Interview: Fabian Lentsch

Fabian Lentsch is one of the most talented big mountain skiers to come out of Austria in recent years. He first started freeriding in his home mountains around Völs at the tender age of twelve, and won his first freeride competitions just three years later. After a tough few competition seasons with some big crashes, and where despite good results he was disqualified from the FWQ for being too young, Lentsch finally made it to the full Freeride World Tour in 2015 after throwing down one of the most insane comp lines ever seen in the qualifier event in Obergurgl. The Scott and Red Bull sponsored athlete went on to win the prestigious ‘Line of the Year’ award, before controversially pulling out of the FWT to concentrate on filming and exploring new ski areas.

Despite his phenomenal success, Fabi is one of the nicest and most humble guys on the freeride circuit. In typically down to earth style, I caught up with him at a house party in Innsbruck to ask him a few questions.

So Fabi, how did you first get in to freeriding?

Fabi: When I quit racing at the age of twelve. I did racing ’til I was eleven years old, but then I said, ‘yeah it’s too much.’ Too much pressure and too much rules, so then the next thing was to go into the powder. I’d already skied some powder with my Dad, and I think I was 7 years old when we skied the first few powder runs, and I just got back to that and tried to push it, and, liked it a lot.

Was there anyone who influenced your skiing when you were growing up?

Fabi: Yeah, was all the big American names I guess, like Seth Morrison, Ian McIntosh… Those are the guys I looked up to, especially Seth.

Is there anyone who still influences you now?

Fabi: Not too much a certain person; I use some attributes from different persons and put them together. So if someone is exploring a new region then I’m like ‘wow that’s cool, I wanna go there,’ but it’s not like, I do it like this person. I try to make my own thing.

Are you getting ideas for new places from anyone right now?

Fabi: Yeah, I guess Jeremy Jones, and his Nepal project; it looked pretty sick. He didn’t get the best conditions yet, so yeah, that would be an option for me. And just guys like that, who explore, and try to find new zones.

You’ve already done quite a bit of travelling though; what was your best trip so far?

Fabi: The best trip, not skiing-wise, was definitely the trip to Kyrgyzstan, where we drove our campervan. It was sick: 4 months, 14 different countries, so much culture, and all in Central Asia: Kyrgyzstan, Iran, Turkey, Turkmenistan… It was crazy. And we did a lot of skiing as well: we climbed some 7000m peaks, did some big mountain skiing… That was definitely the coolest trip so far.

That must have taken a fair bit of planning?

Fabi: Yeaaah, not that much, we planned it for a few months, maybe half a year… We should have had more time, but it worked out anyway. We are always short on time haha.

What was the highlight of that trip?

Fabi: Highlight was definitely Kahn Tengri area in Kyrgyzstan, where we climbed Kahn Tengri – 7000m – and also skied a lot of big mountains. So that was the sportive highlight! The other highlight maybe, just all those borders, y’know? Start in Europe, quite civilised, like we know it, then piece by piece it gets different and crazier as you go on. Lots of cool, friendly people.

So I guess we have to talk about why you left the Freeride World Tour. Can you tell us a little bit more about why you decided to do that?

Fabi: Yeah, there were a lot of issues, or a lot of factors… First of all, I always competed in the qualifiers and they changed the faces a lot, to smaller venues, and I didn’t like it that much. That was one reason why I wanted to get into the World Tour, to finally ski the big stuff and not the qualifying faces, and then three stops in a row it was just qualifying [faces], and even worse. So that was a big reason. Second is I skied 10 seasons now in competitions and this was just being my starting point to get my name, ski well, and then leave everything and go filming. And suddenly I didn’t like this plan any more because I wasn’t happy, so I didn’t even want to do it to prove my name, and then go out… So I said no. It’s not for me.

I can respect that, for sure. You travel so far for a competition, and wait there so long, and then they downgrade it to a smaller face…

Fabi: Yeah, and most of it’s shit conditions, and I’m not sure if the whole FWT format is the right one. I mean, making freeride competitions is really hard in general; if you have an alpine race it’s no matter if it’s foggy or snowing, they run them anyways; for us the conditions have to be good avalanche-wise, you have to see enough, there has to be sun out, if it’s flat light they might postpone it as well because you can’t see and it’s just… So many factors and I think you have to change the whole format and maybe try something new.

