The History

RBX23 Infographics History Athletes general

The birth and essence of the world’s toughest adventure race

The concept for Red Bull X-Alps was inspired by Toni Bender’s north to south crossing of the Alps in 1999. His hiking and paragliding adventure became the subject of a documentary that caught the eye of renowned Austrian pilot and adventurer Hannes Arch. This inspired Arch and his good friend Ulrich Grill to ask themselves if such an incredible feat could be made into a competition for the world's best adventure athletes – but across the length of the Alps.

"I thought it would be cool to base a paragliding competition on this format and build a basic concept for it – that’s how the idea was born!” Arch once explained. “Together with Red Bull, we developed the idea until it became what it is today; an unparalleled test of human endurance in the form of an adventure race.” adds Grill.

Since then, the race has gone from strength to strength. Today, competitors cover over 1,100km of alpine terrain, sometimes racing through the night to gain an advantage. Although each year only a handful of the 30 or so competitors make the finish, the race only gets more competitive as the international athletes go head to head in the battle for glory. Tragically Hannes Arch died in a helicopter crash in 2016.



2003 -From the drawing board to the skies

2003 saw the first edition of Red Bull X-Alps come to life. In its inaugural event, the race format was simple. A total of 17 top athletes set out from the Dachstein Glacier in the south of Salzburg and raced their way down to Monaco on the Mediterranean Sea. Along the way, they checked in at two mandatory turnpoints; Verbier in Switzerland and Mont Gros in France.  

Of the 17 athletes who took part, only three crossed the finishing line; proving that Red Bull X-Alps was shaping up to be a race like no other. Completing the journey in just 11 day, 22 hours and 55 minutes, first place went to Kaspar Henny, who, back then was the three-time paragliding world champion for the Swiss national team.

  • 800 km
  • 11D 22H 55M
Henny Kaspar Winner Red Bull X Alps 2003
RBX19 history route maps 2003


2005 – Red Bull X-Alps returns

In its second installment, a few key changes were made to the route. The Zugspitze mountain peak in Germany stepped in to replace Verbier in Switzerland as the first turnpoint of the race. The other major adjustment was the addition of Mont Blanc; Europe’s tallest mountain which would appear as the third and final turnpoint before Monaco.

As an exciting new development, 2005 also marked the first time that female competitors joined the race, Niki Hamilton of Ireland and Kari Castle from the USA. Three teams withdrew from the exhausting route, but it was Swiss athlete Alex Hofer who took the title from defending champion and fellow countryman Kaspar Henry with a time of 12 days, 1 hour and 20 minutes.

  • 800 km
  • 12D 01H 20M
Alex Hofer Winner Red Bull X Alps 2005
rbx19 history route maps 2005 4x 04cs


2007 – The world’s toughest adventure race gets tougher

In its third edition, Red Bull X-Alps ramped up the route with a total of five turnpoints. In this race, Germany was dropped from the course and two new locations were added; Marmolada in Italy and the Eiger in Switzerland. 2007 proved to be the toughest yet. Of the 30 teams who participated, 12 were forced to withdraw due to injury and fatigue. 

Alex Hofer once again took the podium after taking the lead in the last stage of the event. Hofer’s first class piloting skills allowed him to fly for 61% of the course, much further than anyone else had ever managed before. His victory time clocked in at just over 14 days, some 4 hours and 35 minutes ahead of Romanian endurance legend Toma Coconea.

  • 850 km
  • 14D 01H
Alex Hofer Winner Red Bull X Alps 2007
rbx19 history route maps 2007 4x 06CS


2009 – A surprise debut performance

In the 2009 race, Red Bull X-Alps once again welcomed 30 athletes to battle it out from Salzburg to Monaco. This time, the race would feature a total of seven turnpoints with two new stops along the way; the Grossglockner in Austria and the Matterhorn in Switzerland. The start point was also moved from the Dachstein Glacier to Mozartplatz in Salzburg’s city center, where an enormous crowd cheered the competitors on. 
Switzerland’s Chrigel Maurer made his debut appearance at Red Bull X-Alps and claimed the title from Hofer who came in a day later to take second place. The two were the only finishers of the event in which Maurer set a new record for the competition at 9 days, 23 hours and 54 minutes, famously arriving in Monaco before the organizers!

