When I was a younger skier, glued to the BBC’s BBC Ski Sunday for its dreadfully short season, the most successful ski racer of the time was Pirmin Zurbriggen, He seemed unstoppable and almost single-handed kept the Austrian challenge at bay. He retired at the peak of his career aged 27 to return to his roots in Saastal, in German-speaking Wallis/Valais.
During his career he won he won four World Cup titles, an Olympic gold medal and 9 World Championship medals. Who knows what else he would have won if he had continued.
I know his family runs a hotel in his home town and rumour has it that if you stay there you have a chance to explore the local slopes with the great man. Anyway, the reason I bring him up is that there is an interview with him at Powder magazine, including some footage of him racing.
Anna Fenninger is not only one of the best skiers in the world, but is also a big fan of Harley Davidson motorbikes. However it is vehicles of four wheels that have recently got her into a fix.
The FIS circuit is sponsored by Bavarian-based Audi and the national ski associations are keen that skiers do not promote brands that rival ones they are associated with. When Fenninger appeared in an ad for Mercedes, there were questions raised as to whether she should be expelled from the Austrian ski federation for breaching their rules. It adds to long simmering disputes between Fenninger and the Austrian ski federation on a number of issues, which many people blame on her German manager, Klaus Kaercher. However, Mercedes has withdrawn the ad and Fenninger has agreed not to breach the rules in future, so no sanctions will be taken against her – although her manager has become persona non grata.
Fenninger has won eight medals in Olympics and world championships – four of them gold – and has been overall FIS champion for the past two years.
The FIS World Championship in Vail and Beaver Creek is about halfway through, and it has been a fascinating competition, with wonderful conditions.
In the Ladies SuperG, Austrian Anna Fenninger held off Tina Maze and local favourite, Lindsay Vonn. Maze, however, came off top in the Downhill, edging out Fenninger and Switzerland’s Lara Gut, fresh from her win in St Moritz.
Meanwhile the Mens competition has looked kindly on the Swiss, with a Gold for Patrick Keung and a Bronze for Beat Feuz, with America’s Travis Ganong sandwiched between them. The Super G saw Hannes Reichelt of Austria on the podium with Gold, followed by Canada’s Dustin Cook and France’s Adrien Theaux. Marcel Hersher rounded out a good few days for the Austrians, taking the Combined Gold, whilst the sensational winner at Kitzbühel, Kjetil Lansrud, came in second with Ted Ligerty third.
The fractions of a second difference in medal positions are recorded by Longines, the Swiss watch maker based in St Imier since 1832. The company has a long association with skiing, stretching back to ski trials in Chamonix in 1933, and it has been official partner and timekeeper for the FIS since 2006. The relationship was re-inforced when Longines took on the same role for the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Vail and Beaver Creek, as they had for previous World Championships. To commemorate the occasion they have launched a new chronograph, the alluring Conquest 1-100th Alpine Skiing. One for my wish list for sure, and one I will be looking forward to checking out at Baselworld, the watch fair in Switzerland that takes place next month. In addition, the equally alluring and talented Mikaela Shiffrin has been announced as Longines Ambassador of Elegance.