An interview with Christian “Chrissi” Hölzl – the youngest mountain and ski guide in Austria and SPORT 2000 retailer

In 2021, at just 23 years old, Christian Hölzl successfully completed the Austrian mountain and ski guide training.  As a result, he is now the youngest mountain and ski guide in Austria (as of 2021)! In this interview he tells us about his passion, his grandfather, the Großvenediger, failure, the future, and of course about his work and the mountains.

Hello Chrissi, which physical and mental requirements are needed to complete the mountain and ski guide training? How hard was it for you to manage all of that at your very young age?

Mountaineering is not only my job, but my great passion! Physical and mental fitness are of course necessary for mountain guide training.  As the training is very difficult, you should be above the required level in the disciplines of ski touring, freeriding, mountaineering, ice climbing and climbing. I have always prepared very well and feel very comfortable under pressure and during tests, so I was able to complete the training with Distinction.  The training is preparation for later working life and therefore particularly challenging, because ultimately people’s lives are at stake.  Mistakes are simply not an option!

Experience in particular is an important aspect for a mountain and ski guide. How have you been able to gain so much experience in such a short space of time? When did you start going up mountains?

Since my grandfather was also a mountain and ski guide, I was able to gain a lot of mountain experience as a little kid.  When I was six years old, I was already frequently going on high-altitude tours, for example on the Großvenediger.  I was also often allowed to accompany him on climbing trips in the Dolomites.  Even then the mountain world fascinated me.  I spent a lot of time alone in the mountains as a teenager during all seasons.  I have also experienced accidents, falls and disorientation myself in the process.  One time my grandfather had to rescue me.  From these experiences, you learn to be independent and to fully prepare for every tour.

“The training is preparation for later working life and therefore particularly challenging, because ultimately people’s lives are at stake. Mistakes are simply not an option!“
You come from a mountain guiding family. Your grandfather, Toni Hölzl was a mountain guide for over 50 years. What did you learn from him and take away from that? What makes a good mountain guide? What do you like about this job?

The fact that my grandfather was a mountain and ski guide has been a great asset for me.  He shared a lot of old and new knowledge about mountaineering and climbing with me.  For me, a good mountain guide is a safe mountain guide.  That means only taking risks when it is absolutely necessary.  Getting home safely is a top priority for me on every tour, particularly when I have guests with me in the mountains.

At 16 years old you trained as a mountain rescuer. How do you feel about rescue operations and have you also ever experienced an emergency in the mountains yourself?

While I was doing my apprenticeship training to be a cable car technician, I was allowed to work for the piste rescue service during the winter seasons.  During one winter season, we had to rescue approximately 600 people on and off the slopes, from those with minor injuries to those seriously injured. Unfortunately you also have to deal with death. Even when it sometimes makes me sad how irresponsible some people can be in the mountains, I find mountain rescue operations a lot of fun!

How should you react in an emergency situation on the mountain? What should you definitely not do? What are common mistakes?

In an emergency situation in the mountains, there is not always only one right way. The most important thing is to stay calm and keep the danger for yourself as low as possible. Common mistakes usually begin with the tour planning.  For example, overestimating your own abilities, poor equipment, or simply ignorance.

You are not only a mountain and ski guide, but you also manage a Sport 2000 shop – so you have a good overview of many brands. Why do you use equipment from Dalbello, Marker and Völkl when you are in the mountains? What do you like about these brands?

I like that these companies show an interest in athletes and their opinions and also accept when a product can be improved even more.  And I find that you can sense that when you’re on the mountain with the equipment from these brands.

How does your winter normally look? Are you more often in the shop or on the slopes? What is your favourite activity in the winter? What things particularly excite you in the mountains in the winter?

In the Winter I’m definitely on the terrain more than in the shop. Ski slopes are rather uninteresting for me because I want to offer my guests experiences that don’t have anything to do with mass tourism.  It is difficult for me to put my fascination for mountaineering into words, because mountain climbing is simply so much more than a job. Every day and every tour are different, have different emotions and trigger different feelings of happiness. In winter, what excites me a lot are steep descents and climbing difficult walls and ice walls.  For me it is just important to have a good time.  Which can even happen at -30° with bad weather.

