A Beginner’s Guide To The Hahnenkamm Downhill
The Hahnenkamm Downhill race or ‘Streif’ is one of the most exhilarating and dangerous races on the World Cup Circuit. Based in Kitzbuhel, Tirol, racers travel up to 90mph down the two-mile course that features 40-degree gradients, 60m jumps and off camber turns.
Since its 1951 inauguration the race has attracted some of the best skiers in the world who want to test themselves on this demanding course; and with them crowds have flocked to see the spectacle. The course has evolved over the year’s along with safety standards, but it remains as challenging as ever, pushing the athletes to their limits.
How The Race Works
Unlike some of the other ski events, the downhill race is a one-run-only format with the fastest racer declared the winner. The all-important running order (the course terrain and speed will change as more skiers travel down it) of competitors is determined by:
FIS Rule 9.3
The best ten (10) competitors present (*based on FIS Points) choose their bibs between 1 and 19 odd numbered bibs only. The available even numbered bibs between 2 and 20 will be drawn between the next 10 competitors on the board (11 to 20). Bibs between 21 and 30 will be drawn between the next 10 competitors on the board (21 to 30).
*Racers collect FIS points based on their finishing position at all, sanctioned, World Cup Events.
- Mausefalle (mousetrap) - jump, compression, and left turn
- Karusell (carousel) - S turns
- Steilhang (steep slope) - extended technical right turn, entrance to the flats
- Brückenschuss & Gschöss - gliding flats
- Alte Schneise (old corridor)
- Seidlalmsprung (jump at Seidlalm)
- Lärchenschuss - gliding among larch trees
- Hausberg (local mountain) - jump & sharp left corner
- Querfahrt (traverse) - a rough sidehill of glaring ice
- Zielschuss (with compression & jump)
- Rasmusleitn to the finish.
Racers To Look Out For
Last year’s winner:
Thomas Dressen (GER)
Vincent Kriechmayr (AUT)
Race Dates & Times
There is a full week of racing to enjoy on the Hahnenkamm including: Super-G, Slalom, Giant slalom, Juniors and Downhill. It all kicks off with the Europacup Downhill on the 21st of January, before the main event ‘The Strief’ on Saturday the 27th (11:30 am). See the full listings for all the other events and times.
The Downhill and Super-G race (speed races) are run on the same course with the Slalom and Giant Slalom (technical races) on a separate parallel course. At the bottom of both courses you’ll find a large fan seating and standing area with big screens to make sure you don’t miss any of the action. The atmosphere here is something special with the crowd whipped in to a frenzy anytime an Austrian skier is on course. And if there is a native winner, be prepared for a long night of celebrations.
The picturesque town of Kitzbuhel sits in the valley between the Hahnenkamm in the south and the Kitzbuhler Horn to the north.
When you’re not watching the races, Kitzbuhel ski resort has over 230km of pistes to explore with numerous snowparks and excellent access to backcountry skiing. After a day on the hill the town’s brightly-coloured medieval buildings welcome you back with après-bars, restaurants, high-end boutiques and even a casino, if you are feeling lucky.
While in town it’s a great opportunity to soak up Tirolian alpine culture and try some local cuisine. The people’s dish of Grostl (fried potato, bacon, onion, paprika and parsley) is a hearty dish that gives you plenty of energy for full day on the slopes and is a life saver for anyone who might have indulged in a little bit too much Après the night before.
Another Austrian favourite you’ll find in a lot of the bars is Hammerschalgen. This simple but addictive game requires players to take turns hitting a nail into a log with the back (thin end) of a hammer.
Drinks-wise, you'll not go too wrong with one of the local Weissbiershave, a glass of warming Gluwien (mulled hot wine) or have a shot of the ever popular Jagermeister (remember to put the cap on your nose for good luck).
There are various options for accommodation, from hotels and chalets through to more affordable pensions (privately rented accommodation similar to a B&B or guesthouse). If possible, it's best try and book your stay as early as you can; accommodation soon becomes full on race week with the population of the town trebling.
Why You Should Watch This Race
The Hahnenekamm downhill is one of Europe’s top sporting spectacles that is most definitely worth going to. You get the chance to see the world’s best racers up close and personal as they put it all on the line for the chance of victory. Couple that with the amazing festival-like atmosphere, Tirolian food and hospitality, and you can’t help but get swept along with this Austrian classic.
For more information about the race, kitzbuhel and the surround area, take at look at the Tirol tourist board.
About the Author:
Pete Fletcher - Outdoor Expert
Pete grew up hiking most of the trails in the Lake District before being introduced to skiing. A few decades later and you're most likely to find him snowboarding, skateboarding, or making awful coffee.