Last summer was a nightmare for seasonal allergies in Norway. During indian summer, I dreamt of fresh air and mountains, and apparently there is no better place to breathe than in St. Moritz. I came across some cheap tickets to Zürich and started planning my trip immediately. I had my eyes on Pontresina, a village in the Engadine valley, close to St. Moritz. The overly luxurious vibe of St. Moritz didn’t appeal to me, and I assumed Pontresina would be a better option as it has frequently been used by national XC-skiing teams for training. The main purpose of my trip was to run in the Engadine mountains, but I also wanted to use roller skis as alternative training.
When doing my research, I came over the the Swiss trailrunning website alpsinsight, which really is trailrunners’ heaven and a one stop shop for trail running resources when in Switzerland. I also bought their book, Run the Alps Switzerland, which guided me to two of my runs in Pontresina, and has now caused me to book another trip to Switzerland this year. Alpsinsight was also the main trigger for me to start trailspotting.no, hoping to inspire others as alpsinsight has inspired me.
So, let’s run Switzerland!
Piz Languard, 20 km
I choose to run the Piz Languard trail on my first day in Pontresina as I was really eager to tick off a 3000+ peak. The trail started practically outside my hotel, from the Santa Maria church in the centre of Pontresina and switchbacking up through the forest I quickly gained elevation and a fantastic view of the Morteratsch glacier on the other side of the valley. I even met an ibex.
I made a quick stop for hydration at the cozy Paradis hut to linger over the glacier view from the sunny terrace, before I continued into the Languard valley. Reaching the lake, I lost track of the trail, as I thought it followed the shore of the lake, which it didn’t, and I had to return to the junction that I missed. After a short steep climb, amazing flowing trails take you towards the last climb towards Georgy’s hut, and then to the peak at 3262 m.a.s.l. The view from the summit is simply amazing, especially in the autumn sun, so make sure you have time to take it all in, before descending to Georgy’s hut to refuel.
After the first steep descent, the flowing trails take over and you feel like you could run forever. But there is still another hut to visit, the Segatini hut. Make sure you bring cash, so you don’t have to limit yourself, as I did, and can spend some time enjoying the view of the Engadine valley from the terrace before taking on the last descent. If you want to spare your knees, you can skip the last part of the downhill by taking the chairlift back down to Pontresina. Off-season, the fare is commonly included in your hotel travel pass.
Further description of the Piz Languard run on alpsinsight here.
Strava for details: Piz Languard run
Rosegtal, 37 km
I had huge expectations before embarking on this long run, and I can safely say they were met. Starting off from the train station in Pontresina, you get an easy warm up running almost flat for several kilometers along a beautiful river. As during the Piz Languard run, you have several opportunities to refuel, so take advantage of this and skip carrying too much water. The first hut is at about 7 kilometer. Passing the hut, the trail becomes a little more technical until you reach the stunning glacier lake Lej da Vadret. Take time to linger, because this place is truly magical.
Leaving the lake it gets steeper. After the climb you may take a short detour to the hut, Chamanna Coaz, to refuel on their cake and get the glacier view up close. You can also book at sleepover at the hut. The next seven kilometer are easy flow, with some technical sections, and after about 22 kilometer you are at the highest point of the run, where you can also stop to refuel at a hut before starting on the descent. This is where the second coolest thing about this run happens, you turn a corner, and then WOW – the view of the Engadine lakes!
The trail eventually takes you into the forest again, and even a short climb, before a steep downhill to the Pontresina train station. Shortly before you arrive in Pontresina, a short detour of about a kilometer to a nearby peak is possible (and included in the strava link below).
Further description of the Rosegtal run on alpsinsight here.
Strava for details: Rosegtal run
Diavolezza climb, 9 km
After the long Rosegtal run, I looked for opportunities to explore more of the area without the strain of going downhill and decided to do a hike from the bottom of the Diavolezza gondola to the summits Sass Queder, 3060 m.a.s. and Munt Pers, 3207 m.a.s. Again, this is a treat for the eye with beautiful views towards Lago Bianco and the Bernina pass during the climb, and the Diavolezza glacier from the top. I recommend using poles if you embark on this climb, and if you only have the time to do one summit, do Munt Pers. And obviously, you can take the gondola to the Diavolezza station, leaving you with only 200 meters of elevation to run.
Strava for details: Diavolezza, Sass Queder and Munt Pers
Hey, its Engadine, and the famous lake in St. Moritz, where you can spot world class runners on their easy runs, is a short run or a train ride away from Pontresina. In St. Moritz you can also find a track for speed work, if that’s on your agenda. For more trail runs, check out the Piz Lunghin run featured on alpsinsight.
I tried to find some cycle paths suitable for roller skis towards Samedan, where I had been told one could do rounds around the airport. However, I stumbled upon gravel paths and decided to go towards the Bernina pass instead. I was told that it was not allowed to use roller skis on this main road, but from having cycled there a few years ago, I considered it relatively safe and gave it a go. And it truly was a great option for roller skis. Due to a bike race going up on the other side of the pass, part of the road was closed for traffic, but the police let me pass to go up on roller skis anyway. At the top I turned and returned down for the not so steep downhill the first about 5 kilometer, then I took the train back to Pontresina. The train journey is part of the famous Bernina Express which is on many tourists’ itinerary when visiting Switzerland.
Strava for details: Bernina roller ski
Where to stay
I stayed at Hotel Rosatsch, which at the time of booking seemed to provide most for the money as well as ticking of the boxes of location and comfort. I had a big room with breakfast and four course dinner included for about 530 Swiss francs for five nights, which, as mentioned above, also included a travel pass providing free access to local trains, busses and most lifts and gondolas. On my radar war also Hotel Müller, which you could also check out.
Obviously, for luxury brands shopping, you head off to St. Moritz, but if you are more into sports clothing and equipment, there are plenty of sports shops in Pontresina. In Pontresina I also spent a lot of time hanging out at café Gianotti, on the main street in Pontresina, not far away from Hotel Rosatsch.
If you have a travel pass, I recommend to do an afternoon excursion to Piz Nair, at 3057 m.a.s., it is a short walk from the Piz Nair gondola station, where you can also grab refreshments or something to eat while enjoying the view.
How to get there
Not only can you easily reach Pontresina by train, but it is also a train ride you will enjoy from the beginning to the end. While traveling by train in Switzerland is quite expensive there are often deals/discounts to be had if you book early.