European Hut Reservations: A do-it-yourself guide.

While I work on a post about logistics for the Ortler High Route, I’d like to address a question that I get ten different ways each time we report on a foreign ski tour: how do we make European hut reservations?

In this post, I’ll focus on making reservations for the Alps during the Spring ski touring season. I assume that the process is transferable to the summer season as well, though the huts may be considerably busier at that time. (But what do I know?)

Cabane de Prafleuri

1. Get your ducks in a row.

Before embarking on the process of booking huts, make sure that you have a solid itinerary. While you may discover during this process that a hut is closed or full, assume that you will be able to book the itinerary that you want and make sure you know it well.

I like to schedule my trip and all of my travel logistics using iCal/Google Calendar. One critical pearl is that you should “turn on time zone support” and change your calendar into Central European Time before adding dates and times in Europe. This eliminates confusing 7-8 hour time differences and ensures that your calendar will look as you expect when your phone changes to European time on arrival.

Note also that most huts will start taking reservations for the busy late March-early May season beginning in late January. Make your reservation before the middle of February to ensure that you get the trip you want.

2. Gather opening dates, names, emails and phone numbers.

Once you have arrival dates, number of nights at each hut, and party size worked out, it’s time to gather info on each of the huts where you want to stay. Google is your friend. For each hut, see if you can discover the Winter opening date, the name of the hut keeper, the preferred contact method (phone/email/online form) and additional means of communication. I store these in a spreadsheet that lets me track my booking progress.

3. Prepare to communicate.

You’re now going to embark on communication across time and borders. Lucky for you, most hut keepers speak at least some reluctant English. Figure out what constitutes a reasonable time of day for a phone call and plan a time to make all of your calls. While the Ortler route could be booked entirely by email, our reservations for the Haute Route required that I stay up until 2 am Pacific Time to make my phone calls. Thankfully, that was just once.

I find the cheapest and easiest way to call internationally is with Skype, which I use on my phone. Google and others offer similar VOIP products.

Bonus: In the French/Swiss alps, speaking a bit of french can be quite helpful, and German works well in SE Switzerland as well as Northern Italy. At the very least, learn how to say “Excuse me, do you speak English?” in the local language with a reasonable accent, as well as Merci! Gratzia mille! Danke!

Cabane de Mont Fort

4. Prepare to pay.

Many huts require a deposit, which may be posted on their list of prices. This is taken at the time of booking to ensure your spot. When you arrive, it’s applied to the price of your stay. If you have to rebook due to weather, it’s transferable to another date, but not refundable.

Paying internationally used to be a PITA because US banks use ACH transfers while Europeans send money to each other with IBAN. Spanning the gap used to cost a lot of money. Thankfully, Al Gore invented the internet.

Transferwise has solved this problem. They can connect with your US bank and use it to send Euro to IBAN numbers in Europe. The fees are tiny and it’s very easy to set up. Use this link and your first transfer is free.

5. Get in touch.

Now is the time to call or email.

For phone calls, be polite and concise. Hut keepers are busy. Ask to make a reservation for X number of people for X number of nights beginning on X date.

If emailing, I will write out my request in English and then translate it using Google Translator into each of the local languages. For the Haute Route use French and German in addition to english. For the Ortler, use Italian and German. The hut keeper may reply in their preferred language, but the reverse translation is usually simple.

6. Confirm your reservation.

Now that you have spoken or emailed with hut keepers to arrange your trip, you’re almost done. Send any necessary deposits and shift your attention to packing and planning for the fun part: skiing.

About 2 weeks before you will be arriving at each hut, it is polite to email or call to confirm that you will be arriving on the same date and with the same number of people as your original reservation. This also lends some good peace of mind before you ski into the unknown with the expectation of finding hospitality.



There is it. It sounds complicated, but really it’s simple if you make a spreadsheet and keep track of your communications. Contacting foreign language speakers can be anxiety inducing, but these are good skills to build now because you’ll need the ability to do some basic communicating when you’re in the mountains.

Let me know if you have other questions, experiences or ideas! Happy travels!

Category: Knowledge & Technique


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