Evolution of a Route
Ten facts about previous Red Bull X-Alps Routes you probably didn't know about!
Next week the 10th route of the Red Bull X-Alps is revealed and it promises to be one of the most eagerly anticipated courses in the Red Bull X-Alps history. Here are ten facts about the previous tracks.
In the first ever edition of the Red Bull X-Alps there was just one mid-race Turnpoint, the ski resort of Verbier in Switzerland. Athletes took off from the Dachstein, a 2,700m peak to the east of Salzburg. After Verbier, they just had to make it to Mont Gros, a peak above Monaco. It’s slightly different today.
In the early years the course was typically around 750km to 800km. Organisers kept adding distance because athletes kept getting faster and going further. In the last edition the route was a straightline distance of 1,138km, the longest ever, with 12 Turnpoints.
The route always changes every year. No Turnpoint has featured in every edition of the race. The most frequently occurring Turnpoints are Salzburg / Gaisberg (9), Mont Blanc (7), Dachstein (6), Matterhorn (5), Mont Gros (5), Zugspitze /Lermoos (5), Peille (4).
Monaco has never been an official Turnpoint. The race has always ended at either Mont Gros or Peille above the city state. That’s where the clock stopped, the rankings were decided and the race officially ended.
The route has always gone through Austria, Switzerland and France, and has had Turnpoints in Italy seven times and in Germany six times. In 2017 the route passed through Slovenia for the first and only time.
Many of the Turnpoints are big tourist attractions, which can make for surreal experiences for athletes battling in the midst of a race. At the top of Titlis, exhausted athletes found themselves among hundreds of Bollywood fans for whom the peak has become a pilgrimage site after appearing in the film Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge.
Kronplatz which was first a Turnpoint in 2019, is home to both the Messner Mountain Museum and LUMEN Museum of Mountain Photography (where the winners of the Red Bull Illume Image Quest were announced the same year).
The most popular Turnpoint for fans is the Gaisberg, which is always thronged with hundreds of spectators hoping for a glimpse of the action. It can add an extra pressure to athletes. One year, Kaoru Ogisawa took off and immediately crash landed in a tree. Fortunately he was ok but his wing was wrecked.
Salzburg has hosted the start of the Red Bull X-Alps since 2009, the same year a certain 26-year-old Christian Maurer entered the race for the first time. That was the last year athletes raced non-stop. The following edition, a mandatory overnight rest period was introduced for safety reasons.
One of the most popular Turnpoints for athletes has to be Saint Hilaire (2013 and 2019). The well-known paragliding site can be top-landed, has two perfect launch sites and is always swarming with fans. And the most unpopular? Probably Peille, owing to the heat, the lack of facilities and those winding French roads that go on forever.