APR 24, 2018
Red Bull Der Lange Weg – in English „The Long Way“ – the world’s longest ski tour. It took five athletes 36 days and 23 hours to cross the Alps from Raichenau an der Rax (Austria) to the port city Nice at the French Côte d’Azur.
In the crew of Red Bull Der Lange Weg also Mark Smiley (USA), expedition mountaineer, alpine guide, and photographer, completed on Backland-Ultimate equipment a distance of 1,721 kilometers and a cumulative elevation gain of 89,644 metres. In sum, he was on the move for 375 hours. The team did not treat themselves with a rest day, and with an average walking time of 10h41min, they covered 47.8 kilometers and a vertical climb of 2,490 meters each day.
“I feel totally relieved to be in Nice right now. There were countless times that I wanted to quit, yet I just kept moving for a host of reasons. I stretched my body, mind, and relationship with my wife also finishing this. In the end I’m stronger for it.”
In Mark’s ski bag there was a range of Backland Ultimate-models. During this adventure, efficiency was most important – each ascent and every downhill had to be absolved with the least possible effort. And the athlete had to be able to rely on the material in every situation. “I had two models of skis with me. The Backland UL 65, which I used on all but two days, and the Backland 78 for technically difficult passages, like for example the Mont Blanc-day. I had little experience with race skis like the 65 until six weeks before the start. After a short adaption period, I was able to ski easily on the slim skis. From day 1 to day 36, I used exactly the same pair of skis and we were not very gentle. The skis had to deal with innumerous road and river crossings as well as thin snow covers in the valleys. The skins were superfast, mentally very important, and also these managed to handle every type of ground without any problems. I wore the same Backland Ultimate shoe every day. The third day, I had sprained my ankle. My therapy was to keep the shoe on my right foot locked almost all the time during the following days to stabilize the ankle. It worked well, and the shoe did not suffer from this treatment. The problem healed, and afterwards, we skied with completely free movement again.”
Ultra-endurance-athlete Nuria Picas reflects the project with a little distance after she had decided not to continue on day 11. “It was an amazing experience which let me grow as an athlete, but also as a human. During the first days of the adventure, I went through many ups and downs, physically and also mentally. At some point, there was a moment, at which I couldn’t control the risk for me anymore. Leaving the project was a brave decision. When I make decisions, I always switch to my next tasks immediately. At home, I followed the team daily, but without major obsession. Especially, when I was in the mountains, I always thought about them and sent them energy.”
Atomic was in a partnership with Heli Putz from Outdoorleadership who founded and leaded project. It was an extremely challenging plan, but the intend was exactly in line with the mission of the brand: ‘Makes you a better skier’. Granted, here on the highest possible standard, but every skimountaineer will be able to realize his very personal ‘long way’ with a perfectly chosen equipment.
The expedition in retrospect. On the project website, the profile of the route and the live tracker are still available: www.redbullderlangeweg.com.
Red Bull Der Lange Weg was inspired by four Austrian skimountaineers, Robert Kittl, Klaus Hoi, Hansjörg Farbmacher and Hans Mariacher, who completed the route in 1971 with only one support-person in a VW-bus, Alois Schett.