In these days xc-skiers are flocking to Sognefjellet for summer skiing. I really can’t think of any better place to be this time of the year when the sun is shining. It is not just about the skiing, the surroundings are out of this world beautiful, and if you are lucky with the conditions you can even skate on the morning crust all the way up to Fanaråken (2068 m.a.s.) or to other surrounding peaks. Staying at Sognefjellet for multiple days skiing twice a day is not for everyone, and I like to combine 2-3 days at Sognefjellet with a few days in Aurland on my way up, and a couple of days at Beitostølen on my way back to Oslo. Beginning of June is the perfect timing for this road trip, as the roads over Aurlandsfjellet and Valdresflye are open and there is usually sufficient snow for skiing at Sognefjellet.
If you have a week to spend in June, this is what I would do:
Drive to Aurland
Take inspiration from Training Camp in Aurland and make sure to include a bicycle ride over Aurlandsfjellet to Lærdal and back and a run up Aurlandsdalen. Drive to Sognefjellshytta in the evening catching the sunset, via Øvre Årdal and the beautiful Tindevegen or via Sogndal and the equally beautiful Lustrafjorden.
Stay at Sognefjellshytta for easy access to the track, which starts right outside the cabin. The track is usually prepared for classic and skate twice a day, in the morning and the afternoon, and, depending on the amount of snow, is about 5-7 km long. Consider bringing your mountain/randonee skis if you want to explore more of the area, or take advantage of the morning crust for some off-track skating.
Drive to Beitostølen Friday afternoon, just in time to make a stop at Bakeriet i Lom for some carbo loading before they close for the day. If it’s your lucky day you catch a spectacular sunset when driving over Valdresflye to Beitostølen.
One of my most beautiful roller ski workouts I had at Beitostølen, starting from the village and rolling up to Valdresflye. The surroundings are hard to beat and the traffic not too bad if you start in the morning.
Finish off your training road trip with a run over Besseggen. Go for an early start from Gjendesheim in order to make the return by boat from Memurubu (if you are too slow, you just have to run back as well). This is the most legendary hike in the Norwegian mountains with a spectacular ridge section providing an amazing view of Gjendevatnet and Jotunheimen. Starting from Gjendesheim in stead of following the pack with boat to start from Memurubu, you get the ridge and most of the trail for yourself.
If a shorter run is more to your liking, go for Bitihorn, which is closer to Beitostølen and can be done in an hour. There are several trails to Bitihorn, the link below takes you to the peak from the south.
Have you ever been to Aurland? This tiny little village in the UNESCO world heritage area around Nærøyfjorden, not far away from much more overcrowded and famous Flåm, makes the perfect site for a multisport endurance training camp with a view. Aurland is also hosting one of the world’s toughest competitions, Aurlandsfjellet Extreme Triathlon, AXTRI, which takes places in August every year.
The best time to visit Aurland is between the opening of the road over Aurlandsfjellet, usually end of May/beginning of June, and the start of the summer vacation at the end of June. During this time you may get the chance to experience the “freezer” effect of the snow banks along the scenic mountain road without the crowds. Here you will find suggestions for different workouts (roller skis, bike and running), in addition you may want to explore the fjord by kayak or swimming.
Lunch break at the terrace of Marianne Bakery & Café
The fjord view
The mountain road, especially when the snow banks are high
The Aurlandsdalen run
Aurland – Lærdal on road bike
This mountain road from Aurland to Lærdal is one of the 18 Norwegian Scenic Routes and the bike leg of AXTRI. When you take on the Aurland mountain by bike you will start to understand why AXTRI is considered one of the toughest competitions in the world with more than 3000 meters of elevation gain divided on 98 kilometers, and the highest point on the course at 1320 meters above sea level. However, this ride is as beautiful as it is tough, with spectacular views of the fjord and often tall snow banks along the road on the mountain plateau and should be on any rider’s bucket list.
Remember to stop at the Stegastein view point (at about 600 m.a.s.l.) about half way up the first climb. If you are not up for the full distance, you can of course make the turn at any point of the course, and, unless you are checking it out for the race, skip the last flat 10 kilometers from Aurland to Vassbygdi.
