La Thuile: the powder paradise

Our routes of Heliski La Thuile

The heliskiing area of La Thuile is mainly known for the descents on the Ruitor, a large glacier that can also be seen from the ski slopes which allows excellent skiing.

Many downhills in this area offer the tremendous advantage of reconnecting with the ski pistes, making the day very flexible and lowering the costs of the final pick-up.

La Thuile is easy to reach by car and is popular with day-trippers: the snow is better than elsewhere thanks to the exposure and temperature, which is never too high, providing superb conditions even in late season. The only drawback is the often-unpredictable wind, which sometimes interrupts the heliskiing activities.

The descent from Ruitor towards France is an unforgettable outing and will take up an entire day, while the shorter Italian side often has winter snow and is a powder paradise. The northern side, in the Miravidi and Lechaud district, offers shorter runs, but with breathtaking views, and is ideal for a relaxing day or for spring snow.   

The helicopter can take off from the town, or also from Piccolo San Bernardo, at an altitude of 2300m.

La Thuile is something of a Cinderella of heliskiing destinations on the upper Valle d’Aosta, but it certainly deserves a visit. Its great flexibility makes it possible to combine facilities and helicopter. Here’s a tip: with the right conditions it is simply wonderful to sleep at Piccolo San Bernardo to enjoy the evening silence and unique setting, and take off the next morning after breakfast.

French Ruitor

Starting altitude: 3300m
Difference in altitude: 1800m
Difficulty: average
Return: car – French ski facilities

If you only ever make one heliski descent in your lifetime, French Ruitor would be near the top of the list of suggestions I could make (together with Silbersattel, Aiguille des Glaciers, Piton des Italiens, and Upper Rabuigne), because it offers everything that, in my eyes, represents a complete and intense day of fun.

The drop-off is on a plateau beneath Les Vedettes, but instead of descending northwards towards the Italian side, you venture east and then ski towards France.

The first part is rather gentle, then there are a couple of nice walls, quite challenging, but accessible to a good skier. You descend gradually towards La Rosière, in front of Mont Pourri and Les Arcs station.

In the second part of the descent the gradient levels a little and you ski through shrubs and trees, before arriving at a stretch passing through the cabins.

It is a classic descent for hikers that easily fills the day, because you can have all the breaks you want and ski for at least a couple of hours. The slopes have various exposures so be prepared to find different types of snow. While in the upper part you can aim for fresh or compacted snow, in the lower part, which is more exposed to the sun, the snow is often transformed.

The ideal thing is to bring a snack and stop and enjoy the sun during the descent at the cabins you encounter, alternating skiing and relaxing.

At the end of the run you will have to call a taxi – unfortunately there is no alternative – to bring you to the facilities at La Rosière, for which you will need your ticket if you left from La Thuile village. Two chairlift rides and a skilift bring you straight back into Italy.

On your way home, if you have time, stop at La Rosière to eat or drink something in the cabin called L’Antigel: this beautiful sun-kissed wooden cabin is right beneath the first chairlift you will take.

To get back to Italy on time, you should leave France no later than 3 or 3.15 pm or you risk having to make a long trek or sleep on the other side of the Alps.

Ruitor Vedettes

Starting altitude: 3350m
Difference in altitude: 1200m
Difficulty: average
Return: helicopter

Many people consider this to be the best Heliski run in the area and, among other things, it is the one you always see from the skilifts when you look at the Ruitor: it is the large white sheet of glacier exposed to the northeast.
A great classic, recommended to all, as it is not particularly difficult and little exposed to the risk of avalanches, because it is not surrounded by steep slopes.

Of course, given that it is a glacier you have to look where you are skiing. The whole first part is an enormous panettone, not particularly steep; but steep enough to leave the classic serpentine trails of your passing. This stretch is ideal for filming and taking photos: you really do breathe mountain air. The second part of the descent has a steeper wall that must be tackled with caution, especially in the approach phase, but is worth doing because you can then carve some more satisfying turns in the greater gradient.

