22 Summits Stories

"We had a dream"

When he was young, the mountains didn't interest him at all. He was fascinated by sport - and the talent of his brother Max. Today, Franz Julen from Zermatt is one of Switzerland's outstanding business personalities - and has discovered the mountains for himself after all.

Your father Martin Julen was one of the world's best skiers in the 50s, Lauberhorn winner, World Championship and Olympic participant. How did he shape you and your siblings?

He learned us respect, decency, gratitude and humility, but also hard work and consistent action. Moreover, the sport was highly respected in our family, not only because our father was a ski racer himself, but he also held the Blizzard general agency in Switzerland for 22 years. We cheered along with the Blizzard racers. All six of our children played tennis at a competitive level. We went skiing with our father at an early age. In front of our house he put us in a slalom. When we came home after school, we could do two or three runs before it got dark.

Did it offend you as a youngster when your father came straight out with you about your sporting talent?

He said: "Max has talent. He's going to be a great skier one day. You'll reach your point soon, and then it won't go any further." I didn't mind. I took note of it because I also liked playing ice hockey on the side. When the first results in the ski races were not so promising, I stopped.

Was there competition between you and your brother?

There was no competitiveness. On the contrary: I was interested in supporting Max very early on. When I was 18 and had my driver's licence, I went to races with him and looked after him and prepared his skis. You could tell right away that he was destined for great things.

How was that received when you appeared together?

In the beginning we were smiled at. "Here come the two brothers!" When the successes came, that quickly stopped. I was Max's serviceman, supervisor and manager, I did his contracts. In those five years, we had a super relationship of trust, which remains unchanged to this day.

Your brother won the Olympics on Atomic skis, not in the brand your father represented.

Max skied Blizzard from 1979 to 82. His father had the general agency from 1956 to 78. It was logical that Max skied Blizzard, but we realised that Blizzard was focusing on downhill at that time, less on slalom/giant slalom, and we knew that if he wanted to make it to the top, he would need different equipment.

Was that an affront to your father?

No. My father knows about skiing. When Max switched, he no longer had the representation. It wasn't a vendetta either. On the contrary, he parted ways with Blizzard on the best of terms. Every insider knew that there was better material for slalom/giant slalom at that time.

How is your father now?

He is 91 and still skis and plays golf once or twice a week: he is in great shape.

What did you learn from the intense years with your brother?

We had a dream back then: Olympic victory in Sarajevo in 1984. If you have a dream, work hard for it, never give up, stay grounded when you win, keep working consistently, don't give up when you lose, learn from it, draw the right lessons, keep going, then you can achieve a lot in life..

Have you also left the slopes and climbed mountains? After all, you are now the president of the board of directors of Zermatt Bergbahnen AG and bring people to the mountain.

The mountains, especially the Matterhorn, meant nothing to me when I was young. They were just there. The older I got, the more important they became. The Matterhorn gives me strength and optimism. It makes me humble. After the Pollux, I climbed the Matterhorn on 24 August 2009. Next to Max's Olympic victory, that was one of the best days of my life in sporting terms.

Max and Franz Julen

The brothers from Zermatt were a strong team in the 1980s: Max Julen (1961) took over the legacy of his father Martin Julen and became one of the best ski racers of his generation. On 14 February 1984, he won Olympic gold in the giant slalom in Sarajevo. His brother Franz (1958), three years older, was his manager and supervisor. He took off in his own way: Franz Julen worked as a sports journalist, became sports marketer and manager of the ski racers Vreni Schneider and Petra Kronberger, was CEO of the sporting goods manufacturer Völkl for five years and managed Intersport, the largest sporting goods retailer in the world, for over 17 years. Today, Franz Julen is Chairman of the Board of Directors of Valora Holding AG, sits on the Advisory Board of the ALDI SÜD Group and has been Chairman of the Board of Directors of Zermatt Bergbahnen AG since October 2018.

Castor and Pollux

Situated from the Breithorn in a south-easterly direction, the 4000-metre peaks Castor and Pollux present a harmonious picture in terms of height and shape. The mountains are named in reference to Greek mythology. According to legend, Castor and Polydeukes were twins, their mother was the king's daughter Leda. As far as the father was concerned, there was disagreement in ancient Greece: Zeus was the father of Polydeukes, but was he also the father of Kastor?

The brothers were inseparable. They became the pride of Sparta, took part in the quest for the Golden Fleece, accompanied Heracles on the way to the Amazons. After the death of Castor, Polydeukes asked his father Zeus to release him from his semi-divinity and immortality to go with his brother to the realm of the dead. Touched by this brotherly love, Zeus allowed his son Polydeukes to walk and age between Olympus and Hades until he too would be allowed to die the death of mortals.

Even today, Castor and Pollux stand for sibling love, friendship and mutual support.