Another favorite workout when in Aurland is of course to take on the mountain climb on roller skis. If you don’t have a second car or a support car, you can bring a bike and drive up, leave the car at the top, and ride down to start you roller ski workout. A second option is to roll up only to the Stegastein view point and ask any of the tourists or the tourist busses for a ride down. You should not by any chance roll down the narrow hairpin turns as the traffic can be quit heavy between Aurland and Stegastein.
The roller ski workout follows the same road as the bike workout, thus the views are as amazing, and is great for long intervals.
If you prefer a flat roller ski workout, make it a sightseeing to Flåm. From Flåm you can continue into Flåmsdalen and the starting point of “Rallarvegen” a gravel road popular for mountain biking taking you all the way to Haugastøl on Hardangervidda.
One of the highlights when visiting Aurland is to run up the Aurland valley. This almost 20 kilometer long trail is very popular to do as a one or two-day hike in the opposite direction (downhill) and is also the running leg of AXTRI. This is a truly amazing run taking you through a steep, narrow and wild valley with a lot of history, giant waterfalls and with about 1100 meters of elevation. Please note that due to a recent rockslide the trail should not be used until it has been secured. Please contact local tourist information before you plan to run/hike this trail.
You will find the trailhead is in Vassbygdi, about 10 km from Aurlandsvangen. You can leave your car at the trailhead and return by bus from Østerbø, the end point of the trail (plan your run according to the bus schedule). At Østerbø you can buy refreshments after your run.
The run to the peak, Prest (1478 m.a.s.), is a great 4.6 km (return) trail run for a short afternoon or evening workout. The well marked trail is soft with great views. The most spectacular view of the fjord is actually from below the peak, at about 1360 meters above the fjord. The trailhead can be found at the parking on the left side further up the road from Stegastein viewpoint.
Driving to Aurland from Oslo takes between 4.5 and 5 hours depending on the route you choose. I prefer to make it a roundtrip driving up via Ål and Sudndalen (where you can stretch your legs running up to the beautiful Hivju waterfall) and return via Hemsedal. From Bergen the drive takes about 2 hours and 40 minutes. A road trip including Aurland on its itinerary will soon be added to trailspotting.no.
Where to stay
There are not that many accommodation options in Aurland. We have always stayed at Vangsgården, which provides rooms and apartments on the fjord just in the middle of the village. Location is excellent and the standard ok. The fjord side apartments are small, but sleeps four and the facilities for you to make your own food. There are also a few camping sites and tourist cabins to be rented in Aurland, and another hotel, Aurland Fjordhotel (not tested).
Seiser Alm and Livigno are both beloved destinations for cross country skiing athletes of all levels. These two Italian alp villages complement each other in terms of character and facilities and make a great combination for a training vacation/camp. While Seiser Alm is quiet (and out of this world beautiful) and has amazing trails and scenery for running, Livigno is more of a happening place with (tax free) shops, cafés/restaurants and the best roller ski and biking opportunities.
Here you will get the details of the training we did during a 9-day September training camp as well as some alternatives tried out over the years. The purpose is to guide you to the best locations for performing various sessions, such as interval training and long low intensity sessions. Non of us being top level athletes, our choice of activities has been guided by a desire to explore the beautiful surroundings as well as obtaining great workouts. You may (and should) of course use the information provided to tailor your activities to your own level of fitness and purpose of the trip.
Please note that both Seiser Alm and Livigno are high altitude destinations and your performance will be affected. In short this means you should go slower than you normally do on low-intensity activities and avoid doing much high intensity training, especially the first 3-4 days, and when introduced, preferably low threshold. More on high altitude training here (Norwegian). It is not uncommon to feel dizziness after a high altitude workout if you go too hard and you may not get full benefit of the rest of your training camp.
Day 1 – Seiser Alm (arrival day)
We started our camp in Seiser Alm. You can read more about Seiser Alm, including accommodation recommendations, here. Traveling to Seiser Alm from Norway (or any other place requiring you to fly) usually takes almost a day and you are lucky if you arrive by sunset. We arrived just in time to stretch our legs by doing a short and easy jog on the meadow which was covered with a thin layer of wet snow. That’s the thing about Seiser Alm. Its location more than 1800 meters above sea level means weather and temperatures change quickly and you can experience snow even during summer months.
