Winter sports/09/22/2022

The 6 Toughest Ski Touring Races in the World

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Ski mountaineering races are not only an enjoyable sport. They can also be tough competition. The best known is probably the Patrouille des Glaciers in Switzerland. has an overview of the most important and most difficult ski touring races.

The participant at the carrying passage of the Pierra Menta.
The carrying passage at the Pierra Menta.

Ski touring has developed from a trend to a popular sport over the last five years. On the one hand, the development corresponds to the growing need for individualization: the motto is to leave one's own traces in untouched snow.

But also the experience of nature and the deceleration of the ever more hectic everyday life are reasons for the increasing popularity of the touring sport. Another important factor is the continuing fitness boom. More and more endurance athletes view their touring equipment as a training device with which they can keep fit even in winter. This motivation is the reason for the constantly increasing number of ski touring fans.

Ski Mountaineering Was Olympic Until 1948

Ski mountaineering combines the aforementioned reasons and expands them to another component: the alpine challenge. This diversity makes the sport attractive not only for participants, but also for spectators.

What most people don't know: The discipline already has a long tradition as a competitive sport. Already in 1893, the first races took place in Germany. In the following years, the competitions were popular primarily as military patrol runs. Between 1924 and 1948 the sport was even Olympic.

Here are the biggest, most famous and hardest ski race in the world, which every ambitious ski mountaineer secretly dreams of. A list to marvel at, cheer on and participate in.

1. Patrouille des Glaciers: Zermatt - Verbier / Switzerland

The "Patrouille des Glaciers" is the largest ski mountaineering race in the world. The legendary competition was held for the first time in 1943 and originally served to test the Swiss troops. The race is still organized by the Swiss Army and takes place every two years. Lastly 4,800 participants fought for victory in three-strand teams on the 53 kilometre route from Zermatt to Verbier.

  • Next appointment: 25 April - 1 May 2022, you can register here.

  • Route: Zermatt - Verbier

  • Distance: 57.5 KM

  • Altimeter: 4.386 QNH

  • Challenge: Above-average altitude, length of the course, glaciated terrain, scoring in the team

  • You can share the excitement at home with an app. Available at Google Play and at the i-Tunes Store.

2. Trofeo Mezzalama / Italy

The Trofeo Mezzalama in the Italian Aosta Valley is the highest alpine ski touring race in the world. On the 45 kilometre stretch between Cervinia and Gressoney, the athletes conquer 2,862 metres of ascent and 3,145 metres of descent in three-strand teams. The 4,000-meter mark is crossed several times. The competition was held for the first time in 1975 as the World Ski Mountaineering Championships. The race is named after Ottorino Mezzalama (1888-1931), a pioneer of military ski mountaineering in Italy.

  • Next appointment: to be defined, here you can register.

  • Route: Breuil-Cervinia - Gressoney-La-Trinité

  • Distance: 45 KM

  • Altimeter: 2,862 HM in the ascent and 3,145 HM in the descent

  • Challenge: extreme altitude, glacier terrain, scoring in teams of 3

3. Pierra Menta / France

The Pierra Menta is the biggest and toughest ski touring race in France. During the competition, the racers surmount more than 10,000 metres of altitude difference in ascent and descent in four days. The track is adapted annually to the current snow conditions and always has new surprises in store. In order to not suffer alone, one starts in teams of two.

  • Next appointment: March  - 12, 2022.

  • Route: variable

  • Distance: variably

  • Altimeter: 10,000 QNH in ascent and descent

  • Challenge: 4-day stage race, team competition, flexible routing, extreme carrying passages

  • You can witness the race daily from 7 - 12 o'clock on the Webradio Pierra Menta.

4. Mountain Attack - Ski Marathon / Austria

At the legendary Mountain Attack in Saalbach-Hinterglemm, the racers climb six peaks, 3,010 metres of altitude difference and roughly 40 kilometres at a record speed of just under 2.5 hours. The competition is one of the biggest and toughest touring ski races in Austria and attracts 1,100 participants from over 20 nations every year. The race was held for the first time in 1999 and every year since then.

  • Next appointment: January 14, 2022, you can register here.

  • Route: Circuit through the Glemmtal with start in Saalbach

  • Distance: 40 KM

  • Altimeter: 3.010 QNH

  • Challenge: extreme ascents of up to 70 percent and 6 peaks

  • Live stream for the race

5. Jennerstier - Individual / Germany

"Whoever wins the Jenner is a bull." The most demanding ski tour race on German soil is not particularly long. Nevertheless, the route in the Berchtesgaden National Park is steep and challenging. On the circuit the ski tour racers must tackle 5 ascents, 2 stretches and 5 descents. The 2019 race will also decide the German Championship.

  • Next appointment: tbd, here you can register.

  • Route: middle station Jennerbahn - Jennergipfel

  • Distance: 6 KM

  • Altimeter: 1.200 QNH in ascent and descent

  • Challenge: Short, but extreme; fast changes between ascent, descent and stretches require particularly efficient technology.

6. Sellaronda Ski Marathon / Italy

The participants of the Sellaronda Skimarathon start at nightfall in a mass start and equipped with headlamps on the 42 km long route over four Dolomite passes: Pordoi, Sella, Val Gardena and Campolongo. The athletes cover a distance of 2,700 metres in altitude during their circumnavigation of the Sella massif. The race takes place in the dark and in teams of two.

  • Next appointment: March 25, 2022, here you can register.

  • Route: Circumnavigation of the Sella massif with start in Selva Gardena

  • Distance: 42 KM

  • Altimeter: 2.700 QNH

  • Challenge: night race, team classification

Participating in the most challenging ski race in the world  is a way to test your willpower, skills, and luck! The conditions in which the athletes compete are definitely a challenge to human character and physical abilities, as well as the desire to conquer the toughest ski race routes.

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