Patrik Walter, 39, from Galtür was available for an interview with Mogasi Magazin. He is a fully certified ski instructor, ski coach and technician. He was also an trainer/examiner for the Austrian national ski instructor certification for 10 years. He participates in the Synchro-Ski World Cup and is also is a member of ‘Team Schwungdesigner’ from St Anton who compete in demo skiing championships.
Mogasi: How old were you when you first put on a pair of skis?
Walter: I began skiing, like many of us here is Tirol, as a young child. Exactly when I skied for the first time, I can say that my mother believes I was 2.5 years old when I first went with her.
Mogasi: Who taught you how to ski?
Walter: I first learned to ski in my local area of Galtür with my mother. We skied almost every day together. It was very fun for me. Over the years I attended ski school and also trained in the local ski club.
In regards to ski races, I participated in district and national races; this was enough for me.
Over time I skied with a lot of different coaches; however, to be honest, I really learned to ski during my national ski instructor certification.
Mogasi: How was your professional career? How far did you get in your ski career?
Walter: As a ski racer I qualified for national competitions. After some time I decided to begin an apprenticeship as a chef. However, after completing this, I realised that I was a much better skier than I was a chef. Therefore, I began with my ski instructing certifications. During the national certification then examiner, Martin ‘Guggi’ Gugganig saw potential in me. At the time he was popular in Japan and was looking for someone to continue with his clients. Of course I said yes. I was 21 when I first went to Japan. I made many contacts there and was offered a job as a conditioning coach. I wasn’t interested in cooking during this time so this was the start of my coaching career. As a result, I worked as a state and national ski instructor trainer. One day I received a request from Yuki asking if I would like to work as a full-time speed (Super-G and downhill) coach, which is a novelty in Japan.
Mogasi: What setbacks did you have to overcome?
Walter: At 22 I ruptured my ACL for the first time whilst in Japan. I then flew home and taught for the rest of the season in Austria. In spring I had my first knee surgery. A few years later I damaged the cartilage in my right knee whilst playing football (soccer). This was followed by a right ACL tear and a cartilage smoothening.
Mogasi: You have countless awards and trophies at home; which are you most proud of?
Walter: I am especially proud of the award ‘Austrian Individual Demo Champion’ I won in 2000. This event focused on ski technique, moguls skiing, carving and fun carving.
Mogasi: Which athletes have you coached so far and what successes could you celebrate?
Walter: Yuki, Ryo, Aruha, Makiko and Koremsa. With these five athletes we have had success in the Far East Cup (Asia), Nor-Am Cup (North America) and Europacup (Europe). These events are one level below World Cup competition.
Last year I began training Raphael von der Thannen from Ischgl who is competing in his first FIS races.
Mogasi: Is there enough support and training posibilities in Tirol for ski racers?
Walter: Areas such as Ischgl, St Anton, Sölden or the glaciers (Hintertux, Stubai, Pitztal, Kaunertal) provide the best training posibilities. They will often close some slopes for the athletes, which isn’t always of benefit to the lift companies as many ski resorts have their focus on the tourists and need these slopes for the guests on busy days. Care must be taken to ensure the safety of the athletes, which often results in this extra effort from the lift companies.
Mogasi: Have you developed any new training methods over the years? What is your secret?
Walter: ‘Off-piste skiing’ is the best instructor. My approach as a coach is to train and practice the ski technique in off-piste areas such as in powder or moguls. Skiing in such conditions requires the athlete to constantly adapt and compensate. These are some skills I try to bring into ski racing.
Mogasi: How do you become a well-rounded skier? What makes you a good skier?
Walter: To be a well-rounded skier, you need to know the correct response for every situation.
A good skier makes appropriate use of all variables whilst skiing. This means whether it be on- or off-piste, they can handle every situation. Off-piste, moguls and spring snow are awesome conditions to train in.
Mogasi: Which is area do you and your athletes train in?
Walter: The preparation for a season begins in Summer. This is the time where strength and conditioning training is at the forefront. During this time is often a free-skiing block followed by technical free-skiing (similar to in a normal ski lesson). Hintertux, Pitztal, Stubai or Kaunertal are typical glaciers where training is held in autumn. In the winter, there are many different resorts that athletes can train at. Personally, I like to train with my athletes in St Anton, Ischgl and Sölden.
These resorts stand out due to their organisation of the training area.
Mogasi: How do you stay fit and what exercises do you recommend to skiers?
Walter: Personally I stay fit through my summer job as a conditioning coach. I do predominantly body weight exercises. In regards to skiing, the whole body is important as it functions as a protective tank. A skier should focus on their torso (stomach and back) and legs.
To prepare for winter I would recommend mountain biking for strength and condtioning training for the legs. Additionally, you should do core exercises to help with stabilisation during skiing.
Mogasi: What fascinates you the most about skiing?
Walter: It is the freedom that fascinates me so much about skiing. There is no better office than nature. Snow alone is also very interesting for me and what a person can do with two planks on their feet. The different ways a person can use a mountain is what makes this sport so unique.
Mogasi: What is your favourite discipline? What do you participate in?
Walter: My favourite discipline is moguls skiing. It is difficult though to compete in as there aren’t any competitions here.
Disciplines that I participate in are demo and syncro-ski championships. Our team ‘Team Schwungdesigner‘ competes in the Tyrolean, Austrian and European Championships. We have won all of these competitions multiple times.
Mogasi: How do you think skiing will change through technical developments? Do you think it will change at all?
Walter: The basic elements of skiing have remained the same for many years and therefore will most likely not change much more. Balance, turning and edging is what skiing is all about. Technical changes only will make small differences. Freeriding already worked in the 20s which the film ‘Der Weisse Rausch’ impressively shows. Through advancement in technology, this sport has been made accessible to the masses. There will be little change in the ski technique in years to come.
Mogasi: You travel a lot internationally for skiing, how is it different other ski nations?
Walter: In the exchange of technique with other ski nations such as Italy, France, Germany and Switzerland, I took part in Chamonix. I’m sure we’re moving in the right direction. Our Austrian technique has brought a lot to the world of skiing. In the Austrian ski curriculum we teach people the Alpine Basic Position from the beginning and this is definitely the right thing to do. Other nations teach in many different ways, some of which are marketable. I was in the 2007 (South Korea) and 2011 (St Anton am Arlberg) interski team, where international ski techniques are discussed and tested.
Mogasi: Finally, what about your own children? Are the little ones are already skiing and would you support a ski career for you children?
Walter: The oldest is three and we have already begun skiing with him. My daughter is still a bit too young. So far he enjoys it, if he continues to is another question. Of course I would be happy if my children liked and were good at skiing. If they wanted to pursue a ski career then I would support them. In terms of skiing, I have to say: I’ve seen so much and I’m definitely not one who pushes. This business is fierce, you have to want it for yourself 100%.