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How Marcel Hirscher Went From Ski Star To Entrepreneur For Project 68

marcel hirscher

Alpine skiing legend Marcel Hirscher spent the past decade with the title of the world’s best ski racer before retiring in 2019 with 67 World Cup wins, 8 consecutive World Cup titles and a handful of Olympic medals, including two golds.

The Salzburg native hit the workshop where his obsession for tinkering, paired with his perfectionism and a creative drive, led him to develop his own ski line, partnering with Red Bull to create VAN DEER-Red Bull Sports.

Marcel Hirscher of Austria seen at the Erzberg in Eisenerz, Austria on May 26, 2022.

Hirscher now has one ambitious new target in mind, Project 68, which aims to secure a future World Cup race winner wearing his own brand – and he’s partnering with his last great ski rival Henrik Kristoffersen to achieve it. 

Austrian Hirscher retired in September 2019 after competing 245 times in the World Cup and 24 times in the Olympic Games and World Championships as he re-wrote ski history and became an all-time ski legend.

He won the overall World Cup eight times in succession, and also picked up the small crystal ball for slalom and giant slalom, six times apiece.

All in all, he achieved 67 World Cup victories, among 138 podium finishes, and won two Olympic gold medals and one silver. With seven world titles and four silver medals.

It did not take long for Hirscher, who hails from a small mountain town in the Salzburg region, to get back into the competitive spirit as he got behind an Audi rallycross car wheel at a Zell am See weekend event in January 2020 before becoming a forerunner at the legendary Hahnenkamm downhill in January 2022 and then a competitor at last month’s iconic Red Bull Erzbergrodeo Hard Enduro event.

– The 33-year-old said: “I truly enjoy a pretty active lifestyle – I like to be in motion, I like speed, I like g-force – so I still like skiing steep faces and maybe jumping a few cliffs! But these days it’s all about the joy and the adventure, so it’s definitely not as hard as I pushed before. “

For Hirscher, it was always a lifelong dream to create his own ski brand and viewed it as the logical next step of his career.

His VAN DEER ski brand has been developing and pooling its knowledge in order to break new ground, partnering with Red Bull to become VAN DEER-Red Bull Sports Equipment GmbH, a registered ski manufacturer.

– He explained: “I’m half Dutch, half Austrian – so all the guys used to call me ‘Von Dutch’! When we formed the brand, we didn’t want to call it ‘Hirscher’, so it’s just a little play on words. (In German, a ‘Hirsch’ is a deer).

I’m very proud of this joint venture – together we can definitely turn the page and step up the game. Red Bull is a supporter from the beginning, we’ve been together for over 10 years and we share the same values. They always supported my vision and approach about quality, perfection and meticulous work efforts.”

– That meticulous side to his nature means Hirscher fits perfectly to his new role as he loves to tinker – if he hadn’t been a ski racer, he very well might have been a technician or ski designer.

He added: “I love to develop gear, especially on skis – to tune and make skis for every condition, and that’s what I did the last six months.”

What’s next for this venture is born from something he calls Project 68, a reference to the 67 World Cup wins to his name and his desire to get the next one for VAN DEER-Red Bull Sports.

He revealed: “Project 68 was always the idea to get a win on my own ski, so the name Hirscher can keep winning, without me doing the skiing.”

Ironically, his last great rival on the competitive slopes, Henrik Kristoffersen of Norway, will get the chance to use the equipment as he looks to build on an impressive 2021/2022 alpine season with hopes that together they can achieve that goal.

He said: “I always had a great relationship with Henrik, and he always wanted to get on the best skis. We were always friends off the piste, it was always a fair and friendly relationship – now it’s a working one!”