The first Red Bull X-Alps, held in 2003, opened up a new dimension in adventure racing. Event inventor, mastermind and 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.“
Seventeen athletes braved the 800km journey from Austria’s Dachstein glacier but only three managed to make it all the way to the finish in Monaco via three turning points at the Zugspitze in Germany, France’s Mont Blanc and Mont Gros.
Kaspar Henny a 35 year-old Swiss grabbed an early lead and held onto it for the 11 days and 23 hours it took him to complete the course.
David Dagault (FRA) was second, over five hours behind and Stefan Bocks (GER) was third.
For the next two editions the Swiss domination continued. Alex Hofer (SUI) beat Urs Lötscher (SUI) to Monaco in 2005, and Toma Coconea (ROM) in 2007.
Hofer's superior skill in the air, solid fitness and extensive local knowledge fitted perfectly to the Red Bull X-Alps. His rivalry with Lötscher in 2005 and amazingly close finish in 2007 where he nipped past Coconea in the dying moments of the race made him a worthy champion.
Starting as top favourite in 2009, Hofer saw rookie Christian Maurer (SUI) romp away with a comprehensive victory, reaching goal in less than ten days – a record time for the event. Maurer’s extensive preparations and well-thought out strategy upped the ante for the Red Bull X-Alps.
In 2011, Maurer sealed victory again in 11 days, 4 hours and 22 minutes, even after serving a 24-hour penalty for infringing a no-fly zone. The 2011 Red Bull X-Alps would be remembered for Maurer’s ability to handle challenging weather conditions, something which separated him from the rest of the pack.