Waking up on our first full day in Seiser Alm, the meadow was still covered in snow, but the sun was shining and we chose to go for the planned long run taking us over the Denti Rossi to Rifugio Alpe di Tires and the Schiliar/Schlern plateau. This is a beautiful long run which is always on my itinerary when in Seiser Alm. We started out running in snow, but by the time we were back on the meadow a few hours later summer temperatures had arrived. Take time for an espresso at Rifugio Alpe di Tires and lunch at Rifugio Bolzano
In the afternoon we took the bus down to Kastelruth and did an easy uphill roller ski session. You can also do the same hill workout by taking the cable car from Seiser Alm to Seis, which adds about 140 meters of ascent. The climb has been used for tempo stages during Giro d’Italia and has a profile great for interval training on roller skis and beautiful views.
On our third day we put on the roller skis again and took the cable car to Seis for an interval session. After warming up from Seis to Hotel Valentinerhof we did 7×6 minutes low threshold classic technique.
The highlight of our stay in Seiser Alm was the long run around Sasso Piatto and Sasso Lungo. I would say this is the running equivalent to Sella Ronda on bike, providing you with amazing views of the Dolomites from so many angles. We took the bus to Saltria (about 5-10 minutes from Compatsch) and the Florian chair lift to Williams Hütte, from where we started our run 2100 m.a.s.l. and clockwise around Sasso Piatto/Sasso Lungo. We stopped for lunch at Rifugio Sasso Piatto and continued to Rifugio Alpe di Tires and returned to Compatsch through the Denti Rossi pass. This is truly an amazing run, which of course may be divided in several parts if you are not up for the full length of it. You can also extend the run by either adding the climb to the peak of Sasso Piatto or/and continue over the Schiliar plateau after Rifugio Alpe di Tires.
The obligatory part of the transfer from Seiser Alm to Livigno is the mother of all roller ski workouts, the Stelvio climb. If you don’t have a support car, the practical way to do this session is to drive to the top of the Stelvio pass and take a bus down to your preferred side of the pass, either the Prato side or the Bormio side, leaving the car with warm clothes etc at the top. Each climb is great, with spectacular views and, if you can’t go easy on it, exhaustion guarantee. During this camp we did the Prato side, starting from Gomagoi at 1280 m.a.s.l., providing about 1500 meters of ascent and 18.5 km to the top of the Stelvio pass as 2575 m.a.s.l. We chose to tackle the climb by doing an interval session of 5×20 + 10 minutes below lactate threshold.
Please note that the bus service on the Bormio side is only available in July and August. You may contact the bus service Perego for information. For bus down from Stelvio on the Prato side, go here.
If you prefer to conquer Stelvio on bike, you can rent a bike at Mapo Bike in Valdidentro (a few kilometers from Bormio). If you want to stay a few days to explore the area and perhaps tackle Stelvio running, skiing and biking, one of my favorite hotels in the Alps is just next to Mapo Bike, Alpen Hotel. Personally I had my best session in Stelvio running up from Bormio.
Livigno is roller ski mecca with an extensive network of cycle paths protected from the traffic as well as mountain passes where you can work on your O2 levels and return safely by bus if you don’t want to ski down or have a support car. On our first day in Livigno we chose to do an easy flat roller ski session to recover from the Stelvio challenge.
Livigno also has a tremendous network of trails for running as well as mountain biking. There is no limit other than your fitness level as to where you can go, and even if I have visited 5-6 times there are new trails to explore. Our favorite trail for short recovery runs is the trail just above the centre providing you with great views of Livigno. You can enter the trail directly from several places in the village or my preferred entry at the south end of the village, where you can also find parking.
After a “rest” day it was time to do a longer session again and we decided on a run that would take us to a +3000 meter peak, Corna di Capra. We chose to drive to the trailhead just south of the village (you can also run directly from the village). Although containing a lot of ascent this run also has long runable sections and truly beautiful surroundings as well as the added satisfaction of reaching the peak at 3016 m.a.s.l.
