Icebug Route Winter Studded Shoe Review

Icebug are specialists at studded shoes, be that for orienteering, trail running or winter running. The ICEBUG ROUTE is considered an entry level shoe with a combination of features designed to appeal to experienced or novice runners. I have been using the Icebug Route in rotation with several winter shoes: VJ Sport Xante, inov-8 Arctic Talon, inov-8 OROC and notably, the Icebug Pytho 5.

Read articles on winter:

Winter Running HERE

Embrace Winter HERE

Fastpacking and Camping in Winter HERE

Clothing Layers HERE

The Icebug Pytho 5 is solid shoe, I wrote, “works exceptionally well as an ‘all-rounder’ and is sold as such, recommended for trail running, forest running, orienteering and winter ice running.” The Pytho uses BUGrip and so does the Route.

BUGrip is the secret weapon of Icebug winter shoes and it this technology that provides grip in the most demanding and slippery conditions. The outsole is made from a special rubber compound, there would be typically 15-19 studs inserted. The Pytho 5 has 17 and the Route a maximum 19. The studs work independently from each other and are not completely fixed. When weight is applied, the studs push in toward the surface of the sole. How far they are pushed in depends on the pressure exerted by the user and the resistance from the ground. Quite simply, the secret of running in studded shoes is ‘trusting’ the outsole to do its job. The more confident you are, the harder you place your foot and the more you believe in the outsole, the better the grip will be.

The Icebug Route has been somewhat of a revelation. And I say this as many of the selling points are not what I would typically look for in a shoe, notably, 12mm drop. I am a neutral runner and typically run in anything from 0 to 8mm drop.

Designed for winter road conditions, I have been using the Route on trails with rocks, tree routes covered in snow and ice, frozen lakes, iced pavements and iced single-track, so in summary, pretty much everything… I have not used them on mountain terrain.

The Route is light, for example, in comparison to the Pytho 5 they are 30g lighter and they feel it. There is a life in the Route that I did not expect and comparison to the Pytho 5, the feel is considerably more preferable.

Listed as a cushioned shoe with a comfortable feel, I can confirm the ride is very plush with great flex, bounce and still with a feel for the ground. The propulsive phase is very good with great flex around the metatarsals. The midsole is Bloom Foam, EVA with ESS stabilizer. I have not been able to find any measurements for front and rear cushioning, but based on other test shoes and experience, I would estimate 8mm front and 20mm rear – this is a guess though!

The upper is not insulated and this is a notable point, the shoes in sub-zero winter runs of snow and ice are noticeably colder than some of the competition. Top tip – I use neoprene socks as standard with temperatures below zero and this makes a huge difference, especially with the Route. Breathable is not a good selling point for a winter shoe. Made from 100% recycled polyester textile, the upper is very durable to winter conditions. Toe box protection is minimal. There are no reinforced panels on the upper and the shoe does not suffer from it.

The toe box is wide and spacious, ideal for a winter shoe allowing the toes to splay and move. You don’t want your toes squeezed in a shoe in cold weather, some space allows for blood flow.

The lacing is simple with 5 eyelets on either side and an optional lock-lacing eyelet at the top. Importantly, the laces really pull and hold the foot providing reassurance on any terrain.

The heel box is comfortable, holds firm, caused no abrasion and importantly, when going uphill, causes no slipping. It’s well-padded and very comfortable.

The insole is Ortholite Hybrid designed to create a cooler, drier environment inside the footwear.

The outsole is the star of the shoe and the 19 dynamic steel studs perform superbly adjusting to the terrain and conditions providing supreme confidence. Notably, when running on road sections lacking snow or ice, the Route is still comfortable and unlike other studded shoes, I don’t feel the studs coming through to the insole. It goes without saying, that running on roads or pavements without ice or snow should be kept to a minimum. It is easy to lose studs and the BUGrip outsole is designed to work effectively with 2 or 3 studs missing. It is possible to replace studs, you just need to contact Icebug for spares. Notably with studded shoes, they work remarkable well on trail providing exceptional grip on tree roots, rocks and other obstacle; they are not just for snow and ice.

Finally, the Route has a good look with a blue fade and yellow patterned overlay including the Icebug logo.

IN USE

True to size, the Route is immediately comfortable when you slide your foot in. There is little to distract in this shoe, quite simply, lace up and off you go.

The width in the toe box is notable but not so wide that you lose feel or precision when running on more technical terrain.

