Run the Alps’ August 2014 Tour

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How to Trail Run Through the Alps in 12 Days

I have a bit of a problem with Switzerland, when it comes to trail running. When friends ask, “So, what’s the trail running like over there?” I start with the usual suspects: classic mountain huts, vistas that do literally get you to stop in your tracks, the hypnotic sound of cowbells in the distance. It’s all true, and it makes for some of the best running anywhere.

Run the Alps' Jim Maddock cruises through the Berner Oberland. Not all of us go that fast! (Jim placed 9th in last summer's 30k-length edition of the Ultraks trail race in Zermatt.)

Run the Alps’ Jim Maddock cruises through the Berner Oberland. Not all of us go that fast! (Jim placed 9th in last summer’s 30k-length edition of the Ultraks trail race in Zermatt.)

Then… I get flummoxed. Where do I go next? The really cool trail-racing scene? The Berner Oberland, or the Valais peaks along the border with France and Italy? Do I mention renowned destinations like Grindelwald and Gstaad, or the quiet, hidden villages that have won over my heart? And what about endless array of the Swiss Alpine Club’s high huts? Oh, and there’s the food– local cheeses and wine, pastries that are practically screaming at you. Even the yogurt and muesli at breakfast is tasty.

When it came time for Troy from Alpinehikers and me to figure out a trail running tour that would sample all that Switzerland has to offer when it comes to trail running, we batted emails back and forth for quite a while. We discussed the pros and cons of various villages, trail races, mountain huts, hotels, time of year… you name it.

Here’s my report of that process:

I think we nailed it!

Our August tour offers a great sampler of Swiss Alp trail running: the beautiful and quiet Val Anniviers villages of St. Luc and Zinal, arguably the center of trail running in the Alps. Sierre-Zinal, hands-down one of the world’s greatest trail races. A trip to Leukerbad, for the town’s unique at-your-own-pace trail race to the top of Gemmipass. Inn-to-inn running to Kandersteg, and a night up at a Swiss Alpine Club hut. And, for the trip’s conclusion, a chance to kick back in Gstaad, enjoy a great dinner, and reflect on a dozen days of running through the Alps.

Looks like a good spot for lunch, doesn't it? Cabane d'Antheme, above Champéry.

Looks like a good spot for lunch, doesn’t it? Cabane d’Antheme, above Champéry.

The truth is one could spend a lifetime wandering around the Swiss Alps, and never get through your list of places to visit. (I have at least two friends confronting this very dilemma, as they head into their forties.)

I’m biased, of course. But, if you have a week or two, and are looking for a pretty darned good sampler, I happen to have a suggestion.

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