We don't mean to knock the classic Haute Route, an eight-to-10-day, 90-mile roller-coaster of a hut-to-hut ski tour through the heart of the Alps between France and Switzerland. Sure, it was first completed in 1861 (historic!), it passes the likes of Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn (stunning!), and it crosses 23 glaciers (sketchy!). But come April, when dozens of guides embark from Chamonix with hundreds of clients, the route starts looking more like a giant conveyor belt – moving skiers up couloirs and down valleys on the march to Zermatt. What's more, everyone tends to go straight from point A to point B, not taking time to downhill ski. That's where Swiss-born Ruedi Beglinger, a longtime guide with Selkirk Mountain Experience in Revelstoke, British Columbia, has carved his niche. He's done some variation of the Haute Route 54 times since he was a teenager, and his annual West Alps trip ($3,290 per person for 10 days) turns the traditional traverse on its head: Beglinger starts in Saas Fee, Switzerland, and goes against the flow, ending in Chamonix. The upshot? You get 59,000 feet of downhill skiing compared to the classic route's 20,000. You only have to climb 36,000 feet, not 47,000. You get the potential to summit and ski off 11 peaks – including Mont Blanc du Tacul, part of the Mont Blanc massif, and 13,213-foot Allalinhorn – when the regular route scales just three. Best of all, you avoid the hordes – until night falls, when the true Haute Route experience comes to life: You leave your stove and sleeping bag behind, crash in high-alpine huts like Schonbiel and Cosmique, and share cheese hash browns, omelettes with lardons, and bottles of Kronenbourg 1664.
Credit: Jeff Diener / Getty Images
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