Not Running UTMB Mont-Blanc® ? Here are 10 Amazing Races in the Alps
Didn’t get drawn for the UTMB Mont-Blanc lottery or looking for a different kind of trail race ambiance in the Alps? Here are 10 alternatives to fill that gap in your summer Euro racing plans.
We’re focussing on the 100 mile and 100km distances, but each of these races is part of a multi-course event, so there are a variety of distances and challenges. And they’re spread throughout the Alps…there’s lots to choose from here!
These are the favorites from Run the Alps staff, guides and friends:
100 Mile Distance
Dates: July 5-7, 2024
Distance: 140km Elevation: 9300m+
Race website: https://verbier.utmb.world/
Part of the UTMB® World Series, runners in Trail Verbier St Bernard receive between 1 and 4 stones for the UTMB Mont-Blanc lottery.” TVSB,” as it is known locally, takes place in the mountains around Verbier and the Grand Saint Bernard Pass on the border of Switzerland and Italy.
The Trail Verbier St Bernard X-Alpine is a demanding 140km race with 9300m of vertical gain. It starts and finishes in Verbier, and along the way runners will get high into an alpine environment, passing close to 4000-meter peaks and huge glaciers.
Including the X-Alpine, there are four races from which to choose. You can also run the X-Traverse (76km); the Verbier Marathon, which manages to retain a true marathon distance of 42km with the added bonus of 3000m vertical gain; or the Verbier X-Plore, a 26 km race designed as an introduction to trail running.
Inside the race: The TVSB race committee has an annual planting of Arolla pines just outside the village of La Fouly, Switzerland. Race Co-Director Matthieu Girard explains that the organization started planting trees in 2015 “… to give something back to nature. We are very sensitive to the imprint that we as a trail race make on nature. So, we decided to plant some trees. It’s a symbol, of course. But it’s very nice.”
Read Run the Alps interview with Matthieu here.
Dates: July 18-21, 2024
Distance: 179km Elevation: 11,510m+
Race website: https://ut4m.fr/
UT4M (Ultratour des 4 Massif) is a major trail racing event near Grenoble, France. Following an “a la carte” aesthetic, it offers a selection of 12 courses to be run individually, or consecutively, solo, or as a team.
UT4M180 Xtrem and UT4M180 Challenge take you through paths and trails in four mountain ranges — Vercors, Taillefer, Belledone, and Chartreuse — each with its own characteristics. There is also an assortment of races ranging from 20km to 100km in the various mountain ranges of Grenoble. This series offers a taste of French trail culture outside of Chamonix.
Inside the race: Run the Alps guide Giles Ruck took part in the 90km UT4M in 2015 (now there are 80km and 100km distances). Here’s his experience of this “beautiful and tough” race experience. “Having finished the TDS the year before, I was set on to the UTMB Mont-Blanc, but didn’t get through the lottery. I spotted the UT4M as an alternative ‘A’ race for the season and was impressed by the challenge. The course takes runners over two of the four massifs which encircle the historic city of Grenoble, and offers a bit of everything, forest switchbacks, lots of singletrack through meadows and weaving between alpine lakes up above 2000 meters, jaw dropping views from limestone cliffs, great aid stations at mountain refuges and ski stations, and running between the ramparts of the famous Bastille until finally dropping into the city for the finish. An abiding memory is that the race director handed me a chai tea and a beer straight across the finish line! The race has developed since then, and has many distance options, with the 180km Extrem and Challenge and the 100km Master – close equivalents to races like UTMB and CCC.”
Dates: August 9, 2024
Distance: 160km Elevation: 10,150m+
Race website: https://www.swissalps100.com/
In the Valais region of Switzerland, the race organizers describe the course as “mostly non-technical,” offering “incredible panoramas and beautiful views” of the Swiss Alps. And they are not wrong! Both the 160km and 100km courses take you along the balcony trail overlooking the Aletsch Glacier, the largest glacier in Europe. It’s a trail that has to be on every runner’s tick list.
You will also find a 50km, a vertical race, an exciting “hike and fly” race for the paragliding pilots among us, and a free 1km kids race.
Inside the race: ”A very scenic and interesting trail with really cool local organizers and a stunning view over the Aletsch glacier,” says Berner Oberland Region Manager for Run the Alps Maarten Hendriks.