  • 818 km
  • 9D 23H 54M
Christian Maurer Winner Red Bull X Alps 2009
rbx19 history route maps 2009 4x 05CS


2011 – Building momentum

With the addition of one more turnpoint in 2011, Red Bull X-Alps was back with another 30 teams of athletes keen to prove their worth. Leaving from downtown Salzburg, they navigated their way between the Gaisberg, Dachstein, and the Grossglockner, before passing Drei Zinnen (Tre Cime), Italy. Next up were the Swiss mountains of Piz Palü and the Matterhorn. From there, they made their way to France, stopping at Mont Blanc, Mont Gros and finally Monaco.
Once again, Chrigel Maurer emerged victorious, followed by Romania’s Toma Coconea. Despite a 24-hour penalty for crossing into a forbidden zone, Maurer finished with a time of 11 days, 4 hours and 52 minutes, nearly three days ahead of Coconea. 

  • 864 km
  • 11D 04H 52M
Christian Maurer Winner Red Bull X Alps 2011
rbx19 history route maps 2011 4x 04cs


2013 – Bigger and further than ever

With a total of ten turnpoints and 31 competing teams, 2013 promised to be one of the most challenging races so far. Once again, the competition kicked off at Salzburg’s Mozartplatz where the teams would tackle the 200km longer route. Despite the distance, as many as ten teams reached the finish; accounting for one of the highest completion rates in the race’s history. 
Chrigel Maurer took the top spot to secure his third consecutive win - crossing the line in a record time of just 6 days, 23 hours and 40 minutes. Frenchman Clement Latour would come in nearly two days later with the rest of the pack arriving over the next 48 hours. 

  • 1031 km
  • 6D 23H 40M
Christian Maurer Winner Red Bull X Alps 2013
rbx19 history route maps 2013 4x 04cs


2015 – Key changes to the race

For Red Bull X-Alps 2015, the addition of the all-new Powertraveller Prologue Race just a few days ahead of the main event gave the top three finishers a five-minute head start on race day and an additional Night Pass. This new development combined with the increasingly restricted flight paths made for a highly competitive field. 
Chrigel Maurer continued his reign of dominance, yet again taking first place with a time of 8 days and 4 hours. In contrast to previous editions, a record number of athletes made goal. By the time the clock stopped, 19 athletes had made it to Monaco.

  • 1038 km
  • 11D 04H 52M
Christian Maurer Winner Red Bull X Alps 2015
rbx19 history route maps 2015 4x 05CS

HANNES ARCH, 1967 – 2016

On September 9, 2016, a short time before his 49th birthday, Red Bull X-Alps inventor Hannes Arch died while flying his private helicopter near Grossglockner. 

The Red Bull X-Alps simply would not have begun or continued to exist without Hannes Arch. Every year he helped shape the rules, select the athletes, and determine the route. Despite Hannes having his own public persona and sports career to maintain, his role as Red Bull X-Alps race mastermind was incredibly important to him on a personal level, and he touched every person involved in the Red Bull X-Alps, whether athlete or organization team. Everyone saw his dedication to the race.

He will continue to live on in the memories of his friends, family, and adventurers worldwide. 

white cross


2017 - The longest race yet

With seven turnpoints and a total distance of 1,138km, Red Bull X-Alps 2017 was both the longest and toughest race to date. The Prologue Race, (this time named the Leatherman Prologue), was restricted due to poor weather conditions. This forced the athletes to run the whole way in pursuit of an additional Night Pass and a head start on day two of the main race.
Proving to be unstoppable, Chrigel Maurer took his fifth consecutive win against the other 31 competitors, achieving a time of 10 days and 23 hours. It was no easy victory though. Hot on his heels was rookie Frenchman Benoît Outters, who, as the only other finisher of the race, crossed the line just two hours behind him.

