Ski Center Latemar

38th European Cup FIS Slalom 15/12/2021

15/12/21: World class slalom on the Maierl Slope

1st run at 10:00 am, 2nd run at 01:00 pm

Race will be on Italian television RaiSport on Friday, 17th December 2021, starting at 01:00 pm.

 

After a year-long break due to the Corona pandemic, the European Cup returns to Obereggen: On Wednesday, December 15, the traditional European Cup Slalom will be held at the challenging Maierl Slope. We can look forward to numerous World Cup stars coming to Obereggen to take part in this Olympic winter. That's because there's only a single World Cup Slalom – the one on December 12 in Val d’Isere - scheduled to take place prior to Obereggen. In fact, when it comes to the European Cup, Obereggen is the commencement slalom race.

To be exact, there hasn't been a champion selected in Obereggen in two years. In 2019, unusually high temperatures made it necessary to interrupt the slalom after just 64 racers gone through their paces. This was the first time the competition had been cancelled since the year 2000 – and only the fourth time in total (after 1994, 1996, and the year 2000) in its whole 40-year history. Then the race fell victim to the Corona pandemic in 2020 – just like the entire skiing winter.

But Obereggen isn't only remembering the past – it is also looking to the future. Numerous World Cup stars and many very promising athletes hoping to join their ranks will be congregating at the Maierl Slope starting line. This has always been the case in past decades.

This can be explained firstly by the favorably placed date at the beginning of the season, when the top-tier athletes still need some racing practice and thus view the World Cup Race as a convenient opportunity to test their mettle.

Secondly, Obereggen has a special status with respect to the European Cup and has often been referred to as the "Kitzbühel of the European Cup." Obereggen is the longest-standing European Cup of them all in the ski circus, with a history stretching back to 1983. A victory in Obereggen is prestigious – that's because countless Olympic victors and World Cup stars as well as world champions have taken their place on the winner's platform there.

Thirdly, Obereggen has frequently been a harbinger of future success on the slopes. Skiers who have done well in Obereggen get an added dose of confidence for the rest of the season. In an Olympic winter like this one, one is reminded especially of Giuliano Razzoli. He celebrated a victory in Obereggen in 2009. And then, just a few weeks later, he became an Olympic winner.

In short, Obereggen has always been a European Cup race boasting an above-average participation rate.

The Maierl Slope is an additional argument to undertake a jaunt to Obereggen. Since 2016, luminaries of the skiing world have been heaping praise upon it. It has replaced Oberholz as the racing course and achieved notoriety as an extremely selective and thoroughly World Cup-worthy slalom slope. Past years have demonstrated that the Maierl Slope, with its max. steepness of 55%, represents a challenge even for the world's best slalom racers.

The Maierl Slope – a challenge

The Maierl Slope – where the prestigious European Cup Slalom of Obereggen has been held since 2016 – was inaugurated in 2005. With a maximum steepness of 55% and a length of 1.6 km, it boasts an impressive 433 meters of altitude differential. The slalom slope – located in the immediate vicinity of the Oberholz Slope, where the European Cup was celebrated for 33 years – has shown itself in past years to be an absolute challenge, even for top stars, as well as a guarantee for a spectacular race.

The Maierl Slope is reached via the "Laner" telemix aerial lift. This lift features both six-seaters and eight-person gondolas, and has replaced the fixed-clamp four-seater lift since December 2016. The lift provides a direct connection to the Ochsenweide aerial tram mountain station.

The date

The date in mid-December for the race in Obereggen has a tradition: On Wednesday, December 15, the European Cup Slalom will be held at the Maierl Slope – the same day on which downhill skiing luminaries will begin training for the World Cup in Gröden / Gardena.

While the world's top downhill skiers assemble at the starting line in Gröden / Gardena, Obereggen is opening its arms to the slalom stars for a side-trip to the glorious European Cup – this year perhaps even more than in previous seasons. Only a single World Cup slalom takes place before the European Cup Slalom in Obereggen: The one on December 12 in Val d’Isere, after which the World Cup athletes will proceed to the giant slalom in Alta Badia on December 19 and then to the slalom in Madonna di Campiglio on December 22. Thus, for slalom stars, Obereggen is right along the way between Val d’Isere and Alta Badia and hence represents one of the few opportunities to obtain such competitive experience at the beginning of the season. That explains why so many World Cup athletes will be appearing at the starting line on the Maierl Slope.

In fact, for the European Cup, Obereggen is the season's first slalom.

Obereggen in the Olympic winter

Racing in Obereggen is a virtual prerequisite for winning an Olympic medal! At least, that's what the statistics for the technical disciplines of the last two Olympic Winter Games in Sochi (2014) and Pyeongchang (2018) seem to indicate. Both in Sochi and in Pyeongchang, only those skiers who had previously been victorious in Obereggen managed to stand on the winner's platform for slalom and giant slalom. And this year, we have another Olympic winter: Beijing will be hosting the games in February.

