Vertical Skimo Races in the Alps
Vertical races offer the perfect introduction to skimo racing. They are also a great way to build fitness for trail running, backcountry skiing, and other endurance events.
This category of skimo racing features only one ascent, which eliminates transitions – putting on or taking off climbing skins. Also gone is the need to know how to quickly descend on skinny and very light skimo skis. This makes vertical races quite accessible. As a result, the field is often composed of competitors with a variety of fitness levels. However, participants should still be comfortable skiing downhill safely and ascending on an icy slope. Certain races, such as the Valloire Dynafit Vertical (see below), even offer demo gear for those who are new to racing and do not have their own lightweight racing equipment.
Many ski resorts that are friendly to uphill travel offer a vertical race at some point during the season. Some resorts even offer a weekly race series. In the Alps, more often than not, vertical skimo races take place in the evenings and are accompanied by refreshments or dinner afterwards. Information about these races can often be found at local sports clubs, or on the events page of the resort’s website.
We’ve listed a few of our favorite races, below. Before you dive into the list, however, here are a few tips for getting started!
Vertical Racing Tips: Start Here
- Medical Certificates
Registration for most competitions in the Alps, including skimo races, require a medical certificate clearing you for competition. Find out more about medical certificates for racing in the Alps, why you need them, and how to get them in this post.
- Mandatory Gear
Check the race website for a mandatory gear list. For races on this list at night a headlamp is usually required and other mandatory gear may include a light jacket, helmet or other piece of equipment necessary for your safety.
- Cache Warm Clothing
Some races allow you to send a bag up to the race finish, or to the refreshments area if it’s not at the base of the mountain. If that’s the case, be sure to send up a dry shirt and warm puffy, at least. A back up headlamp and a liter of tea isn’t a bad idea, either.
- Arrive Early
If you can, arrive early so you have plenty of time to figure out where the race starts, understand the process after the race, and not feel frantic during the race start.
- The Meal Afterwards
If you are meeting somewhere else for post-race refreshments, stick a few euros in your pocket for that bonus cup of hot chocolate!
Ready? Great! If you’re living in the Alps, or just passing through on vacation, here’s that list of vertical race options to help you get started!
Vertical Skimo Races: A Brief Sampler
Location: Bergbahnen-Werfenweng, Austria
Stats: 3.45km and 880m+
In 2023, the Alpencup hosted the Vertical and Individual National Championships for Austria, but the DieErztrophy has been happening for nearly 20 years. In 2019, the venue was home to the International Ski Mountaineering Federation (ISMF) World Cup. The vertical race typically happens during the day and is entirely on-piste.
There is a typical race category as well as a “business category” where 3 participants cover a short distance in a relay format. The Ikarus gondola runs for free from the start to the finish line to the base of the resort, and to the halfway point of the course, where the youth course begins.
Race: Domobianca Vertical Race
Location: Domobianca, Italy
Stats: 2.5km and 600m+
The summer vertical trail running race leaves from Alpe Lustentino in Domodossola and arrives at the summit of Moncucco. As of 2023 there is a winter edition in January, which covers a similar course, at night, under the lights.
The 2023 edition saw the presence of Skyrunning World Champions and members of the Italian National Skimo Team, but the course is open to all. There is a pasta party and awards ceremony at the finish of the race, which is also accessible by lift for spectators.
Race: Inalpe Dynafit 2.0
Location: Nendaz, Switzerland
Stats: 3.75km and 820m+
The Inalpe Dynafit 2.0 course happens in January, at night, around 7PM. The inaugural edition of the race, in 2022, drew 250 participants. The course climbs the Tracouet track on the Jean-Pierre side of the Nendaz ski resort, to the summit of Tracouet.
In addition to the popular and elite categories, a “company/society” category allows teams to compete against each other; the three best times are counted. The registration fee of CHF 35 includes a souvenir as well as dinner at the Tracouet restaurant. The race encourages the practice of skimo among youth by offering free registration to those under 18.