For an alternative long run you can take the cable car to Costaccia from the city centre and run south along the ridge following trail 162 and then 157 passing Causello 3000 and Involt dali Resa before descending back to the city centre.
Our second workout of the day was a double poling session, which included the climb up to Passo Eira. From Passo Eira you can take a free bus down to Livigno (check the schedule in advance). As an alternative to the Eira ascent you can also roll up to the Forcola pass.
Towards the end of a training camp like this adjustments to the training plan may be adequate due to energy levels, strain on legs or other reasons. For some, including me, that meant replacing a running session with yet another roll to Passo Eira, this time using kicks and not just double poling. In the afternoon we did a strength session.
Last full day in Livigno and the training plan said low threshold running in Val Federia. Low on energy and with the rain pouring down, I chose to go easy on the trails instead. However, Val Federia is great for this kind of effort and having done a similar workout in 2016, I still have the appropriate Strava details to guide you. To reach Val Federia you can either drive to the parking provided at the trailhead, or run from the hotel as warm-up. Remember the altitude and go easy!
When in Livigno my choice of hotel is Hotel Larice, which is one of several hotels forming the Bivio Life Livigno group, where you can find Hotel Bivio (often used by the Norwegian national team) and Alpen Village Hotel, which specifically caters towards training groups of all sports. Larice is a small eco boutique hotel with amazing atmosphere, great rooms, personal service, superb breakfast and the best location. I love to hang out in the coffee bar out front in between training sessions.
My three favorite restaurants are all in or close to Hotel Larice: The burger restaurant Why Not, in via Botarel (across the street from Larice), Focolare, the pizzeria next door, and the restaurant at Larice, which serves sushi as well as Italian dishes.
Cycling in Livigno
Livigno has an amazing downhill bike park (never tried) and is often used for training camps by top level athletes of both road cycling and mtb. Bikes can be rented from several bike shops in Livigno. If you are into climbs and mountain passes see the strava link below for a beautiful ride my friend Maren did, going from Livigno over Passo Eira to Bormio and up to Passo Stelvio and via Passo Fuorn back to Livigno. Another alternative is the course of the ICON ironman triathlon taking place in Livigno in August, which takes you up to the Forcola pass, into Switzerland to climb the Bernina Pass before going down to St. Moritz and Zernez and via the Fuorn, Stelvio and Foscagno passes back to Livigno.
Munich, Zürich and Innsbruck are convenient airports to fly into if you would like to combine Seiser Alm and Livigno. Innsbruck makes for a shorter drive, but often you have to accept transfer flights to get there. You will need to rent a car.
Munich Airport – Seiser Alm: 3:30, Zürich Airport – Seiser Alm: 4:30 and Innsbruck – Seiser Alm 1:45. Munich Airport – Livigno: 4:30, Zürich Airport – Livigno: 3:15, Innsbruck – Livigno: 2:45. The drive from Seiser Alm to Livigno is about 3 hours.
For mange er Øyerfjellet ensbetydende med Hornsjørunden og runden rundt Reinsvann, men det er så mye mer! Her kommer et utvalg av mine favorittløyper – til ulikt bruk, og et par reale langturer.
Søndagsturen, 36 km
Jeg starter alle mine turer fra Liesætra, rett nord for Mosetertoppen, men denne runden kan du hekte deg på fra flere steder som f.eks. Moseteråsen/Mosetertoppen, Pellestova, Nordseter og Sjusjøen.