The reigning winner in Olympic slalom is "Mr. Obereggen" Andre Myhrer (the victor in 2004, 2005, 2007, and 2010). Behind him, the Swiss Ramon Zenhaeusern earned Silver in Pyeongchang; Zenhaeusern is a "fixture" in Obereggen and can proudly point to having won Second Place (2015) and Fourth Place (2017). At the 2018 Olympics, Michael Matt – who had debuted at the European Cup in Obereggen at the age of 18 in 2011 – won Bronze.

In an Olympic winter like this one, we are reminded of Giuliano Razzoli's performance: The man from Azzurro became the Olympic winner in slalom just a few weeks after his 2009 triumph in Obereggen.

The reigning World Cup Overall Winner, Alexis Pinturault, had likewise once started in Obereggen – but interestingly, although he made three attempts (in 2008, 2009, and in 2010), he never reached the goal.

Eventually, everyone comes to Obereggen. Either they arrive as promising young talents, or they come as established World Cup stars looking to acquire even more competitive practice.

Even exceptionally gifted sportsmen like Marcel Hirscher – who boasts eight World Cup overall victories in a row, seven World Championships, and two Olympia victories and can thus be regarded as the most-successful ski racer of all time – honed his skills in Obereggen: In 2007, at the age of 18, he won Bronze here.

The long rollcall of World Cup victors, World Champions, and Olympia winners who have stood on the winner's platform in Obereggen includes not only Myhrer, Hirscher, and Razzoli, but also Reinfried Herbst, Manfred Pranger, Alberto Tomba, Benjamin Raich, Stephan Eberharter, Kristian Ghedina, Luc Alphand, Tomas Fogdoe, Rudi Nierlich, Armin Bittner, Peter Müller, etc.

When, in 1983, the German Egon Hirt won the very first European Cup in Obereggen, he had no idea what illustrious skiers would one day follow in his footsteps.

The organizers

The fact that Obereggen enjoys such an excellent reputation in the skiing world can be attributed to the meticulous work of the organizers. The Rosengarten Ski Club, the Eggen Ski Club, the Obereggen ski school, and Obereggen AG have been performing excellent work year after year.

Eduard Pichler is the head of the race and president of the OK. In 2014, he became the successor of the long-term chief, Siegfried Gallmetzer. At the same time, Marco Zendron followed Luciano Pezzin as vice-president.

By the way, both Gallmetzer and Pezzin continue to belong to the OK team and are devoting their energies to ensure the event's success. Gallmetzer and Pezzin have been members of the committee since the first race in 1983. Siegfried Pichler, the director of Obereggen AG, has also been doing his part since then and has been providing the OK team with unflagging support.

Unforgotten: Karl and Peter Pichler, Bruno Fusmini

Since its birth, the European Cup in Obereggen has been dedicated to the two Eggen Valley brothers KARL and PETER PICHLER, who both devoted their lives to skiing and who both tragically died while enjoying "their" sport – Peter in 1977 as the result of a snow avalanche at the Jochgrimm, and Karl in 1982 during a traffic accident in New Zeeland, where he was working as a coach for the Italian national team.

Another name closely connected with the European Cup in Obereggen: Co-founder Bruno Fusmini was director of the races from 1983 to 1999.

In memoriam: Jakob Kerer

This year, the European Cup in Obereggen must now also for the first time do without the support of Jakob Kerer, who died all too young shortly after his 72nd birthday in the summer of 2020.

From the beginning, Jakob Kerer was always a reliable and responsible member of the European Cup Committee. His experience was a great benefit to the organizers. Not only for the European Cup Race, but also for other ski races, he provided unflagging support in the organization and carrying-out of the competitions. He worked in timing and was also active in various events.

That was European Cup Obereggen 2019

Everything had been arranged for a first-class race, with four racers from the Top 20 of the FIS world ranking list (Giuliano Razzoli, Istok Rodes, Stefano Gross, and Sebastian Foss-Solevaag) and countless other Top 50 athletes. But in the end, rain, fog, mild winds, and unusually high temperatures ruined the festivities: For the first time since 2000 – and for the fourth time overall in the games' more than 35 years of history after 1994, 1996, and 2000 – it was impossible, for reasons of bad weather, to select a European Cup champion in Obereggen. On just the previous weekend, the venue had exhibited idyllic skiing conditions. But now, Obereggen – famed for its unusually good and reliable skiing conditions – had simply been the victim of bad timing with regards to the date of its European Cup race.

The organizers had done their utmost, but after the 64th racer had started, it had become obvious that the competition would have to be cancelled. "The piste had completely softened up, and the danger of injury to the athletes was simply too great," explained racing head and OK director Eduard „Edi“ Pichler with a heavy heart. At the time of the cancellation, the Croatian title-defender Istok Rodes had been in the lead.

Thus, the title-defender for the Obereggen race in 2021 will be the winner of 2018: Back then, Istok Rodes – the victor in Obereggen – was followed by his compatriot Matej Vidovic, who was ahead of the ex-Olympia victor Giuliano Razzoli. In 2018, the Croatians were also able to score Third Place (Elias Kolega) and Fifth Place (the previous title-defender, Matej Vidovic) among the Top 5.