FATMAP difficulty grade
There aren’t any consistently steep faces or couloirs to ski during this ski tour (unless you’re accessing the Grande Casse) but the views are breathtaking as you spend multiple days travelling across high alpine terrain.
Read on if you think you’ve got the fitness to be able to complete this fantastic ski tour… The tour starts from the Leisse chairlift station, where you descend initially in an easterly direction around a rocky outcrop before turning down the valley and ski down in a southerly direction down the valley, keeping your height against the south - south east facing lower slopes of the Grande Motte as best as possible. You will find a short, steep section before the path drops down towards the Lac des Nettes.
Again, keep your height above this lake to avoid too much pushing/skating.
A small stream splits down from the southern end of the lake and this is where you will aim towards, which gives a short ski down to the Refuge de la Leisse which you can ski straight past on the skier’s left hand side to keep poling/skating down the valley. After another approximately 20 minute push down the valley, passing the enormous south faces of the Grande Casse and Pointe Matthews, you’ll reach a junction where you can pop your skins on and begin to ascend steeply in a westerly direction to head up the adjoining valley which soon flattens out and leads to the Refuge du Col de la Vanoise. This refuge usually remains shut until April, but there is always a section of it open for the winter rooms where you will find a gas cooker and heating, albeit without a guardian.
Refuge du Col de la Vanoise lies beneath the imposing Grands Couloirs of the Grande Casse to its north east and the expansive Glacier de la Vanoise to its south which gives the place a fantastic base if you wish to complete these ascents. Now it’s time to start the long journey back to Tignes from the Refuge du Col de la Vanoise.
The return route starts with a short descent (that can be completed with skins on) in a northerly directions then begin ascending north towards the foot of the Glacier de la Grande Casse.
Once on the glacier, route finding involves a simple ski straight up the glacier towards the Col de la Grande Casse.
Once up at the Col de la Grande Casse, you can strip your skins and begin the long descent down the other side onto Glacier de l’Epéna, Glacier de la Rosolin & Glacier de Prémou.
This descent is best made by staying high and hugging the North Face of the Grande Casse side of the glaciers in order to keep your height, so snowboarders may find to keep a pair of poles out in order to retain their height on this section.
Once you’ve skied the length of the glaciers, you can then begin the short ascent up the Col du Palet and a return to civilisation.