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Via Alpina: 20 years of long-distance hiking

May 27, 2020 / alpMedia
For 20 years, the cross-border long-distance hiking trail known as the “Via Alpina” has connected all eight Alpine countries from Trieste to Monaco. It connects people, living spaces and natural areas along five routes, not only physically but also symbolically.
Image caption:
The Via Alpina: for 20 years, a unifying symbol for sustainable development in the Alpine region. (c) Troy Smith_flickr

Under the leadership of the French association known as the “Grande Traversée des Alpes” (GTA), a group of Alpine associations and local authorities founded the Via Alpina in 2000 with the aim of making the Alpine Convention and its objectives of sustainable development in the Alpine region visible through a cross-border hiking trail. Over the years, the Via Alpina has not only become a tourist attraction, but also a symbol of a common Alpine identity and an international platform: many pilot projects have been developed, such as an international quality guide for long-distance hiking trails, scientific studies or a handbook on hiking as a tool for environmental education for young people. The Via Alpina is also an official implementation project of the Alpine Convention. In 2014 CIPRA International took over the coordination role.

Backbone for sustainable development

In retrospect, the challenges that were from the very beginning posed by the Via Alpina due to its dimensions are also clear: it comprises five routes, 342 stages and more than 5,000 km of hiking trails. Many stakeholders, such as Alpine associations, states, regions and tourism businesses are involved. “If the Via Alpina project is to remain a backbone for sustainable development in the Alpine region, good and continuous networking is particularly important”, says Nathalie Morelle, who was initially responsible for the Via Alpina as international coordinator. She remembers the experience: “It is of course a challenge to link the many different starting points in the regions and to anchor the various concerns and objectives locally”. For the next 20 years she therefore hopes that many people along the Via Alpina will continue to participate in development and benefit from exchanges with neighbouring countries.

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