Saslong – ski celebrity
The first World Cup races in Val Gardena took place in 1969 – then they held two stages, men’s (along the Saslong) and women’s (along the Cir). At first, a heated controversy erupted around the men’s downhill track – many experts of those years did not accept Saslong’s concept. For example, the Austrian skier Karl Schrantz refused to start, believing that the track is too easy (by the way, Schrantz developed the highest speed on it).
Indeed – before the advent of the descent to Val Gardena in skiing, a completely different concept prevailed – a minimum of control gates, but a maximum of hillocks and pits. In order to win, it was necessary to choose the most direct descent trajectory and take risks, take risks, take risks. To understand what it is about, just look at the footage of the sports chronicle of those years. With the advent of the Saslong track, everything changed: athletes did not fly into the rocks, did not break their legs in an attempt to overcome a series of pits and mounds – the management of FIS (International Ski Federation) demanded more safety and focused on the descent technique rather than extreme risk. Gradually, following the track in Val Gardena, other “classic” slopes began to change – in Swiss Wengen, Austrian Kitzbühel and Italian Cortina d’Ampezzo. They were simply given the choice – either to follow a new concept, or … to be denied certification of races. The “classics” of alpine skiing are still the best, the Lauberhorn in Wengen is the most dynasty, the Streif in Kitz is the most technically challenging, but the Saslong is still considered the fastest. The average speed on this descent is 111.600 km / h, while in Kitzbühel it is 90.720 km / h, in Vienna – 84.250 km / h, in Cortina – 90.360 km / h.
Of course, over 40 years, the track in Val Gardena has also changed. It has become wider, numerous security systems have appeared here, a special system of artificial snowmaking, so far it is not possible to cope with only one problem – the weather. It was because of the strong wind last season that the results of the downhill competitions had to be canceled. Moreover, the wind constantly changed direction – it either interfered with the athletes, or helped them. So, three skiers from France, starting from 8 to 10 numbers, unexpectedly showed a very good result – the wind direction changed again, the wind blew in their backs. In the end, by decision of the FIS sports director, the race was stopped.
What is the Saslong downhill track now?
The start is on Mount Ciampinoi, not far from the upper cableway station at an altitude of 2249 m above sea level, the finish line is in the village of Santa Cristina at 1410 m.The route is 3446 m long with a height difference of 839 m, and the maximum slope is 56.9%. The upper section is located on a spacious treeless slope – probably this is one of the easiest and safest sections of Saslong. Then, on the border of the forest, the track makes a sharp decline – this is where the steepest section of the Kleine Mauer (Small Wall) is located. Athletes make a big jump here, which ends at the Grosse Mauer (Great Wall). Approximately in the middle of the slopes, the most famous obstacle on Saslong is waiting for Kamelbuckel (Camel hump) – a series of three hills that experienced athletes overcome through the air. Even a jump through a camel hump bears its name – Kangaroo Jump. For the first time such a jump was made by the Austrian Uli Spies in 1980 – the flight turned out to be 70 meters long and about 10 meters high above the surface of the track. After Spiess, Mark Girardelli from Luxembourg repeated the same thing, now all the best skiers in the world overcome the camel hump through the air.
The next difficult section of the route begins immediately after landing from Hump – Ciaslat Wiese, a series of 4 turns and numerous irregularities. Saslong’s last difficult stretch is the finish recession, with flying to the finish gate.
A feature of the track so far is that athletes with distant starting numbers, i.e. not from among the world elite, have good chances for a prize. For example, in 1993, the victory of an unknown skier from Liechtenstein, Markus Fozer, became a real sensation. The fact is that by the time the start of the second half of the riders, the sun appeared from behind the top of Mount Saslong and illuminated the upper part of the track. The snow became more slippery, which gave some advantages for young athletes. The odds were balanced when the start time was pushed back to an earlier morning.
Usually those who want to see the competition, and at the same time ride the Val Gardena tracks, come here in advance. Especially for such lovers of skiing, the so-called The FIS Ski World Cup Dolomiti Classics “World Cup Package” is a special offer that includes 3-day stay, 3-day Dolomiti Superski ski pass, competition ticket, and a special “set for fans”. Package price – from 231 euros.