Learn to Trail Run in the Swiss Alps

Guided By

Roberto Rivola

Tour dates July 28 - August 3, 2022

Giles Ruck

Tour dates July 28 - August 3, 2022

Summary

Our dream introduction to trail running! Begin the week in Switzerland's wild Engadine valley and finish with a few days at the foot of the Matterhorn in Zermatt.

Date

July 28 - August 3, 2022

Length

7 days, 6 nights

Tour Category

Village-based

Tour Challenge

Learn more

Fees

$3,300 per person.

$800 single supplement fee.

Whats included

Guided daily runs with an International Mountain Leader experienced in teaching trail running skills, accommodations for 6 nights at 3-star and 4-star hotels in Pontresina and Zermatt, Switzerland, all breakfasts and dinners, trail snacks, 2nd class tickets on the renowned Glacier Express with 3 course meal, transfers to and from trail heads, copies of Trail Running Illustrated, Run the Alps Guide to Trail Running in the Alps, Run the Alps Guide to Trail Racing.

Description

Here it is!

This is the introduction to trail running course that we have always wanted to offer. 

Our dream trip begins in a valley that’s one of the great trail running secrets of the Alps, the wild and beautiful Engadine. Here, in one of our favorite hidden corners of Switzerland, the trails are little-traveled, smooth and flowy. It’s authentic Switzerland, where life goes on in small villages much as it has for centuries. We’ll stay in sporty Pontresina, where the mountains are also home to one of the largest ibex reserves in the Alps. An outdoors-oriented village, Pontresina is where climbers, skiers and trail runners stay when they visit the Engadine. Endurance athletes come to train here, thanks to the valley’s altitude of 1800m – the optimal elevation for effective altitude training. A few kilometers away sits the famous town of St Moritz, a luxury Alpine resort that has hosted the winter Olympics twice. There’ll be time for your guide to show you around St. Moritz, too, if you like. 

Runner in the Engadine Ultracks race

Smooth, untrammeled trails are a hallmark of the Engadine region. (Photo courtesy of Engadine St. Moritz Ultraks.)

While in the Engadine, we’ll be hosted by Roberto Rivola, one of Switzerland’s most talented, supportive and friendly trail running guides. Roberto grew up in Switzerland, settling in this region nearly a decade ago– it’s a place where, as he puts it, “I find inspiration and can live my passion for nature.” Roberto has run and raced around the world, from Hawaii to Iceland, and even the Gobi desert, often finishing on the podium for his age group. But, don’t be intimidated– his upbeat energy and enthusiasm always combine for a fun, easy-going experience as you learn to trail run amid some of the world’s most beautiful scenery.

Roberto will guide us informally through a series of skills, covering what to bring for a day in the mountains, techniques for climbing and descending, how to nimbly manage different trail surfaces, and how to set an enjoyable, sustainable pace. 

A runner in the Swiss Alps with a lake behind.

Roberto running beside a high mountain tarn in the Engadine. (Photo: Roberto Rivola.)

After a few days of exploring the Engadine and having wonderful dinners together in Pontresina, we’ll ride one of the world’s most famous trains, the Glacier Express. We’ll travel through the heart of the Alps, from St. Moritz to the car-free alpine village of Zermatt, literally at the foot of the Matterhorn. It’s a trip you’ll remember your entire life!

In Zermatt, we’ll be joined by Run the Alps guide Giles Ruck, another of the Alps’ noted trail running teachers. In this world-famous mountain village, we’ll use the terrain to our advantage as we learn the basics of pacing on uphills, using trail running poles efficiently and effectively, and running safely and efficiently downhill. 

Learn to trail run with the Matterhorn never far from our gaze. (Photo: PatitucciPhoto).

This trip is designed specifically for guests with little or no prior trail running experience. We’ll learn together amid some of the most beautiful scenery the Alps have to offer.

Before the trip, we”ll give you lots of information on what to bring, and can help with choosing the right gear for you.

On the trip, skills we will cover include:

  • What to bring on the trail
  • Pros and cons of various trail running-specific gear
  • How to dress for trail running in the mountains
  • Pacing for all-day trail running with varying terrains
  • Fueling and nutrition for beginning trail runners
  • How to run safely on challenging terrain
  • Using trail-specific gear, such as trail running poles
  • Tips for taking part in trail racing

You should be fit enough to hike all day. If you have questions, you can chat with us via the web site or drop us a note any time!

 

Day-by-day
Day 1

Your Run the Alps trip will start with a train ride through the very heart of Switzerland! You’ll ride Switzerland’s famously comfortable and efficient rail system to the country’s eastern border with Austria, near Davos, and into the countryside of the Engadine valley. We’ll gather late in the afternoon for a group orientation, then will enjoy a classic Swiss dinner in our traditional Swiss hotel, built in the 17th century.

 

  • Hotel Steinbock
  • Dinner
Day 2

It’s time to learn to trail run! With Roberto leading us, we’ll gently ease into the world of trail running, learning as we run up into the wild Rosegtal valley, through larch forests, past the Roseg Gletscher mountain inn– perhaps stopping for a treat of Engadiner nusstorte nut cake– and into high alpine meadows, finishing at the glacier-fed Lake Vadret. Today, we’ll focus on tips for running with a group, pacing, fueling and nutrition.

