Snippets of strange facts, oddities and curiosities from the ski racing world.
So if you want to know what happened when Lindsey Vonn won a French cow, which racing fashionista's have started their own skiwear range, how you get a cable-car named after you in Kitzbuhel, or what happened when the Herminator met the Terminator, then read on...
If you know of any others then please get in touch with us.
Following his success at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Nagano, where he grabbed double gold in the Super-G and Giant Slalom, Hermann Maier aka 'the Herminator' was invited onto prime-time American TV as a guest on Jay Leno's Tonight Show on the NBC channel. Also on the show with him that night ? None other than fellow Austrian Arnie 'the Terminator' Schwarzenegger. Cue 30 minutes of hilarious gags regarding Lederhosen and Apfelstrudel.
In 2001 the great Austrian was starting to completely dominate the FIS World Cup, having just won the Overall, Downhill, Giant Slalom and Super G titles for the 2nd year in a row, leaving only the Slalom and Combined titles for the rest of the skiers to fight it out for ! However, in the summer of 2001 he was involved in a near fatal crash on his motorbike, such were the extents of the injuries that he nearly had to have one of his legs amputated. The doctors managed to save it though and he underwent a complete reconstruction of the leg. The ski-mad central-European media thought he was lucky to walk again, none considered that he might actually try to race again, but 18 months later he raced again at Adelboden. Incredibly, just 2 weeks later he scorched to victory in the Super G on his home soil in Kitzbuhel. But that wasn't the end of this amazing comeback - the following season, his first full one since the horrific accident, he claimed both the Overall and Super-G titles, and was also named winner of the Laureus World Sports Award for Comeback of the Year. Think of that next time you hear a footballer complaining about a broken metatarsal.
See what we've done there, you know - with the old Wonder Stuff song title ? Oh well, we'll get our coats....
Anyway, this refers to Lindsey Vonn's victory at Val d'Isere back in 2005. The French resort, working with some local farmers and a cheese company, thought it would be good for their profile to offer a cow as part of the winner's prize. Not expecting anyone to call their bluff and actually take up the offer, imagine their surprise when Vonn accepted it and refused to exchange it for euros ! The cow, named Olympe, was taken to Kirchberg in Austria where the USA ski team had been based during the ski season and is looked after by one of Vonn's friends. Needless to say, Val d'Isere didn't make the offer again.
The gold medallist from the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Austrian ski-racer Fritz Strobl had a fine career spanning two decades, in which he won 9 World Cup Downhill and Super-G races. For his final race on March 15th 2007, Strobl took part in the Super-G event dressed entirely in a Mozart costume, which is probably the skiing equivalent of Wayne Rooney playing his final match for England dressed up as William Shakespeare !
When the Herminator announced his retirement in October 2009 just before the start of the ski season even the British sports media (normally totally uninterested in snow sports) reported it. But obviously not as interested as the Austrians... the town of Flachau renamed its main square after him and held a massive party which thousands of people attended, including some local alpine celebs such as Niki Lauda, Ralf Schumacher, Karl Schranz and Kristian Ghedina. There were also video messages from Roger Federer, Mike Doohan and Austrian President Heinz Fischer. It was an emotional day for one of the most exciting skiers the sport has ever produced and, top man that he is, he rounded things off in his own special way - offering a free round at the bar for every single person there !
America's Olympic gold medallist Lindsey Vonn upset the apple-cart back in her homeland by scooping an award usually reserved for the country's most popular sports (basketball, american football, baseball, tennis, apple-pie eating etc). Vonn was named as the Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year, becoming the first skier to win the prestigious award since it was started back in 1931, and wiped the floor with the opposition like she had done on the slopes, receiving more than double the votes of the nearest contender.
Whilst Christof Innerhofer may have won the 2013 Lauberhorn downhill on the slopes above Wengen, it could be the Frenchman Johan Clarey for whom the race may long be remembered. Because even though Innerhofer claimed the glory of becoming the first Italian since Kristian Ghedina back in 1997 to have won the famous downhill, Clarey became the first ever skier to break the 100mph barrier in a World Cup downhill. It's thought that the hard- packed snow, slightly warmer temperature at race-time and the fantastically clear visibility all combined to produce the perfect conditions for the speed of the course down on the Haneggschuss section, traditionally the fastest part of the circuit's longest downhill. Indeed it wasn't just Clarey who broke Stefan Thanei's 2005 record of 98mph, with 3 other racers recording faster times during the weekend's races. First of all Swiss skier Carlo Janka showed a glimpse of a return to form by recording 98.66mph in the downhill part of the super-combined event on the Fiday. Then on the Saturday in the main event, Canada's Benjamin Thomsen (99.3mph) and Austria's Hannes Reichelt (99.6mph) both joined Clarey in surpassing the previous best, but only the Frenchman can lay claim to breaking that magical 100 mark. So next time you see someone nudging 90mph on one of Europe's motorway's or autobahn's, just imagine Johan Clarey actually travelling 10mph faster than that on his skis !?!
