Patrouille des Glaciers – The world’s largest ski mountaineering race
“We” means two Patrouillen, each with three members – one a women’s team and one men, one Patrouille team (“patrol” in English) with pro ski mountaineers, one with ambitious recreational athletes. One is battling for a spot on the podium; for the others, it’s all about finishing. What then does the PDG mean to each one of us?
The toughest team competition in the world!
One thing is certain, the Patrouille des Glaciers, in short, PDG, is something very special. For ambitious ski mountaineers it is nearly expected that you will have participated once in your life. The course follows the world renown “Haute Route” from Zermatt to Verbier over 53 kilometers (33 miles) and 4,000 meters of vert (13,123 feet). The race’s distance, the high Alpine terrain, as well as the historic background contributes significantly to the legend of PDG.
The PDG took place for the first time in 1943 as a performance race for Swiss military patrols. In 1949, there was an unfortunate fatality during the race which prompted the Swiss Department of Military to forbid further races. Nevertheless, the PDG was never totally forgotten. Unofficially, the legend was continued in the valleys of the canton of Lower Valais for more than 30 years until it finally was time – the reinstatement of the PDG was perfect. Since then no ski mountaineer’s race calendar can be without this event. Every two years, the best athletes match up with each other on the course from Zermatt to Verbier. So what in fact moved us to take part in the PDG 2018?
After this, there are no more limits!
“Actually, I am a traditional ski mountaineer. My background is in alpine racing and, in the years following, I was almost exclusively out and about as a free rider. To prepare for the PDG I competed in the Sellaronda Ski Marathon as my first ski touring competition. What attracted me about the PDG was the team aspect of the competition on alpine terrain over a brutal distance of 53 kilometers with 4,000 meters of climbing. After this, there are no more limits!”
PDG – my second ski touring race
"My mountain sports passion in the winter has been focused for many years on interesting scenic landscapes and skiing tours. A crossing of the Valais alps certainly is just that. However, when I first heard about PDG a few years ago, the challenge in relationship to the length and vert was totally unimaginable to me. It is fantastic to watch how this challenge now is coming into reach with targeted training, lightweight gear, and team motivation. It has become my big goal for this year’s ski touring season.”
A MUST-DO for every ski mountaineer
"Two years ago, I attended to support another racer. The race was unfortunately canceled, but even then, I knew that I wanted to be a part this year. The PDG is a MUST-DO for every ski mountaineer, and I am really looking forward to the challenge. The real challenge lies in the length and the vert of the race. We will train a lot for that. We want to get through it injury free, give our best, and then we’ll see afterward what happens!"
The start is in the middle of the night! Get ready, get set, go.… A crowd of athletes storms across the starting line and in just a few meters disappears into the darkness. What plays out in these few seconds and what it feels like we can only guess. Because for us, it will be the first time. The first time at PDG.
“I want to experience with my team the unique atmosphere of the PDG. My goal is to arrive in Verbier healthy and injury free. The challenge for me is the distance and the altitude – very attractive to me. In preparation, I headed out as often as possible on my touring skis in my local Berchtesgaden mountains – as much as family and work allowed. I also participated in my first ski touring race, the Sellaronda Ski Marathon. I am now totally stoked about this undertaking and hope we can conquer this together.”
Teamwork will determine whether victory or defeat
“In the ski mountaineering community, people talk about the PDG a lot. It is simply one of the biggest events in the segment. For me, the combination of teamwork, the extremely long course, and the spectacular natural landscapes of the Haute Route are what makes PDG so attractive. Teamwork is the factor that will determine whether victory or defeat. It’s all about the team working together…and of course sharing the highs and lows. The best skimo athletes of the world take part in the PDG, and the competition is thus appropriately hard. For me, it is the ultimate challenge for 2018.“
A race in the Alpine high mountains must not be underestimated
"I believe the PDG is the dream of every alpinist! It is one of the oldest and biggest races in one of the most beautiful regions, and also a team competition – which for me makes it even more attractive. All of these reasons add up to my motivation to tackle this long and certainly difficult course. I am looking forward to seeing where the military took on this course back in 1943, with the gear back then and during the war even. Although we three – Johanna, Malene and I – will start with the elite teams, we see the PDG more as a mutual challenge than as a competitive battle for the fastest time. A race in the Alpine high mountains must not be underestimated. You have to pay attention to each other and support each other. That’s why I look forward the most to conquering the course itself, to the team spirit, the scenery, and all the challenges we will confront."
Length and the quantity of vertical meters at first were for me unimaginable.