Friday, March 23, 2012

Haute Route Ski Rental ~ Chamonix AT Ski Rental

We get a ton of questions about renting AT skis for the Haute Route. To get a feel for exactly what you are looking for you should visit our Haute Route Ski page and look at the equipment list for our latest recommendations. Ideally you will be able to use your own equipment as you will be more familiar with it and can pick exactly what you are looking for. That said, some folks simply do not want to travel with skis and prefer to rent. If you find yourself in this category we might recommend that you consider bringing your own AT boots and then renting skis with AT bindings, poles, skins, and ski crampons in Chamonix.

The Haute Route is more fun with reliable gear!
Renting vs. bringing your own ski gear: If you are doing one of our Haute Route trips it is possible, but not guaranteed, to have your guide return your skis to Chamonix at the end of the tour. This does not always work out because the guide may be moving on to another tour such as the Berner Oberland or the Ortler and would then be unable to take these back. They will also only be able to carry one or two ski setups in addition to their own gear, so having them take your skis back is a long shot. Be sure to consider the fact that renting skis might require you to return to Chamonix at the end of the Haute Route rather than departing directly to the airport at the end of the trip. For a typical 7-day trip you are looking at a cost of 250+ € ($330 +) as you will need to actually rent the skis for 9-days as you will need to pick them up the day before and return them the day after. Balance this against the roughly $200 in excess luggage fees you could incur if coming from the US, but then temper it with the fact that you will not meet your skis until the day before a trip that costs much more. We still think you are best off bringing your own gear.

If the paragraph above did not daunt you and you are still planning to rent skis, then we recommend two spots in Chamonix to rent from. These shops have a limited number of skis and you will want to book early to have the best selection of skis. If your French is weak, particularly by phone, you may want to communicate by e-mail with the advantage of using something like Google Translator to assist with communications. The more common reason we have sent people to these shops for ski rental are situations where their skis were either lost on the flight over (rare), stolen (even more rare), or we determined during the equipment check that what they brought was not quite suited for the Haute Route (happens more often than we wish).

Recommended Ski Touring Shops in Chamonix, France

Sanglard - One good option for AT ski Rental in Chamonix
Sanglard: Sanglard is a ski shop just off the Place du Mont Blanc, which is the large plaza in the middle of town, very close to the Hotel de l'Arve, which is where we commonly meet groups before our Haute Route trips. It is just a few minutes from the hotel. This is a very ski focused shop, and has a decent selection of rental AT gear. They will often try to rent you a ski with a binding such as the Marker Duke, which is not recommended due to the weight. Be sure to at least get a Fritsche or better yet a Dynafit style binding if your boots are Dynafit compatible. Hopefully these are things you know if contemplating skiing the Haute Route. They also have a selection of the basics you may want to pick up such as a new Buff, and more commonly used ski and climbing accessories. Their stock pales in comparison to Snell's, but then Snell is one of the more well stocked ski and climbing shops in the world.

Advantages of working with Sanglard include the ability to rent gear online easily, and its proximity to the Hotel de l'Arve. If bringing your own boots, you will want to pass along your boot sole length when making the reservation. This is usually found on the outside of your boot shell and is usually a number between 270mm and 330 mm. This is different from your US size or your Mondo size and indicates the exact length of the particular boot that you are using and is used to adjust the binding.

Rental Costs as of March 2012 (Euro was roughly $1.32 US)

2012 Sanglard AT Skis w/ AT bindings, Skins, pole, & Ski Crampons Rental Prices
1-day 25.5 €
2-day 53 €
3-day 74 €
4-day 95.5 €
5-day 115.5 €
6-day 132.5 €
7-day 148.50 €
8-day 164.5 €
9-day 180 €

2012 Sanglard At Ski Boots Rental Prices
1-day 11.5 €
2-day 23 €
3-day 32 €
4-day 41.5 €
5-day 50 €
6-day 57.5 €
7-day 64.5 €
8-day 71.5 €
9-day 78 €

199 Place du Mont Blanc
74400 Chamonix, France
Tel: 04 50 53 24 70

Snell - Another good option for AT ski rental in Chamonix
Snell: If not daunted by renting via e-mail or telephone, Snell also has a good selection of AT ski gear. When I checked in the spring of 2012 they had both Fritsche and Dyanfit bindings and have about 60 pairs of skis. If you want to be sure to get a decent pair of skis, plan to reserve these a month or more in advance as they sell out during the Haute Route season. The guy that runs the rental shop deals with the e-mail, speaks good english and is very friendly and helpful. No trip to Chamonix is complete without a trip to Snell sports, even if just to oggle the insane collection of high end alpine climbing equipment. It is also just across the street from the Maisson de la Presse, which has a very good selection of maps and guidebooks in English and is another mandatory Chamonix stop.