Dates: August 23-25, 2024
Distance: 152km Elevation: 11,390m+
Race website: https://www.lechappeebelledonne.com/
This event takes place just south of Albertville in the Savoie region of France. It has become très popular since it first started in 2013, and attracts top-level athletes. Runners have the choice of four courses: the Intégrale (152 km), Traversée Nord (92 km), Parcours des Crêtes (63 km), and the White Rock Skyrace (21 km). The Intégrale consists of 90 percent single-track and takes runners from an elevation of 271m to a high point of 2892m at Belledonne Cross. All the courses provide beautiful views of the surrounding lakes and mountains.
Inside the race: “The course traverses a whole mountain range in a modest scale race. Even the French say it’s technical. Singletracks are the easy part, then there are micro trails often turning into micro tracks. Civilisation is far away, and the atmosphere is great,” states Run the Alps Guide Gideon Zadoks.
Gideon concludes, “After you’ve seen this race you’ll understand very well why the French call UTMB® Mont-Blanc roulante -easy, rolling hills!”
Dates: August 26-September 8, 2024
Distance: 170km Elevation: 11,500m+
Race website: https://swisspeaks.ch/170k
The Swiss Peaks Trail became well known for its longest course, the 360km race, and has grown in popularity over the last few years with the addition of the 170km, 100km, marathon and half-marathon courses.
Every race finishes on the shores of Lake Geneva, in the town of Bouveret. The 360km race starts far away in Oberwald at the eastern end of the Rhône valley. With climbs regularly lasting for at least 1000 meters, this is a route for those well accustomed to big uphill efforts. The 170km, 100km, and 50km routes follow the 360km race course with start points along the long run.
Inside the race: “Throughout the Valais region of Switzerland, this is a well known race that’s a bit rougher than many of the other ones. It’s pure mountain running!” says Berner Oberland Region Manager for Run the Alps Maarten Hendriks.
Dates: September 4-7, 2024
Distance: 170km Elevation: 11,300m+
Race website: https://www.ultratourmonterosa.com/
This epic 170km ultra marathon encircles the Monte Rosa massif, starting and finishing in Grächen, a small village in the Zermatt valley of Switzerland. You have two options for the 170km distance: run it in one go, or in stages which allows runners to complete the same course over a period of four days.
There is also a 100km distance, which skips the Zermatt valley section, instead starting in Cervinia, Italy at the foot of the Matterhorn’s southern side.
Inside the race: Lizzy Hawker, UTMR Race Founder, told Run the Alps, “Zermatt was where I first fell in love with the mountains at the age of six. I returned over the years, started mountaineering, and grew to know the region while training for the UTMB.
“For variety, I turned to the Tour de Monte Rosa, in the region that I loved, and made two longer back-to-back days over that route for training. I realized that the route of the Tour de Monte Rosa was a route that I would like to run as a race course. It has incredible trails and is more challenging than the UTMB!”
Read Run the Alps interview with Lizzy here.
100 Kilometers (Give or Take)
Dates: July 17-21, 2024
Distance: 101km Elevation: 6700m+
Race website: https://eiger.utmb.world/
The Eiger Ultra races start in the world-famous mountain village of Grindelwald, Switzerland, at the base of the Eiger North Face. The 35km, 51km and 101km routes include long sections of alpine running along ridges, pastures, and some of the most scenic views anywhere in the Bernese Oberland region.
These races are now well known, and draw thousands of runners from around the world. The Eiger Ultra races are highly organized and well orchestrated. The Eiger Ultra series is now part of UTMB®’s World Series, so the races include the opportunity to accrue between 1 and 3 running stones towards the UTMB® Mont-Blanc races.
Inside the race: The recent addition of a 250km course takes runners on a circular tour through some of the most picturesque and famous mountains anywhere, including the Eiger, Monch, Jungfrau and numerous other 4000 meter peaks. Eiger Ultra Trail Race Director Ralph Näf talks about the new distance: “… the E250 will have a very different organizational concept. There will be no route marking on the E250, so you will run it with your GPS…”
Read more about the Eiger Ultra races in our article, here.
And friend of Run the Alps English Knowles shares her experience running the first edition of the E250.