Comfort is immediately noticeable from the cushioning and not at the expense of feel for the ground or flex in the propulsive phase.

Considering the shoe has a 12mm drop, I have to say, the Route did not feel out of place and at all times, on every run, has felt comfortable. This has made me very curious and I still do not have an answer? Maybe the soft snow, ice and the mixture of conditions masks the higher drop? Ultimately, the only consideration is comfort, and the Route is extremely comfortable.

The studs have been superb at providing the required grip as and when required, noticeably, in comparison to some other studded shoes, I like the way the studs adapt to the terrain and pressure from the runner to provide the grip required only when needed. Don’t get me wrong, the studs don’t disappear when there is no snow or ice, they are just not as noticeable.

The upper is surprisingly not ideal for a winter studded shoe. It’s durable, however, it lacks warmth and insulation. So, make sure you use appropriate socks for conditions. I recommend Merino socks as a base layer with a warmer sock over the top. I personally use neoprene socks as I know they work and keep my feet warm. Other options would be Merino socks with a Gore-Tex sock. Top tip – Ideally take appropriate socks when trying for size. It’s not unusual with winter shoes taking a half-size larger to compensate.

CONCLUSION

Before I used the Icebug Route I had wrongly anticipated I would not like the shoe. After all, who uses 12mm drop shoes these days? I was completely wrong. Light, cushioned, great comfort, amazing outsole and room in the toe box all combined together to make the Route one of the best winter shoes I have used. Alongside the VJ Sport Xante, they are now one of my preferred shoes. I even prefer them to arguably, in Icebug terms, the better shoe Pytho 5 which in comparison feels a little over engineered and heavy. I must clarify here, the Pytho 5 is a really great shoe. One thing the Route has taught me, is not to let shoe specs and details get in the way of how a shoe feels and runs. The Icebug Route is a really excellent winter shoe that excels on hard iced trails. The downside of the shoe is the lack of warmth in the upper which can be compensated for with good socks.

Please support this website. I believe everyone deserves to read quality, independent and factual articles – that’s why this website is open to all. Free press has never been so vital. I hope I can keep providing independent articles with your help. Any contribution, however big or small, is so valuable to help finance regular content. Please support me on Patreon HERE.

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ICEBUG Pytho 5 Winter Running Shoe Review

With the arrival of winter conditions, snow and ice impact on running significantly. For many, running indoors appears to be the only option, however, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Many brands now produce shoes specifically for winter running and specifically for running on ice. ICEBUG have been making specific winter shoes for many years and they are often, the ‘go-to’ shoe when it comes to challenging run conditions.

Read an article on Winter HERE

Read an article Running on Ice HERE

It’s important to clarify that Icebug provide multiple options when it comes to outsoles/ shoes and in many scenarios, the shoes can quite easily double up as orienteering shoes.

  • NewRun BUGrip – Runners on all levels, primarily seeking comfort and traction and longing for smooth runs on icy roads.
  • Oribi BUGrip – Many types of runners, seeking a super-light shoe with steel studs.
  • Rover – Almost everything and anyone. Great for running and speed hiking in harsh weather.
  • Spirit OLX – Orienteers, trail runners, and everyone else who wants to take their trail running to the next level.

And finally:

Pytho BUGrip – Trail runners seeking traction and comfort.

The PYTHO 5

The Pytho 5 is arguably the Icebug shoe that would appeal as an entry level for a trail or mountain runner.

It’s a shoe that works exceptionally well as an ‘all-rounder’ and is sold as such, recommended for trail running, forest running, orienteering and winter ice running.

The outsole has 17 dynamic carbide tip steel studs (BUGrip®) which evenly distributed to provide the most secure and reliable grip on a multitude of surfaces. I can’t clarify enough how this outsole has made a revelation of my local forest runs which include rocks, tree roots and a variety of terrain (with or without snow/ice) and the grip has been exceptional. On rock, it has almost made me desire to use a studded shoe for all runs; no doubt why studded shoes are popular in the orienteering world.

With a 5mm drop, a medium last, a wide toe box and medium cushioning the Pytho 5 is designed for longer distance running. The midsole is foam EVA made with 20% BLOOM®.

While not the lightest shoes available (320g for UK8/ 334g for UK10) the Pytho 5 is a solid shoe built to last for tough terrain and at the same time provide comfort.

