Trails and Tails

Guided By

Suze Walker

Tour dates August 1 - 7, 2022

Summary

Dogs + Alps + Trail running. What could possibly be better? If you’re a dog lover and you like to trail run in beautiful areas, well, your dream trip just arrived!

Date

August 1 - 7, 2022

Length

7 days, 6 nights

Tour Category

Hotel to hotel. One night in a rustic mountain hut.

Tour Challenge

Learn more

Fees

Fee: $2,995/person, $450 single supplement.

Whats included

Guided daily runs with an International Mountain Leader. Accommodations for 6 nights at 3- and 4-star hotels in Chamonix, France; Courmayeur, Italy; Grand St Bernard Pass and Montreux, Switzerland, and one night in a mountain hut in Switzerland. Baggage transfers, except for the night at La Peule, the mountain hut. All breakfasts and dinners. (Last evening's dinner is on your own.) Trail snacks. Session with Alps dog trainer. Entries to two museums and Col Grand St Bernard kennel. Shared shuttle transfer from Geneva airport to Chamonix and all taxi and train transfers until Martigny, Switzerland. Run the Alps Guide to Trail Running in the Alps.

Description

Here in the Alps, dogs are much more than companion animals. They fill vital roles supporting the work of humans – guarding animals in summer pastures and on farms, searching through avalanche debris for victims, and rescuing hikers and climbers in the high mountains. 

Over the years, we’ve noticed how many of our guests adore dogs and love to see how they are a key part of life in the Alps. We feel the same way! So, we decided to create a trail running tour featuring our favorite dog friends here in the Alps.

Martina Valmassoi playing with Izzy the Labradoodle.

Salomon athlete Martina Valmassoi battles it out with Izzy, Run the Alps’ Director of Hospitality and Ambassador of Joy. (Photo: Loic Bailliard.)

On this special first edition tour we’ll learn about the important roles dogs play in these mountains, and how they are trained for their unique lives of work and companionship. 

This point-to-point tour intersects with locations in the Alps that have a connection with mountain dogs. We’ll start in Chamonix, France, where our runs will be accompanied by four-legged Run the Alps Director of Hospitality, Izzy Mayer. We’ll also meet several of the resident dogs at area high mountain huts. 

Mimmi runs with her dog Enzo across a mountain pasture

Mimmi Kotka with her beautiful running companion, Enzo. (Photo: Toni Spasenoski.)

Next, we’ll visit with hiking guide and dog trainer, Xavier Pauget. Xavier is passionate about dogs and trains people to work effectively with them during avalanche rescues. With Xavier, we’ll experience first-hand the work of guardian dogs, and we’ll learn how to interact with these protective four-legged workers. We will also see a demonstration with his search dog, Caramel. 

From Chamonix, we’ll travel through the Mont Blanc tunnel to Courmayeur, Italy, on the “Sunny Side” of Mont Blanc. After enjoying some great Italian hospitality, we’ll run along one of the more scenic sections of the Tour du Mont-Blanc, then over the “TMB” high point of Grand Col Ferret and down into Switzerland’s Val Ferret. We’ll stay overnight at La Peule, a rustic mountain refuge and working farm in this remote valley where dogs are a vital part of farm life. The farmers will talk us through how Chiens d’Alpage work in the pastures, and we’ll even learn how the farmers make cheese! 

IML and Dog Trainer Xavier Pauget in a field training his dog Etel.

Mountain Leader and Dog Trainer, Xavier Pauget, and his committed student, Etel. (Photo: Xavier Pauget.)

Our tour will end with some of the most famous mountain dogs in the world, as we run along quiet alpine trails to the famous Grand St Bernard kennels, high on the Swiss-Italian border. For four centuries, the large, gentle, fluffy Saint Bernard dogs that we know and love have been bred here at the hospice as rescue dogs. 

On our way to Montreux on the shore of Lake Geneva, we’ll visit the Saint Bernard Museum, in the Rhône valley city of Martigny. We’ll bid adieu to you in Martigny, as you head off to Montreux for your final night in the Alps, and a chance to have a relaxing evening in this famous, beautiful Swiss city. Montreux is just an hour and fifteen minutes by train to the Geneva airport, so you’ll be well set up to depart the following morning. 

Run the Alps guide Suze Walker and her dog, Obi in Val Ferret, Italy, with Mont Blanc in the background

Tour guide Suze Walker and her Vizsla, Obi, on the Tour du Mont Blanc in Italy, in front of Mont Blanc. (Photo: Suze Walker.)

 

Day-by-day
Day 1

A shared shuttle will take you from Geneva airport to Chamonix – about a ninety minute journey. For those of you who arrive early, we’ll head out on an optional guided short afternoon run with our four-legged staff member, Izzy the Labradoodle. Before dinner, we’ll meet up in the beautiful garden of our hotel for an orientation briefing. Then, we’ll enjoy a delicious dinner in one of Chamonix’s many excellent restaurants.

