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Snowboard-touring in Les Contamines

, May 14th 2013, No comment, 1974 vues.


Snowboard touring has really taken off in recent years. During a winter hike, you have probably spotted one of their odd silhouettes sporting brightly coloured snow-shoes and a board across the back.  Panting, head hung low, they resemble a strange type of penguin.

All ski touring routes can be enjoyed on a snowboard.  According to experts, a snowboard is a better tool in deep irregular snow.


To give you a feel for snowboard-touring, I made a clip with images of my 5 favorite routes in Les Contamines:

• la Tête de la Combaz ;

• le Monthieu ;

• la Tête de la Cicle ;

• le Col des Chasseurs :

• le Couloir à Zub ;

As with all sports, the equipment evolves and opinions converge.

The difference in the equipment used to climb enables one to identify three different families of snowboard touring adepts:

  • Snowshoe enthusiasts:

• a snowboard + bindings + boots (freeride);

• a pair of snowshoes (equipped with climbing holds, notched rails and claws);

• a pair of telescopic poles;

• a backpack (with good straps);

• crampons + ice axe (depending on the itinerary)

Advantages: price / good choice of equipment / lightweight on the feet / all purpose / one requires crampons much later than a skier.

Disadvantages: weight + voluminous on the back uphill / tendency to sink in deep snow / cause occasional conflict with skiers concerning the state of the track.

  • Split-board enthusiasts:

• a split-board  + specific bindings + boots + skins;

• an interface / Karakoram (switch between descent and ascent);

• knives (depending on the itinerary);

• a pair of telescopic poles;

• crampons + knives + ice axe (depending on the itinerary)

Advantages : lightweight on the back/ good lift in deep snow

Disadvantages : Price/ little choice/ the width of the slats when crossing on hard snow / technical manipulation.

  • Ski enthusiasts :

• a snowboard + bindings + boots;

• a pair of ski touring skis + specific bindings;

• a pair of telescopic poles;

• a backpack (with good straps);

• crampons + ice axe (depending on the itinerary)

Advantages: one can follow the ski tracks /  less tiring than snowshoes / possibility to slide in downhill areas.

Disadvantages: limited lift in deep snow / sliding on hard snow due to short edges/ uncomfortable on the back when boarding down.

To find a method the suits you, check out forums dedicated to snowboard touring, ask questions and chat to staff at specialized stores.


Before setting off:

It’s very important to check the weather forecast and avalanche risk bulletin (BTA) for valuable information on the condition of the snow. This will help you to plan your route. Make sure that your avalanche device, pole and shovel are all in working order. Remember to carry out regular training exercises to ensure that you know how to use this equipment if and when it is needed.


During the hike:

Set out early and climb slowly (the difficulty will depend on the depth of fresh snow and the presence, or not, of previous tracks). The beauty of the surrounding landscapes will comfort you in your efforts. After several hours climbing you will each a summit or a mountain pass. Pride and  joy  will quickly replace effort and fatigue. After a well deserved break, enjoy a superb descent with your friends. However, remember to descend in turn. Keep a good distance from each other to  avoid a whole group being swept away in an avalanche.


On your first few outings, make sure that you are accompanied by someone with more experience who is capable of  showing you the ropes. Never go out alone and always know when to give up!

The key words are: have fun and get home safely.

Practical information:

• Chamonix weather forecast

• Les Contamines weather forecast

• Avalanche risk in the  Haute-Savoie

• Local mountain guides and alpine leaders

• Forums and community websites: and



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