The upper, while not Gore-Tex is designed to withstand the elements resisting water and does not absorb water. It is warmer than a conventional upper and of course less breathable. However, it is not insulated. Using Merino socks and running in -10 temperatures in snow/ ice, my feet have remained warm. This is a real plus and a requirement for a winter running shoe! The upper is also extremely resilient using 100% recycled PET polyester called bluesign® with mudguard. The lining of the shoe also uses a similar dyed recycled polyester textile. 

The toe box is substantial and designed to really withstand impact on any terrain.

The heel box is padded, holds secure and is comfortable. The tongue is medium padded, and the lacing has 6 eyelets on either side with the option to lock-lace if required. Hold of the foot and importantly the instep is solid and secure providing security on technical terrain.

The toe box is classed as wide and of course, how wide will depend on you and your personal needs. The intention of the wider toe box is to provide more comfort on longer runs. Also, in winter, some additional room can be important to allow for blood flow.

IN USE

The Pytho 5 is a comfortable shoe that is true to size. One important consideration in any winter shoe is getting the correct size. Many a runner will wear additional or thicker socks in the coldest months, so, keep that in consideration. I usually run in UK9.5/ EU44 and in the Pytho 5 I chose a UK10/ EU45 – I wish I hadn’t. They are actually a little too large and my normal UK9.5/ EU44 would have been perfect, even with thicker socks. I strongly recommend using Merino socks as they retain warmth even when wet. Some runners like to use neoprene socks and others a wool sock with a Gore-Tex or similar product over the top. It comes down to personal choices and understanding what works for you.

The cushioning is noticeable and importantly, if you have not run-in studs before, the feel is always a little unusually initially. It takes one good run to get a ‘feel’ for any studded shoe, especially if you have some road before getting to trail/ snow or ice. Studded shoes are noisy on road.

Once on ice and snow, the shoes come into their own offering a reassured grip that gives confidence. You NEED to trust the shoes and the grip. Again, if you have not run in studded shoes before, you may well approach ice with hesitation… Top tip is do not do this! Any studded shoe requires you to be confident, brave, trust the shoe and plant your foot hard to the ground. Force and pressure are what pushes the outsole into the ice, and this is what gives the grip. Try to run lightly and grip is compromised. The 17 studs are placed to offer grip from the heel to the toe and to accommodate run styles when going up or down. The spread is perfect. You may well find that you alter your run style slightly looking to plant your foot more evenly, the more studs on the ground, the greater the grip!

The upper is very tough and resilient and little inflexible. I certainly found it took a good 6 runs before the upper softened.

Foot hold is really good and assured which for me is essential in any off-road shoe. The toe box is wide but not excessively so and certainly does allow more toe splay but not at the compromise of precision. If I was running very technical terrain, I would prefer a more precision fit, but for general trail running they are perfect.

Importantly, remember the Pytho 5 is not ‘just’ a winter shoe. It excels on muddy, rocky and tree root terrain. You may well be surprised with how much grip this type of shoe gives. So much so that you will consider using a shoe of this style throughout the year as and when the terrain dictates. Orienteers for example use studded shoes all year.

On ice, particularly a frozen lake, the Pytho 5 glides along and they put a smile on your face. Equally, running on icy paths or roads is assured making pedestrians look at you and question how you are doing that…

CONCLUSION

The downside of any studded shoe is that they are more tiring on the body. The Pytho 5 tries to address this with more cushioning and a wider toe box, however, if you go out on hard ice terrain for many hours you will certainly feel it. That is just the way ice running is and not a criticism of the shoe.

Icebug know how to make winter shoes and the Pytho 5 is a great all-rounder that tackles winter exceptionally well. As a plus, they handle trail and notably rocks and tree routes superbly; just as an orienteering shoe should.

Ice running takes a little practice, and the top tip is trusting the shoe and the outsole. Don’t be shy and delicate, run hard and press the studs in the ground, once you do, you will have great grip that will allow you to speed along in a multitude of conditions.

Key Specifications:

  • Weight: 320 grams
  • Drop: 5 mm
  • Last: Medium
  • Studs: Studded
  • Usage: Running, Trail running, Winter running
  • Insole: Ortholite Hybrid, lined with bluesign® 100% recycled and solution dyed PET polyester
  • Lining: Bluesign®, solution dyed
  • Midsole: Lightweight EVA with 20% BLOOM® Foam. TPU stabilizer
  • Terrain: Ice, Snow, Trail
  • Torsion: Stability Flex
  • Outersole: Rubber with BUGrip® 17 carbide tip studs
  • Cushioning: Medium
  • Upper Part: Bluesign® 100% recycled GRS certified PET polyester. Protective TPU mudguard

Please support this website. I believe everyone deserves to read quality, independent and factual articles – that’s why this website is open to all. Free press has never been so vital. I hope I can keep providing independent articles with your help. Any contribution, however big or small, is so valuable to help finance regular content. Please support me on Patreon HERE.

