Showdown of the ski stars

Am I in a good physical shape? Which material do the other athletes use? Is this glacier ski race the start of my personal career or already the ultimate highlight of the season? All these and many more questions have to be answered by the world’s skiing elite on occasion of the yearly held Alpine Ski World Opening on Rettenbach Glacier. Also this year some 27,000 cheering fans will enjoy thrilling races in the Ötztal by celebrating the heroes of ski sports all weekend long from 21 to 23 October 2016.

Sölden has been hosting the winter season’s very first ski races in October since 1993, contributing an important part to the 50-year history of the Alpine Ski World Cup. Spotlight on some true highlights of the forthcoming big event.

Christoph Noesig in Kurvenlage beim Skiweltcup Auftakt in Sölden
Ski racer Christoph Noesig carves the perfect turn. © Ötztal Tourismus / Photo: Erich Spiess

Cast a spell on the Ski World Cup Opening

Sölden symbolizes the definition of a ski racer’s position at the very beginning of the World Cup season after a long summer break and hard training units overseas. Everyone is quite nervous. Will giant slalom specialists like Ted Ligety or Marcel Hirscher dominate the scene again? And how will the Austrian ski stars finish the race with so many passionate fans behind them?

Reporters speculate if Austria’s top star Anna Veith (formerly Fenninger) will make her comeback already in October on Rettenbach Glacier. After all, both Anna Veith and Mikaela Shiffrin won the race in 2014. Benni Raich, another Austrian ski star who retired already, tried to win 14 times but could never succeed in Sölden (once he came second by a margin of 0.01 seconds!).

Quickly changing weather? The track is still perfect!

“Skiing is an outdoor sport,” reminds Hans Pum, sports director of the Austrian Ski Association, when loads of freshly fallen snow and dense fog threatened the Opening in 2012. Race track director Isidor Grüner and his excellent team could manage the impossible and guarantee a fair ski challenge. Providing perfect conditions is one of Sölden’s strong points although we cannot guarantee nice weather.

“We are permanently on duty from the first construction works in early October to the cleaning-up operations after the event,” Isidor Grüner explains. Sölden withstands snow masses and southern winds, looking forward to a great ski festival. Already in April the mountain lift and slope experts create huge snow storages that can be used by the snow-grooming machines to lay the foundation for the race track in autumn.

Fahrer beim Skiweltcup Auftakt Sölden
Christoph Noesig at the Alpine Ski World Cup Opening.
© Ötztal Tourismus / Photo: Rudi Wyhlidal

State-of-the art snow-making systems, icing measures on the race track, safety fences – as soon as the countdown has started, Grüner and his staff is supported by the Austrian armed forces. How will the slope be in 2016? “It’s too early to evaluate the condition of the race slope,” Isidor Grüner states. “The FIS control staff gives an OK only one or two days prior to the race.” Presumably: top-notch conditions.

The race track

  • Altitude start: 3040 m
  • Altitude finish area: 2670 m
  • Maximum gradient: 65 %
  • 46-54 gates, depending on the race track setter
  • Racing speed: 75-85 km/h
  • 7 km of barrier fence, 3.5 km of safety nets, 11.5 km of cable, 180 m of air fence

Favorites are born in Sölden

Different from mega-events like Olympic Games or World Championships, the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup requires an excellent performance on a regular basis – since its very beginnings in the 1966/67 winter. Who wins the race of Sölden is also a contender for the overall World Cup ranking. Already at the race premiere on Rettenbach Glacier in 1993, Anita Wachter and Frank Piccard celebrated great victories. But there are many other remarkable details:

  • 1993 Only once the women’s and men’s races were held on the same day
  • 1998 Triple podium for Austria thanks to Hermann Maier, Stephan Eberharter and Heinz Schilchegger
  • 2002 Ski World Cup premiere: ex aequo victory for Andrine Flemmen, Tina Maze and Nicole Hosp
  • 2006 Only once both ski races had to be cancelled due to inclement weather
Ausgelassene Stimmung unter den Zuschauern beim Skiweltcup Auftakt Sölden
The spectators create an exuberant atmosphere at the Ski World Cup Opening.
© Ötztal Tourismus / Photo: Isidor Nösig

Get the Spirit!

Sölden becomes an exceptional place on occasion of the opening event. Thousands of fans create a very cheerful atmosphere in the finish arena of Rettenbach Glacier – where almost the entire race track can be seen from top to finish. A sea of banners and flags promises unrivaled party fun all weekend long.

The World Cup event also makes a perfect opportunity to make the first turns on fresh snow. Are you already in a good shape? Except the closed race track, all glacier ski slopes and pistes are open for winter sport fans. Get ready for a parallel slalom with Marcel Hirscher & co!

Be there!


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Author Gastautor

... varied guest authors write about their adventures and experiences in the Ötztal / in Sölden / in Obergurgl-Hochgurgl.

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