The Crazy Canucks was the nickname given to group of Canadian ski racers who burst onto the world scene in the 1970's and 80's and became famous for their fast, risky and often reckless style of skiing. The members of the group were Dave Irwin, Dave Murray, Steve Podborski and Ken Read. Their risky style produced not only plenty of dramatic falls but also plenty of success - the group earning more than 100 top 10 World Cup finishes between 1978 and 1984. Journalist Serge Lange lays claim to coining the phrase after watching Dave Irwin fall in a race, and the nickname stuck with the rest of the Canadian skiers after that. The Crazy Canucks are amongst the best loved sportsmen in Canada and a film based on them was made in 2004.
It's not just recreational skiers who can be fashion-concious creatures, plenty of the world's top ski racers like to look good whilst they're hurtling down the slopes. But some racers have taken this a step further by either creating a brand of ski wear, or letting their name be used against one. ...And be warned - the use of a ski racers name alongside a range of clothing usually means one common thing - an expensive price tag !
Anyway, racers who's names have become associated with their own range of ski wear include:
Willy Bogner Senior (Bogner), Henry Duvillard (branded collection for Degre 7), Franz Klammer (long gone 1980's Klammer brand), Jean-Claude Killy (Killy), Lasse Kjus (KJUS), Toni Sailer (Toni Sailer Sports), Jean Vuarnet (Vuarnet).
Rumours that British ski racing legend Nigel Northface was behind a certain skiwear brand remain unfounded.
Having retired from alpine ski racing, Franz Klammer didn't hang around on his sofa reading magazines and sipping coffee. Klammer swapped one kind of speed racing for another, and immediately took up motor racing, driving Mercedes-Benz saloons in touring car races around Europe. In 1990 he even claimed victory in a round of the prestigious Touring Car Championships of Europe. A man of many talents, but mainly at things requiring you to go rather fast.
The winners of Kitzbuhel's Hahnenkamm races not only receive the trophies, prestige, World Cup points and prize money, they also have gondola cabins named after them on the town's ski lift system.
Austria's Olympic slalom champion from the 2014 games, Mario Matt, once said "A perfect day’s skiing should always finish with the perfect après ski". And where better for a bit of après in his home country than the legendary Krazy Kanguruh bar in St. Anton ?
Well, "Der Arlberg Adler" (the Arlberg Eagle) as Matt is known, certainly put his money where his mouth is in 2009 by buying the bar, from the previous owner Gunnar Munthe of Sweden.
A red bib is given to the skier who leads the various FIS World Cup standings, a bit like the yellow jersey in the Tour de France. So when they next race they can easily be identified from the rest by being the only skier racing in red.
Back in October 2013, the organizing committee of the Levi World Cup races came up with a novel idea of a prize for the winners of the annual slalom races that are held in the Lapland resort each November. Not content with handing out prize money and a bunch of flowers, they decided that each future winner would also be awarded with a reindeer from the nearby Ounaskievari Reindeer Farm, which they'd also get to name.
Before you ask, the ski-racers don't actually get to take the reindeer home with them, they stay in Lapland at the farm, although they do get to meet and greet their reindeer at each subsequent year of the races.
Mikaela Shiffrin was the first racer to win a Levi reindeer back in November 2013, and went straight away for the obvious "Rudolph" option. She would win another reindeer in 2016 and name it "Sven" after the Frozen character. Whilst it was unclear back in 2013 whether Marcel Hirscher would have gone for the "Rudolph" option had Shiffrin not already grabbed it, he named his after his father, "Ferdinand". Henrik Kristoffersen would show a complete lack of imagination by following suit in 2014 and naming his reindeer after his father as well, opting for "Lars".
As if some of the World Cup ski-racing pistes and slopes aren't difficult enough, the race organisers will often make them even more difficult by injecting water into the slopes to make them icier !
Yes, in the days leading up to the event the race organisers will plug the old water injection bar into snow cannons and then inject water about a foot under the race piste, which then freezes nice and hard, which is apparently how the races prefer it - nice and icy. ...And really difficult !!!
Over the years, the list of companies who have signed up to be the official timekeeper for the FIS World Cup races reads like a who's-who of the world's most famous watchmakers. Swiss brands Rolex, Omega and Longines have all been there, and it became a great marketing vehicle for them to have their name plastered along the screen next to the timer when TV started filming the events.
At present it's Longines who are the official timekeepers, a good choice in our book as their history in ski racing events goes right back to an involvement in the sport in the early 1930's.
Having won 3 gold medals at the 1956 Winter Olympics in Cortina, and followed it up with the same feat two years later at the World Championships in Bad Gastein, the Austrian legend's mother famously declared that "Toni has enough medals now. It's time he started making money". And make money he did. But not just through the channels normally associated with retired skiers such as opening a hotel or starting a clothing business. He did those as well, but Toni was a bit different to the rest and also forged a successful career as a singer and actor. Classic Euro-films from the 60's such as Ski Fever, The Blue from the Sky, The Lucky Strike, 12 Girls and 1 Man, and er, Lost Treasure of the Incas, may well have bypassed British film-goers but were popular around Europe and even in the Far East, all adding to the Sailer coffers and the Sailer legend.
The White Circus is the nickname that's been given to the FIS World Cup tour as its skiers and accompanying coaches, technicians, media and fans sweep around the world from ski resort to ski resort as the race calendar gets ticked off.