In what they’re describing as a world first, Swiss resort Crans Montana has created 15 new ski touring routes with varying levels of difficulty.

The resort is positioning itself as one of, if not the, leading ski touring centre in Europe and possibly the world.

Working with ski-mountaineering champion, Séverine Pont-Combe, the routes have been created within a vast area of the mountains around the Valais resort which they’ve called The Rando Parc.

In total there are more than 40km of marked and secured ski touring routes, which combined include more than 8,000 metres of vertical.

Routes are graded blue, red and black and are suitable for everyone from complete beginners to the more advanced.

There are three introductory level routes and at the other extreme a route called «La X’trême» with a height gain of 3,000m and four uphill sectors.

Free Introduction To Ski Touring

For those new to ski touring the three introductory level routes are the ideal place to start, but it’s also important to know what you’re doing.

This may involve hiring an instructor or a ski guide but in the first instance Crans Montana provides free ‘Introduction to ski touring’ classes each Sunday morning.

Running for two hours from 10am – midday touring newbies can get used to the technique and equipment involved in ski touring, making their first uphill strides in ski skins with professional coaching, free of charge.

Although the sessions are free a space must be reserved before 6pm on the Saturday evening and participants must come equipped with warm gear for the mountains.

Night Touring

Ski touring at night is also an option at Crans Montana, but with some provisos.

“After the lifts close for the day, the ski touring descents are closed and are not protected against hazards such as avalanches or snow cats using a winch cable. There a real danger that ignoring this could have fatal consequences,” explained a Crans Montana spokesperson.

“However, on two evenings each week some trails are kept open until 9.30pm for ski touring and we guarantee that no grooming equipment will come on to the slopes that are open on those evenings.

The two evenings concerned are Thursday and Saturday.  Every Thursday Rando Parc touring tracks number 12, 13 and 14 are open in the Aminona sector. 

Routes 12 and 14 links Aminona with Vache Noire, the former known as the ‘Vache Noire’ route, the latter the ‘Grand Loup’. Route 13 is the ‘Petit Loup’ connection to Colombire.

At the end of their descents tourers should follow the red slope “Aminona”, number 23, to leave the slopes before 9:30PM.

The Vache Noire restaurant is kept open late during these ski touring evenings with the last meal served at 9pm with booking required before noon on the day.

On Saturday touring routes number 5 and 6 are open, again to 9.30pm.

Route 5, known as ‘Rookies’ links Crans and Arnouva whilst route 6 ‘L’Arnou d’Er’ links Arnouva to Cry d’Er. Tourers should ski out on the red “Pas du Loup” slope number 5. 

The Arnouva restaurant is open during these Saturday ski touring evenings.

Input From Séverine Pont-Combe

The ski mountaineering routes have been created in collaboration with Séverine Pont-Combe, a young mother who manages to combined family life, here love of nature and the mountains and an incredible run of success at Swiss, European and World Championship level in mountain sports.

“The Crans-Montana Rando Park is the best in Europe with a big and beautiful variety of layouts, both for beginners and more experienced. It will become an example of the best practice in Europe as no park so vast exists anywhere else. I have a lot of passion for this, it’s a long-standing project,” she said.

Although a fan of trail running, mountain-biking, hiking and Telemark skiing it is in the world of ski-mountaineering that Séverine, a Crans Montana ambassador, has really made a name for herself, winning the elite Patrouille des Glaciers four times, including once in a record time of 7 hours, 27 minutes as well as many other events.

“Crans-Montana offers a multitude of routes and possibilities to discover. And when we go a little away from the centre, it’s a wild paradise, where I like to find myself alone, sit on the summit of Grand Bonvin and listen to the silence,” said Séverine, adding, “Whenever I go on the trails, I realize how lucky I am to be in this environment.”

All images credit: OLIVIER MAIRE