Do you see any way they could do it differently, or better?

Fabi: It’s hard to say, one option could be to have a really long time frame in one region, with multiple venues that you could ski on, and then you have a 2 or 3 week waiting period where you do 2 or 3 competitions, and you always get the best faces. Have a few options already, maybe you have to go for new ones, and also maybe do longer hikes and go a little bit further away from the resorts, because the good stuff is always outside in the backcountry. I don’t mind hiking for 3 or 4 hours to have a comp. If it’s a better face then I’m all in!

So, when you wrote the blog about leaving the FWT, you mentioned a few upcoming projects. Can you tell us a little more about them?

Fabi: Yeah, it’s hard to tell now; I will do something similar to the Asia road trip, I wanna make it bigger and longer and better places, and especially in winter not in summer. So that’s one goal I’m working towards now. Maybe do it for the next few years if it’s working well, just explore completely new regions, sleeping in the van, and with the whole media crew, the camera guys… And don’t have to plan a lot; you just have it as your home.

Anything for this season?

Fabi: Yeah this season I will fly to Alaska in 3 weeks, to Haines.


Fabi: Yeah for sure! We’re filming with Legs of Steel, and I’m super keen: it will be my first big Alaska trip. I was there before but we had a small budget and just tried to do it somehow, and we ended up flying 2 days because the rest was just shitty weather, and some logistics [problems]; so that’s cool having a heli for 4 weeks, and giving your best in the coolest mountains.

You’re also really into ski mountaineering and that side of freeriding though. Is there anything that you do differently when you’re climbing mountains in the real wild, compared to freeriding from lifts and resorts?

Fabi: Yeah, you plan your day more, or the thing you want to ski. Mostly it’s 3 or 4 days of planning, and then it’s, I dunno, it’s more satisfying… If you hike 5-6 hours, sometimes technical stuff, and then you can finally ski, it’s a completely different feeling than going from a lift or having a really short hike. You’re just more… in the mountains, you know? Most of the time we have to sleep in a tent or go to a hut, that’s just more… Real. For me, anyway. I don’t want to do it every single day in the season, but it’s good to do it quite often haha.

How do you prepare on the spot – when you’re standing at the top of a big line and getting ready to drop in?

Fabi: It’s more like meditating than anything I guess. Stop, look at the venue, and have everything in my mind, going through the run in my head. You have to be prepared beforehand, to know where you have to go, so there’s no things on top like maybe it’s a wrong decision or maybe I’m at the wrong place. If it’s well planned out, you don’t get that nervous… Well, you’re always nervous if you ski something big, but the second you drop in it’s all gone.

Do you do much preparation at the start of the season – lots of fitness training, or time in the gym?

Fabi: Yeah, but not lots of time. I have in Fall some really tight plans, and for maybe one or two months I’m often in the gym, but otherwise I’m just hiking in the mountains. Go running, jump around in the forest, just do it outside more or less. And then have one time frame where I have to be in the gym, to really activate everything, and get some confidence, and some muscles haha, to stomp cliffs.

Is there anything specific you do in the gym? Do you concentrate on your legs, or more of an all around workout?

Fabi: Everything really, but I think even more core than legs, because that’s the most important [part] of your whole body. There’s no point in pushing the legs and getting hurt somewhere else… So I do a lot of core, but yeah, otherwise especially legs. But the whole body has to work together. I think that’s important.

Your skiing is getting pretty insane these days. What does your Mum think of it all?

Fabi: My Mum? Haha. It was hard in the beginning: she didn’t like it that much when I was jumping, and sometimes she almost got a heart attack when I skiing with her and jumping off cliffs, but now it’s almost normal. She’s getting used to it, and she trusts me, I guess. So yeah, it’s all right haha.

Have you ever had any ‘oh shit’ moments on the mountain, where something’s gone wrong?

Fabi: Yeah. Yeah, it happens from time to time. One time I fell down a face because a small [slab] went off, and sloughed me down. There would have been a 100m cliff below me, but I stopped a bit above it. Well, a good bit above it, but while falling I was like, ‘fuck, that’s it.’ One other time I had a big avalanche, but I just skied out of it in the last second. I think I didn’t go skiing for 5 days afterwards, like thinking about if I should do it again ever, but then… I started again haha.