Dates: July 12-14, 2024
Distance: 100km Elevation: 7900m+
Race website: https://www.gtcourmayeur.com/
Courmayeur is located at the foot of Mont Blanc on the Italian side. Three races traverse the legendary landscape just outside of the village. The 30km route travels mainly along Val Ferret, and showcases a panoramic view of Courmayeur from La Suche. The 55km route explores Val Veny, featuring a new route, dell’Orrido, out of Pre Saint Didier, with a panoramic balcony, and a new crossing between Colle di Youlaz and Col Chavanne. And if you don’t want to miss any of the views, you’ll like the 100km route, which combines the best of both.
Inside the race: In Italy, under the shadow of Monte Bianco, Courmayeur and the Aosta Valley have their own lively trail running scene- a bit more low-key and informal than sometimes hyperactive Chamonix. Run the Alps interviewed Erica Motta, Head of Communications for Valle d’Aosta Trailers, which organizes Gran Trail Courmayeur and other events in the area.
Read about VDA Trailers and their races here.
Dates: September 10-12, 2024
Distance: 130km Elevation: 12,000m+
Race website: https://www.torxtrail.com/
Based in the Aosta Valley in northwest Italy, Tot Dret is the little brother of the Tor des Géants, known as one of the hardest ultras in the world. Not that little, the route follows the last 130km and 12,000m of the infamous TDG course from Gressoney to Courmayeur. Runners pass underneath some of the géants of the tour: Monte Rosa, the Matterhorn, and Mont Blanc. In recent years, the cut-off time for Tot Dret has been increased to 44 hours, as initially very few people were able to complete it within the time limit.
Interested in something just slightly less brutal? There’s also a new 100km race at Tor: Tor100 Cervino – Monte Bianco.
Inside the race: Tot Dret is translated as “straight through.” Run the Alps guide Simon Conroy ran it at the end of a summer of guiding in the Alps. You can read his race report here.
We also have a list of articles about the Tor des Géants for bonus reading!
Dates: September 14, 2024
Distance: 57km Elevation: 3700m+
Race website: https://ddmtrail.ch/
Trail des Dents-du-Midi, also called “DDM Trail,” is the oldest trail race in the Alps. A favorite among Run the Alps staff, this race has a long and rich history.
Not far from the French border, Switzerland’s Dents-du-Midi range towers over the mountain villages of Troistorrents, Val D’Illiez, and Champéry. For years, the circumnavigation of this range in a day was a test piece for regional Swiss police. Very nearly entirely on trails, this is an alpine race with remote sections on the far side of the range. Starting and finishing in the beautiful village of Champéry, the classic 57 km course passes by several huts, climbs over two cols high above treeline, and runs through the tiny picturesque hamlet of Mex.
It’s possible to do the 57 km as a relay, or over two days as a hike– the “Trail Découverte.” There’s also a 32km race along the second half of the course, and a shorter 13km race for both adults and juniors.
Inside the race: In an interview with Run the Alps, Organizing Committee Director Gil Caillet-Bois explained the long-term goal for DDM. “Well, the first objective is to develop and sustain the race by remaining faithful to the values that have made it successful in the past: hospitality, authenticity and respect for the mountain. That’s important to us.”
Read the whole interview with Gil here.
*And if your heart is set on racing in Chamonix, here’s bonus race number eleven of our top ten!
Dates: June 27-30, 2024
Race website: https://www.marathonmontblanc.fr/
Don’t forget another big week in town for the Mont Blanc Marathon. Of course the marathon is the famous distance here, but there are multiple race courses.
For an inside take on this big event, read An American in the Alps: Buzz Burrell on Chamonix, the Mont Blanc Marathon, and More.
Back to Our Roots Races
These articles are part of the Run the Alps Back to Our Roots series, in which we highlight some of the lesser-known, village-based trail races around the Alps– the ones that don’t get the lavish international media spotlight. Run the Alps staff, guides, ambassadors, and friends all enjoy taking part in these authentic, local events, and we wanted to shine a bit of light on how special they can be!
Find your Race
Learn about these races and many more options at our Race Finder!
Race the Alps on your Run the Alps Tour
You can also run a race as part of your Run the Alps Tour. We’ve partnered with a variety of races throughout the Alps. A limited number of race entries are available only as part of a Run the Alps guided or self-guided tour, at the following events:
- Eiger Ultra
- Matterhorn Ultraks
- Mont Blanc Marathon
- Montreux Trail Festival
- Swiss Alps 100 Endurance Run
- DDM Trail
- Trail Verbier St-Bernard
- Gran Trail Courmayeur