Backcountry Skiing Destinations
The Haute Route, French & Swiss Alps
The classic hut-to-hut alpine ski traverse linking the two centers of European mountaineering, Chamonix, France and Zermatt, Switzerland
Mt. Shasta, California
Every great California ski season should end with a schuss down Mt. Shasta's 7,000 vertical feet of corn snow... it's just waiting to be harvested
Tuckerman Ravine, Mt. Washington, NH
A rite of New England spring... the classic backcountry ski destination of the East Coast late-spring pilgrimage. Epic Eastern steeps, plenty of culture, and a lot of history all rolled into one place. Jump the Icefall if you dare!
The Wapta Traverse, Alberta/B.C., Canada
Canada’s flagship hut-to-hut alpine ski tour through some of the most scenic high peaks, glaciers, and icefields in the Canadian Rockies
Mont Blanc, Chamonix, France
Ski 12,000 vertical feet from the summit of the monarch of the Alps. Bergshrunds, crevasses, and icefalls galore – an amazing two-day trip.
Bernese Oberland, Switzerland
Here backcountry skiing adventure explodes with infinite variation. Tour around for days in the heart of a vast hut system amidst 4,000 meter peaks and the biggest glaciers in the Alps.
Zermatt & Saas Fee 4000ers, Switzerland
The greatest concentration of 4000m peaks in the Alps. Multiple hut-to-hut itineraries and day tour options make this one of the most versatile ski touring destinations. Views of Monte Rosa and the Matterhorn at every turn. Huge ski descents. Italian refuges with rivers of wine. And, of course, Swiss huts with mounds of rosti. A must-ski destination.
The Ötztal, Tyrol region, Austria
In the heart of Austria's Tyrol region lies a ski touring mecca with the best huts I've ever experienced. Apple strudel, weissbier, and the chatter of German and Italian is what you'll find amidst the highest peaks in the Austrian Tyrol. An expansive clockwise loop starting in Obergurgl takes in the second and third highest peaks in Austria and passes the discovery site of the 5300-year-old iceman "Ötzi".
The Eastern Sierra, California
The best backcountry skiing descents in the US, period. From north of Lee Vining all the way south about 130 miles to Lone Pine, the number of huge lines and epic descents within sight of Highway 395 is staggering -- hundreds of classic chutes and summits. Come prepared for huge days that start in sagebrush desert and climb to alpine summits 6,000-8,000 feet higher. Time it right (late April) and reap tremendous spring corn conditions that rival the best powder anywhere.
The Ortler, Italy
At the end of a long planes, trains, and automobiles journey lies the Southern Tyrol ski resort town of Sulden, perched beneath the sheer Ortler Wall. From Sulden, classic ski touring routes extend in cobwebs to the south, perfect for week-long hut-to-hut loops. The Ortler stands out from other tours with its steep descents, amazing hut base camp options to limitless terrain, and plentiful skiable summits, including the broad, glacier-covered Monte Cevedale and the formidable Gran Zebru (aka Koningspitz). Be sure to make it to the Branca Hut for Arrabiata pasta with just the right amount of spice. The catchy German drinking songs will have you staring at the bottom of many an empty bier in no time. Based on the sheer vert around here, you're guaranteed to sweat it out tomorrow.
The Lyngen Alps, Norway
In Norway's Arctic north lies the storybook Lyngen peninsula crammed with hundreds of skiable peaks rising from fjord's edge. Here days are ridiculously long, reindeer graze, and impressive vertical lies right out your back door. Skin up 5,000 feet without the sun betraying any passage of time, partake of some fresh Arctic pow, and scope out hundreds of sick lines for the next 40 years of trips you'll want to take here. Back at the cabin, toast with some Arctic Mack beer, cool off in the Arctic Ocean, and pop the skis back on for another evening lap. It's still light out you wuss, no excuses.
More Backcountry Skiing Links:
dskendall.com top destination summary
10th Mountain Huts (huts.org)
Classic system of 29 backcountry huts in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, connected by 350 miles of suggested routes
Other Colorado huts
From huts.org, list of other Colorado huts and hut systems
Greater Yellowstone Ski Traverse (from mountainzone.com)
On the longer side...
TahoeBackcountry.net (Lake Tahoe/Eastern Sierra area)
Great online backcountry skiing guidebook to the Tahoe area
Sierra Club Backcountry Huts (Donner Pass / Lake Tahoe area)
Each hut is a day's ski apart, or about a day's journey from various trailheads
Tioga Pass Resort (on eastern edge of Yosemite)
Not cheap, but sounds amazing (read the National Geographic Adventure article). "Nicknamed the Range of Light by John Muir because of its moody atmospherics and reflective granite peaks and buttresses, the Sierra is considered by many to be America's best backcountry ski range."
Bob's Free-Heel Skiing in the Sierra
Describes routes for "something like 800 miles of great skiing"
Alpine Club of Canada
Info on best backcountry skiing and hut-to-hut routes (including the Wapta Traverse)
Huts of Europe (hutten.be)
Photos and info on huge number of huts in Europe
The top magazine devoted to earning your turns
Couloir Magazine (now merged with Backcountry Magazine)