We've had some scorching mini-heatwaves recently that have put us well in the mood for summer activities. One of the fastest growing sports here and in the UK is trail running and Chamonix is so well set-up for this particular sport that it has declared itself the "Vallée du Trail", we have detailing local trail running routes here, giving info such as maps, distances, elevation, etc.
If you need a bit of motivation to get you out onto the trails then signing up for an event is the ideal way to get focussed; the Marathon du Mont Blanc filled up in record time this year, but there are still the Trail du Fiz and the Trail des Aiguilles Rouges to consider - as well as many others that take place in the surrounding area. All these races may seem pretty hardcore but they all have shorter "sister-races" for people who aren't ready to tackle the full distance yet.
Although the Marathon du Mont Blanc (42km) and the Mont Blanc Cross (23km) are both fully subscribed, there are still places left on the Mont Blanc 10km which takes place on Saturday 29th June. It follows a challenging but fun route through the woods and alongside the river; hilly and involving a fair bit of fancy footwork to navigate the narrow twisty trails it covers 325m of ascent and the same in descent, as it is a circular route beginning and ending in the parapente field near to the sports centre. The race is well supported and you get plenty of cheering along the way from locals and fellow runners - it's a great first taste for those who want to give trail running a try.
Those who prefer a short sharp sprint (masochists, I believe they are also known as) may prefer to give the Vertical KM a whirl. Starting in the centre of Chamonix one simply sets one's sights on the top of the Brevent-Planpraz gondola and legs it up there as fast as possible. Simple as that. 3.8km and 1000m of ascent in one go, not recommended for folks with vertigo as the steeper sections involve pulling yourself up on rails and metal ropes. If that's the sort of thing that floats your boat then either go and seek professional help or sign up here.
The Trail du Tour des Fiz takes place just outside of Chamonix in the neighbouring region of Passy on Sunday 29th July. The Rochers des Fiz is the towering rock face that you can see looming over Servoz and the Tour des Fiz is a popular hiking trail that circles it's way around the stunningly beautiful plateau at the top. When I say plateau though, I don't mean that it is flat up there... far from it. The terrain undulates and changes underfoot from rocky scrambles, to lush meadows, to steep calf-burning tracks - all interspersed with lakes, waterfalls and gorges, see here for video footage of last year's event. The Quechua Tour des Fiz is the big daddy, taking in 64km and 5300m of ascent to be completed in a maximum time of 16 hours; the shorter P'Tit Tour des Fiz is a mere 30km and just 2400km of ascent with an 8 hour cut-off time. Both set off from Plaine Joux which is a popular leisure spot in the summer, so there is usually a good atmosphere and plenty of support from spectators. If either of these races interest you then you can find out more here.
The final trail event of the season is the Trail des Aiguilles Rouges on 29th September, a race that keeps the same distance but changes the route each year so you can enter time after time and always run a new course. It takes you further away from civilisation than the others and is renowned for it's thigh-trembling long ascents and knee-destroying steep descents. This year's course looks slightly more pleasant than in previous years, which is why I am giving it another go having failed to complete 2 years ago. The full version starts from Chamonix centre and ends up in Vallorcine 50km later via Merlet, Aiguillettes des Houches, Brevent, Col de la Gliere, Flegere, Argentiere and Aiguillettes des Posettes at the top of the Le Tour ski area. The shorter P'Tit TAR covers the final Argentiere to Vallorcine stretch, which might only be 15km but includes ones of the hardest climbs and steepest descents up and over the Col des Posettes. The cut-off times are quite short for this event, so speed is your friend! (Especially if you want to finish before all the free tartiflette has gone.) Inscriptions were already 82% full this time last week so get a wriggle on if you think this sounds like your kind of day out.
There is of course the almighty Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc to take into account - 168km round the foot of the Mont Blanc glacier, passing through France, Switzerland and Italy - but the 2013 edition is already fully subscribed and points are needed to enter (points are gained by completing other shorter but still scarily long races to prove that you're mad/strong enough to take part). It's a great spectator event though and the whole of Chamonix really gets behind all the various races that the event hosts with constant support and cheering for every individual or team that takes part from all over the world.
If you're in need of new running shoes (or any other kit for that matter) then my personal recommendation is to head to Ravanel Sports and ask to speak to Matt. He'll have a look at your feet, your balance, the wear on your old shoes and recommend something specific to what you want - he knows his stuff!
Should any further inspiration be needed then look no further than this incredible episode of Kilian's Quest filmed right here in Chamonix and featuring 3 time Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc winner and all-round trail running hero Kilian Jornet - enjoy!
