Euros and Luckiest Americans Get Their Glacier Fixes in the Alps

Chelsea LittleOctober 12, 2015
 Sam Tarling and teammate Welly Ramsey skiing on the Stelvio Glacier in September, 2013. It's now that time of year where many European skiers, and some North Americans, work a glacier camp into their training plans. (Photo: Will Sweetser)
Sam Tarling and teammate Welly Ramsey skiing on the Stelvio Glacier in September, 2013. It’s now that time of year where many European skiers, and some North Americans, work a glacier camp into their training plans. (Photo: Will Sweetser)

‘Tis the season for training on a glacier, if you have the means and want to practice your on-snow technique before winter begins. Teams from around the world are converging on permanent snow – and some glaciers are now getting fresh dustings of the white stuff to make skiing even nicer.

If you can’t get there yourself, here are some photos and blogs to help you at least visualize real snow as you chug through the last few months of dryland training, in eager anticipation of the winter race season.


There were fears that the European glaciers wouldn’t provide good skiing this year, thanks to a brutal heat wave that rolled across the central part of the continent. In July, temperatures weren’t falling below zero even at night on the glaciers, and daytime temperatures led to a lot of melting and slush.

Despite those scares, many of the glaciers are providing skiing this autumn with no problem at all. Austrian athletes have the easiest access to the Dachstein glacier outside of Ramsau, where you can train at almost 9,000 feet for large parts of the traditional dryland season. It’s probably the most popular glacier destination for fall training.

#trainingscamp #dachstein #blacksnow #winteriscomingsoon #lovemysport 💖🌞❄

A photo posted by Julia Pfennich (@_julypfennich_) on

The Austrians are lucky to have Dachstein in their backyard, but lots of other skiers travel farther to get to the Dachstein. Vermont’s Craftsbury Green Racing Project hit up the trails in mid-September. Photos from Caitlin Patterson’s blog and Ida Sargent’s blog show tiny skiers meandering through the snow, dwarfted by the giant cliffs of the Alps.

Although…. the weather isn’t always perfect, as these German skiers demonstrate in a video…

Alexander Legkov, the Russian ski star, also arrived recently to train.

Russian biathlon World Champion Ekaterina Yurlova was there, too:

#dachstein #Ramsau #Austria #snow #winterseason #ski #enjoy #sun 🇦🇹☀️

A photo posted by Ekaterina Yurlova (@yurlovaeka) on

  And so is Ski Classics pro Oskar Svärd of Sweden, a three-time winner of the Vasaloppet:  

And here’s the Italian biathlon team enjoying the sun.


A photo posted by DORO (@dorothea_wierer) on

That makes for an extremely international atmosphere with dozens or even a hundred skiers on the tracks at a time, from all different countries and focusing on all different types of racing. In the afternoons, running, biking, rollerskiing, and hiking are beautiful options for training in the valley below.


  #Skiordie på Stelviobreen med @tim.kent #finito #pizzatime #vinotinto #zweiespressobitte #skarven2016   A photo posted by Eivin Rundberg (@eivinr) on

Passo dello Stelvio in Italy has seen quite a lot of visitors too. If you want to learn more about the glacier’s history as a ski destination, read this piece by FS Editor-at-Large Chelsea Little: “Summer Ski Odyssey Reveals Decaying Dreams in Italy.”

Luckily, in the autumn Stelvio looks a little hipper than in the hot, hot summer, although the glacier is still a bit dirty from the melting that happened during the heat wave. The Green Mountain Valley School has photos of bluebird days and crisp corduroy from their trip in early September, where they shared the tracks with Norwegian superstar Petter Northug, as well as the Italian national team. Read their blog posts to see the scene: Day 1 / Day 2

And here’s Noah Hoffman’s blog from a quick visit he did to Stelvio in early September as well.

Helt innafor på Stelvio ☀️ #16°C #stekendesol #3300mOverhavet #stelvio #ski #snø A photo posted by Krister Saastad (@kristersaastad) on

Stelvio has the big benefit of bording on Stelvio National Park, which provides beautiful nature and trails off the glacier. The pass itself has 48 hairpin turns on the northern side, and 27 on the other side. That’s a big draw for cyclists and drivers. The pass has served as the finish for multiple Giro d’Italia stages through the years.

Val Senales

Meanwhile, Maxim Vylegzhanin of Russia is at another Italian glacier: the Schnalstal in Val Senales, nestled up to the Austrian border.

The glacier opened for fall training on September 25th and has seen lots of skiing since then. At 10,500 feet, skiers can peer into Austria as they traverse the six kilometers of tracks. It’s a bit quieter and less-known than Stelvio as an Italian ski destination. But as with most of the other spots, running through forests and around lakes is ideal afternoon training in the valley below.


How great is the sun in the French Alps? Elisa Brocard, an Italian sprinter, demonstrates with a smile:

Tignes was the venue for freestyle skiing at the 1992 Albertville Olympics, but up high sits a glacier that can be used for all types of snow sports in the shoulder season. The Haute Savoie nordic team has video of the beginning of the ski season in Tignes on the Grande Motte glacier.

With the ski area’s webcam, you can even see skiers on the chairlift.

Yesterday conditions were perfect:

#rossignol#skicountry#fis#tignes#settimanatop Grazie Asiva del supporto, come ritornare ai vecchi tempi.. 💪🔝👍

A photo posted by Francois Vierin (@francoisvierin) on

Tignes, too, is next to a superb park: the Parc National de la Vanoise.

Which one of these spots will you picture as you’re SkiErging?

Chelsea Little

Chelsea Little is FasterSkier's Editor-At-Large. A former racer at Ford Sayre, Dartmouth College and the Craftsbury Green Racing Project, she is a PhD candidate in aquatic ecology in the @Altermatt_lab at Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. You can follow her on twitter @ChelskiLittle.

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