The Kitzbuhel Hahnenkamm Strief downhill – too extreme?

created by matt |

Once again there are big questions being asked of the severity of the Kitzbuhel Hahnenkamm Strief downhill race course after two heavy crashes in the Kitzbuhel Hahnenkamm 2011 race weekend that have left 2 racers hospitalised – one very seriously.

A Scott Macartney crash in 2008 raised similar debate over the difficulty of the course and no changes were made. In fairness to the organisers the 3 mentioned crashes occurred in different areas of the Strief which makes it harder to conceive of anything other than multiple course changes to alleviate the perceived threat. The curious aspect of the Kitzbuhel Hahnenkamm Strief course is that there are significant sections that are long glides that offer almost no threat to the racer although they will add to general fatigue. The first and last sections of the Strief course are where the challenge lies and often where the accidents occur. The acceleration out of the start gate and just a few seconds later the immense leap off the Mausefalle defy logic, whilst just a few seconds more and the racers are on a switch back turn known as the Steilhang (steep slope in English) which is brutally steep and challenging. Ask any downhill racer and the Kitzbuhel Hahnenkamm Strief tops the list in terms of psychological, physical and technical challenges. The course is revered for being the ultimate challenge and if it weren’t then another race course would take its place. Conditioning, safety equipment (both worn and lining the course) and measures such as marking the course to aid racers vision have all meant the Kitzbuhel Hahnenkamm Strief should be noticeably safer than in past years. The fact that it isn’t may reflect the almost unique ability of the course to push the best skiers to the absolute limits of courage and ability no matter what the era. Calls for course modifications right now are loud and there are some valid cases on each side. Is it going to happen? Unlikely – catastrophic climate change seems to be the only realistic chance of the Kitzbuhel Hahnenkamm Strief one day changing of expiring – the race organisers are loath to dilute the challenge of the ultimate ski race in the world without something more catastrophic. 

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