Vali Höll takes us on a tour of the mountain bike trails that made her
Ahead of her MTB Raw debut, the two-time junior Downhill World Champion reminisces about the trails that helped her hone her world-conquering talent.
Vali Höll has been riding amazing trails since she was very young. Growing up in Saalbach, near Salzburg, Austria, Höll’s father built the mountain bike trail to end all mountain bike trails around their mountainside guesthouse.
Encouraged by her parents to get involved (and ride downhill as fast as she could), Höll quickly established her own name in the sport, beating boys in the iXS Rookies Cup as a child before winning the Crankworx Whistler junior race in 2014.
With that reputation behind her, the Austrian quickly settled into World Cup racing at junior level, winning the little matter of not one but two junior World Cup overalls. She's also been the junior World Champion twice. In 2020, she steps up to racing the senior women's World Cup, when the season starts in Maribor.
With an exciting future assured as she joins the Elite ranks – and her very own MTB Raw video available for you to watch right here – we spoke to Höll about the trails that have helped her hone her skills.
1. Leogang, Austria
The place where I really learned the ropes growing up wasn’t so much a trail, but Bikepark Leogang. It’s the biggest park close to my hometown and it’s where all the World Cups are held. My parents would pick me up after school and take me there.
At that time I was too young to ride, so I would hang out at the bottom of the trails there waiting while my parents were riding. For me it was super boring. As I got older I could finally ride with them and no longer wait at the bottom! One day, when I was maybe nine or 10 I was faster than my mum, and a few years later I was faster than my dad.
2. Höllentrail, Saalbach, Austria
This translates as ‘The Hell Trail’. It’s the trail my dad built. It’s basically where I started to learn to ride bikes. Before building this, my parents mostly only rode uphill, but they flew to Canada in 2005 and after that trip decided to build their own track down near our chalet [Höll’s parents run the Spielberghaus guesthouse]. My dad built it in 2005/6, so I would have been around six years old when I rode it for the first time.
A lot of big mountain bikers came and helped him build it, people like trials rider Hans Rey. I started on the easiest lines, riding down then pushing up again. I learned through watching others riding it, and at our chalet we’d have a lot of mountain bike pros staying, so I learned a lot from watching them and absorbing the spirit of mountain biking.
A lot of racers talk about riding in Saalbach because it has some of the best tracks in Europe. Just hearing your heroes talking about it, then riding the exact same trail they did, is pretty amazing.
3. Winterberg, Germany
My first downhill race is a fun story. I was and I still am a really competitive kid when it comes to downhill racing. My dad knew if I don’t get on a podium I’d be unhappy for the whole weekend, or even the entire next week! My dad found out about the iXS Rookies Cup where you could start racing aged 11. As a girl you had to race with the boys, there’s no separate gender class. My dad prepared me to not get sad if I didn’t win. I did win and beat all the boys. I’ve been back again, and won again. That trail in Winterberg holds good memories.
4. Whistler Mountain Bike Park, Canada
Whistler was amazing. I went for the first time when I was 13. The trip was a present from my godmother [former pro downhill rider Angie Hohenwarter]. If you come from a small town in Austria and go overseas for the first time, just seeing the huge bike park with so many tracks is amazing. The whole vibe in Canada is pretty sick. The park has some huge jumps. I’ve never seen bigger jumps. It was a pretty good time.
5. Lenzerheide, Switzerland
I won my first junior gold at the 2018 UCI World Championships here. I felt really comfortable riding here because it’s a German-speaking area. It’s quite similar to what I was used to riding at home. It starts really bike park-esque but then you have really difficult bits in there. It’s a cool mix and I was super stoked and confident to ride there.
And her dream trail would be...
If I could design my own dream riding trail it would be super loamy. In Whistler there’s one trail called Ride Don’t Slide. The trail is super old but it’s got super fresh dirt, it’s super fluffy and it doesn’t hurt if you crash. So I’d like that but with big jumps and corners. It should be super natural. And not too many roots because I don’t really like roots!