There is free lift access to the finish line for spectators.
Location: Saint Gervais, France
Stats: 4.0km and 1000m+
One of the local Chamonix favorites, La Diagonale du Mont-Joly is a vertical kilometer from the base of the Chattrix chairlift to the top of the télésiège du l’épaule. There is also a Mini DMJ which climbs 450m+ to the halfway point of the race.
The race starts at 6pm and there is a hot meal offered for racers and spectators after the finish of the course. The DMJ draws competitive racers, recreational skiers and athletes of all ages for a fun night of skiing under the stars.
Location: Courchevel, France
Stats: 3.2km and 500m+
The Millet Ski Touring series in Courchevel is one of the most popular in the Alps, in part because it takes place on the same course, every Wednesday, every winter. This allows racers to return to a course they know well and become comfortable on, and it allows them to compare their finishing times week-to-week and year-to-year.
The atmosphere at this weekly race series is electric, with thousands of skiers completing the course each winter and spectators coming out to cheer each Wednesday night from late December to mid-March. It is a time trial start format, with the first competitor starting at 18:00 and racers departing every 20 seconds.
Part of what makes Courchevel so special is that it draws the youngest racers, racers who’ve been skiing for decades, and families, all alongside competitors with their eyes on the record and the large cash prizes throughout the season. The final edition, in mid-March, is typically costume themed and includes a concert at the finish line. Registration can be done online or at the start in Courchevel Le Praz the hour before the race.
Race: Montée de la Foilleuse
Location: Morgins, Switzerland, Région Dents du Midi
Stats: 2.7km and 525m+
The Montée de la Foilleuse is open to both snowshoes and skis and occurs every Friday evening throughout winter. As in Courchevel, both elite athletes and recreational skiers are drawn to the course. The race starts in the evening and takes place on a lit course, though headlamps are still required. The course begins in Morgins and ascends to la Foilleuse and the Là Ô Restaurant. In Switzerland, where the Patrouille des Glaciers [Let’s link this, so folks can see what it is. Can link here: ] is a revered race, many racers show up to vertical races as training throughout the season and turnout is high. For those hoping to purchase dinner afterwards there are two menus offered at the nearby restaurant.
Race: Schwarzsee Vertical
Location: Near Fribourg, Switzerland
Stats: 2.8km and 450m+
The course from the Riggisalp valley station to the Berghaus Riggisalp is marked, groomed and partially illuminated as it occurs at 6PM. The competition course is only open on race day and is a popular event with 175 participants in 2023.
There are categories for race, recreation and snowshoeing. Both the start and finish are accessible to spectators and the restaurant at the finish, remains open until 9PM.
Location: Valloire, France
Stats: 500m+ and 1000m+ courses
Valloire, France is located in Maurienne, in southeastern France. The Valloire Vertical leaves from the base of the télécabine de la Sétaz and arrives at the summit of Cornafond 1000 meters later. The course with 500 meters of climbing begins on the same start and finishes halfway up, offering a more accessible course option.
The Valloire race is sponsored by Dynafit, and there is Dynafit gear to test for the event. There is a hot meal at the finish. The race starts in the morning and is typically held in mid-March.
More Uphill Events
The races above are only a small host of the copious events put on across the Alps. Other local races in the Alps include the Trace Des Grandes Vertical in Chamonix, France; the Belier Blanc in La Clusaz, France; the Montée de Sainte Foy Tarentaise in Sainte Foy, France; the Asitz Skitour Race in Leogang, Austria; the Assaut du Haut Fleury in Praz de Lys Sommand, France; and the Defi du CMSAB in Areches-Beaufort, France.
Wherever you may be, it is likely that the local sports club has an opportunity for uphill enthusiasts to share in the suffering of racing uphill together!
Why Trail Runners Skimo
Want to learn more about getting started in skimo, and why it’s a popular winter training for trail runners? Grace wrote a blog about that too – Skimo for Trail Runners: A Brief Primer.