Follow on:

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facebook.com/iancorlessphotography

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Running On Ice – A Guide

Abelone Lyng using the Artic Talon by inov-8

Depending on where you live, the arrival of Autumn and Winter can put fear in many a runner. Snow and more importantly ice, are not a runner’s friend.

I get no traction cause I’m running on ice

It’s taking me twice as long

I get a bad reaction cause I’m running on ice

Billy Joel – Running On Ice

Imagine a scene, the snow is on the ground, the sky is blue, and you just can’t wait to get out. Within 10-strides you are on your butt… ice was under that wonderful white powder.

However, it doesn’t need to be that way. It’s perfectly safe to run in winter and contrary to what you may think, it’s fun and exciting. Read an article HERE about preparing for winter.

Firstly, snow is fine to run on and in all honesty, a good trail running shoe with a good aggressive outsole will work fine, providing no ice is underneath. Look at shoes that perform well in mud and they will provide great grip in soft snow. Think about how you will keep your feet warm? A Merino sock is essential as they still keep feet warm even when wet. However, if you anticipate feet to be constantly wet, the use of a barrier sock in addition to a Merino sock is a great idea, SealSkinz being a good example. Importantly, take into consideration that your winter shoe may need to be a half size larger to accommodate for extra sock width.

The use of a gaiter is a good idea as this may stop or delay snow going in the shoe around the ankle. As an example, inov-8 produce specific fixture points and gaiters on many of the shoes they make.

Accept that in snow you will move slower and that runs will be more demanding. You naturally get a harder work out, so now is not the time to try speed or intervals.

Fresh snow is great to run on providing it is not too deep. Constantly sinking into deep fresh snow is exhausting, look for footprints or flattened snow, this will make moving easier. If you do wish to run in soft and deep snow, snow shoeing is a great option.

Think about when you run, early morning and evening you run the risk of more ice, then you need to consider the information below. Ice forms around dawn and late evening, when temperatures are typically drop. The ground temperature causes precipitation to freeze, thus creating ice. Of course, some places have permanent ice due to consistent sub-zero temperatures, in many ways, this makes shoe choice easier as you know what to expect. Darkness can make ice and particularly black ice difficult to see, so, be careful. A good headlamp is essential and a waist/ chest lamp in conjunction with a headlamp really makes viewing the ground optimal.

Trail is often better than the road, so if you have the chance, use trails. Trail has a naturally rough surface making traction and the risk of slipping reduced.

Snow running is a little like running in sand. You will use more muscles, get fatigued in a different way, you will use your core more and mentally you will be constantly engaged, it’s difficult to just switch off when snow or ice running.

Needless to say, layer clothing (article HERE) and make sure you use long tights and higher socks. You do not want to get snow burn!

Once snow becomes packed down, hard and frozen, you need to re-think and consider ICE running.

ICE

inov-8 Artic Talon winter shoe has 14 studs for grip.

Have you ever been running, hit some ice and had that feeling of the world going into slow motion? Your core engages, your arms go high, your feet go in different directions and somehow, you stop yourself from falling… Or you hit the deck! It’s an awful feeling and one that stops you in your tracks forcing you to move at a snail pace afterwards. It doesn’t need to be like that though.

You have 3 options when it comes to running outdoors in ice conditions:

  1. You stay inside and do not run opting for treadmill, gym, cross training or other exercise options.
  2. You use your normal run shoes and are prepared with the addition of nano or micro spikes.
  3. You use specific winter shoes with studs OR you add studs to your run shoes. 

Option 1 is easy – a treadmill is safe if not a little boring and yes, cross training is a great addition to any training plan. However, you do not want to be indoors all the time.

Option 2 is a difficult one from the perspective of I would only use nano or micro spikes if I was expecting the road or trails to be mostly runnable BUT there may be a chance of ice. The main reason for this, although these spikes work great, they are not ideal if used for prolonged periods of time as they are not as comfortable. So, these spikes tend to be in my run pack and then used for short periods of time as and when road or trail conditions dictate.

