X-Alps – The World’s Most Amazing Adventure Race

For most people, the route from Salzburg to Monaco is by road. But who wants to go on a boring road trip, when you could climb mountains and paraglide across the Alps instead? Of course, to do that you’ve got to have a real taste for adventure. If you do, then the Red Bull X-Alps annual race is just the thing for you.

It is said to be one of the toughest challenges in the world, demanding not only expert paragliding skills but extreme endurance. Participating athletes need to hike or fly over a distance of about 1,000 kilometers between Salzburg and Monaco, through one of the world’s most unforgiving environments. For adventurers, this is the ‘ultimate’ race.

Each team entering the race consists of one athlete and up to two supporters to help with logistics, food and motivation. The contestants race between 5:00 am and 10:30 pm, hiking over 100 kilometers a day. A paraglider, harness, rescue parachute, helmet, emergency signal rocket, reflector belt and tracking device must be carried at all times.


Photo: Red Bull X-Alps

A typical race lasts about 10 days, and each athlete covers over 900 kilometers on foot. They burn about 5,000 to 7,000 calories a day, which means they pretty much need to eat all day. Athletes can choose any route they like, but they must pass ten predefined turnpoints. They cannot travel through tunnels that connect valleys. Mandatory rest time is from 10:30 pm to 5:00 am, but the rules were changed last year – participants were allowed one ‘night pass’ each.


Photo: Red Bull X-Alps

According to race director Christoph Weber, “The idea behind the Night Pass is to allow athletes to advance their positions by tactical means. They may be able to hike to a key point where they can extend their lead or pass teams in front. But the price is a missed night of recovery. And they can only do this once.”

The race is stopped 48 hours after the winner arrives at the finish line. The rest of the athletes are ranked on how far they are from Monaco.


Photo: Red Bull X-Alps

Participation in the Red Bull X-Alps race is by invitation only. In 2013, 31 of the world’s best endurance athletes and paragliding pilots were specially selected and invited by the organizers. The winner, Christian Maurer, was also the titleholder of two previous races, in 2009 and 2011. In 2009, the Swiss paraglider, also known as the ‘Eagle from Adelboden’, set a record by completing the course in less than 10 days.


The idea for the Red Bull X-Alps race was conceived by Austrian pilot Hannes Arch. “Its simplicity is what makes it most appealing,” he said. “We start in Salzburg and whoever arrives in Monaco first wins. That’s it. It’s about body and soul, not about hundreds of rules and regulations.”


The first race, held in 2003, was completed by only three competitors out of 17. Hannes said: “This is much more than just an alpine crossing; it’s an adventure, an expedition and at the same time a competition. And that’s what makes the race amazing!”

Sources: Amazing Stuff, X-Alps Basque Team

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