This is my fourth ski season living in Austria, and I had not yet been to see the Hahnenkamm races. However, the stories I had heard about the main race days being incredibly busy (and alcohol fuelled) made me decide to go on one of the practice days for the downhill. I arrived early, and skied the public run parallel to the Streif several times to work out the best locations for action photographs.
My first stop was the Mausefalle jump, at the top of the course. The skiers make it look very easy, but the jump comes after a sharp left turn, and they spend a considerable time in the air – so if their setup is not quite right, it can all go horribly wrong before they are far into their run. Soon after they land is a left turn followed by a sharp right turn. Many skiers I saw here were well in control, while a handful of them were already struggling badly.
Half way down the course the skiers come on to the Lärchenschuss, a chance for a bit of a breather. But it is important that they are in good shape at the start of the schuss in order to carry as much speed as they can. This guy was looking very tidy.
Skiing, but not as we know it
I was fascinated to see the top skiers in action, and beforehand I had wondered if I would learn anything. But watching these guys in the flesh is as different to me skiing as a kick about in the park is to watching Lionel Messi or Wayne Rooney playing football. Or, as Dr McCoy from Star Trek might have said if had been there. “It’s skiing Jim, but not as we know it.”