Vélan Trail : a new opportunity to discover Switzerland's Valais Alps

15 Dec 2011 12:25
Jean-Loup Fenaux
Focus on a race Interview

Hello, on July 28th 2012, you’ll be organizing the Vélan Trail. Can you tell us where it is located?

The Vélan Trail will begin in St. Petersburg (Bourg-Saint-Pierre), a little village near the famous Great St. Bernard Hospice in Switzerland’s Valais Alps.

How old is the race and why was it created in the first place?

2012 will be the first annual Vélan Trail: we decided to embark on this great adventure on the 35th anniversary of the Vélan Cross-Country.

The Vélan Cross-Country is a popular little 6.8km race, covering 1,010m of difference in altitude between St. Petersburg and the Vélan cabin.
It was established in 1977 to honor the memory of the victims of the mountains (including Raoul Max and Robert Balleys, both cabin caretakers from Vélan and Valsorey who tragically disappeared in the mountains).

Credit : Trail du Vélan
What kind of route have you set up for the runners? How would you describe it?

This trail is about 45km long and spans a 2,650m altitude change.

It is a rolling course, enlivened by several segments of scree, culminating at the Valsorey cabin at an elevation of 3,037m.

How many runners do you expect on Sarturday morning? What type of runners do you plan to attract?

We are limited to 300 runners.

We are hoping to attract experienced trail runners as well as, of course, novices looking for a good time!

Do you organize other races during the Week-End? If so, on what distances?

We will hold the traditional Vélan Cross-Country as described above, with 6.8km covering 1,010m of difference in altitude, which will organize the 2012 Valais mountain championship. You can read more on our web site, currently under construction: trail.crossduvelan.ch

The First Annual Vélan Trail will be held on the same day as the Vélan Cross-Country, with different timetables! 4 AM for the elite runners and 6 AM for the novices.

Credit : Trail du Vélan
The race is sponsored by Florent Troillet, 2010 world ski mountaineering champion.

The Vélan Trail is a new 100% natural trail in the heart of the Valais Alps. This sporting event will be held at the feet of the majestic Mt. Vélan and Grand Combin, set against the backdrop of Great St. Bernard and the Combins.

This original Alpine route passes by three mountain cabins (Mille Cabin, Valsorey Cabin, Vélan Cabin) and passes the St. Petersburg and Liddes hostels; following this trail, with its unmatched view of the Mont Blanc and the Grandes Jorasses, you will take the famous “panoramic trail,” and finish at 3,037m, after 45km and a 2,650m climb, with few check points.

The Vélan Trail will be held on Saturday, July 28, 2012, on the 35th anniversary of the Vélan Cross-Country.

The Vélan Trail offers a magnificent panorama, as much for the view as for the flora, and a relatively rolling course, with some technical segments.

It will satisfy tough sportsmen, and lovers of nature and the mountains.

A true adventure…

The little cross-country: a children’s race on a beautiful 2km course across the picturesque village of St. Petersburg, starting in the afternoon of July 28. All the details will be on our website!

Important: you can register for these three races on our website, www.crossduvelan.ch in early 2012.

Credit : Trail du Vélan
At that time of the year, what kind of weather can we expect?

The weather is usually fine at that time of year! A few firn packs may still remain at high altitudes!

Of course, as the organizers of such an event, we are hoping for beautiful weather!

Have you planned festivities around the race?

We are planning a few different activities; details to be announced during the year on our website. We will have the customary bar, grill, and raclette, and a ball with a DJ for an elegant end to the evening.

The race finished, what advice would you give a runner who has never been to St. Petersburg before? A good restaurant, a fancy sightseeing?

For those coming from France, for example, you might enjoy spending the entire weekend here. We are the last village at the foot of the Grand St. Bernard Pass, so you can’t pass up a visit to the legendary monastery with its museum and famous dogs. You will find our restaurants friendly and well stocked with special dishes.

The world famous Pierre Gianadda Foundation should satisfy all the art lovers. There is much more to do, and the Vichères-Liddes and St. Petersburg tourism office will be happy to tell you about it!

In a single sentence, what would you tell the readers of ahotu Marathons to make them register for the Vélan Trail?

A great adventure in a beautiful Alpine setting: the mountains of Saint Bernard!!


An interview with Philippe Balleys, a lifelong mountain lover and chair of the Vélan Cross-Country for the last five years. Philippe is one of the founding members of the Vélan Trail.