Backcountry Spotlight | Why You Need To Go Ski Touring On The Aletsch Glacier

With the vast Aletsch Glacier on its doorstep, Aletsch Arena offers a fantastic springboard for backcountry skiing adventures. Here's two of our favourites

When you think about backcountry skiing in the Aletsch Arena, there’s one gem that comes to mind – the magnificent Aletsch Glacier. Yes, while the three resorts of Aletsch Arena (Riederalp, Bettmeralp and Fiescheralp) are famous for some of the best piste preparation known to man, the ski touring down to, and around, the Aletsch Glacier make the three resorts a must-visit location for backcountry skiers; whatever their ability level.

“The Aletsch Glacier … winds its way down from the great Jungfraujoch to the Katzenlöcher for 20 kilometres, making it the longest glacier in the Alps”

The Aletsch Glacier, if you’re unaware, is a gigantic glacier that winds its way down from the great Jungfraujoch to the Katzenlöcher for 20 kilometres. It’s the longest glacier in the Alps. Weighing in at a hefty 10 billion tonnes, the Aletsch Glacier offers the ideal springboard for wild backcountry adventures. Serving up some of the finest views to be had as you ski tour your way around your own private ski resort, it’s completed by a maze of ice formations and delivers untouched snow in abundance.

Thanks to its ability to cling onto snow throughout the entire season, the glacier is a great option to snag some stellar snow conditions even when the rest of the resort has become a tracked out mogul field. With that being said, due to the crevasse danger, the Aletsch Glacier can only be skied on from mid to late winter when many of the snow bridges have sufficient snow coverage to support a skier’s weight (all with the aid of a qualified mountain guide, of course).

The glacier once towered up towards the peaks of the Bettmeralp but, ever since it began receding, it has now carved a great path down for skiers to access it from the top of Aletsch Arena. We’ve selected two of our favourite routes to get on your backcountry skiing bucket list. From hut tours to single day round trips, they show the Aletsch Glacier in all its glory. Without further ado, here goes.

Disclaimer: If you’re planning to ski any of these descents, then please ensure you do so in the stable conditions, with the correct avalanche safety equipment (transceiver shovel, probe and crevasse rescue equipment), partners and correct training to perform avalanche rescue. If you’re unsure of what stable conditions are then a mountain guide will happily show you.

*Although we list some of these descents as ‘beginner’ difficulty, we mean beginner for backcountry skiers. In our opinion, a beginner backcountry skier should be capable of taking on black graded slopes (in a range of conditions).

This guide has also been written assuming good snow conditions on the descents – they’re obviously going to increase in difficulty if you find them in icy conditions.

Aletsch Glacier Circular Tour

Rating: ****
Difficulty: *Beginner
Equipment: Touring skis
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The easiest way to get a taste of the glacier is via a single day ski tour departing from the Aletsch Arena. These tours begin at the top of the Eggishorn cable car at 2869 metres. Then, after a short descent down the Tüllenrat, you’ll soon find yourself standing on top of a far-flung backcountry valley that leads down to the glacier.

A short ski down the glacier offers a fantastic introduction to glacial backcountry skiing, with a gentle gradient, untracked snow and lofty 4,000 metre peaks constantly watching over you for the length of the descent. A return to Aletsch Arena is then made by ski touring up the west facing slopes towards the summit of Biel (2,291 m), which then gives access back to the pistes of Fiescheralp.


Aletsch Glacier Multi-Day Tour

Rating: *****
Difficulty: Expert
Equipment: Touring skis
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For the experienced backcountry skiers, nothing quite compares to a multi-day ski touring trip on the longest glacier in the Alps. Hopping from hut to hut, a huge amount of terrain is on offer with a real variety of scenery. This ski tour begins at the top of Jungfraujoch (the highest railway station in Europe) where a short ski down from the top of the Aletsch Glacier leads to the perfectly situated Konkordiahütte at 2,850 metres – where your bed for the first night awaits.

The tour then takes the following four days to wind its way down the Aletsch Glacier until you reach the alpine village of Blatten. On the way down the glacier, your guide will be sure to take you up some stunning sub-4,000 metre peaks including Kranzberg (3,666m) and Äbeni Flue (3,962m). If you’ve got the legs for it, this one really is a must-do for the real Aletsch Glacier experience.

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