Skiing as a fountain of youth
Two skiing legends: Rosi Mittermaier won gold medals at the Olympics and the Overall World Cup, her husband, Christian Neureuther, won numerous World Cup races. They tell Gernot Paesold, managing director at Zillertal Tourismus GmbH, about the primal emotions connected to skiing.
- born April 28, 1949 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen
- married Rosi Mittermaier in 1980
- two children: Ameli (*1981) and Felix (*1984)
- 6x World Cup champion
- 27 podium places at World Cup races
- born August 5, 1950 in Reit im Winkl
- married Christian Neureuther in 1980
- two children: Ameli (*1981) and Felix (*1984)
- 9x World Cup champion
- Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, 1976: 2x gold, 1x silver
- 3x world champion
- 1x silver medal
- Overall World Cup champion, 1976
Gernot Paesold: Man, that was a great skiing day we just spent together in Zillertal, wasn’t it? And honestly, I am deeply impressed by your fitness...
Rosi Mittermaier: Of course we’re lucky to have such a sporty lifestyle. Even when we were children, we loved to ski, and so we ended up participating in races and international competitions as well. That way, you automatically become a sportsperson. That’s why we still like to be outside, both in the winter and in the summer. And most of all, we love to be in the mountains.
Christian Neureuther: Our parents were great role models, too. They were addicted to the mountains. My father was a doctor for the mountain rescue service, Rosi’s father was a skiing instructor. Such a life ultimately becomes part of you. We’ve always felt an inner need to inspire others to start exercising and to get up in the mountains.
Gernot: In that case, skiing must be a favourite pastime of yours. At what age should you start learning how to ski?
Rosi: It is amazing when you see the fun a little child has on the slopes. Even the smallest children beam with joy. But starting later on in life is fine, too. In one of my skiing lessons, I taught a captain who was 70 years old and had spent his whole life at sea, which is why he hadn’t had a chance to start skiing until then. He had so much fun! Being in the snow, that is a primal human urge. And it‘s even greater when we’re around family.
Gernot: I’ve heard about studies that say that exercising outdoors has a measurable impact on our brains. So, does skiing keep us mentally fit?
Christian: We are currently conducting a study, in co-operation with the University of Regensburg, which is about Nordic walking and dementia. A professor has told us very clearly that whether we end up suffering from dementia or not is largely dependent on sufficient exercise and the impressions gained. A different study shows that the cognitive part of our brain is not stimulated as much in an indoor gym as it is outdoors. Our brain is as important as our body. And it must be trained and exercised just as much as our muscles.
Gernot: You’re saying that body and mind are connected?
Christian: Yes. And if we use both – body and mind – we can take an active part in life for much longer. We have fun, we are bursting with energy – and we convey this vitality to the outside world.
Rosi: That way, elderly people can set an example. You can see how fit they still are and you say to yourself: wow, they are in such good shape, that’s great!
Christian: My grandmother, for instance, was exactly like that. When I was little, she read to me and took walks in the forest with me all the time. She was energetic and curious. When I met Rosi, I found someone I wanted to have at my side as much as my grandmother...
Rosi: (Laughs.) That is a great compliment, it really is! She truly was a unique woman. She never stopped gathering experiences, she never stopped living. That is a wish I have for myself as well.
Christian: It’s the same way with you, Rosi. Especially when it comes to skiing. There’s practically no other sport that provides so many experiences between generations, so many adventures. We are lucky to be living at a time when we can stay in perfect shape until we’re at least 85. Rosi’s father, for example, is a true role model for our own children. He still went skiing with them when he was 79 years old.
Rosi: Exactly. And he stopped by the huts with his grandchildren, where they drank hot chocolate. Those stops at the huts are something we’ll never forget!
Gernot: That means you would advise all grandparents to go skiing with their grandchildren?
Rosi: Yes, definitely – there is almost no other sporting experience that creates such a bond. And when the skiing day is over, everyone has dinner together. That’s just wonderful.
Gernot: But Christian, what if you‘ve become a bit rusty over the years? If you‘re no longer completely up to date when it comes to technique and materials?
Christian: Well, all I can say is this: nobody should be afraid to return to the ski school. Not even if you‘re is a bit older. With the right instruction, it’s very easy to get back into it. The rest is taken care of thanks to the development of innovative carving skis and perfectly prepared slopes.
Gernot: So, ski school is not only important for children, but for their grandparents as well?
Christian: Absolutely. I may not teach older people new techniques. But I do coach them according to their capabilities – in a way that allows them to get through the skiing day safely and without fear. That is a big task for ski schools: it’s about support, entertainment and playful learning. The fun factor plays a much bigger role than the purely didactic one we focused on in the past.
Gernot: Advice on equipment probably plays a role here too, doesn’t it?
Rosi: The whole package is what counts. The feeling that there is a true professional who’s advising me well. Only then do I feel safe and comfortable. Only then will I not be afraid when I put on my skis.
Gernot: And then, I can truly enjoy the nature of the mountains...
Christian: Yes, exactly. Real enjoyment is only possible when there is no fear. And if this fear doesn’t exist, the mountains are the most beautiful place there is. The sun, the clear air, the unbelievable panorama. That is 100 per cent pure energy. In reality, all you need to do is go up there. Then you sit down for a bit, walk around for a while. You are alone and you have time to think.
Rosi: You look down from above and think about how tiny you are, compared to this magnificence! That makes you feel humble. I believe that people who like to spend a lot of time outdoors are extremely down-toearth. And more content than many others.
Gernot: You hear that all the time – people saying that they were truly able to relax during their winter holidays.
Christian: Even a short skiing day is enough for that. Afterwards, you are completely filled with unforgettable impressions. That way, you return with a feeling of absolute contentment, because you feel like you have achieved something for yourself.
Rosi: You are happy and grateful – and that is an incredibly good feeling. It is all about that feeling. Plus, getting out of those ski boots at some point is a nice feeling, too. (Laughs.)
Gernot: Nature, slopes, well-trained skiing instructors – all of this ensures that every new generation puts on their skis as well...
Christian: Yes, that’s true. As skiers, we must make sure that more and more people experience the fascination of the most beautiful plaything in the world: snow, which falls down from the sky. And there’s something else that is very important: skiing must remain affordable. If the gap were to become so wide that only wealthy people could afford to go skiing, that would be very dangerous, in my opinion.
Gernot: I’m sure that’s true. Additionally, though, a continuing love of skiing is probably a matter of fitness as well...
Christian: True. That is why we have been working as AOK ambassadors for 15 years. We organise activity trails in co-operation with the AOK health insurance company. We have explored the topics of health and exercise extensively. Exercise is fundamental to preventing health issues. Jogging on a regular basis. Or climbing stairs. Even little exercises help. In general, endurance sports have a tremendous effect on our health. Combine that with the right diet – and you have already achieved a lot.