What you say - tell us what you're thinking
Chamonix Activity Report: 19th February 2013
Joining the procession down the Pierre Ric
James Fisher | Video Editor | published: 21st February 2013
The torch-lit descent is a classic family event. In ski resorts all over the world crowds gather to watch the ski instructors snake down the hill their way lit by their flaming torches. It is a great spectacle in Argentiere, Chamonix and is an event anyone can join in. more »
Summer 2012 Over & Out
Alison Shayler | Ski Editor | published: 28th September 2012
The smell of autumn is in the air, the nights are drawing in and this weekend sees us getting geared up for the last big sporting event of the season, the Trail des Aiguilles Rouges (TAR). Looks like summer 2012 really is over! more »
Chamonix Activity Report: 24th September 2012
A little bit of hiking & a lot of eating
Alison Shayler | Ski Editor | published: 24th September 2012
The weather today has been the kind that is better for ducks than people, but sometimes that is a blessing in disguise. After a heavy weekend of hiking, eating and maybe a drink or two I'm more than happy to stay indoors today with a mug of tea and a packets of Hobnobs for company. more »
Autumnal hiking, no lifts required!
Alison Shayler | Ski Editor | published: 21st September 2012
With most of the lifts in the valley now closed for the autumn (with the exceptions of Aiguille du Midi and Montenvers) it's now all about low-level hiking or getting up high under your own steam. more »
Chamonix Activity Report: 17th September 2012
The hike of the mythical chocolate cake
Alison Shayler | Ski Editor | published: 17th September 2012
I've been doing it again, last minute panic-hiking... the Bellevue cable car at Les Houches closes next weekend (23rd) and after having not been up there all summer I've been 4 times in the last 10 days. more »
Chamonix Activity Report: 14th September 2012
Trail running in the rain
Alison Shayler | Ski Editor | published: 13th September 2012
Summer is starting to fade now and autumn is definitely in the air; it is still plenty warm enough to enjoy sunny afternoon hikes and al fresco lunches but the mornings are getting a bit nippy and there have been a few more rainy days of late than we've been accustomed to recently. more »
Chamonix Activity Report: 10th September 2012
Hiking at Le Tour & Vallorcine
Alison Shayler | Ski Editor | published: 10th September 2012
It feels like summer is ending much too soon; this weekend was the last for the Grands Montets and Le Tour lifts and for the outdoor swimming pool, yet the sun is still shining and the days are still long. more »
Chamonix Activity Report: 7th September 2012
Hiking, goats & cheese in Les Houches
Alison Shayler | Ski Editor | published: 6th September 2012
The end of the summer is nigh and the usual panic is setting in about doing every possible hike/bike/climb in the valley before the lifts close and the skies turn from blue to grey. more »
Chamonix Activity Report: 3rd September 2012
Emosson Dam in Switzerland
Alison Shayler | Ski Editor | published: 3rd September 2012
So the UTMB has been and gone, not exactly as planned but considering the dire weather I think they did a pretty good job at finding a way for the various races to go ahead. Congratulations and huge amounts of respect to everyone who took part, not a small challenge at the best of times but made even more harder when you throw in heavy rain and even a bit of snow for good measure! more »
Chamonix Activity Report: 31st August 2012
Road biking from Chamonix to Switzerland
Alison Shayler | Ski Editor | published: 31st August 2012
This summer has been all about the road bikes; I don't know whether it's the "Wiggo Effect" or just the fact that its been so hot that we'll do anything for a cool breeze, but everyone I know seems to have developed a penchant for lycra recently. more »
Chamonix Activity Report: 27th August 2012
Sports Special! Triathlon du Passy & Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc
Alison Shayler | Ski Editor | published: 27th August 2012
This week I can proudly announce that I competed in my first ever triathlon! Well, OK, a mini-triathlon... and I only did the running bit... which was only 5km... but it still counts, right?! more »
Chamonix Activity Report: 24th August 2012
Cycling in Les Houches & Parc de Merlet
Alison Shayler | Ski Editor | published: 24th August 2012
This week has been so hot that running and hiking just haven't seemed very appealing, unless you go up high in search of cool breezes. Instead I've been getting out on my trusty steed and giving the road biking a go. more »
Chamonix Activity Report: 21st August 2012
Via Ferrata Adventures in Passy
Sophie Nicholson | Chamonix Editor | published: 21st August 2012
If you’re anything like me then being active is as important as brushing your teeth and you don’t let anything like 35 degree heatwaves, a total lack of air, and a constant flow of perspiration keep you from getting out and about to do ‘stuff’!! When heat like we’re currently experiencing descends upon our Alpine valley, we have just got to think smart and adapt to what nature is telling us. more »
Chamonix Activity Report: 20th August
Hiking with Hounds : Dog-Friendly Walks in the Chamonix Valley
Alison Shayler | Ski Editor | published: 20th August 2012
The French are known for their love of dogs and here in Chamonix they are in their element with so much open space to run around in. They are welcome in most bars, many restaurants and their presence is very rarely frowned upon anywhere. more »
Chamonix Activity Report: 16th August 2012
Monkeying around in Gaillands and MTB in Vallorcine
Ellie Mahoney | Chamonix Editor | published: 16th August 2012
Fete des Guides & Day Tripping in Annecy
Alison Shayler | Ski Editor | published: 16th August 2012
This week we experienced an occurrence so rare that it can only be classed as a phenomenon; more unusual than hen's teeth, two headed cats or a convincing "live" performance from Cheryl Cole. On 15th August 2012 we experienced good weather for the Fete des Guides. more »