The infamous Patrouille des Glaciers (PdG) is the ultimate fast and light ski event in Switzerland which happens every two years. It is a race anchored in Swiss military history that dates back to the Second World War (1939-1945)with the Mountain Brigade 10 ready for its mission: to defend the southwestern part of the Swiss Alps.
The idea of the PdG took shape just before the Second World War broke out: two captains of the brigade, Roger Bonvin, future federal councillor and Rodolphe Tissières, national councillor and future founder of Téléverbier SA, were its initiators.
The troop had to prove its aptitude for engagement in a very special kind of patrol race. The organizers had selected a legendary route, already called at the time the “Haute Route” between ZERMATT and VERBIER. This journey, which normally took four days of walking, had to be completed in one go. And so the competition took place for the first time in April 1943 and the “Patrouille des Glaciers” was born.
Unfortunately, in the spring of 1949, the third edition was marred by a tragic accident. A military patrol disappeared in a crevasse of the Mont Miné glacier between ZERMATT and AROLLA and was not found until eight days later. The initial euphoria was followed by images of desolation broadcast on the news. The mountain regions were shocked, and the Federal Military Department at the time banned the event. This ban was maintained for more than 30 years.
In 1983, the concept and idea of resuming the organization of the Patrouille des Glaciers were approved by the head of army training, corps commander Roger Mabillard. He entrusted the organization to Adrien Tschumy, commander of mountain division 10. From then on, this unique competition, held in the high mountains, takes place every two years.
The magic resumed on the night of April 5 to 6, 1984: nearly 187 patrols of three people set off from ZERMATT and AROLLA for VERBIER. Every possible effort was made to secure each part of this high mountain race. A responsibility clearly devolved to the command of the army and which has remained so to this day.
From 1986, the event opened up to the participation of female patrols. By 2006, the number of participants was so high that the command took the decision to organize two departures from ZERMATT, a measure taken for a long time in AROLLA.
The Patrouille des Glaciers then experienced constant growth, organizing the “Ski-Mountaineering” world championships several times on its route and reaching its maximum size in 2022 going through a break in 2020, caused by the pandemic.
In 2024, two major events will crown this edition. On the one hand for the 40th anniversary of the resumption of the Patrouille des Glaciers and on the other hand, it will host the ISMF long-distance ski mountaineering world championships which will take place during the Z2 race.
The collaboration between the Swiss Army and the Patrouille des Glaciers Foundation confirms the desire of both parties to ensure the sustainability of the Patrouille des Glaciers in the years to come.
Led by Brigadier Christian Sieber the new edition of the Patrouille des Glaciers (PdG) will be held from April 15 to 21, 2024 under the slogan “together, at the heart of the effort”. Unifying, engaging, strong,, it is the watchword of the PdG 2024 poster. The latter reflects the values of the Patrouille des Glaciers and transmits all the emotions that this legendary race releases. This competition is characterized by
its length, its elevation and the profile of its route.
For the Swiss Army, this race is an excellent exercise on a human scale which allows it to train its
men and women in different manoeuvres essential to their learning. Over 1,600 military personnel are engaged and mobilized during the week of the race, in order to secure the course and guarantee the smooth running of this event.
World Long Distance Championships
The 2024 edition of the Patrouille des Glaciers will host, in turn, the world championships long distance of the International Ski Mountaineering Federation (ISMF) in collaboration with La Great Race on the Z2 course. This event strengthens the image of the Patrouille des Glaciers on the international sports plan for ski mountaineering. In addition, this event will be crowned by the 40 years existence of the Glacier Patrol. Indeed, on the night of April 5 to 6, 1984, nearly 190 patrols set off from Zermatt to connect Verbier.
How to register?
Registrations will be open from September 1 to 30, 2023. Patrols will be able to register directly on the official PdG website (www.pdg.ch). The regulations for the 2024 edition, including the useful and necessary detailed information, will also be available from August 2023 on the website. Swiss and international military patrols
as well as patrols with a guide certified mountain will be given priority. Depending on the number of registrations, a possible draw will take place to allocate the balance of available places in category P4 – civil patrols. The date of the possible draw will be communicated later.