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Via Valais Q&A: The Alps’ New Multi-Day Trail Run

Via Valais Q&A: The Alps’ New Multi-Day Trail Run

Feb 21, 2019

This coming trail-running season, Run the Alps is excited to be offering the Via Valais, a new multi-day, trail-running route developed by the team over at ALPSinsight.

A new twist on the classic hiker’s Haute Route, the Via Valais focuses on the very best mountain running available in the region.

Run the Alps has just announced a guided trip along this route. We expect it to sell out. You can check out Run the Alps’ version of the Via Valais route right here.

Run the Alps talked with ALPSinsight partner Dan Patitucci about the thinking behind the route, what they found on the ground– and a few surprises along the way. Here’s what he had to say.

Above Moiry Lake heading up to the Corne de Sorebois on the way to Zinal. (PatitucciPhoto.)

Run the Alps: How did the idea of the Via Valais develop?

Dan: After finishing the Run the Alps Switzerland book and Elevation: The Alps Trail & Peak Running Resource we realized in the summer of 2018 that the Alps had one thing missing, a trail-running grand tour made by runners, for runners. We didn’t want to run a hiking tour, or a race route, we wanted something all our own. So we connected some of our favorite trails in the Alps and created the Via Valais, which, after running in mountains all around the world, we feel are the absolute best trails for running. That, plus having an infrastructure to support running days-on-end with nothing more than a 15-liter running pack.

Run the Alps: What was the research and recon like for it? What was the process? 

Dan: The line we chose parallels the summer Haute Route. But while the Haute Route goes straight up one side of a valley and straight down into the next, which is the most direct line, we opted to follow the natural contours of these valleys and flow in and out of them. This made the days longer, but mostly on runnable trails. We also wanted to include an optional peak to climb each day, for the supremely fit or overly motivated. On stage 7, the Via Valais crosses the Alps’ highest summit with an official trail to the top, the 3610m Barrhorn.

The process was two part. We already knew the section from the Becs de Bosson Hut, so we started from Vercorin and ran through to Zermatt, all on the exact trails we knew. It was perfect. But we knew we needed to start in Verbier, so as to link two famous Alps towns.

But, the Verbier trails were tricky. We decided to not go to the Prafleuri Hut as the terrain is not ideal for running and the hut not in a nice setting. So after three attempts of linking trails, we discovered the perfect solution of going to the Cabane d’Essertze.

Besides not wanting to be on the Haute Route (we do share the route for a short section from Verbier) we also wanted to avoid time near ski infrastructure. After figuring out how to avoid Prafleuri, we thought we had the route figured out. But then, when running it through, we didn’t like another section above Evolene. So again, we had to re-design the stage. This time, it was snowing and we thought we’d run out of time. On our last mission, we found the Pas de Lovegno connecting Evolene with the Becs de Bosson and voila… the Via Valais goes!

On the move up high along the Via Valais. (PatitucciPhoto.)

Run the Alps: How do the three of you work together?

Dan: Besides being three mountain runners, we all manage a business together. For our followers, we have ALPSinsight: The Alps Mountain Sport Resource, but on the back end, we are professional content providers for the outdoor industry and tourism destinations.

Janine manages all our digital assets, does all the project planning, and most importantly for people who enjoy the Via Valais, runs from our project, Elevation, and all the Run the Alps Switzerland book runs – she is the designer of every tour. Love (or hate) mail should all go to her!

Kim, Dan, and Janine in their office. (PatitucciPhoto.)

Kim Strom is our writer, web and graphic designer, and running model extraordinaire. She’s also starting to get more involved with the image production.

I’m the communications guy, who does all the marketing and content licensing, and is the main photographer for all the sports.

Sometimes we may have to share the route with others… like these Valais Blacknose sheep! (PatitucciPhoto.)

Run the Alps: So… what’s next?

Dan: This year we’ll focus less on trail running and more on our Way Up project – which is running peaks that also require some climbing. We’d like to add more climbing content to our site and dial in what we offer people seeking info on Alps’ alpine tours, ski tours and mountain running. And some of the other Swiss cantons might be getting their own Via…. we’ll see.

Want to run the Via Valais?

Check out Run the Alps’ Guided Via Valais Trip

Doug Mayer
Doug Mayer is the founder of Run the Alps and lives in Chamonix, France with his labradoodle, Izzy. He is the author of The Race that Changed Running: The Inside Story of UTMB and writes for Outside Online and Ultrasignup News. His upcoming book is a graphic novel about Italy’s 330km long Tor des Géants trail race.