Dynastar News


Hut to hut ski touring

With the last snowfall in the Alps over a week ago, and a high pressure that was seemingly not shifting, there was not much choice but to use the Easter holidays as the perfect excuse to go up into the mountains and do some hut to hut ski touring.

April is the perfect time to do this, with longer days making early starts bearable, and the sunny weather meaning that if you hit the descents at the right time, you can experience some great spring snow.

So with sun forecast for much of last week, I decided to head up to the Gran Paradiso area in Italy with three other friends to do a multi day traverse over three of the four valleys, starting in Pont in the Valsavarenche valley (normally the starting point for people to climb Gran Paradiso), and ending in the tiny hamlet of Bonne, in the Valgrisenche valley.

With the sun shining, we begun with a trek, skis on our back, along the high dirt road from Pont searching out the snow line so we could put our skis on. In what turned out to be our biggest day of the three-day tour, we had to start early due to the sun warming the snow at a fast pace. And although the walk slowed things down a little, once we had our skins on, we started moving more quickly and getting closer to our first col, which required just over 1200m of climbing.

After not doing much skiing at high altitude this season, it took a while to get used to skinning close to 3000m, but I found that if I paced myself well, I could quite easily keep on plodding for hours. So once we hit the col, we enjoyed a great mix of powder and spring snow as we descended down into the Val di Rhemes valley. Not sure exactly where we might pop out, we tried to stay as far up the valley as we could, knowing we still had quite a long way to go to get to the Benevolo refuge, our overnight destination.

After having to walk again along the valley, once we put our skis and skins back on, the sun was starting to dip behind the mountains, and we knew that we had to keep moving if we were to get to the refuge in time for hut dinner (normally at 7pm).  Indeed, what we thought would take around 1.5 hours, took us close to 3.5 hours, and we were greeted by the guardian as we wearily arrived at the refuge with minutes to spare, as he grinned asking ‘soup or risotto’. After the long day and 2200m of climbing, it had to be risotto.

After such a big day and a great Italian dinner, it was hard not to have a good nights sleep, so the 6am start the next day was tolerable after being tucked up in bed close to 9.30pm. We were greeted by another clear sky day, and although it started off freezing, we very quickly warmed up as the sun rose up over the beautiful mountains. Our second day was not as epic in length as day one, although our first climb was steep and at times it felt like you were in an oven as the sun beat down on us as we went up and over Col Bassac Derre, in search of the Mario Bezzi hut. After the hot climb, we decided that to search out the best spring snow, we would climb up a little higher towards the Becca Traverse, and we were duly rewarded. We seemed to time our descent perfectly and enjoyed excellent spring snow as we quickly descended the glacier towards the refuge, arriving at a civilised 3pm in time to enjoy a celebratory beer in the sun – the way spring touring should be! 

After another great Italian meal (the Mario Bezzi is quite hotel-like on the comfort scale of mountain huts), we were set up for the final day of our tour. To get back to Bonne we decided to skin straight up from the hut to the Col de Giasson on the recommendation of the helpful hut guardian, which gave us a fantastic descent, but unfortunately brought us out on the wrong side of the lake, which meant a skin/walk up the road back to the car. We didn’t mind though because we had found more great snow on our descent, which was over 1000m and had a fun bushwhack in the trees as well!

Once we had made it back to the car, rather sweaty and pretty tired, our next mission was to find somewhere for a well-deserved drink. We didn’t think the sleepy village of Bonne would be the place to find a cold beer, but we were wrong! As we were packing up our car we were befriended by a local of the Valgrisenche valley, Aldofo, who invited us onto his terrace in the sun. He then proceeded to offer us a beer and give us the history of the valley, which included a good nosy through his photo album, which spanned back to the 1930s.

After a good hour or so we excused ourselves as there was one thing left to do to round off our fantastic trip… so we jumped in our car, a little bit smelly, and headed off to find a real Italian pizza before heading back to France. A perfect way to end a great hut-to-hut ski touring adventure.


Legendary Aurélien Ducroz (FRA) and rookie Hazel Birnbaum (USA) won the 20 edition of the Verbier Xtreme. Reine Barkered (SWE) took second place and finished third at Overall Freeride World Tour. Congratulations!!

On Saturday, the battle for the Freeride World Tour titles took place on the mythical Bec des Rosses (3222m), all while celebrating 20 years of Verbier Xtreme. The much respected north face showed a new challenging side, being dressed in a lighter snow cover this year. But Aurélien Ducroz (FRA) and Reine Barkered (SWE) managed it pretty well and used all their experience to put down an impressive run and claim victory and 2nd place on ski category.

Aurelien Ducroz (FRA) who has already won three times on this face and who was competing on an honorary wildcard did not let his fans down. He opened the men's skiing with a spectacular line below the highest start that set the expectations of both the judges and the crowd as to the awesomeness needed for a podium. He has now set his print in the history books as the only skier to have won the Xtreme Verbier 4 times with a score of 88.50. “I'm just really pleased - a 4th victory for the 20th anniversary of the Xtreme! I have so much love for this face. I really feel good here,” Aurelien said emotionally. “I almost changed my line last minute and then with Reine we motivated each other and I went ahead with it. I'm so happy I don't know what to say...”