2012 Snell AT Skis w/ AT bindings, Skins, pole, & Ski Crampons Rental Prices
1-day 28 €
2-day 56 €
3-day 84 €
4-day 110 €
5-day 136 €
6-day 160 €
7-day 182 €
8-day 202.20 €
9-day 222.20 €

2012 Snell At Ski Boots Rental Prices
1-day 11 €
2-day 20 €
3-day 29 €
4-day 38 €
5-day 47 €
6-day 56 €
7-day 65 €
8-day 72 €
9-day 79 €

Snell Sports
104 Rue Paccard
74400 Chamonix, France
Tel: 04 50 53 02 17

Additional Chamonix Ski Rental Shops can be found here. Please note that we have not rented from these shops and do not have a good idea of what is available. There are other spots in Chamonix to rent AT gear, but we have had the best luck with Sanglard and Snell. These are also the shops where the staff is most likely to work with you in English.

Rental ABS Systems in Chamonix: Of interest Snell also rents ABS packs if you are looking for an airbag and do not want to go to the hassle of bringing one from home. Cost is around 20 € per day.

Good luck! Enjoy your Haute Route trip.

About the Northwest Mountain School: The Northwest Mountain School is run by John and Olivia Race, both IFMGA/UIAGM guides from the United States. We generally run 3 or more Haute Route trips each season. We offer both set-dates and custom programs. Feel free to give us a call if you are looking for someone to organize your Haute Route Ski Trip.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Haute Route Ski Tour Prep ~ Ultimate Repair Kit

We run a lot of Haute Route Ski Tours and in the process have seen about every imaginable thing go wrong with ski gear on the tour.  Two years ago I had a client break the plastic heel piece on his Fritsche bindings just as we skied into the Praflueri Hut, managed to MacGyver a fix and then the next day had another client tear his Tele binding out of the his ski.  In most cases I was able to use a few tools at the hut, but in each case I also needed some basic supplies of my own to make the repair.  The following list and photos give you and idea of what I take when guiding multi-day, overnight ski tours.  I carry a much lighter kit when doing day tours or skiing on my own here in WA.  There is also an 8-minute video at the end that walks you through this kit.

Repair Kit for Haute Route Ski Tour

Here is the list of items that I carry.  The entire kit weighs about 2 lbs. While this may seem heavy I have used everything in it, and I usually have one person carry the repair kit, another carry the first-aid kit, etc. so that no one person has more than a pound or two of group gear.  

Haute Route Ski Tour Repair Kit ~ Weighs about 2 lbs.

Haute Route Ski Tour ~ Repair Kit Contents
  • 2 Large Hose Clamps (for attaching binding to ski in catastrophic blowout)
  • 2 Small Hose Clamps (for splinting broken poles)
  • Binding Buddy with Different Screw Bits Including Posi-drive
  • T-nut, Washer, and Bolt (for boot cuff rivet repair)
  • Ski Boot Cuff Rivet Replacement (better than above, but hard to find)
  • 2- Long Ski Straps (many uses, long ones can be obtained from Brooks Range)
  • Glop Stopper (for skin icing)
  • Bailing Wire (many uses)
  • Skin Tip and Tail Attachments
  • Allen Wrench (for cuff rivet)
  • Multi-tool with Pliers (pliers are critical)
  • Skin Tool (G3 makes the best one)
  • Metal Scraper (for scraping skis and skins)
  • Duct Tape
  • Cotton Tape (for attaching iced skins to skis)
  • F4 Glide Wax
  • Lighter
  • Extra Binding Screws
  • Steel Wool
  • Quick Cure Epoxy
  • Ripstop Nylon Tape

Other items to consider:
  • 3.5 mm x 9.5 mm Drill Bit (nice if you can find a drill and want clean holes for blown screws)
  • 4.1 mm x 9.5 mm Drill Bit (ditto)
  • Extra Toe and Heel Pieces for Dominant Group Binding Type
You might also be interested in this video describing the same Haute Route Ski Repair Kit.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at the Northwest Mountain School.  Our phone number is 509-548-5823.  Olivia and John Race run the Northwest Mountain School, are both IFMGA guides and are available as Haute Route Ski Guides.

Monday, March 5, 2012

New! Set-date Mountaineering Programs in Washington State

Set Dates: For summer 2012 we are launching set-date mountaineering programs.  In the past we have limited our set dates to our rock climbing programs and trips outside of Washington.  We began advertising these set dates a few months back and have had a very positive initial response.  

