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Patrouille des Glaciers’s future is guaranteed, say organisers

The long-distance ski-touring race from Zermatt to Verbier in southern Switzerland takes place every two years at the end of April, involving military and civilian teams. © Keystone / Jean-christophe Bott

The organisers of the Patrouille des Glaciers, an iconic ski mountaineering race between Zermatt and Verbier in the Swiss Alps, have signed a “roadmap” to ensure the continuation of the biennial event. A recent controversy had cast a shadow over its future.

This content was published on June 21, 2021 - 13:09
Keystone-SDA/sb

The roadmap, signed between the Swiss Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport, canton Valais and the Association for the Support, Management and Promotion of the Patrouille des Glaciers (ASPdG), guarantees the organisation of the next four editions until 2028.

Under the agreement, a public foundation has been set up to take over most of the work of the association, which was created in 1995 to deal with marketing and sponsorship issues. The Swiss army will continue to be responsible for the organisation of the race, together with the cantonal authorities, a statementExternal link published on Monday said.

The 2022 edition will continue as planned, the organisers added.

The gruelling ski mountaineering race, which began in 1943, had been threatened by a recent dispute between the organisers. Following tensions between the army and the association, the canton Valais authorities got all sides to sit down together to hammer out problems, which reportedly focused on financial management issues.

Monday’s announcement comes following an independent audit of public funds used by the association. The Valais cantonal financial inspection service last Thursday concluded that the association had not committed any legal offence with respect to its financial management of the race. The audit followed accusations of excessive salaries paid to some organisers.

By signing the roadmap, the three organisers said they were keen to underline their commitment to the race and its importance. The agreement thereby guarantees the “necessary means and structures to ensure the long-term organisation of the event”, the statement said.

The long-distance ski-touring race from Zermatt to Verbier in southern Switzerland, one of the most challenging in the world, takes place every two years at the end of April, involving military and civilian teams from Switzerland and abroad.

Around 1,600 teams take part. Each three-person patrol battles freezing temperatures, fog, high winds, or blazing sunshine, and 3,000-metre passes to cover the 110 kilometres.

The record is held by a male Italian team: 5 hours 35 minutes and 27 seconds (2018). The same year, a female Swiss-French team competed the course in 7 hours 15 minutes and 35 seconds.

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