Beyond UTMB: The Ultimate Trail Races in the European Alps

8 February 2016 | Episode |

There are plenty of incredible races just outside our doorsteps to keep us busy and entertained for years. A couple of weeks ago, I highlighted some of the most amazing trail races in my home of the Pacific Northwest. Participating in a trail race in Europe feels far away, and certainly a thing for dreams, bucket lists, and once-in-a-lifetime vacation plans; it is also a great way of experiencing this region in a very unique way.  The Alps, in the heart of Europe, host many fabled trail races in some of the most iconic mountain locations in the world. UTMB is the grand daddy of all trail races. Beginning and ending in Chamonix, while circumnavigating Mont Blanc, it is definitely the most coveted of them all, but there are plenty others.

Many European ultra trail races start in the evening. You run the first leg of the race through the night and chase the rising sun. Some of the races I listed are now part of the Ultra-Trail World Tour and the longer and tougher ones require specific pre-race qualifications. The most popular races, just like in the US, sell out quickly.  Often, you find full multi-day festivals around those long distance races in the Alps, with multiple distances and difficulties for every skill level.

If you love running, the alps and travel, what are you waiting for? It’s never to late to start dreaming, and never too early to start planning.

Zugspitze Ultratrail – Germany

The Zugspitze Ultratrail is 96.6 km race with 5.380 m of elevation. The races kick off in beautiful Garmisch Partenkirchen and winds around the Zugspitze Region, Germany’s highest mountain.

Date: June 18th 2016.
Cost: Up to 115 Euro for the Ultra.


TransAlpine Run – Germany, Austria, Italy

The TransAlpine Run is a quick 251.30 km race with an elevation gain of over 15,000 meters. It also begins in the German mountain capital Garmisch Partenkirchen, crosses the Alps and finishing in South Tyrollean Brixen. The race is meant to be run by a team of two runners, and you have a week to cover the distance.

Date: September 4-10, 2016
Cost: 1500€ for two


Großglockner Berglauf – Austria

The selective route (12.67 km) of the famous Grossglockner Mountain Run leads through gorgeous alpine vegetation sections. After the start in Heiligenblut, the run follows the river Möll. Passing the numerous, historic alpine mountain huts, one of the first highlight is the famous Briccius chapel. After passing the “Trogalm,” the athletes enter the area of the Nationalpark Hohe Tauern. The “Pasteurize”, the longest glacier in the Eastern Alps, is the next highlight. The final climb of 900 meters challenges the competitors, but the stunning Grossglockner view, and the cheering crowd at the finish line excuses anything. The total elevation gain is 1.494 meters. The Grossglockner Mountain Race is limited to 1,000 participants.

Date: July 17, 2016
Cost: Starts at 55€


Mozart 100 -Austria

Following the footprints of Mozart around Salzburg, Austria’s most beautiful ultra scenic run takes place on the trails of Sound of Music. An exciting event for experienced ultra athletes, ultra newcomers and runners of all classes.

Date: June, 18, 2016
Cost: Starting at 59€


Ultra Tour Monte Rosa – Switzerland

A beautiful mountain ultra marathon partly encircling Monte Rosa, the route is from the village of Cervinia, Italy at the southern foot of the Matterhorn to Grächen high on an alp above the Matter Vispa, a tributary of the Rhone, Switzerland. This run is an exploration on high, wild trails, offering views of a host of 4000m summits, the perfect running companions.
116 km | + 7,500 m ASCENT

Date: September, 1-3, 2016
Cost: 195€


Eiger Ultra Trail – Switzerland

Does it get any better than running in the shadows of one of the most iconic mountains in the world? Please sign me up! The race begins at Grosse Scheidegg. From there, you make your way toward Kleine Scheidegg and traverse along the base of the Eiger North Face. It’s a spectacular and unforgettable alpine experience.

Date: Juli 16+17 2016
Cost: Starting at 175€


Zermatt Marathon – Switzerland

Talking about iconic mountains. Take on the beautiful surrounds of the Zermatt region below the fabled Matterhorn.

Date: July 2, 2016
Cost: Stating at 108€


Lavaredo Ultra Trail – Italy

Taking place in one of my absolute favorite regions in the Alps, the Dolomites. The races in the Cortina region are spectacular mountain races in breath-taking scenery.

Date: June 24, 2016
Cost: Starting at 110€


Südtirl Ultra Skyrace – Italy

The Südtirol Ultra Skyrace is an extreme running race that extends through mountainous areas in the Sarntaler Alps, on an extremely varied circuit running along the high mountain trail “Hufeisentour”. In a number of sections, the circuit requires sure footing, freedom from dizziness and – above all – excellent psycho-physical condition. At all points on the circuit, athletes can marvel at a breathtaking 360° panorama that comprises the Dolomites (a UNESCO World Heritage site), the Zillertal Alps, the Ötztal Alps, the Stubai Alps, the Ortles area, the Brenta area and many other natural wonders, all close at hand.

Date: July 29-31, 2016
Cost: Starting at 110€


UTMB – France

No other race captures the imagination of runners all over the world. Doing the Tour du Mont Blanc, one discovers an incomparable universe, the impressive and magical high mountains; it is sharing the eternal dream of the pioneers, crossing the magical gardens of Gaston Rebuffat, the stories of Roger Frison Roche and discovering the intimate geography of the summits: the roundness of the Mont-Blanc, the ridge of Bioassay, the Noire de Peuterey, the Dent du Géant, the wall of the Grandes-Jorasses, the northern and southern peaks of the Aiguille du Tour, the Aiguille Verte, the vertical of the Drus.

Date: August 22-28, 2016
Cost: Starting at 219€


Interested in getting started with trail running? Read Trail Running – a Primer in our brand new Summit Book 2016.


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