 

 

  • Hotel Oustalet
  • Dinner
  • 7km, 300m ascent and descent
Day 2

After a buffet breakfast at our hotel, we’ll take a taxi down the valley to Les Houches to meet with Xavier Pauget and his search dog, Caramel. Xavier is one of the most friendly and enthusiastic people around, and has been training dogs for years. He’ll give us a demonstration of Caramel at work, and then we’ll learn from Xavier about Alps guardian dogs, which are used with increasing frequency, as wolves return to the Alps. In the process, we’ll learn how to interact with these specially-trained dogs.

Xavier Pauget's dog Etel with his backpack

Xavier’s dog Etel with his backpack, ready for action. (Photo: Xavier Pauget.)

In the afternoon, we’ll hop on the tram to take us up for a run along the ridge line above Les Houches, where mountaineers start their ascent of Mont Blanc.

 

  • Hotel Oustalet
  • Breakfast, trail snacks, dinner
  • 10-14km, 200m ascent, 800m descent
Day 3

Today, we’ll take the local valley train up to the village of Le Buet. From here, we’ll run a loop that reaches its high point at the Loriaz mountain refuge. We’ll stop for coffee and to shake paws with the hut dog, Nuptse, and take in the incredible Mont Blanc view. 

Nuptse, resident of Refuge Loriaz stands on a rock with the Aiguille Verte mountain visible behind

Nuptse, resident of Refuge Loriaz, with the Aiguille Verte mountain visible behind. (Photo Refuge de Loriaz.)

In the afternoon, we’ll say au revoir to Chamonix, traveling through the Mont Blanc tunnel to Courmayeur, Italy. This quaint town on the other side of Mont Blanc has a wonderful statue of a very special dog in the town center, with a unique story we’ll share with you while enjoying the evening passeggiata – a sociable walk through town enjoyed by Italians, and their dogs – before dinner out in one of Courmayeur’s restaurants.

 

  • Bouton d'Or
  • Breakfast, trail snacks, dinner
  • 12km 700m ascent and descent
Day 4

Today it’s a fast-packing trip for our run into Switzerland – the hut is too remote for our bags to be delivered, so for tonight only, we’ll be carrying what we need for the evening. You’ll need to bring a sleeping bag liner for the night in the small dorm room – we will give you all the information you need in our “Aid Station” document, A Night at an Alps hut. We’ll be well prepared for the big run today thanks to Patrizia and Andrea’s breakfast of pastries and other treats at Hotel Bouton d’Or. Our route takes us on the rolling section of trail between the Bertone and Bonatti Refugios, two wonderfully positioned mountain huts. After climbing Grand Col Ferret, we’ll cross into Switzerland and descend to our rustic mountain accommodations at the La Peule farm.

Patou (Alps guardian dog) puppy, growing up as part of the flock

We’ll learn about Guardian Dogs, or “Patou”, who grow up as part of the flock (Photo: Tumblr.com)

  • Refuge La Peule
  • Breakfast, trail snacks, dinner
  • 24km, 1700m ascent and 900m descent
Day 5

After a simple farm breakfast, we’ll head out on a wild route, leaving well-known trails behind. After a short descent into the Swiss Val Ferret we head up to the Fenêtre de Ferret, or window of Ferret, at the top of the valley. Here, at 2695m, we are on the Swiss-Italian border, and there should be great views into the Aosta valley in Italy and into Switzerland’s Rhône valley. From the high point it’s just a few kilometers to our overnight stop at Grand St Bernard Pass. We’ll check out the museum and soak in the history of this hospice, which was founded in 1050, and to this day is run by monks. And, of course, we’ll meet the famous St Bernard dogs that are raised here during the summer months. 

Tonight we stay in the cozy auberge, or mountain inn, across the road from the Hospice.

 

  • Auberge de l’Hospice
  • Breakfast, trail snacks, dinner
  • 12km, 1100m ascent and 700m descent
Day 6

This morning we’ll take a shared taxi to the Roman town of Martigny in Switzerland’s Rhône valley. Here, we’ll visit “Barryland” the St Bernard dog kennels and museum named for the most famous of St Bernards. 

A litter of St Bernard puppies at Barryland.

Four times a year there is a new litter of St Bernard puppies at Barryland in Martigny. (Photo: Barryland.)

From here, your guide will say goodbye and see you off on the train to Montreux. This town is famous for its annual jazz festival and is the perfect place to relax and take a swim in the lake. There are also plenty of running opportunities. Run the Alps will provide simple running route descriptions for the runs from Montreux. 

This evening you can either eat at the hotel, or head out to explore the town. It’s your choice. Whatever you do, be sure not to miss the statue of rock icon Freddie Mercury, a longtime favorite at the Montreux Jazz Festival!

View of Montreux town, on the shore of Lac Léman

Montreux town, on the shore of Lac Léman. (Photo: Helvetia.com.)

  • Hotel Eurotel
  • Breakfast, trail snacks
  • 5-15km, 100-800m ascent and descent
Day 7

Today you’ll bid adieu to your Trails and Tails trip, taking a train directly to Geneva Airport, a scenic ride along the shore of Lake Geneva.

  • Breakfast
Additional Information

Terms and Conditions: Read up on Run the Alps’ Terms and Conditions, Covid-19 policy, and travel insurance.

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