Written by Majell Backhausen
Races becoming know by their acronyms, are also becoming in demand events to attend.
Let me give you insight to one of Switzerland’s most well know, four letter events- TVSB
The main event has stout characteristics, with 111km and 8,400m of vertical gain- aptly named X-Alpine. Topping out at Orny with 2826m and traversing through historical locations such as Grand Col St Bernard.
And like most enthusiastic and committed organisations, they hold 4 other, events on the same weekend. Allowing people of all ages and ability levels to experience trail running, Swiss style.
Traversèe: 61km with 4000m elv. gain
Liddes-Verbier: 29km with 2500m elv. gain
X-Direct: 6km with 650m elv. gain
Discovery Trail: The Sunday morning event for kids aged 4-14 y.o.
Verbier and its surrounding regions including Pays du St-Bernard (Yes, its symbols is the St-Bernard dog) are investing a lot of time an effort, into its Summer season offerings.
Is it working? Based on a successful 8th edition of TVSB. Its certainly on the right track or trail, I should say.
Switzerland is very… beautiful, but it is a very clean beautiful. Although I am an Australian, I can tell when I enter Switzerland, it has a special look and feel to it.
Its orderly, chalets are uniform, its mountains and gardens are beautiful- Just like Toblerone.
Except when a man, asks you to lowering yourself, face first down a damn wall from 100m high. At this point, I started to question the straight Swiss rationale. But it was legitimately safe and fun.
There are different Valleys within Valais (south west pocket of Switzerland). They all produce a different cheese, are home to different fighting cows and have different, yet still beautiful views, of the same mountains. Each valley is home to different mountain huts, housing mountaineers, day hikers and guardians all summer long.
The mountain huts hold a different view of the mountains, which can only be described as utterly magnificent.
Visiting the Valais Region for the TVSB event, allowed myself and PIC Lucy, to experience some of the summers best activities.
Probably not ideal for event preparation, but for experiencing the region, meeting the locals and getting an understanding of the history, they are all, must do’s.
Jumping off a mountain from 2000m high, with a paragliding wing and a large man strapped to my back, was a little nerve racking. Until he humbly mentioned, that he is 3 times, Swiss National Champion in Paragliding. Its the middle ground between skydiving and base jumping. My advice is to continually acknowledging that you feel fine and would like to go faster and be in control of the steering, from time to time. That way, your in for one incredible ride.
Not partaking in the TVSB 111km event, was due to the upcoming Skyrunning World Championships. Being 2 weeks away, it just wouldn't allow adequate recovery for the main event of the year.
TVSB statistics are very similar to The Skyrunning World Championships, this is a little indication, that TVSB is a serious mountain race.
Allowing a swift transition to the 29km event, participation in one of the TVSB events was still on the cards. I didn't want to miss the energy, that was building for the weekend ahead.
That week, we met Jules-Henri Gabioud, I was told he has won the Tor Des Geants… instant man crush. Then he proved to be one of the nicest people in the sport. We hiked up to l’A Neuve Cabane, for homemade rossti, made by his mother, with a view of Mt Dolent, which is home to the borders of Switzerland, France and Italy.
Jules went on to win the TVSB 111km X Alpine event. A BOSS!
There was no end to experiencing this region in its full light.
Going a step further to experiencing the mountain hut life at 3030m, was at the Valsorey Hut. Made even more fun, by not mentioning the small detail of being vegetarian, until after the tray of meat for dinner, was place on the table.
Staying in the Grand Col St Bernard Hospice was eye opening for two main reasons. One building dates back to over thousand years old and walking through it, makes you feel and realise, that 1000 years is a long time! Secondly, it is along the Via Francigena Pilgrimage, walked by many, which goes from Canterbury (UK) to Rome (Italy). Approximately 1700km… That is an Ultra!
Missing the 111km event, meant missing some of its great trails on race day. So It was planned to run on the TVSB course from the St Bernard Hospice to the town of La Fouly. A small climb over the snow covered pass and a large decent to town.
It was just one of those unforgettable days on the trail.
But Its not all running, when there is an event on the weekend, so we were matched up with one most enthusiastic e-Bike guides on the Mountains. Taking breaks for traditional herbal liquor and hearing the truth behind Swiss art, fighting cows and why Verbier is a place to ‘recharge, relax and become alive, again’.
The 29km event, although shorter, still packed the required punch for mountain running. With 2500m of elevation and organised with Swiss like military precision. It was what you hope for when you run, in this part of the world.
Although the 29km event is not a race. The organisation, hold this event to encourage participant to enter with no, ‘race’ like pressure. A way to encourage.
‘The ranking is not what matters most, which is exactly the philosophy we like’- Matt Girard, TVSB
With this philosophy, trail running will always be inclusive, welcoming and encouraging.
Growing in a way, that will largely ensure longevity for the sport.
I have repeated a number of adjectives in this article, mainly, beautiful, to try describe Switzerland.
But this word does not apply to Raclette. This stuff, is not conducive to a good night sleep, despite how enjoyable it is to eat and the laugh it creates for tourists, at the dinner table.
Trail Verbier St-Bernard, is on again in 2017, July 7-8-9th.
Also be aware, that when a Swiss local, describes a run as ‘Flat’, that immediately translates to very hilly with good views. There is no exception to this rule.