The Austrian park maestro turned big mountain charger is known for his fast fall-line attacks and monster cliff hucks. Matt Clark caught up with the ‘Schladming Styler’ to find out what goes through his head before launching off a mountain, his inspirations and his favourite shred spots
Matt Clark: Hey Tobi, great to catch up and ski/hide from the storm in a crevasse with you on the Stubai Glacier today!
Tobi Tritscher: [laughs] No problem! Just a shame the weather wasn’t a bit better!
MC: So, you grew up in Schladming, home of the famous night slalom race. Were you ever drawn to ski racing?
TT: Actually I was. I attended a ski racing school, like a sort of ski college that we have here in Austria, until I was 13. But I didn’t complete the last year, and swapped my race skis for twin tips instead.
MC: Your pro skiing career started in the park, but these days you’re probably best known for backcountry skiing. Why the switch?
TT: Well, honestly, I got a little sick of it. I really loved it, and even now skiing park with friends is still so much fun. But when I started doing a lot of competitions I ended up getting sick of being judged, and going skiing just to be assessed by someone. At that point I recognised that there’s another side of skiing, with filming and photo shoots and freeride competitions… I wouldn’t say I switched to backcountry, because I was always skiing off-piste and in the powder, even when I was a little kid and alongside racing, but I think I just needed something new. A new challenge, really.
MC: We saw your GoPro award for your line on the gnarly Dirty Needle spine in Alaska. Would you say that was the line of your life?
TT: Line of my life? I don’t know, but for sure afterwards I was filled with the happiest feelings I’ve ever experienced. It’s so crazy, it’s like an emotional rollercoaster; when you’re at the top you’re concentrating hard on where to go and what you need to do. But as soon as you drop in it’s just skiing and it’s so much fun. And then afterwards it’s awesome, and you realise that yeah, I actually just skied that! Such a good feeling.
MC: I can imagine, it’s an insane line! How do you prepare for dropping into a line like that, or off a monstrous cliff?
TT: I try to minimise the risk as much as possible. I take photos of the line before I ski it, and look at those photos.
It’s important to try and get images looking at the line straight on too, not just looking up from the bottom or down from above, and also to study it with binoculars. And when we have a heli,like on that Alaska trip, you fly by
the line and look at it again… You have to try to find features you can use to navigate the line, to know whereabouts you are on it. Basically, there’s a lot of studying!
MC: How do you deal with the risks on these sorts of big mountain lines, where a fall or avalanche could cause a really big problem? Do you have plans and back-up plans in place, or is it more about trusting your ability?
TT: For sure you have to trust your ability, so you’re not thinking about the consequences or anything else at the moment you drop in. But, beforehand, I think about what I can do if this or that happens, or whatever. And on that Alaska trip we were skiing with one or two guides too, who always had a plan B. So it’s not like you just go in there and hope everything will be fine.
MC: You’ve had a few great parts in films like Legs of Steel’s Passenger. Do you prefer filming or competitions?
TT: Filming for sure. I haven’t done any competitions in the last two or three years.
MC: So is there any chance we’ll see you on the Freeride World Tour with Bene (Mayr) and Fabio (Studer) in the future then?
TT: I don’t know, from what I can see right now I don’t think so, but you never know – it might be a new challenge in the future at some point!
MC: Speaking of fellow riders, is there anyone who’s really inspired you and how you ski, both in the past and with what you want to accomplish now?
TT: Yeah, for sure, guys like Tanner Hall and Candide [Thovex]. Like them, I was really freestyle-orientated growing up, but it’s cool how they’ve also moved to more big mountain skiing. These days I get inspired a lot by the young park kids who are really throwing it down too, and also by other sports and non-skiing stuff; I love watching old school mountaineer guys, for example.
MC: Do you have any big plans in the pipeline for this coming season?
TT: I’ll hopefully get to work on a project around my home in the Dachstein area – I want to try and put everything together, like freeride and freestyle and mountaineering. Then I’m going up to Lofoten in Norway later in the season with Norrøna, and also back to Georgia [Tobi was there on an epic trip with the Snowmads crew back in March – read all about it here]. That’s the rough plan so far anyway!
MC: Sounds like a pretty good plan to me! Do you have anywhere that’s your ultimate favourite place in the world to ski?
TT: [pauses, laughs] I don’t know really! I like Canada, it’s awesome, such great trees and pillows. And Alaska, obviously. But I really like Austria too, and typical alpine terrain. We definitely have some really cool, quite secret spots here at home.
MC: Is there anywhere you haven’t been yet that you really want to go to?
TT: There are a lot of places I haven’t been, but I’d really like to go to Japan. The snow just looks incredible!
MC: I think Japow is on a lot of tick lists – it’s just so deep! What sort of stuff do you do for fun when you’re not skiing, or in the summer? Ever do much training for skiing?
TT: I do a lot of biking back home, which is fun, and I love climbing. Now I have my private pilots license I enjoyflying gliders too, and also playing golf. As for training, yeah I do all kinds of workouts in summer, and then when it gets closer to the season I do more ski-specific stuff with more time in the gym. I think you just ski better when you feel stronger.
MC: Do you have any tips or advice for any of our readers who want to take their own skiing to the next level?
TT: What really helped me was skiing a lot with people who were better than me, and I think that would help anybody. And then just go skiing a lot, as much as possible, and have fun with it – you improve most when you’re having fun!
Tobi is sponsored by Adidas Eyewear
Photos Mirja Geh