Last weekend was like a tale of two halves. Two days of skiing, two totally different days of conditions and for almost the first time I could have done with two different sets of skis!
I had booked a ski weekend away to take part in the largest amateur ski race in the world, The Inferno.
Held in the tiny Swiss resort of Murren, in the Jungfrau Region, the Inferno is not only the biggest race, but also one of the oldest. Founded in 1928 by the Kandahar Ski Club (just 17 skiers back then), initially it was a mass race from the top of the Schilthorn to the bottom, over 12km to Lauterbrunnen in the valley below. Today racers, all 1696 of them start in approx. 10 second intervals.
This year’s snowfalls had been too sporadic to run the course over its full length so we knew we’d be going to Winteregg, a few km up the valley. Kinder on the legs but with a large uphill climb inserted into the final section as pay off for a shorter course!
The day before the Inferno race, about a foot of fluffy white fresh snow scuppered plans to practice on the top part of the course as avalanche safety checks were being made all morning. My OH decided to ditch his 210cm downhill skis in favour of some short fat powder skis. I was too nervous of losing my confidence on my race GS 185s so stuck mostly to the pistes watching with envy my friends in the powder. That evening, after finding a slot in the busy local workshop to wax our skis, we all watched as the ‘devil’ figure is carried around the village and burned to ward off bad spirits for race day.
On race day the pistes looked perfect, the sun shone and Lycra clad bodies made their way to the start point, just below the Schilthorn. A quick coffee and chocolate bar in the revolving restaurant and I felt ready (but nervous) to face the course!
With a start number of 1082 and start time of 1233pm I had a clear weather window, unlike the skiers that left after 2pm who had a flat light race. The course covers over 1360m of descent with several long schuss sections, killer uphill sections through the woods and the steep black pitch of the narrow Kanonenrohr to slide and scrape down!
Finishing safely in 15 minutes 54 I was over 5 minutes slower than the fastest woman, Nicole Bartschi who finished in 9 minutes 20 racer no 179. The fastest male Michel Marco in 8 minutes 31 (with start no 25).
Only 198 women took part in this Inferno race and I was proud to be one of the finishers and to get a ‘bronze’ award for my efforts!
Roll on The Inferno 2015!