Hahnenkamm – it doesn’t sound so scary once it’s been translated (it means the Rooster’s Comb) and it is the mountain on which Kitzbühel, the ski resort, is located. But that isn’t why it’s famous. No, every year this mountain is home to the World Cup alpine ski races, with the most anticipated of those races being the Downhill ski race on the deadly slope, the Streif. The Streif is an insane rollercoaster of a run for anyone mad enough to attempt it and from the 15th-22nd January 2017, an impressive line up of international athletes will do just that, for the 77th Hahnenhamm. The world’s best male skiers will be in action on the Super G on the Friday, the Downhill on the Streif on Saturday and the Slalom on Ganslermhang Course on Sunday.
To put the appeal of this race into perspective, approximately 45,000 spectators will make the voyage to Kitzbühel to watch the Downhill race on Saturday. It is estimated that a further 1.6 million viewers in Austria alone will watch it from the comfort of their own living rooms. In 2008 more than 262 million viewers tuned in worldwide. So how did a ski race become such a big event on the International calendar?
It all started in the 1930-31 ski season with the annual races held on the mountain and in 1937 Hahnenkamm downhill was held on the Streif in Kitzbühel for the first time. It became a permanent fixture of the men’s World Cup in 1967. Today it is seen by many as the pinnacle of the World Cup downhill circuit and is entertainment not just for the rich and famous (Arnold Schwarzenegger has been spotted partying) but for the masses as well, who come to support the crazy contestants and place the winners on pedestals. The party atmosphere that takes hold from the start of the weekend is not to be missed – Kitzbühel’s bars and pubs will be heaving, all contributing to a truly awe-inspiring weekend of sport.
And there is no weekend quite like it, nothing comes close to inducing such intense emotions. The extreme nature of the events require extreme reactions and for the fans, followers and skiers those reactions range from elation to fear. Even the most modern of HD cameras don’t do the Streif’s steepness justice. You can only truly appreciate how utterly terrifying it is if you stand at the top and look down – the steepest section is the top of the Mausefalle, with a gradient of 85%. It is not for the faint hearted. But you can have a go if you want…