The one-time Jan and Matti Waldner ran the Engadin Skimarathon, they rubbed shoulders with thousands of participants but skied with the one person to whom they owe their love of sport. The start area moved slowly for the first ten minutes, they remember, with everyone inching ahead searching for space to skate.
Halfway through the event, with postcard views to the left and right, Matti broke a pole – a temporary moment of panic but not totally uncommon – and was bailed out at the next aid station where they had extras. The brothers crossed the line with fast finishing times. Each one was keen to come back.
On March 13th, the two former professionals – one now a student and the other, a petroleum engineer, respectively – will have their shot as the race resumes for its 52nd running. (Dario Cologna watch out.). And like their dad did on their first run, Jan and Matti will use it as an opportunity to inspire others during an event with few peers in the world of XC racing.
The Waldner bros., now 29 and 25, are perhaps better known online as “the Stew Crew.” Two Austrian guys who live life outdoors, mostly, running trails, skiing, and training in short shorts, base layers, gear and not much else – a gimmick that’s helped them find white space in a crowded world of online influencers.
With just under 20k followers, they post about movement in daily life, occasionally showing off their XC skills, but mostly showcasing what it means to be active.
Sport was never supposed to be about world cup wins for them growing up. But by middle school, realizing they had talent and a lot of drive, they’d enrolled in an XC-focused boarding school and eventually competed in professional sprint and middle-distance races before retiring and returning to their educations. Throughout their careers and even now, training was never a chore. They looked forward to it all the time.
One of the things they love about cross-country, Jan explains in an interview to discuss the Skimarathon, is that it relies on a high level of muscular and aerobic fitness. While skiing is still important to them, running, cycling, climbing, hiking, and roller skiing are also things they love. They seem complimentary. A way to enjoy the outdoors. A means to keep moving.
With school done for Jan, and their careers starting to take shape, they started the Stew Crew in 2019 – partly out of curiosity – but primarily to showcase how they’ve lived for years: no matter how busy or how stressed, finding an hour to move around each day is possible, and important. “After our racing careers were done, we never gave up sports. So, we started this Instagram to show people that you can be active even while studying or working full time, no matter how fit or what level you’re doing them at,” Jan explains.
While never intended to be “careers,” it keeps them motivated and they hope, helps motivate others, too.
The start line
The start line of the Engadiner in Maloja is akin to any other international marathon, except you’re on skis. Think, Berlin. Chicago. London. There are thousands of athletes – some enthusiasts and others, professionals – waiting in crowded waves, each anticipating the gun to start moving.
During their first crack at the event, Matti remembers poling nervously, hitting skis around him with every attempt to dig into the frozen ground underneath. Once you eventually get moving, the speed of the crowd sucks you in, as if you’re enjoying a tailwind, he says. While the course profile shows it’s progressively downhill, the energy makes
it feel even faster.
There are massive panoramas left and right before the course enters St. Moritz and a crowded spectator area. Sections of trees next, then rollers, and a long stretch to the finish in S-chanf. By the numbers, there are roughly 14,000 people at the start on every second Sunday in March where the course has been running since 1969.
Jan and Matti won’t be chasing finish times this year. Instead, they’ll be pacing an ODLO contest winner who will spend a night in St. Moritz, ski in new ODLO kit and enjoy the event with a couple ex-pros by their side (perhaps not entirely uncommon at the Engadiner?), motivating them during one of the world’s premier cross-country events.
As the conversation wraps, the Waldners assure us that, whoever joins, they’ll take it easy on them. Mostly.
The Engadin Skimarathon is the largest cross-country skiing event in Switzerland and the second largest in the world. The Engadin Half Marathon, the Engadin Women's Race and the Engadin Night Race are also on the program for the marathon week. ODLO has been a main sponsor of the Engadin Skimarathon since 2015. For details, click here.