There have been quite a few accidents and deaths in skiing this year, like JP [Auclair] and Andreas [Fransson]. Do you think there’s any problem in how people are approaching the sport, or if there’s anything we can do differently to make it safer?

Fabi: Not really, there’s always a risk in the mountains. I think Andreas was one of the best skiers in the world, especially with risk management: he was my idol in that kind of thing, so I never thought anything would happen to him, but you always have this last risk on the mountain. Being professional it’s obvious that you get out there more, but it doesn’t mean that it gets you killed; it’s just you’re more out there and the chance is a little bit bigger. Everybody knows when you go out on the mountain you have to think about consequences. I think it’s just part of the sport, but the industry is working a lot towards it with all the avalanche equipment, like the airbags, and I think it’s going in a good direction.

What would you prefer: super deep powder or a steeper face with less good snow but more cliffs?

Fabi: I would go for the steep face. If it’s 20cm [deep] and soft underneath it’s perfect. Then I don’t need a metre of powder. It would be too risky.

If you could only ski one mountain or resort for the rest of your life, where would it be?

Fabi: One mountain or resort? Hmmm hahahaha. One single mountain? I don’t know man. I think that would not be an option for me haha, I would fight and go somewhere else. I just want to have different places. I couldn’t do that, no. If I really had to, it would probably be Pitztal, as a valley.

If we could send you to anywhere in the world to ski tomorrow – any trip, with no budget restrictions – where would you go?

Fabi: Hmm. Think I would check all the snow forecast sites, and see where the most snow is, and then decide. If it’s good everywhere then maybe I would go to Alaska and ski some big stuff. If there’s no budget problems I would go with a helicopter, and maybe hike afterwards. I think in Alaska it’s ok to have a helicopter from time to time haha.

If you could invent a new piece of ski equipment or technology, what would it be?

Fabi: Hmm. I thought about a teleporter, but it’s… If only I have it, I would get it. If everyone has it then everything just gets too crazy… Even for me I think you would just get too used to teleporting, but it’s cool to have a journey to go on. If you want to ski in Iran, you have to take a plane and you have to take a car and a long road, and then you’re more satisfied when you get there than if you’re just pushing a button. I think the search makes it better. So I’m not sure what I would get haha.

Do you do many other sports apart from skiing?

Fabi: I do a lot of paragliding and speedgliding, and last year I started with skydiving. Also mountaineering, and then some normal summer stuff like downhill biking. There’s a lot to do haha. But I really love all the flying stuff lately. I think it started when my friend Domi got some speedgliders for our Asia trip, and he said “ok Fabi I’ve got this speedglider, now you have to learn how to fly it already.” So we went up (Nordkette) the next day, and then I trained and learnt a lot from those guys, and now I did the paragliding license as well.

Do you do the speedgliding with skis too?

Fabi: The first time with a speedglider I was with skis, but I don’t really like it with skis. Either I go skiing or I go speed gliding, so I do it in summer a lot. And maybe I start doing a bit with skis, like especially faces where you can’t go just with skis, then it’s awesome to have a speedglider. But I wouldn’t prefer to go speedgliding on a 1 metre powder day. I’d rather just go skiing haha.

So, a couple of random questions to finish off: What’s your favourite drink?

Fabi: [Whispers] Red Bull… Hahahaha. Nah, home made fruit juice. I have a fruit press/smoothie maker thing, I use pineapple, carrots, oranges, green apples, everything haha.

Do you have any bad habits?

Fabi: Yeah, I can be quite lazy. And I’m not really so good at the cleaning haha. Lets say when you have a dirty room, I don’t care, for me it’s ok; I don’t wanna spend time on too much stuff like that haha. When I come back from a skiing trip I leave my ski bag lying there for the next time. I just wash some of the clothes haha.

And who do you think is the best skier of all time?

Fabi: Also a hard one! I think for me, it’s Shane McConkey. He accomplished a lot, and then started flying and base jumping as well. Yeah, I guess it’s Shane.

Ok sweet, thanks for the interview Fabi, and we’re looking forward to seeing what you get up to next!