It is not something you do to save money. It is something you do because you want to ski some amazing places you cannot get to without flying. Heli is very weather dependent as well. We will plan to offer a day but we have to be flexible. The weather can trump our plans completely. But if all goes well and we do get to fly, it offers opportunity for life-long memory development. It is awesome.

   We will NOT plan on heli days before the week. We anticipate doing one in Trois Vallee (not Morzine as it does not lend itself to heli easily). We will assess the weather conditions for the week when we are at the resort and discuss the possibilities with the guides. Flexibility and a sense of adventure will be all you need to make this happen.

SO: There ya have it.  I really have tried my best to offer you a viable, understandable, layout of our guided offerings. If you are an expert skier, you really have to do this skiing!  It is what makes the Alps skiing great.  It is safe. It is way fun. And you will learn quite a bit from these guides.  Yes, it is extra expense.  But it is the best money you will spend on your ski trips with us.  Don’t miss out. Ponder, read, and ponder some more. Email any remaining questions. 



Thank you and cheers!