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The environment is a priority for The North Face® Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc®

by Press Release
Friday 14th March 2014
Tags  The North Face Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc   |   The North Face   |   ULTRA-TRAIL DU MONT-BLANC   |   UTMB   |   TDS   |   CCC   |   OCC   |   PTL

Race news: The North Face® Ultra Trail Du Mont Blanc® - Chamonix, August 25 - 31, 2014

The North Face® Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc® has become one of the biggest international sporting events and the best known in the domain of trail-running, with 7,500 runners of 75 different nationalities, of whom less than 50% are French. Mont Blanc and the footpaths around it play a large part in its success. The organisation - locals of the Mont-Blanc area, who are proud and happy that their country is being discovered - is particularly vigilant that the nature of the surrounding valleys is respected. In a context of development in outdoor events, mountain-biking, trail-running, orienteering treks etc., the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc®, accompanied by its partners, is apioneer in matters of research and prevention.

Since its conception (2003) the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc® takes action to reduce the impact of its races upon the environment. Several simple actions have since been adopted by a large number of other organisations (portable rubbish pouches distributed to each runner, personal beakers included in the list of obligatory equipment,...). Heavily supported by Espace Mont-Blanc and the Communauté de communes de la Vallée de Chamonix Mont-Blanc, a communal transport plan was set up to limit the inevitable endless stream of accompanying persons' vehicles on the small roads around Mont-Blanc, and also to reduce the CO2 emissions. Since 2006, the way-marking of the paths has been done without the use of paint to avoid long lasting visual pollution.

In 2010, the first study of the impact of the event was studied by a student from the Université de Savoie, before it was envisaged to position volunteers on the terrain with the specific mission of raising awareness of environmental protection. 

The experiment of "Ambassadors for the Environment" is perpetuated by a partnership between the Université de Savoie, Asters and the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc®

On February 25th  2014 a partnership contract, for the duration of three years, was signed by the three parties to perpetuate the actions already set-up, to develop them further and to find new solutions to help minimise the negative impact of a sporting event on its environment.

Ambassadors for the environment: research on the impact and measures to be taken

The experiment of the "Ambassadors for the Environment" started during the 2013 Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc®. Two "Environment Mentors", students on the Masters 1 EPGM (Equipment, Protection and Management of the mountain environment) from the Université de Savoie (UFR CISM), had the mission of analysing the impacts of the Ultra-Trail® races and finding ways of remedying them. In collaboration with a team of 20 "Ambassadors for the Environment", trained by Asters (Departmental academy of natural spaces ), they led studies before, during and after the event, concerning the management of pastures and livestock, the flora, the fauna, erosion of footpaths, rubbish, etc., as well as the effect of the weather conditions and the periodicity of the events.

A first, non-exhaustive, report on the actions carried out by the Ambassadors for the Environment in 2013

Before the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc® races

The ambassadors looked at all the paths, to collect and analyse the rubbish dropped by walkers.

They took the time to contact and meet all the farmers affected by the route and met them, initiating dialogue.

In the same spirit, they also met the guardian of the Réserve des Aiguilles rouges, Patrick Perret, who assured them that a race organised at the end of August is less harmful for the fauna than a race in the spring, because of the period of reproduction. In agreement with all the contacts, they placed signs warning of the presence of flocks or herds of domestic animals and the risk of erosion.

During the events

They divided up into teams and criss-crossed the race route to have an educational interaction with the public and the families of the runners. This action is important because it informs people who have made no commitment to follow regulations.

At the end of the race week

The ambassadors once again took to the paths taken by the runners, and collected and made an inventory of all the rubbish. This inventory has now led to discussions with the makers of gels, drinks or other foodstuffs concerning the packaging of their products.

An assessment of 2013:

  • There were no notable problems with the farmers. However, an effort must be made concerning head-torches (it is better to look at the ground when a sign announces a herd or flock) because it has been confirmed that the lights upset the animals more than the runners themselves.
  • The week benefited from very clement and dry weather conditions which reduced the effects of trampling and erosion (erosion is more marked in wet weather).
  • The assessment is mixed concerning rubbish which is principally the seals of gel tubes or wrapper slithers from energy bars found mainly at the exit of refreshment posts or on the first part of a descent after passes.
  • On the TDS® route there was between 2 and 4 times more rubbish found before the race and for the  CCC® and 'UTMB® 5 to 20 times depending upon the routes in common.
  • At la Fouly, 108 km, 1 runner in 5 had used their rubbish pouch.

