For Toni Palzer, There Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
An inspiring landscape brings out extraordinary feats in this German athlete
What's your game plan?
The 24-year-old ski mountaineer Toni Palzer usually leaves his competitors way behind him when he’s racing up and down mountains. Growing up in Ramsau, Bavaria, waking up and seeing the 2,713m Watzmann has made him the person he is today. His desire for athletic achievement comes second to his passion for sport and his love of the mountains, which are clearly what motivates him the most.
This is Toni Palzer’s game plan.
How did you know that ski mountaineering would be more than a hobby for you?
When you get up in the morning and the weather is really bad but you are still excited to put on your boots and pack your skis, you know that it is the right sport for you. Ski mountaineering is something special: You move through this wonderful alpine world and – at the same time – you push your own performance to the limit.
There are very talented guys out there, but only few make it to the top. How did you get there?
The nature of a real athlete is to be very ambitious. I want to constantly reach new goals and never rest on past successes. I don’t care about them. Nobody cares about them. That’s why I don’t put up my medals at home. Instead, I focus on the next winter. I train a lot and sacrifice my time for something where, one day, I might be rewarded for it.
You create your own training schedule and try to listen to what your body and mind are telling you. Are they always on the same page?
Nope. Quite often my mind tells me that I want to exercise because the weather is great and I feel good, but my body says: “You need a rest day.” Then I have to take it, but sometimes, it is the other way around. Over the years, I have learnt to listen to the right voice; however, before an interval training session on a rainy day, body and mind can work against me. Then I say to myself:
At just 24 no one has achieved as much in your field of sport as you. How has that impacted your goals?
For an athlete, there are always new goals. If it is not in the sport that you currently dominate, it’s in another. There are challenges everywhere. Right now, I have one clear goal: I want to be the world’s best ski mountaineer and I am on a good path. As a first step, I want to win the Mountaineering World Cup, which is possible in the next season. I’m ready for it.
Are you at all interested in what your competitors are doing?
I look at my competitors during the races and I know exactly if they are in shape or not. When it comes to records, it was never my intention to break existing records of other athletes: first and foremost because I am good friends with almost all of them, but also because I want to create something myself. Other athletes should then try to break my records.
Where do you get the confidence that is needed to compete at your level?
I look in the mirror and think: “damn you’re looking fly today.” (Everybody laughs) Jokes aside, I was never afraid of a race, no matter who was standing next to me at the starting line. When you know that you have trained hard and that you have led a good and healthy life, you know that you can perform at your personal best. That gives me the confidence I need.
What has sport taught you about life?
Competitive sport teaches you to never give up. Be it in sports, your job or your relationship. A part of sport is also that sometimes, you don’t perform at your usual level. Then, you must get to the bottom of it and find a solution – find a way out. In life, it is no different.