Visit St. Anton
St. Anton, Austria
January 15-17, 1999
Three weeks after the speed-events in Switzerland’s Veysonnaz, the first women’s downhill of the new year is scheduled this weekend in Tyrol’s most famous ski resort of St Anton, located at the foot of the spectacular Arlberg mountains.
The racers will cruise on the newly designed downhill course for the 2001 Ski World Championships, which will be held here to mark the 100th birthday of the creation of the famous Ski Club Arlberg.
Together with the British ski pioneer Arnold Lunn, founder of the Arlberg-Kandahar competition series in the mid 1920’s which launched modern ski racing, Hannes Schneider, from the Ski Club Arlberg, has been the driving force in the establishment of alpine ski racing as a recognized international sport.
In fact, the Arlberg-Kandahar event, organized in St. Anton for the first time in 1928, is the most prestigious and classic event in alpine skiing. Later on, the "Kandahar" also took place in other major ski areas in the Alps including Muerren, Switzerland; Chamonix, France; Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany and Sestriere, Italy.
Nowadays, only the Austrian, French and German resorts are still part of the "Kandahar" circuit which once inspired other world class resorts including Wengen (Lauberhorn), Kitzbuhel (Hahnenkamm), Megeve (Grand Prix International) and Madonna di Campiglio (3-Tre).
St. Anton, the most western town in Tyrol, is famous around the globe for superb runs and great atmosphere. For many fans, this is also the best place to learn to ski with local ski instructors who have historically created revolutionary techniques in the past such as the "Wedeln" and the parallel turn.
Above St. Anton on the Arlberg Pass coming from Vorarlberg, the Austrian ski school has created its most famous center in St. Christoph, where new ski techniques are constantly refined and taught to future instructors.
Some of the greatest Austrian champions grew up here, such as Karl Schranz, the legendary "Lion from Arlberg," who won practically everything in his 15-year-long career except an Olympic gold medal. Schranz, who celebrated his 60th birthday last November, clinched the overall World Cup title in 1969 and 1970 as well as three gold medals at World Championships in 1962 and 1970 (downhill, combined and giant slalom).
Schranz is the only skier to have dominated all the great "Classics," winning twenty-five major downhill races all around the Alps. His first triumph in 1957 was on the treacherous "Piste Verte" at les Houches near Chamonix at the age of 19. And he was over 33 when he beat all his rivals on the "Streif" in Kitzbuhel.
However, two weeks later, the IOC banned him from the Sapporo Olympics because of "professionalism."
Other greats from St. Anton include the late Gertrud Gable, who died in an avalanche in the 1970’s after clinching the overall World Cup title in 1969, Karl Cordin and Alfred Matt, some of he best Austrian skiers in the early 1970’s.
A victory in St. Anton is definitely an important target for the Austrian female speed specialists such as Renate Goetschl, who was unlucky in Veysonnaz after two impressive wins in Lake Louise. Michela Dorfmeister, a winner here in 1996, will aim to qualify for the February World Championships in Vail, while Alexandra Meissnitzer is looking for revenge after losing two GS races in a row in Semmering and Maribor.
But the technically demanding course should also inspire some of their rivals such as Germany’s Hilde Gerg, a surprise winner at Veysonnaz, and Sweden’s Pernilla Wiberg who ismotivated after her slalom success in Maribor.
Mountain Zone European Correspondent
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