Every year at the end of the ski season St Anton hosts what has got to be one of the most insane ski races on the planet – Der Weisse Rausch. The race is one part of a three part ironman type of challenge – The Arlberg Adler. Not being much of a runner I don’t bother with the alpine marathon and so far haven’t been bothered to get my bike up to St Anton for the bike race, but the skiing bit I can do. I’ve competed in the Weisse Rausch three times before which was more than enough up until race day when I decided that, just for the heck of it, I ought to do it one last time.
The official video of the race from St Anton Tourism
The race starts almost as high as you can go in St Anton, the top of Valluga. The start is quite a sight to behold as about 200 or 300 skiers all start at the same time in a so called ‘mass start’. From the top it is a very shot schuss down towards a T-bar, but before getting there the racers need to head right and run up the hill to the Valfagehrjoch (just below the top of the Schindlergratbahn). Once this run has been completed (depending on fitness that could be a couple of minutes or more) the actual race starts as the participants head straight down to the Ulmerhutte, around and then down Happy Valley (Steissbachtal), past the Mooserwirt and finally down to the bottom of Galzig. Depending on the year, the bottom stretch could have an obstacle course built in just to make things a little harder. It should probably be pointed out that this all takes place after 17:00 with the snow having been exposed to the hot spring sun all day as well as having been bashed around by all the skiers going up and down the whole day. Suffice it to say, this race is not for the faint hearted!
As I mentioned earlier, I hadn’t intended to do the race so hadn’t signed up in advance, however it’s almost always possible to get a start number on the day because so many people don’t end up turning up (especially when volcanic ash prevents air travel). So I headed to the Wellness centre and picked up my start number on Saturday afternoon. The usual nerves started to set in and only got worse as the afternoon went on and we headed up to the start. I had companionship from Iain who was doing it on a board and Brendan who was skiing it with me. Brendan had his helmet cam with him so has put together some fantastic first person footage of the race (at least from his perspective) which you can see by clicking this link. Becky had told me in no uncertain terms that I was not to injure myself during the race so I decided I would make getting down in one piece my objective and not worry about getting down amazingly fast. Even with this in mind it is a tough race as your legs are destroyed from the run up the hill and the snow is so heavy that it requires significant energy to move them even slightly. The moguls just add to the fun as you hurtle down the hill, never actually sure that you’re going to be able to make the next turn or land the next jump. Once down at the bottom there are a huge number of people out supporting and cheering, which is a nice feeling and gives that little burst of energy needed to take off the skis and run across the finish line.
Once you’ve caught your breath again it’s time to celebrate with a nice refreshing beer. Thankfully Becky had been parked at Base Camp for the duration of the race, so beer was easy to come by. The results are posted online almost immediately by Datasport. As expected my time was not great; 18 minutes, but at least I got down in one piece 279th out of 412 competing male skiers. Race over for another year, I’ll have to seriously think about whether to compete again next year or not….
Video of the race from a different perspective from Skiing Austria
So after the warmer climes of Miami we headed back to Europe where it was most definitely still winter. Due to a scheduling mistake when planning the original trip to the US (I had not realised that 5th April 2010 was Easter Monday and therefore a public holiday) I ended up with a six hour lay-over in Frankfurt before being able to get back to Zurich. Thankfully Frankfurt’s Welcome Lounge made that wait a great deal easier once I’d had a shower and a full breakfast!
Once I’d finally made it back to Zurich (Becky had arrived earlier that morning) it was straight off up to St Anton. Becky still had a week left of half term so the intention was for her to continue her skiing while I was at work. Thankfully the weather was, on the whole, beautiful, so it wasn’t too hard being stuck at work. Unfortunately Becky was not feeling at her best so didn’t get too much skiing done, but did enjoy the end of her holiday as far as I could tell!
After the mammoth effort getting to the UK for Christmas, we managed to get back to Zurich with only a short delay. We had decided that it was going to be far too difficult to get to St Anton on the evening we landed (30th) so instead would wait for New Years Eve before heading up. That gave us just enough time to go out and see Colin, Gwen and Rick at Paddy’s for a bit of an impromptu engagement party. Also a conveniently good time to ask Colin if he would be my best man – although considering the state of all of us by the time we left, I think I’ll need to double check he still remembers that conversation!