Option 3 is dictated by permanent ice on roads and trails and quite simply it makes shoe choice easy. I personally dislike that transition period hovering around zero when ice may or may not be around. Give me cold temperatures and ice any day over the question mark conditions. With ice everywhere I use specific winter shoes that have studs embedded into the outsole that create grip and provide security. Once you have used a specific shoe like this, you will never go back.

TECHNIQUE

Like anything, you need to learn to run on ice and the biggest tip I can give is, trust the shoe! If you are using a winter shoe with studs or a normal run shoe with nano or micro spikes, accept that it will do the job and trust them!

Body weight and force is a friend with ice. Don’t fear it and hold back, run with force and really plant your foot. Pressure (with body weight) sticks the studs into the ice and that is what gives you the grip.

A shorter stride, firm foot placement and confidence.

If possible, try to land on the middle of the foot, this will allow more of the outsole to have contact with the ground, again, this gives more grip and security.

A shorter stride and higher cadence works in most scenarios and look ahead, typically 2-3 meters and plan a route.

Going uphill the front of the outsole will be used, run strong and forceful. Downhill, trust the shoe and try to place your foot flat optimising the whole of the outsole and its studs and/ or nano/micro spikes.

Accept that ice running is tiring, many consider it to be harder on the body even in comparison to road running.

PRODUCTS TO HELP YOU RUN ON ICE

MINI NANO or MICRO CRAMPONS

Kahtoola Nano Spike ©khatoola

These are low-profile ice spikes (varying sizes and types) which enable you to run or walk on slippery frozen surfaces with confidence. Typically, they have an elastomer harness that stretches over any run shoe and they come in sizes, just like socks.

Kahtoola Nano Spikes offer studs that are very similar to specific winter run shoes like those listed below. They have 6 studs at the front and 4 at the rear. They come in XS, S, M, L and XL. I personally go down one size when using any of the ‘add-on’ spikes as I feel that they are more secure. 

Yak Trax offer several options and the ‘Pro’ is recommended for running as the ice grips have stronger, shaped-edge, coils and a retaining strap which goes over the top of the footwear for extra security.

Nortec are specialists with ‘add-on’ spikes and they have three distinct models. The Corsa is very much like the Khatoola spikes with a 6/4 configuration. The Trail has spikes just at the front and rear and are more aggressive. The Nordic are ideal in more mountain and severe environments when one is encountering Alpine conditions.

Nortec Nordic.

Snowline like Nortec produce many ‘add-on’ crampons, a personal favourite is the Chainsen Pro.

WINTER RUN SHOES

VJ Sport Xante has 5mm lugs and 20 carbon steel studs.

Specific winter run shoes offer the best run, the most secure grip and the most comfortable ride when running on ice. Many brands produce specific shoes as part of their range to offer an excellent winter running experience.

Karin Franck-Nielsen using the Asics Gel-Fujisetsu 3 GTX

Top tips: Low temperatures don’t go well with a narrow-fit shoe so a roomy toe box may be worth considering. Also, ice running is tiring, more cushioning may well prove to be advantageous. Finally, you may wish to wear two pairs of socks and/ or barrier socks, so, keep this in mind, sometimes a half or full size bigger may be a consideration BUT make sure you try the shoes on with the socks you expect to wear.

Read a guide HERE.

Recommendations:

VJ Xante

VJ Sport Xante is a cushioned shoe and very comfortable for longer runs. It has a 10mm drop and medium fit. Cushioning is 10mm/20mm with 5mm lugs and 20 carbon steel studs.

Arctic Talon inov-8

inov-8 Artic Talon has a 4mm drop, 7mm lugs, great cushioning with 17.5mm at the front and 21.5mm at the rear, excellent weight, a more precision fit and 14 studs that are longer than those offered by VJ and Icebug.

Abelone in Artic Talon, Ian in VJ Sport Xante
Newrun by Icebug

Icebug NewRun BUGrip GTX – includes a BOA adjustment which works really well in cold conditions when gloves could hinder adjusting laces, they have 17 steel studs that adapt to the surface, a wider toe box, 7mm drop and good cushioning.

Other recommendations:

Vibram Artic Grip has no studs.

MAKING YOUR OWN ICE SHOES

One option is to make your own winter shoes. Maybe you have a favourite trail or road shoe that you’d like to adapt? I’d recommend that you use a shoe that has seen some use, say 2 to 300-miles. If you were using a new pair of shoes, it would make better sense you purchased a specific shoe as listed above. However, this way you breathe life into a shoe that would soon not be used due to wear.

Purchase Hex Head Screws from a DIY store. Be careful on size, typically 3/8 or 1/4 is best.

