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And they're off... sort of
Tuesday April 29, 2014 - Email this article to a friend

One of the toughest races in the Alps, the Patrouille des Glaciers is underway. It is a ski touring race from Zermatt to Verbier but the start has been disrupted by heavy snow. PlanetSKI reports from Verbier.

The main event was due to start on Tuesday but was postponed due to snow and poor visibility.

The first batch of racers did manage to set off on Wednesday.

The rest were due to go today, Friday, but once again the weather closed in and changes have been made, but the organisers are confident it will take place over the weekend.

The second batch of patrols will now be leaving Zermatt from 9pm on Saturday 3 May, and those doing the Arolla-Verbier stretch only will be leaving Arolla from 3.30am on Sunday 4 May.

Over the weekend a further 829 patrols, with 3 people in them, are due to set off - 352 from Zermatt and 477 from Arolla.

It's because of a weather disturbance that arrived on Thursday night.

By 10am this morning it had dumped between 15 and 25cm of fresh snow on the course, particularly along the western end.

The skies are expected to be clear by Saturday morning; by that time meteorologists are expecting total snowfall for the disturbance of 25 to 40 cm.
Max Contesse, the commander of the Patrouille des Glaciers, said: "We have had to take this decision to ensure the safety of the patrollers."

Earlier in the week in the mountains and passes above Zermatt 75ch had fallen in places making it dangerous for the thousands of competitors.

The event is organised by the Swiss army and takes place every two years. 5,4000 ski and climb between the two Swiss resorts.

It is done in teams of three and attracts military teams and some of Switzerland's toughest and most experienced mountain guides.

After the fresh snow organisers have been bombing the high mountains passes and setting off avalanches.

Air Zermatt at workAir Zermatt at work
















Avalanche triggeredAvalanche triggered

















The main course is a 54-kilometre route.

The record time is 5 hours and 52 minutes set in 2010.

The event was cancelled in 2012 due to bad weather.

There is also a shorter course from Arolla.

The first teams set off on Wednesday evening and have now arrived in Verbier. 

One racer who started from Arolla, Sarah Sundstedt, said it was the hardest things she had ever done.  Her team completed the grueling course in 7 hours and 10 minutes.

Sarah and team arrive in VerbierSarah and team arrive in Verbier












Her husband, Jonas, leaves from Zermatt on Friday.

Jonas works for the Verbier ski school European Snowsport, that is a partner of PlanetSKI.

The image below was taken in Verbier on Tuesday morning; there was snow in town and much more at the top of the resort.

The finish lineThe finish line

















The first race was held in 1943 as the Swiss army devised a training event for its arm in case the country was invaded.  It was cancelled in 1949 after a team fell into a crevice. 

The race in its current form re-started in 1984.

PlanetSKI is covering the race from Verbier with our reporter, James Bedding, at the finish line.

As well as reporting on the winners he will be looking at its history, its difficulty and why it is known as one of the hardest ski races in the world.

For a  story from 2010, the last time the race was held then see here on PlanetSKI.

Patrouille des GlaciersPatrouille des Glaciers













A vintage video from 1945 with stunning images of the mountains at that time.


More information on the race as it is currently run in the video below, though it is in French and German.

For the spirit of the mountains

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