Ski touring in the Alps can be "glorious", taking you away from the crowds and into snowy valleys so "still and silent", you might imagine yourself in Antarctica. The most famous ski tour adventure is the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt, but there are many others, said Tom Robbins in the FT – and none are better than the Urner Haute Route in Switzerland. The Chamonix-Zermatt route was devised by members of Britain's Alpine Club in 1861 as a summer itinerary, and first skied in 1903. These days it is so popular, it can feel "a bit like a procession", whereas the Urner – between the off-piste havens of Andermatt and Engelberg – is relatively quiet. Known as "the skier's haute route", it includes "a succession of steep north-facing descents", in some of the wildest terrain in the Alps.
Perched in the Uri Alps, Andermatt was once a garrison town so bleak that when D.H. Lawrence visited in 1912, he couldn't face staying the night. Latterly, it has become a hang-out for the "jet set", owing to a £1.3bn investment that has transformed it into an upmarket ski and golf resort. But up in the peaks and valleys, things feel as "rugged" as ever. The route begins with a ride on a little rack-and-pinion train up to the Oberalp Pass, where you fix adhesive skins to your skis, and set off uphill. Engelberg lies only 30km away as the crow flies, but the journey passes through such a "tangle of ridges and valleys" that most people set aside five days for it.
You don't need to be an "extreme skier", but you should be fairly fit and have some touring experience. It's also best to go with experienced guides, not least because of the risk of avalanches, and to book accommodation in advance. Options include "lonely" refuges such as the Maighelshütte, and village stops such as the "picture perfect" Gasthaus Göscheneralp.
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The trip costs from £1,187pp ($1,500) with Andermatt Guides; andermatt-guides.ch
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