At some point during the winter or spring, one’s attention invariably turns towards the upcoming trail running season. For me, it happened recently when I received one of the best trail running guides to the Swiss Alps racing scene, the Swiss Athletics Guide des courses for all the 2016 races.
This year promises some new events as well as old favorites, like Sierre-Zinal and the Aletsch-Halbmarathon. In contrast, I’ve also noticed some familiar trail races on hiatus this year, either permanently or temporarily due to various factors. To help you plan for the season — and to inspire some enthusiasm, if it’s needed — here’s a quick preview of new trail races in the mountains of France, Italy and Switzerland.
New Trail Races in 2015-2016
In recent years, I’ve seen a growing number of “vertical” races—races with relatively shorter distances and extremely steep elevation gains. This trend continues in 2016…
—First comes the brand new Vertical della Croce, held early in the season on June 12, as part of the Lugano & Capriasca Scenic Trail event in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino, Switzerland. It takes runners on a 5-km course with 1,000 meters of elevation gain—right at the limit of Skyrunning’s definition of a vertical kilometer.
—Later in the season on August 6, you can participate in the 2nd annual Courmayeur Mont Blanc Skyrace in Italy. This challenging race has more than 2,200 meters of elevation gain spread over a distance of only 11 km. This year, the event adds a second course—the Skyrace Night K1000, a vertical kilometer at nighttime.
—Back in Switzerland, on the French-speaking side and near the end of the season on November 6, is the Verticale d’Hauterive, also in its second year. The course starts at the shores of Lake Neuchâtel and travels through the forest by the shortest route to the summit of Chaumont.
Another major new race in 2016 will be the inaugural edition of the Ultra Tour Monta Rosa stage run, organized by British ultra marathoner Lizzy Hawker. (Last year featured a run-through of the event, which was dubbed the “Zero Edition!”) This ultra includes an astounding distance of 116 km and over 7,500 meters of ascent. Held from September 1-3, the course starts in Cervinia, Italy, and finishes in Grächen, Switzerland. Runners of this arduous course will be rewarded with unforgettable views as they run around the Matterhorn.
If you’re looking for more distance and less of an extreme vertical climb, check out Il Cuors da Flem—another new race in 2016. Located in the Swiss canton of Graubünden, the inaugural edition of this half-marathon takes place on June 4. Offering 500 meters of elevation gain, it starts and finishes in the picturesque village of Flims Waldhaus. Along the course, you’ll see some beautiful mountain lakes, such as the Caumasee.
Here’s a comprehensive list of all the newer trail races we’ve identified thus far—in their first or second year in 2016. You’ll find all of these races and many more listed on the Run the Alps race calendar:
Winter Eco Trail by Night – February 27
Santa Canterina Valfurva Winter Trail – March 13
Valetellina Vertical Tube Race – April 17
Cortina Skyrace – June 23
Santa Caterina Vertical Race – June 24
Livigno Sky Marathon – June 26
Orobie Ultra Trail – July 29-31
Valtellina Wine Trail – November 5
Il Cuors da Flem – June 4*
Vertical della Croce – June 12*
Engadin Ultracks St. Moritz – July 2
Ultra Tour Monta Rosa (first edition of the ultra marathon) – September 2-3*
L’Aminotsar KM Vertical – September 4
Gantrisch Trail – October 22
Verticale d’Hauterive – November 6
*Inaugural race to be held in 2016.
Trail Races Cancelled in 2016
The times, they are a-changing, and as we usher in new trail races, we also bid adieu to some past events. Reasons I’ve seen for going on hiatus, whether permanently or temporarily, have varied. For example, the Sardona Ultra Trail website indicated not having enough registrations to implement the race last year. The Graubünden Marathon cites a lack of resources as one of the factors for its cancellation. According to the website for the Salomon 4 Trails event — which travels through Germany, Austria and Switzerland — it will “take a creative break in 2016.”
While not postponed or cancelled at this time, a conflict has arisen that involves the Ice Trail Tarentaise (ITT). The Sports Club of Val d’Isère decided not to support this event in 2016. Instead, the club has developed a new race of its own, High Trail Vanoise, on the same date planned for the ITT – July 10, 2016. According to an official communication currently posted on its website, ITT hopes to save its event by taking legal action. ITT had captured the imagination of trail runners around the world, with its dramatic, icy climbs and long sections across high-elevation snowfields. (There’s a blog post with a rundown of last year’s race from Run the Alps’ Doug Mayer.)
Trail Running with Beer and Dog in Italy
And finally, there’s Arrancabirra, a unique trail race in the Courmayeur-Aosta Valley that serves beer to runners at various aid stations along the 18-km course. Runners must maintain their equilibrium on a course that includes 1,410 meters of elevation gain. For this race, you can register as a team with your dog, and prizes are awarded for best costume. Arrancabirra celebrates its 11th edition on October 8, 2016. We thought this race with a festive atmosphere might be pique your interest as you make your trail running plans for the year!
What are your trail race plans for 2016? I’m currently debating between the Aletsch-Halbmarathon and Il Cuors da Flem… As the year unfolds, if you’re looking for ideas, Run the Alps will continue to provide trail race updates via our blog, Laces (you can subscribe via Run the Alps’ homepage).
If you have any alpine trail race news to share with Run the Alps, whether it’s information about a new race or changes to an existing race, please don’t hesitate to contact us.