Med start fra Liesætra går du først sørover over myrene bak Moseteråsen/Mosetertoppen og sikter deg inn på bakkene opp til Buåsen. Dette er den første av to stigninger på denne rundturen. På toppen av Buåsen går du rett frem og passerer Nysetra før du kommer inn i og passerer alpinbakkene. Fra alpinbakken er det fantastisk utsikt oppover Gudbrandsdalen og mot fakkelmannen på andre siden av dalen. Herfra er det småkupert før du etter hvert får løypa fra Gaiastova inn fra høyre og du kommer frem til Ilseterlia (leilighetskompleks) og tar tunnelen under bilveien ved Ilsetra og holder venstre for en lang slak nedoverbakke til Reinsvann. Dersom du starter på Pellestova kan du komme inn på runden her ved å ta den bratte utforbakken ned fra Pellestova (følg skilt mot Nordseter). Nede ved Reinsvann holder du deg på sørsiden av vannet for noen fine stakepartier bortover mot Nevelåsen. Om du starter fra Nordseter kan du komme inn på runden her. På Nevelåsen tar du til venstre og så til høyre i neste løypekryss mot Sjusjøen. Denne løypa følger du noen kilometer til du kommer til enden av Melsjøen. Her tar du til venstre langs vannet mot Snultra og deretter Kruggerudrenna. Fra Kruggerudrenna kommer turens andre stigning opp til Kriksfjell. Unn deg en avstikker for å få med deg selve toppen. Etter utforkjøringene ned fra Kriksfjell går du rett frem i neste løypekryss og følger Hitdalen over fjellet og ned mot Hitvegen, som du krysser og kjører videre ned mot Rautjønnskrysset og videre rett nedover til Liesætra.
Dette er en økt med mye lett staketerreng kombinert med en saftig stigning. Økta kan komponeres på mange måter, men jeg foreslår å starte ferdig oppvarmet fra Nerlisætra (hvor Trolløypa krysser Hornsjøveien, rett ovenfor Liesætra). Herfra kan du først gå et eller to drag flatt/slak motbakke opp til Rognhaugen (4,6 km). Neste drag går flatt/slakt nedover fra Rognhaugen via Svartåsen til løypekrysset Indre Åa (3,6 km). Tredje drag er også i lett terreng og går fra Indre Åa til Steinsætra (4,3 km). I pausen går du et par minutter tilbake der du kom slik at du får en flying start inn i bakken som er neste drag og går fra Steinsætra og opp til Pølkrysset (1,5 km). I Pølkrysset tar du til høyre for øktas siste drag i lekent og lett terreng tilbake til Indre Åa via Stormyra (3,8 km). Herfra nedgåing tilbake til utgangspunktet for økta. Dersom man ønsker flere drag kan man alternativt gå rett frem i Pølkrysset og opp til Keiken (3,7 km), ta til høyre der og følge Trolløypa tilbake til Rognhaugen i lett terreng (5,5 km).
Dette er en av mine absolutte favorittøkter når formen er bra! Som med den forrige økta går jeg denne på mål i stedet for på tid, noe jeg synes er mye mer motiverende. Etter en god oppvarming starter økta løypekrysset Høgåssøkken, som ligger ca 2 km nedenfor Pellestova hvis du følger Trolløypa i motsatt retning. Herfra går det første draget opp til Høgåsen (dvs du følger løypa som tar til venstre dersom du kommer ned fra Pellestova). Etter full pupp opp til Høgåsen og over toppen. Som pause kjører du ned via Buåsen (dvs tar to ganger til høyre og følger Hafjell Skimaraton-løypa) til bunnen av utforbakken. Her snur du og går samme vei opp og tilbake. Denne bakken er lengre enn det første draget, så jeg velger ofte å dele bakken i to intervaller, hvor det siste draget slutter på toppen av Høgåsen. Som pause er det da bare å kjøre ned til Høgåssøkken og starte på’n igjen. Jeg kjører to “runder”, dvs seks drag, eller tar de siste dragene opp til Høgåsen, som på Strava-økta nedenfor.
Noen ganger må man gå litt lenger enn andre, dvs for min og Kajas del betyr det å stadig strekke den tradisjonelle påskelangturen litt lengre. De siste årene har Øyer Turskiløyper etablert nye løyper over topper i Øyerfjellet, hvilket selvfølgelig kan brukes som mål for turen. I 2018 la vi runden om fire flotte topper i Øyer- og Lillehammerfjellet.
