Luckily there was enough snow this weekend. But also a strong wind, up to 80 kilometers per hour, so cold and biting that some of the athletes wore windbreakers over their streamlined racing suits and taped their faces to protect against frostbite. The conditions were so tough that the organizers even decided to shorten the vertical race at the Ski Mountaineering World Cup in Andorra, from 719 to 360 meters in altitude. It was a “single torture”, that’s how Tatjana Paller describes the race a day later on the phone.
The Lenggrieserin ran without a jacket, but with extra layers under the suit. The field was very tight, says Paller, who is starting for DAV Bad Tölz. She finished 18th, 1:35 behind the winner, Axelle Gachet-Mollaret of France. Had she been 30 seconds faster, she would have been in the top ten. Austria’s Sarah Dreier finished second, followed by Frenchwoman Célia Perillat-Pessey. Quite typical: athletes from France, Switzerland and Italy dominate the sport. The Alpine nations are already gearing up for the Torino 2026 Games when the sport becomes an adult Olympic for the first time.
She wasn’t really satisfied with her performance, says Tatjana Paller. On Sunday “it was confirmed again that I only train for the sprint”. The sprint is her favorite discipline. Unlike the vertical, which is all about running up the mountain as fast as possible with skis and skins, the sprint requires a more complete ski mountaineer. The sprint lasts about three to four minutes and includes all elements of the sport: running, changing from walking to driving mode, carrying skis, downhill.
Her time as a child and teenager in the ski club benefited her – many of her colleagues come from mountain running
It’s “super exciting,” says Paller, a neck-and-neck race, a real fight. “You can really torture yourself there,” sometimes when the wind is cold like at the weekend, but above all it’s about winning whoever pushed their limits the most. That is an important reason why the 27-year-old switched from professional cycling to ski mountaineering in 2019. When cycling there is so much tactics that you can rest in the slipstream and just have to wait for the right moment to pass everyone. In the end, it is not necessarily the strongest who stands on the podium.
Paller was looking for a new challenge, which she found in the snow. In winter 2020 she started ski mountaineering, one year later she took part in the first international races as a member of the squad. Her time as a child and teenager in the ski club also benefited her. Many of her colleagues, who would rather come from mountain running, have difficulties coming down the mountain on the narrow skis in the backcountry. “I always regret that,” says Paller. When she goes training with her skis, which are less than 60 millimeters wide under the binding, people sometimes say: “Oh look, she’s training for cross-country skiing,” she says and laughs.
Her move was a success. On January 7, she defended her German sprint championship title, even against competition from Austria, because the two countries held their championship together in Schladming. In Germany, she also dominates in the other two disciplines, the vertical and individual, with the latter being about climbing between 1100 and 1500 meters in open terrain as quickly as possible and then descending again. Already in her first season in 2021 she was able to place in the top ten in the sprint at World Cups, in 2022 and also in the current season she has already managed to place fourth several times.
Your specialization in the sprint comes in very handy, because the sprint and the new discipline mixed relay, i.e. the mixed relay, are the Olympic disciplines. Mixed Relay is also about calling up the Skimo elements in quick succession. Skimo is the abbreviation of ski mountaineering, which means ski mountaineering. In the extended sprint, a team of men and women starts, who each have to manage ascent, descent, change and carrying passages. Olympiathat’s Tatjana Paller’s goal, but let’s see, she says, by 2026 “something can still happen”.
In any case, your training workload is already increasing, which also has something to do with the change of coach. Since this season, the Austrian Florian Steirer has been taking over the training of the Skimo national team, formerly the coach of the German biathletes. Tatjana Paller trains 12 to 15 hours a week, even in summer, when basic training on foot, on a bike and with roller skis is added. This can also be combined very well with her teacher training course in sports and economics in Munich, because, like when she was a cyclist, she will continue to be supported by the German Armed Forces. Her “plan A” after graduation is a job as a sports teacher in the German armed forces. But now the Olympics are at the top of the list.
She currently lives with her family in Lenggries, which is also so nice because she gets along so well with her two siblings. The whole family is very athletic, but only she does her sport professionally. The training this season was only possible because the slope at Brauneck had snow. Sometimes she also went running to compensate for the lack of training on skis. The World Cup in Switzerland even had to be postponed this year due to the lack of snow. With the fresh snow, the situation looks better. From February to mid-March there is now a very concentrated competition phase in which she will be on the road a lot. But that’s exactly what she wants: she loves her new sport where she can push her body to the limit.