Just behind Aurelien with a score of 88.12 was another skier who has experience written all over him. Reine Barkered (SWE) went a little slower into the same line as Aurelien but quickly picked up the pace in this line leading to an enormous cliff that he landed perfectly in the exposed area, making it possible for him to take immediate control of the acceleration despite the very steep part of the face. Another A-run from the stomp master that he ended shooting down over the apron at the bottom.


On the women ski category, the young Hazel Birnbaum (USA), rookie on the Freeride World Tour, surprised everyone by winning Verbier Xtreme 2015. She spotted the winning line, and the way she rode it got the crowds screaming in excitement twice! First when she stomped an exposed double up top and second after another big double on the bottom. She scored 88.00 standing out as the only woman scoring in the 80es. “As my rookie year I feel like I learned a lot and I got to be inspired by a lot of incredible women that I've looked up to for so many years, so it's an incredible privilege and an honor to even be part of this event. I'm beyond ecstatic!” Hazel expressed after realizing her outstanding performance.


Skiing with Reindeer

When you think of Lapland you probably don’t think of skiing, certainly not free skiing or ski touring. I made a recent visit to Riksgransen a small ski hill in the far north of Sweden close to the Norwegian border to check out the terrain do some ski touring. Armed with my trusty Cham 97HM’s I boarded the flight to Kiruna and headed north.

The Swedish mountains are old mountains very similar in age to the NW highlands of Scotland, the peaks are spaced so there is a far greater feeling of space than you would find in the Alps. We arrived late and night and drove for a couple of hours ice covered roads in studded tires to our hotel. We woke to fresh snow but lots of wind, a short walk to the ski lift  and we were soon enjoying our first turns on arctic snow. The ski area of Riksgransen is small but perfectly formed for such a small area I has great terrain, cruisy pistes on one aspect and steep interesting terrain on the other. A short hike to Nordalsfjell gives access to the face used for a regular free ride competition.

The weather improved for the next 3 days allowing us to get the skins on we skied Vassitjakka a fantastic peak with great views all the way to the sea at Narvik. We had a short day on Bjornfjellet then a stunning final day with no wind and the most perfect blue ski skiing Laktatjakka from Kopparasens.

While the mountains in Lapland may not be big by alpine standard they offer some great skiing and with the Fjord mountans round Narvik being less than an hour away this a ski destination worth another visit.



Riders in this news :  Dominique GISIN

Downhill Olympic champion last year in Sochi, Dominique Gisin decided to end her career. The Swiss athlete took part at her last races in Meribel World Cup finals (downhill, super-G and giant slalom) and will now start to study physics at university. She also wants to pass the exam to get the commercial pilot license. Congratulations and all the best in your new life Dominique!


After no new snow in Chamonix for over two weeks and the sun blazing down on the snowy peaks for what has felt like an eternity, there was only one thing for it this week… to grab those skins and get touring.

Ski touring used to be seen as a hobby for the more, how shall we say this, aging skier, but things have been changing rapidly over the last few years. Keen skiers of all ages have been sampling the delights of shuffling up hill, eager to get away from the crowds and into the wilderness.

This week I was proud to be part of a group of six young, female skiers out to try and ski some spring snow in Chamonix. With not a man in sight, we headed up to the top of the Grand Montets ski area in the small cabin, which brings you out at 3275m. We then clipped into our skis and descended down into the Argentiere basin, with the Col Tour Noir as our target.

Skiing with a group of girls, all of whom can ski pretty god damn well, is always a lot of fun. No testosterone to deal with, although stereotypically quite a lot of chat! This was definitely the case as we regrouped on the glacier to put our skins on and start the log flat skin across the basin before we peeled off left and started to ascend to the col at 3500m. As soon as things got a bit steeper, and the higher we got, the normal 100-mile an hour chat started to subside. Once acclimatised the Tour Noir is not complicated, and the views you get are out of this world, but with it being one of our first high altitude ski tours of the winter, it was tougher than I remember!

For this particular tour my weapons of choice were my Cham Woman 97s with a Look pin binding. Although not a super light touring ski, they are still light enough for a 2 – 3 hour ascent and great in corn snow. Once we reached the peak, we took in the views of the other side, where you can see into Switzerland, with Verbier and the Matterhorn easy to pick out. Once we had re-fuelled it was back on with the skiers for a fantastic ski down in the spring snow, which we caught just at the right time before it got too slushy.

As we descended back through the glacier it was back to gossiping and looking back in satisfaction on what we had just ascended and skied. For me, spring skiing is about getting away from the crowds and skiing with friends, and quite often this is a group of girls – a perfect day out to ski hard and get all the latest news from the Chamonix Valley! 

Betony Garner