The work of Ambassadors and Mentors continues

To pursue the exchange of information between the different parties on the territory, to make everybody aware, not only the organisation's volunteers but also the runners, spectators and accompanying persons and also to find concrete solutions, a group of 'Ambassadors' and two 'Mentors' will be present for each Ultra-Trail®. In total around twenty volunteers will be trained for this operation with Asters participating. The eco-participation of 1.50€ from each runner's registration fee is used to finance this type of action.

A university education, pre-race training for the ambassadors

In collaboration with Asters, a responsible person from the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc®'s Environment Commission will intervene in the academic training with a course on "The study of the incidence of sporting events in sensitive and protected mountain environments" aimed at the "Mountain" programme at CISM (Scientific Interdisciplinary Centre for the Mountain). This training, based on the example of the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc®, will be integrated into the Educational Unit 'Impact of human activity upon the mountain' for the Masters 1 EPGM and  within the corresponding EU of the Pro ASM (Sports Activities of Mountain) degree. The "Environment Mentors" present at the Ultra-Trail of Mont Blanc ® will have followed this programme.

The environment commission

Chaired by Jean-Claude Marmier, the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc®'s Environment Commission was created in 2006. Made up of people who actively participate in the organisation, councillors from the communities affected by the event and representatives of associations working to protect the environment, it has the mission of identifying risks posed by the event and of proposing concrete action to be taken to protect the environment.

The Environment Commission in collaboration with Espace Mont-Blanc signed, in 2008, an Ethical contract establishing concrete actions to minimise the nuisances inherent to the race, to fight against material and energy waste and to incite individuals to adopt responsible attitudes towards the environment.

The Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc® has equally participated in a working group set up by the Direction Départementale de la Jeunesse et des Sports de Haute-Savoie, which has led to the elaboration of a « Sustainable development charter for sporting events » to which the association agrees to adhere to today.

The North Face® Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc® is also engaged in sustainable development alongside the Communauté de Communes de la Vallée de Chamonix-Mont-Blanc in its work setting up a Plan
Climat Energie Territorial (PCET) and in the Club Climat Evénement.

For more information visit: www.ultratrailmb.com/page/59/Commission_environnement.html

Reminder of Ultra-Trail® figures

  • 5 races, 77 nationalities
  • 7 500 runners
  • 2 000 volunteers
  • 18 000 people transported
  • 50 000 spectators
  • 320 km of way-marked itineraries UTMB®, CCC®, TDS® OCC (the PTL® is not way-marked)
  • 300 km of bad condition routes
  • 33 refreshment posts
  • 3 countries involved (France - Italy - Switzerland)
  • 19 communes united

Schedule of events

Monday August 25th - Chamonix
17:30 : Start of the PTL

Wednesday August 27th - Courmayeur et Chamonix
07:00 : Start of the TDS, Courmayeur (Italy)
Ultra-Trail® Salon
22:00 : First TDS™ finishers

Thursday August 28th - Chamonix
08:00 : Start of the OCCOrsières (Switzerland)
All day, finishers of the TDS™
Ultra-Trail® Salon
TDS™ Prize Giving

Friday August 30th - Courmayeur and Chamonix
07:00 : First PTL™ finishers
09:00 : Start of the CCC®, Courmayeur (Italy)
Ultra-Trail® Salon
17:30 : Start of the UTMB®
20:30 : First CCC® finishers

Saturday August 30th - Chamonix
All morning, arrival of CCC®  finishers
CCC® Prize giving
14:00 : First UTMB® finishers

Sunday August 31st - Chamonix
All day, arrival of UTMB® finishers
14:30 : Last PTL™ finishers
UTMB® Prize giving
The North Face® Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc® official closing ceremony
14:30 : Last finishers of the UTMB®


For more information, visit the race website: www.ultratrailmb.com

Further links: ultratrail.tv, Facebook: www.facebook.com/UltraTrailMontBlanc - Twitter:twitter.com/TNFUTMB


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