Screw the shoes into the outsole of the shoe using an electrical screwdriver, makes things much easier. I suggest you mark the areas with a pen first. Think about foot placement and where you want grip. Ideally 10 at the front and 6-8 at the rear.

Tighten the screw into the outsole until the head is flush with the shoe. The head of the screw provides the traction. Be careful not to screw too far and go through the shoe and into the insole.

Job done.

Elite runner, Jeff Browning wrote and article on this.

Jeff Browning adapted his Altra shoes for ice running. Image ©jeffbrowning

*From experience, I do feel that a hex screw does not give as much grip or confidence as a specific winter stud. Also, you will find that you will need to replace them regularly.

CONCLUSIONS

Snow running is great fun, provides a great workout and provides a great change from your typical Spring and Summer runs.

Ice running is often feared, but if you follow the tips above, there is no need to fear the conditions. If you have a specific product that will provide grip, that can be a Nano Spike, a specific winter run shoe or even a *homemade run shoe, then you can be confident that you will have grip.

Only you know your needs.

If ice running is something you will do only now and again, I recommend using a product like the Khatoola Nano Spike for roads and trails with ice. If heading off-road where ice will be mixed with snow, a more aggressive spike such as those by Nortec or Snowline would be better.

If snow and ice running is going to be a day-to-day occurrence, investing in a specific winter shoe is a great choice. The comfort levels and grip are considerably better.

Have confidence and enjoy the running.

Please support this website. I believe everyone deserves to read quality, independent and factual articles – that’s why this website is open to all. Free press has never been so vital. I hope I can keep providing independent articles with your help. Any contribution, however big or small, is so valuable to help finance regular content.

Please support me on Patreon HERE.

Follow on:

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facebook.com/iancorlessphotography

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Ice Trail Tarentaise Preview

image_1873

Ice Trail Tarentaise sends the chills down our spines as we prepare ourselves for the third event in the ISF Skyrunner Ultra World Series.

The stunning alpine village of  Val d’Isère is the official home of the Ice Trail Tarentaise. The race starts and concludes at this beautiful mountain retreat and as the name suggests, it is also the source of the Isère River. The Isère flows through some of the most iconic mountain landscape available. It is a haven for alpinists wanting to test themselves on the iconic slopes of Meribel, Val Thorens, Courchavel. ‘Les Trois Vallées (The Three Valleys) is a ski region in the Tarentaise Valley, Savoie département of France, to the south of the town of Moûtiers, partly in the Vanoise National Park. As implied by its name, the area originally consisted of three valleys: Saint-BonAllues, and Belleville. The skiing area has since been extended into a ‘fourth’ valley, the Maurienne valley. It is adjacent to Val Thorens, but can also be accessed using a long gondola lift from Orelle.

The Tarentaise valley and the Ice Trail Tarentaise in many respects personify what Kilian Jornet has been pursuing for years, the term ‘Alpinism’ is often perceived as climbing but it is so much more.

The race route has over 60 km’s above 2000m altitude and with a highest point of 3653m at ‘Grande Motte’ this is a race not to be taken lightly. Memories of the Tour de France flood into my mind when I discuss this region, however, other than the highest paved mountain pass at the ‘Col de L’Iseran’ at 2770m, no bicycles will be seen.

Traversing glaciers, ascending and descending summits such as ‘Aiguille Pers’ at 3386 m, participants in the 2013 Ice Trail Tarentaise will no doubt have a full appreciation of what Kilian and others like him strive for when they coin the term, Skyrunning. You see, Skyrunning is Alpinism but without the clutter, it’s about being light and moving fast.

Ropes, ladders, way markers, peaks at over 3000m and 5000m +/- ascent and descent guarantees that not all those who toe the line will see the finish. It is a tough tough race; no doubt!

The inaugural event was due to take place in 2011 however severe weather left the organization with no choice but to cancel, however, the 32km ‘Altispeed’ did take place (no easy option). Despite extreme conditions Damien Vouillamoz won the race in just over three and a half hours and Virginie (Virg) Govignon in 5:14. Virg just recently took part in one of the shorter events at Ronda dels Cims placing third, Andorra is now her home and the passion and love for the mountains are strong.

The arrival of the 2012 edition was eagerly anticipated, the shortened version in 2011 had wet many appetites, and success rates had been around approximately 50%, what would a full course offer? Despite initial weather concerns the race went ahead. Francois D’Haene from Salomon and Anne Valero from Mizuno were respective winners in times of 8:16:35 and 11:20:13 respectively.

