A information to hut-to-hut backcountry snowboarding in Europe
The alpine mountain hut system was established at the end of the 19th century to provide refuge for like-minded people while hiking, climbing, mountaineering and skiing. Each country has its own Alpine Club (including the British Mountaineering Council), whose members enjoy preferential rates and booking options in cabins spread across the peaks of Europe. However, there are now huts and mountain accommodations that go far beyond the original system and European countries. Nowadays, there are mountain hut accommodations of all shapes and sizes – from a simple, unmanned hut with no running water where you let yourself in, make a fire and take your own food, to huts that are looked after by a “guard” who is responsible for You can take care of food and hot showers.
The steadily growing number of skiers who are turning to ski touring – going uphill to find quiet descents off-piste – is arousing renewed interest in overnight stays in these mountain huts. They are places that offer early access to the mountain, before the ski lifts open in the morning, and in many cases are far from groomed slopes and crowds.
Six practical tips
1. Ask the experts: It is always best to book a stay in a mountain reserve through a guide. They advise you on the right place based on your skills and requirements and can guide you there safely.
2. Clothing: Less is more. Bring enough gear to be warm and dry in any weather. However, if you don’t want to end up going up the mountain, you should limit the dragging of spare items. However, some huts store bags during the day for stays of several nights.
3. Lines: Sleeping bag liners are usually mandatory to keep linens clean (and certainly they will likely be needed this year), although you may need a sleeping bag in simpler cottages or, as is the case with some of the fancier cottages, everything is provided.
4. Back to the basics: Don’t expect showers, loos, or running water unless you’re going luxury.
5. Just sleep: To get a good night’s sleep at altitude, remember to keep the beers hydrated, not to drink too much, and to observe the time of the light out: usually 10 p.m.
6. Check capacity: This winter, most cabins have a reduced sleeping capacity, especially in dormitory rooms, and may require guests to bring their own bedding.
Five of the best mountain cabin stays
1. Le Refuge De Vallonbrun, Maurienne, France
This small refuge in the Haute Maurienne Valley in the French Vanoise National Park can accommodate 20 people in a dormitory. One night from € 55 (£ 48), half board, additional hot showers € 3 (£ 2.60) and picnic lunch € 10 (£ 9). Ski tour packages with: upguides.com
2. Hotellerie De Mascognaz, Champoluc, Italy
Expect great cuisine and wellness facilities in the remote Walser village of Mascognaz near Champoluc. Ski touring packages from £ 598 per person with: ski2champoluc.com
3. Cabane du Grand Mountet, Zinal, Switzerland
Breathtaking views offer this cabin at 9,469 feet. It costs CHF 81 (£ 66) per person per night, half board. Or a three-day trip with Grimentz Zinal Backcountry Adventures costs from CHF 690 (£ 563).
4. Refuge Du Montenvers, Chamonix, France
This hotel retreat has dorms, rooms, and even suites. Prices start at € 89 (£ 78) for a single bed in a dormitory or join a guided group from € 90 (£ 79) per person via skibro.com
5. Schwarzwasserhütte, Ifen, Austria
The best way to get to this Bavarian alpine hut is via a 1.5-hour ski tour from the Ifen ski area. Here the supervisor Roland Frey offers half board from € 32. A two-night guided ski trip starts at £ 475: nbfalpineadventures.com
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the European ski season. For the latest advice, visit gov.uk.
Published in the Winter Sports 2020 Guide, distributed with the November / December 2020 issue of National Geographic Traveler (UK)
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