Then you come to the “cascate” or waterfalls area, where the pick-up is arranged, as the La Thuile descent is all densely wooded, so you have to pass on the summer path to the Deffeyes refuge, but I don’t think it’s worth the bother. This is an ideal run for the start of the day, which could then continue with a descent of the Ruitor on the French side.

It is quite popular, on account of its simplicity and safety.

We sadly recall that in this area on 25 January 2019, a French airplane, in violation of Italian airspace, crashed into a heliski copter, killing seven people, including Frank Henssler, a guide and a landmark of the heliski sector.

RIP dear Frank


Starting altitude: 3050m
 Difference in altitude: 1050m
Difficulty: easy
Return: helicopter – facilities

Easy but truly beautiful, the Miravidi descent is halfway between La Thuile and Val Veny. The drop-off is at an altitude of 3000m, just below the summit, from which it takes its name. When the helicopter takes off again, I suggest you climb up to the summit: in a few minutes you will arrive at an unforgettable panorama.

In the initial part the descent is very easy, besides not being on the glacier, hence not exposed to crevasses. Helicopters are infrequent at Miravidi and the trek up for mountaineers is very long, so with a bit of luck, you could be in for a solo downhill.

There is something lunar about the landscape, with its large panettoni that let you roam where you will to seek out the best snow. You can also stop to eat a sandwich if you have the time and proclivity.

The last stretch is a steep but gorgeous channel. You could encounter some rocks here and there, but with a little calm and patience you get to the bottom without problems. After the channel, you have to bear right to pass into the Breuil Valley, which is fairly narrow, while on your left you have Mont Ouille.

At this stage, you have two options, based on your tiredness and budget: you could round off your heliskiing day by heading for the pistes of La Thuile and using the facilities, or you can be picked up by the helicopter in the Alpe Balmettes area and do another run.


Starting altitude: 2830m
Difference in altitude: 1000m
Difficulty: average
Return: facilities

This is a fine descent, mainly exposed to the north, with powder snow even late in the season. The high-altitude drop-off is on the border with France (if you wish, you can ski down that side) not far from the new facilities at Mont Valezan, but the Italian side is definitely very picturesque and great fun.

The upper part, which is not very steep, allows you to ski with great confidence and ease. The middle section has a more challenging, quite steep slope, where you have to watch out for snow detaching and traverse one at a time only. Once past this difficulty, the panettoni fan out and they will connect you to the “Bella Valletta” off-piste descent where there is an incredible panorama. In late season this last part may have transformed snow.

This itinerary links back up with the pistes, at the Arp Nouvaz chairlift, where you arrive by a path on which you must be very careful at two critical but exhilarating passages: crossing the river and the rather narrow bridge.

This is a classic descent for winding up the day, far from a fallback because the panorama and the snow are spectacular. It is said that the old Fiat boss, the lawyer Mr Agnelli, was very fond of it when he flew in this area in his helicopter, and years later, we fully agree with his judgement.

Some photos of the routes in La Thuile

Recap of La Thuile Heliski trails

NameAltitude differenceGlacierDifficultyTweet judgementReturn/
Ruitor France
1800mYESAverageRightly one of the most famous heliski runs, filling your day. A daytrip full of spectacular views; first walls of average difficulty, then easy. Not recommended for snowboards.Return by taxi in France to La Rosière facilities
Ruitor Italy Vedettes
1150mYESAverageLe Vedettes is ideal for starting the day, the very safe and little-exposed glacier often has powder snow. The final wall, before the pick-up at the cascades is lovely, but watch out for the gradient...Recovery at the cascades area and return by helicopter.
1050mNOEasyThe name ensures the view from the summit is spectacular; one of my favourite descents. A rather easy run in the first part, then a more challenging, but feasible channel.Pick-up by helicopter at Alpe Barmette or higher above the channel
1000mNOAverageThey say this was one of Mr Agnelli’s favourite runs, and rightly so: the upper part has fine powder and a difficult wall, which rejoins the pistes from “Bella Valletta”. La Thuile facilities, Arp Nouvaz chairlift
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