Swiss ski-nuts must stop glacier training

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It’s that time of twelvemonth when days are getting longer and then we can get-go thinking of large days in the mountains instead of merely storm skiing and occasional resort laps. For skimo racers, this ways thinking about the classic races, the Grande Course events.
One of the biggest and oldest is the Patrouille des Glaciers (PDG) that goes from Zermatt to Verbier in Switzerland. The 75 year old race covers 53 km and accumulates 4000m+ of climbing forth the archetype Haute Route, with approximately 3000 participating each year!
This year, we will be watching closely equally several N American teams are attending the 2018 edition and we have put together some tips to assist teams set for this big consequence in the future!

Athletes arriving in Verbier. Photo past PDG.

Getting In that location

Getting in that location is the first hurdle that athletes must tackle. Once a team has been selected for the race, they don’t have to worry about accommodation the nighttime earlier. All the same, it is wise to head to distance prior to the race (more on this subsequently) to acclimate.
Geneva, Switzerland is the closest major airport. Rent a motorcar from the “French Sector” of the airdrome where rentals are MUCH cheaper, just exist aware that driving on the autobahn (freeway) in Switzerland requires your car to have a vignette sticker which costs around 40 Euros. If you rent from the French side, your car likely volition not have a vignette. Yous may get away driving from the airport to Zermatt without 1, but you lot may go stopped at the border and forced to purchase one. Pleading ignorance volition hopefully forbid a fine.

Legendary village of Zermatt with the arguably the most iconic mountain in the world in the background. Photo by PDG.
Legendary village of Zermatt with the arguably the nigh iconic mountain in the world in the background. Photo past PDG.

The town of Zermatt, where the race starts, is really off limits to cars. Additionally, the start and terminate are in ii totally different areas. For a team with no support crew and traveling by car, it can exist hard. We advise parking a vehicle in the medium-sized town of Martigny, from here information technology is a short train ride to both Zermatt, for the start, and from Verbier at the finish.

There are festivities all along the course. Photo by PDG.
There are festivities all along the class. Photograph past PDG.

Staying Healthy

Another of import component of preparing for such a big race, especially in combination with traveling from North America to Europe, is staying healthy.

  • Don’t try to make up grooming in the terminal 2 weeks for the race, you should be doing that at present.
  • Use care on public transit – launder your hands often while flying and taking the train.
  • Schedule your flights to aid with your jet-lag past flying overnight.
  • Spend every bit much time at high altitude (above 2000 m) as possible, focus on training piece of cake, and to practise your downhills.
  • Eat healthy and sufficient calories. Don’t attempt to loose weight!
  • Sleep enough and well!

Tips on Dealing with Jet Lag

Because of the length of the race, the start takes place VERY early on in the morning. Don’t expect to get nifty or a long enough sleep so do your best to rest well in the days leading upwards to the race:

  • Arrive in Europe with plenty of time to overcome jet lag and optimize your sleep schedule (early on to bed, early wake-up).
  • Sleep lots in the nights preceding the race.
  • Use an centre shade and ear plugs if needed.

How Long Will information technology Take?

Finishing times in such a long race vary wildly so your all-time bet is to simulate about 1/2 to 2/three of the altitude and elevation gain in your training to effigy out how long your team might take to cease. With that, you lot will be able to figure out how much food and water you will need to bring too.
Current men’s grade record was set up in 2010 past a very potent Swiss squad with a finishing time of 5h 52min. Women’south tape stands at 7h 27min and was ready likewise, by historical standards, past a very strong team in 2014.
Nosotros expect that nigh male Due north American teams tin can terminate in around 8-12 hours and female teams in around 10-14h.

Swiss army is involved every step of the way with approximately 3000 members preparing and marshaling the course. Photo by PDG.
Swiss army is involved every step of the fashion with approximately 3000 members preparing and marshaling the form. Photograph by PDG.

PDG Race Logistics

Bring but what you lot need for the night before the race and the race itself to Zermatt. The organizers will only transport a pocket-size handbag to the terminate for you. Information technology’s best to go out your large suitcase in the car if possible.
The race often starts on foot in boondocks. Depending on the length of the dry out segment, yous may wish to bring or buy a pair of cheap sneakers to run the first section in. When yous switch to ski boots, you lot can leave the shoes with the race staff who so donate them.
Checking in is a long process. Arriving in Zermatt past railroad train the day earlier the race, yous will feel as though you walked into the skimo middle of the universe. Walking downward the main street, crowded with other athletes, ground forces members working for the race organization, and tourists will be very unique. The crowds are funneled towards the boondocks’south rec centre where check-in takes place. Exist prepared to testify each slice of your equipment to take it individually canonical – the Swiss military is very thorough. If yous are missing annihilation, vendors are available on site to buy equipment from but exist warned, the prices are in Swiss francs and are raised for the race. Avoid buying in Zermatt, try to buy gear elsewhere prior to arriving.

