X-Alps – Amazing race 2

You are in Salzburg, Austria. You want to get to Monaco. How will you do it?

For a certain group of people, the answer is psychotically simple: Climb to the top of the nearest mountain, and launch yourself off it wearing some kind of parachute; soar over the Alps as far as the air currents will take you, and when you land, climb to the top of the nearest mountain, and launch yourself off again. In this manner you will traverse the entire length of the Alps, and reach Monaco in around 10 days.

XAlps Route 2011

This is the essence of Red Bull’s annual X-Alps race, to take place later this month. The 864km race plays host to 31 of the world’s best endurance athletes and paragliding pilots, each of whom must be specially selected and invited to participate by the race organisers.

Among them will be current X-Alps titleholder, Chrigel Maurer. The Swiss paraglider – a.k.a. the ‘Eagle from Adelboden’ – set a new race record by completing the course in less than 10 days when he first participated in 2009. In order to do this, he covered an amazing 70% of the course in flight, something he thinks will be difficult to top.

Chrigel Maurer
Chrigel Maurer

As well as negotiating their way around Europe’s largest mountains, such as Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn, X-Alps competitors must also confront the more practical challenges of getting enough food and sleep. Burning between 5,000 and 7,000 calories a day, says Maurer, requires him to ‘practically eat all day.’ Unfortunately, the mandatory rest periods are only five hours per night, which doesn’t leave enough time for sleeping, never mind eating.

This means competitors are literally doing a lot ‘on the fly’. For Maurer, this includes communicating with his one permitted support-partner, Thomas Theurillat, by mobile phone to discuss the weather. Theurillat will be following Maurer the entire distance by car, towing a caravan for him to sleep in and helping to avoid storms and pick out optimal landing spots.


This year’s race begins on July 17th. Maurer will be the one to beat, but the biggest challenge will be overcoming the course itself. When the X-Alps series began in 2003, only three out of the 17 competitors managed to finish. Race inventor, former professional paraglider Hannes Arch said at the time: ‘This is much more than just an Alpine crossing; it’s an adventure, an expedition and at the same time a competition.’ And that’s what makes it an amazing race!

This year’s X-Alps race launches on July 17th. Follow the action at

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