The Tre Cime di Lavaredo is maybe the most iconic landmark of the Dolomites and draws tons of tourists due to its easy (although fairly expensive) access by road. However, it is surprisingly easy to skip the crowds for one of the most memorable runs ever if you start early in the morning or in the late afternoon. Having done the circuit around the three peaks twice, I always think of it as fairly flat, but looking at the data from my run, it is certainly not. Still, it is one of the easiest runs you can do in the Dolomites, and with views second to none.
To get the most out of it, I suggest you stay overnight at one of the huts along the path. If you plan to run with a light backpack with easy logistics, stay at Rifugio Auronzo, which is right on the trailhead about 40 minutes drive from Cortina. You can park outside the hut, but it is advisable to arrive very early in the morning or in the late afternoon. Although it feels a bit like being on interrail or a backpacking trip, the hut is large, with clean rooms, most with amazing views. All rooms come with shared bathrooms, but you can book a private room. You can book your stay with breakfast or half board, but if you plan on going for a sunrise hike/run, depending on the season, you should bring some snacks, as breakfast opens at 7am.
Photographers flock to the Tre Cime area for shots of the famous peaks and the surrounding mountains, in particular the Cadini di Misurina, which are just in front of the Rifugion Auronzo. If you want to join the pack, plan for a sunset hike/run in the afternoon and a sunrise mission. You wont regret!
The Tre Cime trail run
I prefer to do the Tre Cime run anti-clockwise. Starting from Rifugio Auronzo at about 2350 m.a.s. the first part is fairly flat on a wide easy path. After about 1.5 km you reach the first hut, Rifugio Lavaredo, where you can take a detour off track to take in the Cadini peaks before you start the ascent towards the run’s highest point. This is also where you get the first sight of the north wall of Tre Cime. From here you can also see the two paths continuing towards the Dreizinnenhütte/Rifugio Antonio Locatelli. Choose the upper path.
After 4 km and numerous photo stops you reach the Dreizinnenhütte. This is a great spot for a coffee break in the sun, but first I suggest you make a detour to the cave and the lakes behind the hut. Since the run is not very long, you want to linger as long as possible to take in the surroundings. If you have the time, and manage to get a reservation, do consider staying at the Dreizinnenhütte for a night.
Leaving the hut takes you downhill for about 1.5 km until you reach the run’s lowest point, all the time with the peaks in front of you. After a short, but steep, climb, you will probably meet more and more people as you approach your starting point, the Rifugio Auronzo.
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.
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). Since I may not be the only trailrunner enjoying cross-country skiing, 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 this season’s site for the 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, 12 January 2019 and Toblach-Cortina 2-3 February 2019 (classic technique and Visma Ski Classic on Saturday and free technique on Sunday) and Gsieser Tal Lauf 16-17 February 2019 (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. 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.