Most big races in Europe begin either with marching band or in with a mass in a church. Photo by PDG.
Nearly big races in Europe brainstorm either with marching band or in with a mass in a church. Photo by PDG.

PDG Route and Roping Up

Because it is the Patrouille des Glaciers, you volition be traveling on glaciers with crevasse danger. This necessitates that racers rope up for much of the itinerary.
The race organization volition bespeak where you must rope up and when yous can take it off. You must accept at least 30m, 8.5mm half rope. If you have a 29.5m rope, yous volition non be allowed to utilize it when you check in!
The PDG does allow teams to utilize bungee devices to make skiing with the rope easier. This makes a huge difference as it prevents the rope getting tangled in your skis:

  • Purchase 3 or 4mm bungee cord from a sport shop. Two 10m sections should be plenty. Also purchase a big purse of zip-ties.
  • The idea is to stretch the bungee out completely tight alongside the rope and then zip-tie them together in about x-15cm segments.
  • When the bungee relaxes, it creates pocket-size loops in the rope. This keeps the rope from going completely slack and then getting tangled in your skis.
  • You don’t want the Unabridged rope attached to the bungee. Exit ~2m at each cease and in the middle normal and then yous are able to tie in.
  • Practice tying into the center of the rope without using a carabiner (and with gloves on).
  • Practice skiing with the rope/bungee prior to the race with your teammates . It takes a LOT of time getting used to information technology!
  • You lot volition accept to remove the bungees from your rope to cheque in with the military and then reattach it afterwards.

Once you’ve checked in and been given your bib and hotel consignment, grab some Rosti (a Swiss specialty) in a nearby buffet and then check into your hotel.
The race briefing takes place in the evening. It’south a busy affair with a ring and many speeches in multiple languages. It might be wise to have merely the nearly responsible teammate attend the meeting while the others set up for the race. A French speaker will come home with the most data but critical details are given in English as well.
For a feel of history, cheque out this silent 18min film from the 1945 race later you terminate this article:

Altitude Acclimatization

Altitude at the PDG is a serious event (with much of the route above 2500 yard), unless you live in Colorado. Information technology is advisable to spend time at altitude to acclimatize before arriving for the race. Nosotros don’t however suggest you lot do this in Zermatt considering of the toll. Just on the other side of the Matterhorn lies the Italian resort town of Cervinia which is much cheaper and notwithstanding allows access to loftier mountains and the race course. Like altitudes can be establish in the Avoriaz and other areas in French republic.
A full acclimatization schedule of arriving 2 weeks prior to the race volition allow sufficient fourth dimension to get used to the altitude, overcome jet lag, and set equipment and team tactics. If you lot cannot practice that and so plan to arrive at least 5-half dozen days prior to deal with jet lag, just make sure to spend time at altitude at home.
» For detailed tips on distance acclimatization read our older postal service  – How to minimize effects of distance on skimo racing performance

Fueling Before and During the Race

Finally, fueling is a critical component for such a long race. While getting outside assist at specific points is possible there are no feed zones, so yous must adapt your own support group or do as follows:

  • Consume equally much as is possible the days before.
  • Wake up early enough to eat a big breakfast and assimilate it before the get-go.
  • You lot will be issued i Army Milk Chocolate bar at check in but don’t count on that during the race.
  • Brand certain you have both liquid and solid calories to final you through the duration of what you wait the effect to accept.
  • You lot don’t desire to, at well-nigh likely you won’t be able to, do the whole race on gels only – pack in some bars, chocolate, and even smoked sausage for a change of taste 🙂

Train and Practice

In that location are many fine details of preparing for a large race such as Patrouille des Glaciers but arriving in Zermatt in your top form and fully proficient with your gear will set you upwards for success. Nosotros desire to recommend our own Manual For Ski Mountaineering Racing e-volume and our skimo grooming plans equally  nosotros truly believe they are the the best English resources on the discipline of skimo racing.

Commit, train difficult, and accept a blast!