INTERVIEW: On February 2nd, Hansi Hinterseer celebrates his 70th birthday and embarks on a new journey: a new album and a TV documentary about his life. The former skiing star, musician, and actor talks about his victory at the Ganslern, tough times, the misconception of a “perfect world,” and his belief in the future.
Hansi Hintersser is a busy man these days. In his hometown of Kitzbühel, he presented his new album and a TV documentary last week, which will be broadcast on ServusTV on February 2nd, his 70th birthday.
You mentioned having had four careers: one as a child star, one as a skiing star, one as a musician, and one as an actor. Was there a plan behind all of this?
No, they just happened. Each one was beautiful in its own way. I got the chance to do all of it. I believe that everyone gets a chance to do something in life eventually. The question is, do you dare to go for it? I’ve always been bold, and I got that from sports: what do I have to lose?
At least the skiing career was practically in your genes as the son of an Olympic champion, right?
Probably. I grew up on a mountain pasture and had to ski to school in winter. In summer, I gained strength and endurance from nature. It still helps me to be in good shape. I was never a fitness studio guy. Many wanted to prescribe fitness programs for me, but I always resisted.
Was that already a topic in sports during your time?
Yes, it was. Back then, it was trendy to mimic East German training methods. Our heart rates would go up to 220 beats per minute. Today, you’d say, “Are you crazy?” We had to run up the steep stairs at the Bergisel Stadium about 30 times.
It’s hard to believe when we look at you today. Your “home victory” in Kitzbühel was 50 years ago. The young man with the flowing hair in the red suit is still vivid in many people’s memories.
It’s really interesting how many people still talk to me about that image. I remember getting up, looking out the window, and seeing a clear blue sky. I loved that. Everything was light that day, and I never felt like I was about to crash. I set the best time twice, even though it was stressful.
In what way was it stressful?
Back then, we would inspect the course from the bottom up, in stages. And there were people everywhere, shouting, “Hansi, a photo, an autograph.” But I should have been focusing on the race.
How do you see international skiing today?
Terrible, it hardly exists anymore. In Japan, for example, they once sold 15 million pairs of skis, but now only a certain clientele goes skiing, and the hype is gone. In Aspen, for instance, they build a downhill course, and people watch the first four skiers who pass by at 120 km/h. But then they leave because they don’t understand it, and it doesn’t interest them. Of course, there are events like Wengen, Adelboden, and, of course, Kitzbühel. They are a dream, but that’s about it.
Was it better in the past?
I don’t want to keep talking about the past. That time had its flaws too. But look at the people at the race here: they don’t come anymore to applaud everyone. It’s all about the party now. They set up a tent worth millions for the VIPs at the bottom, and the athletes aren’t even allowed inside. Isn’t that crazy? If they don’t race down the slope, there won’t even be a tent. Something is wrong with the appreciation. And then there’s the talk about the highest prize money: even a good football player doesn’t put on his shoes for that.
Speaking of shoes: when you walk through Kitzbühel in your fur boots, does it work, or does it take hours?
During Hahnenkamm week, I don’t walk through Kitzbühel. And otherwise, we have so many celebrities here that they leave us alone. It’s not an issue.
How did the “trademark fur boots” come about?
They were all the rage in 1975, and we bought them in Italy. But then they went out of fashion. I used them once during a shoot in the snow, and that stuck with me.
Do you have a preferred brand?
There are a few. I even wanted to produce them myself once, shoes with “Hansi” on the sole. But it was too expensive with all the rights.
After your skiing career, you entered the world of folk music. An industry where you also need to be competitive, right?
It’s tough, yes. In sports, if you have talent, you can make it. But in singing, you need connections. So that they play your songs on the radio, so that you can be part of it. I just discussed this with Melissa Naschenweng here in Kitzbühel. I remember when she showed up, a little shy girl from Lesachtal. Singing, this industry, is a brutal thing.
How was your start?
At first, everyone said, “What does the skier want? We’ve seen it all before.” But then I owe a lot to Karl Moik, who gave me my first appearance in the Musikantenstadl in Schladming, 14 minutes. It couldn’t have been better. And then I was in Zurich, but I only had one song, and all the stars were there. I introduced myself, watched what they did, what their managers did. When I got on stage, all the ladies came closer. That’s when I thought, “Hello, you’re doing something right.” I was in the right place at the right time with the right product.
How well do you live from music?
These financial questions are always very uncomfortable. I’m doing well, but nothing is free. You have to work hard, have the right environment, your people, to keep everything moving. On stage, I can only do my thing, then it’s up to the people to decide if they like it.
There’s often the accusation that the world of folk music only sells the “perfect world.”
I’ve heard that a lot in Hamburg and Berlin too. But there is no perfect world, not even in my life. There is a world that can be healed when you go to the mountains, to nature. I’ve experienced many beautiful things but also many bad ones. You can see that in the documentary. Many things happened that were not beautiful.
In your interactions with people?
I first experienced it at the age of six when I was allowed to participate in “Toni Sailer – der kleine Skikurs.” That’s when I first felt envy. Then I was successful, won the overall World Cup in giant slalom at 18 or 19. Suddenly, nothing worked anymore. I was the sunny boy, Hansi, then nothing went well. And everywhere, you felt envy and resentment. Processing that as a young person, where you think you’re just doing sports and not hurting anyone, is difficult. There were gruesome things.
Envy, resentment – that has probably remained, right?
You can never please everyone. But I had to earn everything myself. And it was always said first: “Wow, look at how he does it.” In sports, in singing. And then suddenly, you’re not as good anymore. I think I’ve contributed my share to making Kitzbühel known with all the beauty we have here. Maybe I would have deserved more appreciation, like in skiing.
At 70, is Hansi Hinterseer afraid of aging?
I never thought about that. I don’t care if people like my fur boots or my hair, it doesn’t bother me. I do my thing where I feel comfortable. I’m doing very well with it.
But your hair can fall out? Turn white?
I have no problem with that.
Do you have any tips on how to look as young as you?
Satisfaction and gratitude.
Is that enough?
Yes. I have a wonderful family, I’m very satisfied, happy. Everything comes together: the way I grew up, the values I inherited from my grandparents. Sports were very important, it shaped me and taught me a lot. Of course, genetics also play a role. And thank you, dear God, that I can do this.
The “perfect world” is wobbling in reality: climate crisis, Ukraine war, the Middle East. Does Hansi Hinterseer also think about these things?
I have reached a certain age, but I have always elegantly stayed away from anything political. I have never affiliated myself with a party. Of course, I have my ideas and opinions, but I will never make them public. I don’t give advice; I don’t want to be wise. Everyone should just take themselves by the nose and try to do their best. We have such a beautiful world, and we want to protect it.