Monday, 27 October 2014

Altitude Training Options: Rest of Europe

Over the past few months, I have posted brief summaries of altitude training options in France and Andorra, Spain and the Canary Islands, and Switzerland.  In this post, I look at some of the other options for altitude training across Europe and summarise the general pros and cons of training on the continent.

The mountainous areas of Continental Europe provide scenic training options; however, unlike the Rift Valley or the elevated Plateaus found in North America, these options are mountainous, and not particularly suited for those who don’t fancy running up and down the side of a mountain. Additionally, because of Europe’s distance from the equator, the snow-free season is relatively short, and, at best, stretches from April to September. Most of the available options are based in ski resorts, making them expensive compared to African or North American options.  There are few options to live above 2,000m.

Despite the above drawbacks, there are many advantages to staying in Europe for altitude training.  Budget airlines operate regular flights to most European cities, so getting there, at least, can be relatively cheap.  Even Teneriffe, the furthest away the European options, is served by Ryanair flights from the UK and elsewhere.  As mentioned previously, the European mountains are particularly beautiful, as tranquil glacial lakes contrast with the dramatic mountainous landscape.  The pine forests, with well-groomed trails, that cover many of the mountainous regions, are ideal for care-free off-road running.  There are endless opportunities for trail and fell runners, and trails are generally located close to the hotel and accommodation options.  Europe also offers numerous ‘live high; train low’ options.  There are few safety issues.  And for track runners, getting out races on the European circuit is generally quite easy.

Some of the options available include
  • Turracher Hohe, Austria (1,763m) – A small ski resort approximately 60 km north-west of Klagenfurt.
  • Kuhtai, Austria (2,020m) – A well-equipped, visitor-friendly resort located just 40 km west of Innsbruck. 
  • Rila Mountains, Bulgaria (2,050m) – An isolated area with a well-equipped sports facility specifically designed for altitude training.
  • Sestriere, Italy (2,035m) – A ski resort in the Italian Alps close to the French border, which boasts an athletics track, and is popular among road cyclists and racewalkers.
  • Livigno, Italy (1,816m) – A ski resort in Lomardy, close to the Swiss border, which is particularly appealing to mountain bikers.
If you know of any other altitude training hotspots in Europe, please let us know.  We'd love to share with our community.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Altitude Training Options in Spain

Sierra Nevada in southern Spain is one of Europe’s best known altitude training destinations alongside Font Romeu in France and St. Moritz in Switzerland,  The excellent facilities at CAR Sierra Nevada make it a good option for a variety of sports, but the lack of suitable trails means that it doesn't attract the same number of distance runners as the other aforementioned options.

Another Spanish option is Tenerife in the Canary Islands.  Mount Teide, an active volcano in the centre of the island, is particularly popular among professional cyclists.  The weather and the ability to ‘live high; train low’ are among the draws.  However, the expensive Parador Hotel de Canadas del Teide (2,146 m) is the only accommodation option at altitude, and it’s quite isolated from ‘civilisation’.

Sierra Nevada is one of the options featured in Notes from Higher Grounds: An Altitude Training Guide for Endurance Athletes, and further details of CAR Sierra Nevada can be found on

Blog reports from my visit to Sierra Nevada can be found here and here.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Featured Country of the Month: Morocco

Over the course of September we featured Morocco as an altitude training destination.  The North African country has a rich distance running history, and though the reputation of many of their champions has been marred by less than exemplary doping records, there is no doubt but that the residents of Ifrane, the most popular of it’s altitude training destinations, appreciate and understand athletics.

Ifrane is a small town situated at 1665m of altitude in the Middle Atlas.  It has a track, a good variety of trails, and other facilities for athletes.   It’s functions as a university town, ski resort and as a tourist rest spot, means that there are good restaurants and some comfortable hotels and apartments, and cheap budget flights to Fez, less than an hour away, make it an easily accessible option for European athletes looking to try something a little bit different.

Large areas of the country are mountainous, and adventurous runners will find many more training options, particularly well suited to trail and fell runners, within the Middle and High Atlas Mountains.  Earlier in September Howard Chambers wrote guest post for us on the relative merits of Imlil as an altitude training spot.

Ifrane one of 15 venues featured in my book Notes from Higher Grounds: An Altitude Training Guide for Distance Runners, which can be purchased on Amazon for just £20.  Below is a sneak peak of the Ifrane chapter of the book.

Photos from my visit can be viewed on both Facebook and FlickR

And blog posts detailing my experiences in the town can be viewed here and here.