This summer I registered for Rosengarten Skymarathon in the Dolomites. This 45 km race around Rosengarten, is a no-brainer if you love the Dolomites, and you may even have run part of the track if you have been to Seiser Alm. Approaching the event I was struggling with plantar fascitt and had to withdraw from the race. However, as my friend, Barbro, was going to run and my foot could do some running, I got to explore the area anyway.
When planning my long run I was eager to reach the amazing Vajolet Towers as well as testing a part of the race track and cheer for Barbro. I managed to combine both and looking back, this is one of the coolest runs I have ever done as it includes easy flow, unique landscape and views, some scrambling, a cozy mountain hut and a landmark like the Vajolet Towers.
I started the run from Kölnerhütte, the top of the König Laurin chairlift, which you hop on at Malga Frommer Alm (parking available). Of course, there is always the opportunity to start from Malga Frommer Alm, but the chairlift saves you about 600 meters of ascent and time you can rather spend in the higher altitude.
From Kölnerhütte you run the Rosengarten Skymarathon track along trail 549 towards the Rotwandhütte. This is an easy trail, which allows you to focus on the amazing views. Your first refueling opportunity is the Rotwandhütte at 5 km. Leaving the hut, the climb towards the first pass starts and the run gets more demanding with technical downhills and uphills as you continue towards Rifugio Vajolet. This is where you leave the Rosengarten Skymarathon track in favor of a fun scramble up to Rifugio Alberto Primero, which rests at the feet of the Vajolet Towers. On a busy day, you can hear the adrenalin screams from the mountaineers climbing the towers.
After a rest at the hut, take a short detour towards the Santner Pass for a better view of the towers before you head back down towards Rifugio Vajolet. Pay attention as you are approaching Rifugio Vajolet for an alternative trail on your right, which will take to in the right direction towards Pas da le Colonele. If you miss the trail and find yourself at Rifugio Vajolet, don’t worry, just return on the same trail, and take the next right turn to get on path 550 towards Pas da le Colonele and the steep descent to Kölnerhütte.
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.