There are some lives that easily find their places at the top. Some people who know from the start what they want to be. Imagine being born in Switzerland to a mother who competed in the Albertville Olympics and a father who as a young man won the European mountain running championships. Imagine having two brothers who challenge you to walk farther and faster every time the family goes on an excursion. Add to this a strong character, a love of racing and an inability to live without the kick of adrenaline. Mix it all up and you get Marianne Fatton, born in 1995 in the Swiss canton of Neuchâtel, an all-round athlete who combines ski mountaineering and skyrunning at the highest levels. She's part of the SCARPA® team, and we interviewed her after her triumph in a World Cup that was cut short by the Coronavirus. "We were all a bit cross about what happened", she says impulsively. "But some things in life are more important. In any case, I think I've had a good season and the general classification is fairly accurate, at least considering the number of races we completed".
While we wait to see you competing again, maybe in the summer skyrunning season, let's look at how you got to this point. What sparked your love for the mountains?
"I think it was my passion for summits, the really high ones. I'll always be grateful to my parents for taking me on excursions without compromise, teaching me that nothing's impossible: you just need to try, persevere and not worry about what other people think".
Any particular unforgettable adventures with them?
"I remember when I asked my dad to take me to Mont Blanc. We left home at night, around 11 pm. Two hours later we were in Chamonix. We started walking at two in the morning, and got as far as the Goûter mountain hut. There was no-one there, just snow and really strong wind. It was all closed up; it was October and we had to give up. But rather than failure, I remember the sense of adventure in that expedition".
You followed in your parents' footsteps in races too: both of them competed more than once in the Patrouille des Glaciers. What's so legendary about the route?
"I have childhood memories that are almost like fairy tales, of waking up in the middle of the night to go and watch them at Arolla. Magical moments, like when they made it to the finish line in Verbier. So exciting. Even then I had just one heartfelt desire: to complete that race, just like them".
Apart from the mountains, what else are you doing these days?
"At the moment I'm working in marketing and public relations for a leading Swiss company that makes ski skins. That's the sector I prefer; I have a degree in communication and management. I'll tell you a secret: I would have loved to do medicine, but I couldn't work out how to combine training and that kind of study. But I'm still fascinated by the human body and how to keep it healthy; whenever I can I read about the topic".
Let's talk now about Marianne the professional ski mountaineer. Is there a win you'll never forget?
"I remember the Sprint at the World Championships at Verbier; it was 2015 and I was competing in the Juniors. It was my first win and it gave me a boost, an energy and joy that I still carry inside".
You often say that in ski mountaineering it's the 'collective' aspect that makes you feel good, even during training. Is it less stressful when you're competing as a pair?
"I'll tell you about the Patrouille des Glaciers 'petite', where I took the record along with two great friends, Florence Buchs and Déborah Chiarello. None of us set out to break the record. But we helped each other throughout the race, and ultimately achieved the unimaginable. Sharing key moments is simply fantastic".
Have you ever thought about what your life would be without the mountains?
"To be honest, I hope it never happens. Mountains are my home. These days they're my work too, for training. When my career's over, I'll keep going, but maybe without a stopwatch. And perhaps it'll be even more wonderful".
Credits: Maurizio Torri, Riccardo Selvatico