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Col de Balafrasse

La Clusaz & Le Grand Bornand

A justifiably popular ski tour in amongst the big limestone cliffs of the Aravis.

Ski Touring Moderate

8.5 km
864 m
864 m
4-5 hrs
Low Point
1.4 km
High Point
2.2 km
Col de Balafrasse Map

A justifiably popular ski tour in the ‘Moyen Montagne’ that has the ambience of the ‘Haute Montagne' due to the very open terrain and towering limestone cliffs all around. It is never too steep but there are big slopes above in places so stable snow conditions are needed. It can be a fantastic ski tour for spring snow, even early in the winter, or with powder during a period of sustained colder temperatures. These hills are home to the gypaète barbu (bearded vulture). If you are lucky you might have the privilege to see one of these magnificent birds soaring above.


From the parking skin up the road towards Col de la Colombière (the parking is where the road is ploughed up to normally) then leave the road where it turns to the north. Continue up gentle terrain to the Col de la Colombière and the closed café. In summer it can be busy here with cars, motorbikes, cyclists, walkers and climbers but in winter it is peaceful and a nice place to pause before continuing on. It is worth having couteau (ski crampons) to hand especially with an early morning, spring snowpack.

A rising traverse above the café takes you to a flattening and a building, and from here ascend up mellow slopes until it steepens into slightly tighter craggier terrain. Go up this with the odd kick turn to a brief flattening and then continue up the sustained slopes above picking the easiest line.

Without losing height around the lake, climb up and traverse the slopes under the cliffs of Pointe Blanche before steepening terrain leads to the Col de Balafrasse. Soak up the views and ambience of the Aravis, which are impressive!

The descent is by the same line but with imagination there is plenty of terrain to play with. Timing will be everything if you're hunting spring snow and with a good eye you will be able to pick the slopes where a slight change in aspect will provide perfect spring skiing.



Slopes become slightly steeper at around 25-30 degrees.

Low Exposure (E1)

1 out of 4

Exposure is limited to that of the slope itself. Getting hurt is still likely if the slope is steep and/or the snow is hard.


2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

between December and April


  • Face
  • Single Descent

Equipment required

  • Skins

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area