Just three years old and only in its second edition, the 2013 Ice Trail Tarentaise will now offer a challenge to elites and non-elites that only many could have wished for. Now part of the Skyrunner World Series, the Ice Trail Tarentaise will see a return of the 2012 winner, Francois D’Haene compete against Kilian Jornet, Philipp Reiter, Rickey Gates, Nico Valsesia, Jordi Bes Ginesta, Nicolas Pianet and Vincent Delaberre. For the ladies, the reigning champion, Anne Valero will not defend her title but don’t worry; the ladies field is extremely competitive. Emelie Forsberg, Anna Frost, Julia Boettger, Silvia Serafini, Shona Stephenson and Emilie Lecomte will do battle on the glaciers and peaks of the ‘Tarentaise’; only one will be crowned the ice queen.

MEN

©copyright .iancorless.com.P1140290

Kilian Jornet – Considering the nature of this course, it’s location, severity, difficulty and true ‘Alpinist’ routes one would be foolish not to tip Kilian Jornet as a favorite for this race. As Lauri Van Houten points out, “Alpinism is traditional mountaineering with the big boots and all the gear – Skyrunning is doing the same stuff faster without all the gear…. Kilian will love it’. The race in many respects reads like one of his ‘Summits’ attempts and as such will suit him perfectly. With incredible results already achieved in 2013; Transvulcania, Zegama and Mont Blanc Marathon, one can’t help but think that Ice Trail Tarentaise is a race that will not only show him at his best but also it will be a race that he is eagerly waiting for.

Francois D'Haene 2012 TNFUTMB copyright iancorless.com

Francois D’Haene 2012 TNFUTMB copyright iancorless.com

Francois D’Haene – returns as the 2012 champion and for sure that will be a great advantage. Francois had an extremely successful 2012 with a top placing at Transvulcania but I am sure his TNFUTMB win will be the one he remembers most. He is currently in great form and for sure he will be pushing Kilian at the front.

Philipp Reiter Transgrancanaria copyright iancorless.com

Philipp Reiter Transgrancanaria copyright iancorless.com

Philipp Reiter – has incredible talent and recently won his first ever 100km race in Germany. He his experienced in the snow and without doubt this will play a big advantage in a race so demanding. He has shown in the past at races such as the extremely technical, Trofeo Kima, that he has all around ability. This will all come into play on this extremely tough and challenging race.

Rickey Gates – has been a little quiet of late. He always has a much smaller and tighter calendar in comparison to other runners but when he races, you know he will be in great shape. Top placing’s at the 2012 Transvulcania and a win at Speedgoat will carry over to this year and provide Rickey with a great base to compete against his Salomon teammates.

Nico Valsesia – is not shy of long distances. Arguably he is known for long cycling events like riding across America in the ‘RAAM’. His recent form is unknown as he should have toed the line at the 170km Ronda dels Cims.

Jordi Bes Ginesta – is a Catalan ski mountaineer and mountain runner and one has to say that ‘Ice Trail’ will play to all his abilities. His palamares are excellent in SkiMo with top ten placing’s in Spanish Championships, European Championships and World Championships. He was eighth in the 2009 world Skyrunning Championships and although I don’t think he will fight for a top three place you should definitely see him within the top ten.

Fulvio Dapit – is no stranger to Skyrunning and will come into the Ice Trail Tarentaise with a clear understanding of what needs to be done to compete at the front of the field. Fulvio was 2011 winner at the tenth edition of Monterosa Skyrace, he placed seventh at 2012 Zegama and recently had some success at Sardinia Trail, however, his form coming to Val D’Isère is not clear. Not a podium contender but a possible top ten.

Nicolas Pianet – has been racing since March and most notably raced the ‘Trail de Faverges Icebreaker 44km’ he placed third behind Patrick Bringer but one can almost certainly assume it was a preparation event for Ice Trail. His most recent race was Mont Blanc Marathon, he placed eleventh behind a strong and dominant Kilian Jornet. Nicolas has potential to mix things up at Tarentaise but he won’t contend the podium.

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Vincent Delabarre – previous winner of TNFUTMB and currently leading courses on the UTMB route will come into this race with plenty of mountain and snow experience. Invaluable! He raced earlier in the year at Marathon des Sables, a somewhat different experience to what lies ahead in Val D’Isère.

