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A world champion’s declaration of love

The Schönrieder Michael (aka Mike) von Grünigen is connected to ‘Saanenland’ with his heart and soul. It was here that the two times world champion in giant slalom made his first stem turn and today Schönried is still his favourite ski resort.

Mr. Von Grünigen, in 2003 you ended your unprecedented career at its peak and now lead a quiet life in your home village of Schönried. Or is this misleading?
Yes and no. I’m no longer in racing mode as I was before and the daily adrenaline level is not as high as before, but I am still closely connected with skiing and on the road a great deal.

What does that mean?
Even before I had finished my career, it was clear to me that I wanted to stay involved in sport. So I am now working for Fischersports, one of my former suppliers, as a consultant and racing-sport coordinator in Switzerland. We support young athletes with material and technical advice. I also work in the department for development and test materials and products, that are later for sale. In addition, I can also be found on the local slopes as head of our regional youth organization or as a ski companion for company and customer events.

And in the summer months do you spend your time doing sweet nothing?
I wish (laughs). In the summer I work as a sales representative and ambassador for two companies that sell fitness equipment, suitable for skiing (called Skier’s Edge) and weight training (called Eisenhorn).

Do you sometimes miss the hype that surrounded you every winter?
No. Back then I enjoyed that time very much, but as I am in direct contact with athletes and still participate in events connected to skiing, I don’t really miss anything.

During your active period you travelled all over the world – what brought you back to tranquil Schönried?
I grew up here and during my career my base was also here. I have a very close connection to Saanenland, which meant that there was never any question of me moving anywhere else. Why should I? We enjoy a high quality of life and are surrounded by  beautiful scenery. The touristic, sporting and cultural events on offer are of a very high standard.

On Horneggli there is even a slope named after you. How often can you be found on the MVG-Run?
Frequently, as it is a very attractive slope. We often train there with the Ski Club. Also, when I am spending a whole day with guests, we mostly start at Horneggli. Then we move on to Hornberg/Saanersloch, rather a simple ski area, but easy to ski on in case of snowfall or fog, thanks to the slopes nestled in the forest. Then via Oeschseite to Zweisimmen to Rinderberg until St.Stephan, where the slopes are very attractive. On this tour you can be on the road almost the whole day without using the same lift twice.

Who takes advantage of the offer to spend a day on the road with the world champion MVG?
It could be long-standing fans who have been given it as a birthday present or small and medium-sized companies who are going on a company outing. Across the board they are nice encounters with good conversations throughout the group.

And how often do you ski nowadays?
As a rule, in the winter for six out of seven days. Almost like before, but the focus has shifted from me to others.