In just a few weeks time, Chamonix will be filled to the brim with ultra-runners and spectators for the biggest event of the year, the UTMB or Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc.
For those of you not familiar with this event, it’s actually made up of not one, but seven trail running events of varying length and difficulty. Each race has a set number of participants that are allowed to enter, and for the big races, the runners will have had to score points from completing other qualifying races to allow them to enter.
This year’s UTMB takes place from 27th August – 2nd September 2018
The Mont Blanc Massif is the central point around which the races take place and its steep valleys and mountains are incredibly challenging, which is what brings the world’s best ultra runners back here year after year. Never mind taking a week to walk the Tour du Mont Blanc, these races circumnavigate Europe’s highest mountain in the fastest times humanly possible.
UTMB®: The Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc – This is the big daddy of all the races which sees crowds of people lining the streets of Chamonix to see the runners set off. A lot of this race takes place overnight, spanning three countries, with the winner crossing the line in around 19 hours. The remainder have up to 46 hours to get their tired legs over the finish line, which is where the cheering fans really help to keep them going to the end.
171 km & 10,000 m of vertical gain – 2300 runners – Starts on Friday at 18:00 in Chamonix – 46:30 hours max Video
TDS®: Sur Les Traces des Ducs de Savoie – This race starts in Italy just on the other side of Mont Blanc and takes in the Beaufort, Tarentaise and Aosta valleys, which once upon a time formed the Savoie state (hence the name). Setting off from Courmayeur they head south and over the border into France before turning north towards Les Contamines and back to Chamonix. Expect to see the winners arrive back in Chamonix around 14.5 hours after setting off.
122 km & 7300 m of vertical gain – 1600 runners – Starts on Wednesday at 06:00 in Courmayeur – 33 hours max Video
CCC®: Courmayeur Champex Chamonix – The CCC follows a lot of the same route as the UTMB race, but starts in Italy before crossing into Switzerland and back to Chamonix. Even though it’s 70km shorter than the UTMB, it’s still a huge challenge with a lot of vertical. The winner will cross the finish line in around 10 hours.
101 km & 6100 m of vertical gain – 1900 runners – Starts on Friday at 09:00 in Courmayeur – 26:30 hours max Video
OCC: Orsières Champex Chamonix – Middle of the road in terms of length and vertical this race sets off from Orsières in Switzerland and passes through Trient before heading back into the Chamonix valley. The winner will take just 5 hours to cross the finish line in this ‘medium’ sized ultra race.
56 km & 3500 m of vertical gain – 1200 runners – Starts on Thursday at 08:15 in Orsières – 14:30 hours max Video
MCC: *New for 2018* Martigny-Combe Chamonix – This race is a new addition for 2018 and has been set up to allow volunteers on some of the other races the chance to take part in a race, then carry on to support their team/race later in the week. The winner is expected to take around 3 hours to finish.
40km & 2300 m of vertical gain – 1000 runners – Starts on Monday at 10:00 in Martigny-Combe – 10 hours max
PTL®: Petite Trotte à Léon – This is a unique adventure race which stands apart from the other UTMB races in that it’s the biggest in length, there are no way-markers on the route and it can be run as a pair or three runners together. Teams navigate their way through some really challenging mountain paths and scrambles and it literally takes days to finish. In 2017 the winners completed the whopping 300km course in 117 hours, so they definitely earn a big cheer when they cross the finish line!
Approximately 300 km & 25000 m of vertical gain – A non-stop effort for 300 runners – Starts on Monday at 08:00 in Chamonix – 151:30 hours max Video
YCC: Youth Chamonix Courmayeur – As the name suggests, this race is for budding young athletes aged from 16-22 to get a taster of big trail running competitions.
15km & 1200 m of vertical gain – 300 runners – Starts on Wednesday at 10:00 in Courmayeur – 4 hours max
Where to watch?
If you want to see runners at the start line, the PTL and the UTMB are the only two races that start in Chamonix centre (you can find the other start points in the list above). The main hub of all the action is around the inflatable arch near the Mairie and tourist office in the centre of Chamonix, which acts as the start line for these two races and the finish line for all of them.
After the runners have set off there are plenty of opportunities to see them on the mountain. Flégère, Le Tour, Les Houches or Vallorcine are good places to go to see them running past. Take a look at the 3D route videos to see where each of the races go to help choose your position to watch.
Probably the best place to enjoy the whole atmosphere of the event, is in the centre of Chamonix as the runners head back towards the finish line. Since the various races all culminate with the runners crossing the finish line under the inflatable arch, this is the most popular place for everyone to head to. Find a bar or restaurant along the final few hundred metres and you’re sure to be right in the middle of all the action. There will be runners crossing the line pretty much all week long, so you’ve plenty of time to come and cheer some of them on.
UTMB 2019 Dates & registrations
Next year’s edition of the UTMB will take place from 26th August to 1st September 2019. Registration opens from 18th December 2018 and can only be done online via the UTMB website. This is where you’ll also find all the criteria for taking part and how much it costs to enter each race.
We’ve already got prices for chalets and apartments for next year live on our website, so you can book your accommodation for UTMB 2019 now! Get in touch with us via the usual channels, via the new live chat feature on our website, or send us an enquiry for any additional information.