  • 1138 km
  • 8D 04H 37M
Christian Maurer Winner Red Bull X Alps 2017
rbx19 history route maps 2017 4x 05CS


2019 - Doubling up the Turnpoints

While the 1,138km straight-line distance didn't change from the 2017 version of the race, one major change was made to the 2019 route: a record number of 13 Turnpoints in 6 different countries. The field of 32 adventurers, which saw two female athletes for the first time since 2015, set off to cross the main chain of the Alps five times and face conditions like never before in the history of the race. Starting in mid June, an unusual amount of snow forced the athletes to either rethink their route choices or to cope with gruelling ascents and mountain traverses. Whereas lasting rain and even thunderstorms gave most athletes a hard time on the ground in Switzerland, the French Alps - unlike in previous Red Bull X-Alps editions - proved to be a test piece in endurance and patience. A vast heatwave ensured mostly stable air conditions for the front of the field that were heading for Monaco. Finally a group of ten managed to brave every adversity and reached the goal, with Chrigel Maurer once again emerging victorious. French rookie Maxime Pinot secured second place, while joint third went to Benoit Outters and Paul Guschlbauer. Another memorable moment in the race occured for six time veteran Tom de Dorlodot, who landed on the float for the first time in his 14 year quest.

  • 1138 km
  • 9D 03H 06M
Red Bull X Alps history 2019 winner
Red Bull X Alps history 2019 route


2021 - The Tenth and Toughest Edition

For the tenth edition of the race a totally new route was unveiled. Monaco was out. Instead athletes would follow a circular route around the Alps via 12 Turnpoints across five countries. At 1,238km, it was the longest route in the race’s history. Once again, the race kicked off with a one-day Prologue in Wagrain-Kleinarl, which Maurer won in 1h 49m 30s, just one minute faster than Pinot, while the Austrian rookie Tommy Friedrich, the race’s youngest athlete, came in third.

The main race started in Salzburg just as a heatwave struck. The first few days saw the lead change multiple times. On day two Maurer made the first breakaway, but the chaser pack reined him back in. Around Mt Blanc, the race’s biggest challenge, Maurer and Pinot flew wingtip to wingtip but it was on day 8 that Maurer once again made a magic move, this time across Switzerland to Italy from Fiesch to Merano, which saw him end the day 160km ahead of his nearest rival. It sealed his victory. Day 10 saw a closely-fought battle for 2nd and 3rd decided between three athletes. Ultimately it was von Känel who triumphed, reaching the landing float after 9d, 2h 7m. Oberrauner came third, arriving 11min later while Pinot came in 4th, 40min afterwards. Outters was the final athlete to make goal, after an heroic 40h push which saw him cover 170km on foot and hike 7,700m.

  • 1238 km
  • 8D 6H 30M
Red Bull X Alps 2023 Christian Maurer Winner
csm Red Bull X Alps history 2021 route c1d7a8d610


2023 - A record breaking edition

The eleventh edition was probably the most memorable race ever. More Turnpoints than ever before, shortest race ever and the first woman ever to make goal are just some of the highlights to be mentioned.
The start has been moved from Salzburg to Kirchberg-Kitzbühel, Austria, where the Prolouge and the first Turnpoint led around famous Hahnenkamm, the mountain well known for its iconic ski-downhill race called "The Streif". With a record number of 15 Turnpoints the race followed a circular course around the alps all the way to Mont Blanc and back to the goal in Zell am See. The athletes were lucky because the weather was mostly flyable – even though challenging. These conditions meant that they were able to finish the 1,223km course in a record-breaking time of only 6 days. Chrigel the eagle celebrated his 8th consecutive victory with French challengers Damien Lacaze and Maxime Pinot coming in one day behind him. Austrian athlete Eli Egger was the first female to ever reach goal in the history of the Red Bull X-Alps after 10 days 5h and 18m, ranked 21st overall.

  • 1223 km
  • 6D 6H 1M
Red Bull X Alps 2023 History winners Chrigel Maurer
Red Bull Xalps 2023 Route digital

Follow us

Newsletter Sign-up

Never miss the latest news!

Sign up to our Red Bull X-Alps newsletter and stay updated daily on news, invitations and offers about sports, events and products from Red Bull and its affiliated companies. Don’t worry, if you change your mind, you can unsubscribe at any time, free of charge.

Newsletter signup

red bull x alps newsletter signup glider 2