“I notice the glacier retreat and the changes in the weather almost daily. However, you can’t always view everything negatively, otherwise I would have to be sad in my job every day when a peak falls down somewhere, like at my local mountain, the Gabler.”

How do you see the future of winter sport in Austria in relation to climate change?

My field of work is largely affected by climate change. I notice the glacier retreat and the changes in the weather almost daily. However, you can’t always view everything negatively, otherwise I would have to be sad in my job every day when a peak falls down somewhere, like at my local mountain, the Gabler.” Through many rockfall events, like in the Zillertal in Ginzling, where a boulder destroyed the street, a new bouldering area arose with unbelievably beautiful lines.  There will always be winter sport in Austria, even when it is warmer.  However, I would like it to be a little bit calmer. In principal, I don’t see anything bad about the winter sports and mountaineering trend and I hope that lots more people continue going into the mountains. I just find it a shame that many people don’t have any respect for nature.

With the Großvenediger you virtually have a “giant” right on your doorstep. What fascinates you about this mountain?

The Großvenediger has its own unique fascination for me.  Large glaciers, an almost fully white summit and also the fact that my grandfather was up there over 600 times.  It is always a wonderful experience to go to the summit and share the beautiful moments with my guests.

The ambitious record-breaking project, “The 82”, in which you climb all 82 of Europe's four-thousanders in 59 days and only travel between the stages by bike, failed. What happened?

Unfortunately, my partner injured his ankle in a fall three weeks before the start.  After that, I then still wanted to do it with friends.  However, when one of my best friends, who I would have done many of the tours with, suffered an injury during the preparation, I had to accept that the project was no longer feasible this year.

Can you give young, ambitious mountaineers any tips? What should be considered for such projects?

The most important things are having the right partner and a thorough tour plan. You also shouldn’t overestimate yourself, and don't immediately start with the most extreme.

Do you have a project planned that you would like to tell us something about?

In January 2023 I am travelling to Patagonia with two friends to go mountain climbing.  The wish list is big, but on a trip like this you also need a lot of luck to reach your goals.  Conditions and weather, for example.


Thank you very much for the interview!

High Performance Ski Touring Equipment from Dalbello, Marker and Völkl

Ambitious ski tourers only want the best material for their tour.  Here are our equipment tips for the highest demands:

With the Quantum Evo, Dalbello has developed a sporty ski touring boot for the highest performance demands.  Intuitive handling with above-average comfort on the ascent and optimised descent and ski control.  The two-part shell and shaft design guarantees the highest freedom of movement for long ascents.  The weight was reduced considerably so that you save energy when ascending. The MyFit technology guarantees an individual adjustable fit. A shoe for the perfect tour.

The touring pin binding Alpinist 12 from Marker not only serves as an optimal connection between boot and ski ... It simply provides everything that an experienced ski tourer would need: outstanding entry comfort, extremely light weight (245g without brake) and perfect requirements for use in high-alpine terrain.  The length can be compensated for without flex of the skis, the entry allows an automatically correct positioning of the boot and the pin lever snaps shut with low pressure. With the best energy transfer and ski control, you are ideally equipped on the slopes.

Dalbello Skitouren Schuh
Quantum Evo
UVP € 690,–
Marker Skitouren Bindung
Alpinist 12
UVP € 360,– (ohne Stopper)

The ultra-light touring ski Rise High 88 from Völkl makes experienced ski tourers happy.  The fully carbon ski only weighs 1065g (with a length of 170cm) and is designed for heavy use on long and demanding tours in high-alpine terrain.  The Smart Skinclip enables the use of Fibre Tech and Smart Glue skins. With excellent energy transfer through extra-light Tourlite Woodcore, optimised powder manoeuvrability through Tip Rocker and long service life (P Tex 2100 base), you have the best board under your boots for many tours. 

Völkl Skitouren Ski
Rise High 88
UVP: € 850,- (ohne Fell)

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