Starten gikk fra hver vår hytte før vi møttes på turens første topp, Hafjelltoppen. Fra Hafjelltoppen tok vi strake vegen til Lunkefjell via Pellestova og Nevelåsen. Fra Lunkefjell er det noen morsomme utforkjøringer ned til Melsjøen, hvor vi tok løypa langs Melsjøen til Kruggerudrenna og opp til Kriksfjell (som Søndagsturen ovenfor). Etter litt fotoshoot kjørte vi ned til Hitdalen og tok skarpt til høyre opp til Grytfjellet. Dersom det er skare kan du kjøre rett ned fra Kriksfjell til Grytfjellet. Etter Grytfjellet siktet vi oss inn på Lienden for en velfortjent vaffelrast i sola. Turen gikk så over myra til Langmyråsen hvor vi tok Trolløypa motsatt vei til høyre mot Rognhaugen og videre til Kjerringknappen og turens siste topp, Storhaugen. Etter enda mer fotografering gikk vi tilbake til Kjerringknappen og tok ned til høyre til Indre Åa og videre via Svartåsen tilbake til Langmyråsen. Her tok vi til høyre og krysset Hornsjøveien ved Steinmyrhaugen. Etter å ha fulgt Kaja et stykke på veien tilbake mot Nordseter vendte jeg snuten hjemover til Liesætra. Denne rundturen kan du hoppe på mange steder, som f.eks. Mosetertoppen, Pellestova, Nordseter, Sjusjøen og Sjøsetra.
I 2019 strakk den tradisjonelle påskelangturen seg til over 100 km. Når man har godt selskap og følge av solen hele veien går kilometerene heldigvis fort. Denne gangen var målet å utforske mer av det nordlige løypenettet. Vi tok også med oss noen av de fineste løypene nærmere Sjusjøen.
Med start fra Liesetra gikk vi skogsløypa/uværsløypa til Pellestova, og derfra Pellevegen via Reinakrysset og til Lunkefjell, som er et av høydepunktene på runden, i dobbelt forstand. Fra Lunkefjell fikk vi noen fine utforkjøringer mot Kroksjøen og gikk via Kuåsen og den ytre delen av Snultrarunden til Kruggerudrenna. Fra Kruggerudrenna fulgte vi en av de fineste løypene i Øyerfjellet øst for Kriksfjell mot Grytfjellet (denne er også en del av Hafjell Skimarathon) og videre på nordsiden av Hitfjell ned mot Sjøsetra. Fra Sjøsetra krysset vi myrene ved Lienden og gikk tilbake til Liesetra via Skanseteigen for påfyll av næring. Næringspåfyll kan også ordnes på Lienden når kafeen der er åpen.
Med dette var turen halvgått, og etter et par vafler og påfyll i drikkebeltet satte vi kursen nordover fra Liesetra via Indre Åa, Pølkrysset, Holmsetra og Brennlia før vi tok til høyre i krysset ved Vedemssætra mot Vålsjøen. Vi fulgte løypa til nordsiden av Vålsjøen og gikk så østover mot DnT-hytta på Djupsli. Her får man etter hvert fin høyde og fantastisk utsikt over Øyerfjellet. I løypekrysset rett før Djupsli tok vi retning Nysetra, hvor vi kom inn på Trolløypa, og fulgte denne sørover forbi Keiken, Kjerringknappen, Rognhaugen og Langmyråskrysset tilbake til Liesetra og klokket inn på 100,6 km! Nå er selvfølgelig spørsmålet, hvor går påskas 100 km i 2020?
Jeg har hatt utallige magiske (og iskalde!) ettermiddagsturer i solnedgang nord i Øyerfjellet. En variant er uværsløypa t/r Holmsetra fra Liesætra. En annen favoritt er Trolløypa motsatt vei til Keiken, f.eks med start fra Steinmyrhaugen, for så å time de rosa fargene på vei ned fra Keiken (i Trolløypa) til Steinsætra. Fra Steinsætra kan du gå uværsløypa tilbake til Svartåsen og ned til Steinmyrhaugen.
I was recently invited by Raske Gutter Podden (podcast) to talk about cross-country skiing in the Alps (you can listen to the podcast, which is in Norwegian, here). I thought I would take the opportunity to share some information on my favorite places to do cross-country skiing in the Alps, as well as some fun races to attend.
So, let’s pretend we have a few weeks to hang around in the Alps with a fancy car loaded with our cross-country skiing equipment. Of course, you are allowed to bring alpine skis as well, and I will tell you where you can do both, but for the best information on downhill skiing you will have to find another guru.