Why Set dates? Most small guide services operate in a more European fashion, and book customers as customers request specific programs.  This has worked very well for us since our inception in 1994, but it does leave a hole for individual climbers seeking to climb with other climbers, or to benefit from group pricing for guided services.  As our guide service is growing steadily, we are seeking ways to balance out our schedule and provide a more predictable work schedule for our guides.  The bottom line is that it allows you to save some money and allows us to retain our excellent guides and keep things from getting too busy, or too slow.

How does this affect Custom Programs?  This will have little effect on our custom programs, which we plan to retain as the center of our business.  Custom programs allow us to tailor the trip exactly to individual needs.  As there are a limited number of guides working in the US, every guide service runs into staffing issues during the peak season running from June-August each summer.  If planning a trip during this time you are advised t0 make your bookings as early as possible to make sure that you can either obtain a space on a set-date program, or book a custom program on your preferred dates.

Save 10% if you register between March 5-19, 2012.  Visit our Facebook page and "like" us and you will be able to download a coupon.  If you already subscribe to our Facebook page you can still obtain this discount.

Links to 2012 Set Date Programs:

Links to 2012 Set Date Programs by Program Type:


Mountaineering 101 - Introduction to Glacier Mountaineering: $1595
  • June 19-24, 2012
  • July 30-August 4, 2012
  • August 19-25, 2012
Mount Adams South Climb: $560 each 
  • July 9-10, 2012
  • July 26-27, 2012
  • August 6-7, 2012
  • August 23-24, 2012
  • September 3-4, 2012
  • September 20-21, 2012
Mount Baker Easton Glacier 3-day: $750
  • June 8-10, 2012
  • July 6-8, 2012
  • August 3-5, 2012
  • August 31-Sept 2, 2012
Mount Baker Coleman Deming 3-day: $800
  • June 22-24, 2012
  • July 20-22, 2012
  • July 27-29, 2012 
  • August 17-19, 2012
  • September 14-16, 2012
Mount Baker North Ridge 3-day: $840
  • July 27-29, 2012
  • August 10-12, 2012
  • August 24-26, 2012
  • September 7-9, 2012
Glacier Peak: $1120
  • July 12-15, 2012
  • August 11-14, 2012
Mt Shuksan Climb: $840
  • May 25-27, 2012
  • June 15-17, 2012
  • July 13-15, 2012
  • August 18-20, 2012

Intro to Outdoor Rock Climbing: $200
  • March 24
  • April 1, 7, 15, 21 or 29
  • May 5, 13, 19, or 27
  • June 2, 10, 16, 24 or 25
  • July 8, 14, 22, or 28
  • August 5, 11, 19, or 25
  • September 2, 8, 16, 22 or 30
  • October 6, 14, or 20
Intro to Lead Climbing: $200
  • March 25
  • April 14
  • May 6 or 26
  • June 3 or 23
  • July 15
  • August 4 or 12
  • September 1 or 23
  • October 13
Multi-Pitch Rock Climbing: $200
  • April 28
  • May 13
  • June 16
  • July 1 or 29
  • August 19
  • September 15
  • October 7
Rock Climbing Anchors Clinic: $200
  • April 8
  • May 12
  • June 17
  • July 21
  • August 26
  • September 29
Joshua Tree Women’s Seminar: $995
  • October 18-21, 2012
Red Rocks Women’s Seminar: $995
  • October 25-28, 2012

Mont Blanc Climb: $2280
  • July 16-21, 2012
  • July 23-28, 2012
  • August 6-11, 2012
Matterhorn Climb: $2495
  • July 30-August 4, 2012
Aconcagua Expedition: $4750
  • December 22, 2012 - January 12, 2013
Denali West Buttress Expedition: $6400
  • May 13-June 5, 2012

AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Courses: $295
  • Dec 16-18, 2011 Sect. 1 (Full)
  • Dec 16-18, 2011 Sect. 2 (2 spots)
  • January 6-8, 2012
  • January 14-16, 2012 (Custom)
  • January 20-22, 2012
  • February 3-5, 2012
  • February 17-19, 2012
  • February 22-24, 2012 (Custom)
  • March 2-4, 2012
AIARE Level 1 Refresher: $185
  • December 10, 2011
  • January 14, 2012
  • February 11, 2012
  • March 10, 2012
AIARE Level 2 Avalanche Course: $495
  • February 17-20, 2012
Feel free to call the office at 509-548-5823 with any questions.  You can also contact us by e-mail.  Set-Date Mountaineering Programs in Washington State