LADIES

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Emelie Forsberg – tops my table for the ladies race, just the other weekend she finished second to a flying Stevie Kremer at Mont Blanc Marathon, however, although she was fairly and squarely beaten, illness played an issue on the day. This was confirmed when just two days later she set a new female record for Chamonix-Mont Blanc-Chamonix in 8hrs 10min. Like Kilian, her SkiMo and mountain background will see her perform to her strengths on the Ice Trail course. A clear favorite.

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Francesca Canepa – fresh from a dominant performance at Ronda dels Cims will feel at home on the trails of the Tarentaise valley. She likes tough, technical and hard races. Francesca also has speed when required; her second place to Lizzy Hawker at the shortened 2012 TNFUTMB proves this. It will certainly be interesting to see how Francesca performs against Emelie Forsberg and Nuria Picas on this demanding course.

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Julia Boettger – loves long, hard and technical races. Tor des Geants and Raid de la Reunion are just two notches in her impressive resume. However, her recent form is unknown, she missed the start of Transgrancanaria due to illness and a main target for the year, the 170km Ronda dels Cims had to be missed for personal reasons. The recent Lavaredo Trail also saw Julia miss the start line, so, she will either come to Ice Trail fresh and ready to perform or a little under raced. withdrawn, confirmation 09th July 2013

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Anna Frost – had a troublesome winter and missed a race she loves, Transvulcania. However, she is back on her way to full fitness. Her recent performances at the Mont Blanc VK and Marathon show that she is not in full fitness but reassuringly this means that Frosty is easing her way back into 2013 instead of pushing too hard too soon. Without doubt she is a class act and I have never seen anyone with an ability to push so deep when the need arises. Her performance at Cavalls del Vent in 2012 was a personification of this. If she wants to win Ice Trail, Frosty could find something within herself to give it a go. Anna has podium potential without a doubt.

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Nuria Picas – missed Mont Blanc Marathon and will arrive in Tarentaise fresher than some of her rivals. Rumor has it that Nuria is running the 2013 UTMB so a very different Nuria may well toe the line for the ultra races in the Skyrunning series than we saw in 2012. Without doubt she has speed and ability, her 2012 season was remarkable, however, twice in 2013 she has placed second to Emelie Forsberg; Transvulcania and Zegama. Maybe her training for TNFUTMB is taking the edge off the speed? If so, her endurance and her ability to survive over a longer event may well be the difference between first and second in the Tarentaise Valley. Nuria, providing she has no problems will be on the podium for sure and ultimately I see the race being between her and Emelie.

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Shona Stephenson – has loved the whole European experience. The Australia based inov-8 athlete has had a great 2013 so far with some great 100-mile results, particularly in Japan at UTMF100. Without doubt this ability to endure and dig deep will be essential in Val D’Isère. However, her experience of snow, ice and extreme cold is limited and without doubt this will be a big disadvantage. She has the ability to be at the front of the race but the whole experience may well just be one big learning curve that she needs to take a step back from and accept that what will be, will be.

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Emilie Lecomte – placed top five at Transvulcania and then placed third at the super tough Ronda dels Cims. She loves races that are tough, long and technical. The winner of the 2012 Raid de la Reunion and course record holder for the GR20 long trail in Corsica, Emilie will without doubt push hard at the front of this race. Her experience in Andorra was mixed; she was dominating the race over the first third but then struggled with fatigue and a lack of energy over the latter half. For Emilie to finish showed incredible guts and determination,  you will see Emilie show that same spirit here, if all goes well she may very well make the podium.

The Ice Trail Tarentaise has all the makings to be an incredible and exciting race, which will be nothing like what we have experienced before. The combination of altitude, ice, climbing and descending will almost certainly provide some shocks and surprises. Who are your picks to win the third ISF Skyrunning Ultra event?

Stats:

The Ice-Trail Tarentaise (ITT), for the record, counts 65 km with 5,000m vertical ascent and descent, reaches a high point of 3,653m and touches five peaks skimming the 3,000m mark in Val d’Isère July 14.  Snow is not an option!

Notes:

It’s true that mountains at 3,000m offer a challenge to all who set foot here.  This year’s heavy snowfalls add an element of adventure (and technique) to test the most skilled skyrunners.  However, recent warm weather has taken its toll and much of the snow has melted although stretches on snow will remain.

The organisers will issue a statement regarding the course and safety measures after a meeting held this afternoon so check for updates which will be issued on this site, Facebook and the race website over the next few days.

Links:

Skyrunning HERE