A trail runner passes through a hamlet of small, stone huts.

Our trip will take us right through quiet, ages-old hamlets. (Photo: PatitucciPhoto).

 

  • Hotel Steinbock
  • Breakfast, Trail Snacks, Dinner
  • 15km, 500m to 1000m ascent and descent
Day 3

Today we’ll tackle something a bit more challenging– perhaps to Lake Lunghin, high above Malojapass, where the Inn, Maira and Julia rivers originate before flowing to the Black Sea, the Mediterranean Sea and the North Sea. We’ll run from Lake Sils with its turquoise waters to a high alpine tarn, and learn the skills to have confidence going up and down slightly more rocky, technical trails, and cover the basics of dressing for mountain weather. We’ll even experience a bit of exposure, and learn convenient tips for keeping a cool head in big mountains. 

Running on smooth trails above the Engadine valley (Photo: Robert Rivola).

Running on smooth trails above the Engadine valley (Photo: Roberto Rivola).

  • Hotel Steinbock
  • Breakfast, Trail Snacks, Dinner
  • 15-20km, 500m to 1500m ascent and descent
Day 4

After an optional, short early morning run for those who want to stretch their legs, we’ll board a panorama car on the Glacier Express. We’ll have a catered lunch during the eight-hour epic trip between the mountain railway stations of St. Moritz and Zermatt. The Glacier Express passes through the very center of the Alps. 291 kilometers (181 miles) long, the route crosses 291 bridges and passes through 91 tunnels, reaching a highpoint of 2,033 meters (6,670 feet) at Oberalp Pass. This is a rail trip you’ll never forget!

A train travels across a bridge in the Swiss Alps.

The Swiss Glacier express makes use of some of the world’s most elaborate rail engineering. (Photo courtesy of Glacier Express.)

  • Hotel Europe
  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner
Day 5

Now, we’re encircled by some of the world’s most famous peaks, with the legendary Matterhorn literally looming above our hotel. On our run today we’ll cover climbing and descending on steeper mountain trails, perhaps reaching the 360-degree scenic highpoint of Gornergrat or the Hörnli hut, where climbers sleep before rock climbing to the top of the Matterhorn. A lift up or down will make the day a bit easier for those wanting to ease into this vertical terrain. Sauna and steam rooms await tired muscles back at the hotel!

Today is Swiss National Day, so we can head out to take in Switzerland’s version of the July 4th holiday with fireworks, bonfires, antique Swiss costumes and the stirring sounds of Swiss alphorns echoing off the mountain walls!

Trail runners above treeline in Zermatt, Switzerland with Matterhorn in front of them.

Running down from Gornergrat, the Matterhorn beckoning us forward. (Photo: Mark Brightwell).

 

  • Hotel Europe
  • Breakfast, Trail Snacks, Dinner
  • 10-20km, 600m to 1400m ascent and descent
Day 6

Now it’s on to a quiet corner of the Zermatt valley. We’ll climb gently to Berggasthaus Trift, stopping to visit with Hugo and Fabienne, two of the Alps’ more notable mountain hut guardians. From there, we’ll switchback up the valley to 2,640 meters (8,661 feet), running to Höhbalmen, with its alpine flowers and jaw-dropping, up-close view of the Matterhorn and the Monte Rosa range with its dozen glaciated peaks that tower to over 4,000 meters. From this vantage point, we’ll cruise on smooth single track back to town– perhaps with a stop at the charming Z’mutt cafe with its delicious Swiss and Italian treats.

trail runners stopped for a break on a trail with the Matterhorn and a waterfall behind them.

A waterfall and the ever-present Matterhorn call for a photo timeout above Zermatt. (Photo: Bruno Yates.)

  • Hotel Europe
  • Breakfast, Trail Snacks, Dinner
  • 10-20km, 600m to 1400m ascent and descent
Day 7

After another deluxe breakfast at the Hotel Europe, it’s time to say our goodbyes. Giles will see you off, as you ride the train down from Zermatt, then on to either Zurich or Geneva for your flight home.

A runner in a pasture under the Matterhorn.

High above Zermatt, one of our final runs is also one of our most dramatic, with the Matterhorn in full view! (Photo: Patitucci Photo.)

  • Breakfast
Arrival

Plan to arrive in Zurich before noon.  The train from Zurich to Pontresina takes just under four hours. It’s a beautiful ride, as you travel through Switzerland to the wild and remote Engadine. Full information will be provided for traveling to Pontresina – with the Swiss rail network and our Run the Alps “Aid Station” helper documents, it’s easy!

We recommend splitting your ticket for a Zurich arrival and Geneva departure. If that’s not possible, consider arriving in Geneva a day early, and spending  the night in a beautiful village en route. Run the Alps can assist with this booking.

Departure

Your guide will see you off in Zermatt. From there, it’s an easy train ride down the valley, then through Switzerland’s Valais canton, and around Lake Geneva to the airport. Please schedule your flight departure for no earlier than noon. The train ride from Zermatt to the Geneva Airport takes about four hours.

For unique trail running clothing, visit Run the Alps partners, Insane Inside.