Unless you already live in the Alps or nearby, you may choose to fly in to Munich Airport or, even better, Innsbruck. You can also fly to Zürich, Milan, Verona, or Venice. Make sure you rent a car with winter tires and enough space for your skis.
First stop: Seefeld
There’s no better place to start your adventure than the site of the 2019 cross-country World Championship, Seefeld in Tirol. Seefeld is situated on a sunny plateau high above Innsbruck, about 1200 meters above sea level and can be easily reached by train. The ski tracks start right in the middle of the city centre with several nearby hotels to choose from. We stayed at the four star St. Peter Hotel just across the street from the ski tracks and two conveniently located sport shops.
Tirol claims to offer a total of 4000 km of tracks throughout the region, many of them accessible from Seefeld or nearby villages. You will find easy terrain as well as long and tough ascents and can also try out the world cup tracks which will be used during the world championship in February/March 2019.
When you are ready to leave Seefeld behind, the Italian village of Toblach in south Tirol is a great choice. The drive from Seefeld takes about two hours and I recommend that you make a short stop for lunch and some shopping in Innsbruck on your way there. Toblach traditionally hosts one or more races forming part of the legendary Tour de Ski in January every year. The events are free for spectators and have a great atmosphere. During race days the world cup tracks will be closed for other than the athletes, but there are many other nearby tracks to choose from, including my favorite, the track from Cortina (Fiames Ski Arena) to Toblach, which is the same track being used for the men’s long distance during Tour de Ski as well as the Visma Ski Classic event (see below).
Once in Toblach, your obvious choice of accommodation may be the perfectly located Hotel Santer, which is basically on the ski arena, Apparthotel Germania for great breakfast as well as easy access to the ski arena, or the friendly Hotel Stauder, which also serves great food. Don’t miss out on Pizzeria Hans while in town!
Races to join: Pustertaler Skimarathon, 11 January 2020 and Toblach-Cortina 1-2 February 2020 (classic technique and Visma Ski Classic on Saturday and free technique on Sunday) and Gsieser Tal Lauf 15-16 February 2020 (classic technique on Saturday and free technique on Sunday).
Third stop: Val di Fiemme
In Tour de Ski the races in Toblach are usually followed by the final races in Val di Fiemme, and I suggest you follow the same route. Leaving Toblach you should plan for a stop in the sophisticated village of Cortina, stroll the pedestrian street and have lunch at San Brite (reservations recommended) before you enjoy the beautiful drive via Passo Pordoi to Val di Fiemme. Passing by Cortina and Canazei, this is also your opportunity to add a day or two of downhill skiing.
In Val di Fiemme my choice of hotel is the Castelir Suite Hotel, a quiet, intimate hotel with large rooms, great service and walking distance of the world cup ski arena at Lago di Tesero. Another option would be Hotel La Stua, a hotel popular among Norwegian skiers and the location of the massive Marcialonga after party. For lunch or dinner, try out the wine bar El Molin or La Stua.
Although a traditional cross-country skiing race destination and the host of several world championships and the legendary Marcialonga, Val di Fiemme does not have that many options for cross-country skiing. In two days you have it covered, nevertheless, having a slightly more Italian flare to it compared to the other destinations, and the cozy village of Cavalese, it is worth a visit. On day one I suggest you try out the world cup tracks from the Lago di Tesero Nordic Ski Arena. If enough snow, tracks will also be open along the river from leaving the world cup arena. During Tour de Ski you may opt to participate in the Rampa con i Campioni, a race open to the public which is equal to the Tour de Ski finale and includes the monstrous climb up Alpe Cermis.
On day two the tracks on the beautiful plateau of Passo Lavazè is worth a visit. Passo Lavazè is a beloved destination for participants of Marcialonga in the days leading up to the race and has easy as well as more strenuous tracks. Be aware though, that the plateau is about 1800 meters above sea level, which adds additional strain on the body. Thus you should save your speed for later.
Having had a taste of the altitude at Passo Lavazè the natural next stop is the paradise-like destination of Seiser Alm. You can drive directly to Seiser Alm from Passo Lavazè, it is not the fastest route from Val di Fiemme, but for sure the most beautiful. For hotel options, check out my previous post on trailrunning in Seiser Alm here. I love staying at Ritsch Schwaige, but if money is no issue, you may want to check out Adler Mountain Lodge.