So we headed up to St Anton on the 31st, arriving just as it started to snow making it a little treacherous getting there. At one point we were headed sideways down the road towards a sharp bend, would not have been an ideal start to the New Year (falling off a cliff rarely is) but thankfully the tyres caught and we could continue on to St Anton – admittedly quite a bit slower than before. Dermot had organised dinner at Robi’s Rodelstall, a restaurant at the end of the sledge run from the top of the mountain, so we headed up there to meet everyone else. The meal was very good and the restaurant is nice and authentic. After that it was straight off to Cuba for their Back to the Future NYE party. Unfortunately we had been previously informed that it was going to be a Mardi Gras theme so our fancy dress was unfortunately useless, but it was a good party nonetheless and we got to see in both European New Year and British New Year before needing to head home.
We spent the next couple of days up on the hill before Becky decided it was time to give skiing another go. So on Sunday she rented some skis and headed off to ski school while I headed up to give the DannyCam its first outing. A couple of years ago we had discussed picking up a helmetcam but never actually go around to it, but Danny had seen one that he was impressed with so bought it as his Christmas present to himself. We had pretty good (if cold) weather and some lovely powder that had come down the day before to give it a proper test. If you’re curious the footage can be seen by clicking here. After Becky having elected to join the absolute beginners group she managed to get promoted the next day and seemed to be taking to the skiing quite happily! In the meantime I was unfortunately back at work so couldn’t partake, but Becky happily kept putting what she’d been taught into practice.
On Monday we had a visit from Ariel and Tania over from Moscow for Russian Orthodox Christmas. They only stayed one night unfortunately but it was great to see them and we had a very nice meal in the Museum on Monday night. Nathalie had also come up on Monday and so headed off with Becky on Tuesday morning to get some skiing done. Since the weather on Tuesday was spectacular and it was a night sledging day, I booked us into the Rodelalm (halfway down the sledge run) for dinner and we headed up to give Nathalie and Becky a bit of an introduction to night sledging. It was great fun, and our places in the restaurant were literally on the side of the fireplace which made it really good fun – although as usual I was defeated by the Schweinhaxe which is just too much for one person!
The rest of the week was much of the same with none of the predicted snow arriving leaving us with only what was left of the snow that came down the previous weekend. That did not prevent us from having a bit of a ski around and the weather was beautiful on Sunday allowing Rick, Danny and I plenty of opportunity to stretch our legs on the longer pistes around St Anton.
Well the ski season is upon us again – finally! We had been up to St Anton for the past two weekends: The first one to move into our new place and do the hand-over, collect keys, sign inventory, etc. The second because we fancied going out and having some fun at the various opening parties (Scotty’s and Postkeller on Friday night) and Cuba showing the rugby on Saturday. However there had not been any snow at all so St Anton had not bothered to open their lifts so consequently we decided not to post anything.
That all changed for this weekend – the snow had been falling for a while so there was enough to open up some of the lifts. That was very convenient as it was KK opening on Saturday afternoon and the KK proves a lot harder to get to if you can’t ski there! Because there were only a small subset of the lifts open, we decided that there was no need to force ourselves out of bed at the crack of dawn, especially after our first proper night in Bar Cuba, so we started relatively late by sorting out our skis, equipment and passes, and headed up the hill around midday.
It was a nice day skiing and the weather was quite nice. The snow in the main part of the resort was very good for the time of year, but on the piste down to the village (or KK) it started to get very sketchy. Either way we made it there in time to join the Bar Cuba staff for their first KK outing. After a decent watering it was down into town to watch the annual Arlberg-Pass-Krampalar which really needs to be seen to be believed. In short it is a procession of terrifying creatures who march straight through the middle of town towards the main square, scaring little children (and a fair few adults) accompanied by heavy mettle and lots of fire and noise. In the main square they have a bit dance around for a while before the entire event culminates in a firework display and the terrifying creatures then remove their masks and everyone heads off to celebrate – any excuse!
After that impressive spectacle it was off for dinner at Pomodoro’s (first time this season) and some more visiting bars to catch up with old friends and see what changes had been made. Heading back home not too late since we’d been at it early on and were getting tired after our first day skiing this season.
Sunday was another late start, but a good few hours on the slopes in the afternoon. Finishing off watching the football in the pub, a nice way to end a good first weekend skiing! For anyone that’s interested in a virtual tour of our apartment in St Anton, there is a video linked below that Becky took to give you a bit of an idea.