Skiing Uphill with Nicolas Hojac

Our friends at Salomon just announced their partnership with Nicolas Hojac, an alpinist best known for his hardcore adventures and speed records. We took the opportunity to ask him some questions and found his perspective quite interesting. He’s definitely the first skier we’ve ever interviewed who clearly enjoys the ascent more than the decent. Read on to find out why…

Hi Nicolas, can you please introduce yourself to our readers?
I’m a professional mountaineer. My passions are speed attempts and expeditions in distant mountain ranges.

A professional mountaineer? How does that work?
It never was my goal to become a pro mountaineer. My parents raised me to believe that school comes first, then sports. It always was said that you cannot live from sports and therefore I eventually went the long and classic educational way. I first graduated with my studies in mechanical engineering. At the age of roughly 20 I realized, “hey somehow this could be enough”. So I set myself the ambitious goal to at least earn a part of my income through sports. Today I made it and live completely from sports.

Nicolas leading the crew in Engelberg © Martin Bissig

I guess your new partnership with Salomon helps. I hear you’re helping them launch their new MTN touring line. How did that come about?
Salomon is actually a top partner in both winter and summer. On my tours I rely on their ski and winter equipment, to safely make vertical meters.  In the summer I prefer to have light gear on the trails and I’m more than happy when I have material that works in the backcountry.

What’s your favorite local playground?
I like to do this most in the Berner Oberland. I have endless possibilities there for skiing, ice climbing and mountaineering.

Do you prefer to ski uphill or down hill?
I certainly prefer ascents, as you often tend to get tired during descents, and for this reason, more accidents happen. My goal is to reach the peak and this part is more exciting than the descent.

What is it that’s so special about reaching a summit for you?
I often get an emotional high. This makes me think of the first time that I climbed the Eiger-Nordwand and reached the peak. That was an extremely emotional moment for me, when I made it and conquered this historical route for the very first time.

Nicolas in Engelberg © Martin Bissig
You’ve certainly done some wild stuff. Are you ever scared?
On a tour you go through many different states of mind. Worries, happiness and motivation co-exist and change. Somewhere in the middle you find yourself. Alpinism truly is a rollercoaster of emotions.

Any advice for our readers for staying safe on their adventures this winter?
It is essential to have a lot of know-how. There are many outside influences: avalanche danger, the weather and the cold. Therefore, it is important to have a solid base. That can come from avalanche trainings, mountain guides or friends. Obviously, having the right material is crucial when it comes to safety. The best knowledge is useless when you’re wrongly equipped.

We recently published an interview with the Protect Our Winters guys. I guess this is also an interest of yours.
As ambassador for POW I actively engage for the topics of climate and sustainable development of our earth. This way of thinking became a central point in my life. Even though expeditions in foreign countries are part of my job, I decided to only have one long-haul-flight per year. I especially see three points how each one can actively make a difference: eat less meat, fly less and vote.

I guess that’s another point where you and Salomon align well?
I am excited about Salomon’s direction towards a sustainable future, where sustainability must be a part of product development. It is exciting to see how Salomon manages to close the loop. Recycling used products and completely using them for the creation of new products, such as the MTN products.

What are your plans for the rest of the season? Any new projects?
For me, as an alpinist, it is important to talk about my actions, not about my projects and visions that I have. In the end, it is most important what you have done and not what you had in mind. Nevertheless, I can share that I would like to do El Capitan in California when it’s the right time for it.

We’re looking forward to seeing that! Thanks for your time Nicolas. Enjoy the rest of your winter!