Seiser Alm is the preferred location for many national teams when preparing for championships. On this high altitude plateau the perfectly groomed tracks are surrounded with spectacular mountains and huts and restaurants serving delicious food when taking a break in the sun. Highlights include sunset coloring the sky pink while cruising the longest loop facing the characteristic Schiliar mountain. If you did not know paradise, you do now. For more details on the about 80 km of tracks, go here and here.
If you are looking to do some downhill skiing on this road trip, Seiser Alm is a great starting point for skiing the Sella Ronda.
On your way from peaceful Seiser Alm to Pontresina in the Engadine valley in Switzerland I suggest you make a pitstop in either Bolzano or Meran for some nice Italian small-city vibe. The total driving time from Seiser Alm to Pontresina is about 3:30, mostly on regional roads. Take time to enjoy your surroundings. In Pontresina Hotel Rosatsch is a good option, located on the main street in short distance of my favorite hang out, Gianottis. Pontresina also has a few ok shops for cross-country skiing in case you find yourself in need of anything.
My personal winter experience of the Engadine valley is unfortunately limited to the Engadine Ski Marathon tracks, , which provide for a great high-speed skating experience on the lakes in the valley before more hilly parts take you to the finish line in Pontresina. However, this area has much more to offer, including illuminated night tracks, all of which is surrounded by spectacular mountains. And I have been told that you should not miss out on skiing in Val Roseg, tracks starting from the Nordic ski arena near the train station in Pontresina. For more information, turn to this site. With St. Moritz right in the middle of it, this is naturally also the place to leave your cross-country skis behind for some downhill skiing, and, if you wish, some shopping.
On our way to Zürich Airport after Engadin Skimarathon we stopped in Lenzerheide to ski in the sun in their fairly new Nordic ski arena, financed mainly by an enthusiastic local family. I suggest you do the same driving from Pontresina to your final cross-country skiing gemstone, Davos. Drive early in the morning from Pontresina and grab a coffee (or even breakfast) at Bio-Alp Alesch near the Albula pass on the way. The driving time from Pontresina to Lenzerheide is less than 90 minutes. See strava link below for where we parked. This is also one of the places where you can access changing rooms. For more information, go to this site.
After exploring the trails, which run along the main street cutting through Lenzerheide, find yourself a nice spot in the sun for lunch while enjoying the view of the mountain sides hosting the world cup final for the downhill skiers in 2014.
Saving the best for last! Davos is the centre of cross-country skiing in Switzerland and is regularly on the cross-country skiing world cup calendar. About 1550 meters above sea level, the altitude will have impact on your performance, but also ensures good skiing conditions during the winter season with some tracks opening already in October. This alpine resort town is surrounded with beautiful mountains providing great opportunities to take your alpine skis for a spin as well.
Although having visited Davos several times during summer, I have never been there in the winter. Thus I turned to former top cross-country skier Tor-Arne Hetland for guidance on how to best explore Davos on skis. Of the three beautiful valleys you can ski, his number one choice is skiing up the Sertig valley. For some extra uphill you can ski via Junkerboden. When finally reaching the end of the valley you will find yourself in the middle of this typical alp idyll we are all dreaming of, surrounded with wooden huts and magnificent mountains. Drop in at Walserhuus or Bergführer and load up on Apfelstrudel with vanilla sauce before you enjoy the downhill back to Davos. Note that the upper five kilometers are prepped only for classic technique.
Davos has loads of accommodation options. In the summertime, my choice has always been Walserhuus. During winter I would maybe opt for a hotel close to the Nordic ski arena, such as for example Hotel Bünda.
Go here for more on cross-country skiing in Davos.
Obviously, most of us are not in position to do the whole roundtrip described above and many of the destinations described are worthy of being your one-stop for cross-country skiing in the Alps. Create your own roundtrips or combine one of the destinations with one of the many long distance ski races in the area. Realizing that I have missed out on the great cross-country skiing possibilities in Davos, this will for sure be on my 2019 bucket list, maybe combined with participation in the Sertig Classic race.