LOWA PRO Team Chrigel Maurer
The eagle of Adelboden
Christian “Chrigel” Maurer is an extreme athlete from Switzerland and is one of the world’s best paragliders. The native of the Bernese Highlands took to the air for the first time on a tandem flight with his father when he was just 7. After passing his paragliding test at age 16, he was finally “free as a bird” and decided to become a competitive paraglider.
After finishing his brick-mason apprenticeship, he spent two years working in the occupation before he could turn his passion as a test pilot into a profession. Chrigel’s first important athletic success was his first-place finish at the Junior Challenge in 2000. He won the title at the European Paragliding Championships in 2004 and also captured the Paragliding World Cup in 2005–2007.
He took part in the hike-and-fly competition Red Bull X-Alps for the first time in 2009 – and won it right away. He’s been defending his top ranking ever since and remains unbeaten in all subsequent competitions. Despite all of his years of flying, the moment he touched down during the Red Bull X-Alps after crossing the mountains still counts as a highlight. He won his third title in the record time of six days and 23 hours. Chrigel is married, has two children and works part time as a coach, paragliding teacher and speaker.
Facts & figures
- Frutigen, Switzerland
- Home base:
- Frutigen, Switzerland
- Trained brick mason
- Favourite climbing site:
- Flight region: Alps
- Local mountain:
- 1,83 m
- 82 kg
How a mason became one of the best paragliding pilots in the world. It’s really a pretty good story…
“Yes, it is indeed. When I began paragliding at age 15, I was in search of a profession that could fulfil as quickly as possible my dream of flying. In reality, I wanted to be an auto mechanic. But then in school, once I found out that one could more quickly earn a few more quid, I made my decision without hesitation. With that, I could buy my first paragliding gear and start flying. Not only that, it was great to work outdoors. That still holds true at least – even when I’m now more likely to observe construction sites from up above.”
These days, you are a professional paragliding pilot. Give us an idea what that means.
“My life nowadays consists of a pretty eclectic mix, which supplies plenty of variety. In the traditional sense, office work keeps me of course busy, as does weather forecasting, as well as cardio and strength training. I also always plan in plenty of time with my family. During the winter months I am always out on the lecture circuit. I organise various trainings for companies and give talks. I also relate my experiences to pilots and coach them individually for a tandem instructional flight. The rest of the time I dedicate of course to race preparation. Depending on the project, naturally, the training and its preparation can be quite intense. Switzerland offers perfect conditions. With the mountains right out my door, you have everything you need, all you need for a balanced training program is right there.”
From Salzburg to Monaco – across the Alps in 11 days – by foot or paragliding: The X-Alps Race is considered one of the most difficult adventure races in the world. Did you always want to participate in it?
“Actually, totally the contrary! My focus was really on classic competitive flying, e.g. European Championships, World Cup, etc. In 2003, one of my colleagues Kaspar Henny took part in the race. He won, which was an incredible moment for all of us. I was completely fascinated by the challenge, but I thought, I could never ever do that. Still, I just couldn’t shake out of my head thoughts about the race over the next few years. So I slowly started to further develop my endurance training.”
Now of course you have won this race five times in a row. What do you find so challenging about every race?
“The really special thing about the competition is that you never know where you will end up in the end. It is really a true adventure. For a marathon, you know precisely where the course goes. In the X-Alps, you never know whether you will fly a particular section or whether you will cover it by foot. You not only need flying ability, but also great endurance and good partners.”
Have you already set your next goal? Honestly, consistency is my biggest goal. Faster, farther, higher – that is not my thing. I have already been fast and high – why should I get even
“Honestly, consistency is my biggest goal. Faster, farther, higher – that is not my thing. I have already been fast and high – why should I get even faster and fly even higher when that means the risk becomes so extreme? If I win the next X-Alps race again, that is then for me an incredible success. In addition, there are still so many beautiful places, such as the Himalaya, where I have not yet flown. Those are my competitive goals. These milestones are for me just as important.”
That seems to be a pretty healthy attitude about pro sports, don’t you think?
“I think so. The challenge to maintain my record is as big of a challenge as the next unknown race.”
How did you start working with LOWA? As a paraglider pilot, you are a bit of an oddity on the LOWA PRO Team that consists primarily of alpinists.
“Yes, indeed. On the surface, we seem very different. But one thing of course we all have in common is our love of the mountains. Everyone has his or her background, but in the end we are all professional athletes, out and about. That was also the reason that I started a conversation with LOWA. René Urfer, CEO of LOWA Switzerland, found that very fact tantalizing, that I have no alpinism in my background. We quickly agreed on everything, and I have flown under the LOWA banner since 2008. I am really especially pleased that I can also now contribute my ideas to the development of new footwear. I am primarily out and about with the lighter weight, athletic models, and am looking forward to seeing where the development in this area is headed.”
My shoes for…
Speed hiking: INNOX EVO GTX LO
“Every gramme counts as far as running efficiency is concerned – the INNOX EVO GTX LO means I am wearing the lightest shoe!”
High-altitude tours: ALPINE SL GTX
“Even in high mountains I keep an eye on weight, but the grip must also be right. The Alpine SL GTX gives me the best of both worlds!”