Full speed ahead right before Christmas
Great show on the Maierl slope
Who knows if Marcel Hirscher remembers how, in 2007, at the start of his great career – at the young age of 18, he came third at Obereggen? The man who has dominated the last eight World Cup seasons and just as many triumphs in the general rankings, and who announced his retirement in September, is just one of the many big names who have taken their place on the podium in Obereggen.
On Wednesday 18 December, once again a large number of World Cup athletes and many “stars of tomorrow” will be at the starting line for the traditional European Cup slalom. This race is perfectly placed between two World Cup events in Val d’Isere and Alta Badia, and is an excellent mid-way stop off.
Another reason to stop off in Obereggen is “Maierl”. Since 2016, it has replaced the Oberholz slope which, for more than thirty years, was Obereggen’s European Cup slope. Maierl has met with widespread approval in its three latest editions, being an extremely difficult, selective run. An incline of up to 55 percent means that Maierl represents a challenge for even the world’s best slalom skiers.
And the slope lives up to the reputation that Obereggen enjoys in skiing circles. Also known as the “Kitzbühel of the European Cup”, Obereggen is anything but a commonplace European Cup race. This is the oldest European Cup, with a history of over 35 years behind it. It is also a “half World Cup”, considering that many more World Cup winners come to Obereggen than to other European Cups. And lastly, Obereggen is an ultra-reliable race organiser, seeing that since the first race in 1983, it has only missed two race dates – the last being a whole 19 years ago (in 2000). That’s a record worthy of serious respect and also a very rare one when it comes to European and even World Cup events.
The Maierl Slope– a challenge
The Maierl slope, which will be hosting the Obereggen European Cup slalom for the fourth time in December 2019, has existed since 2005. With a maximum slope of 55 percent, it exceeds an altitude difference of 433 metres over 1.6 kilometres. The slope, which is in the immediate vicinity of Oberholz – European Cup venue for 33 years - has really won people over, since it represents a challenge for even the world’s best slalom skiers and offers some spectacular races.
The Maierl slope can be reached with the “Laner” gondola and chair lift, which offers six-person chairs and eight-person gondolas. It replaced the quad chairlift in December 2016 and leaves directly from the station upstream of the Ochsenweide gondola lift.
The Obereggen slalom is happening on 18 December, three days after the World Cup slalom in Val d’Isere, setting itself up as a stage along the route towards the World Cup competition in Alta Badia.
A large number of the world slalom elite compete at Obereggen. Few other European Cup events see such an important starting list, also because there are not many World Cup slaloms during December and specialists in this sport are on the hunt for competitions that will help them achieve peak form. This is the case this year too. After the World Cup opener with a giant slalom in Solda (27 October), and after the traditional competitions over the pond, it will be the turn of the Val d’Isere to hold the first slalom (15 December). Then the specialists will have to wait until 5 January for the season’s second slalom in Zagreb. It is likely that various important skiers, who don’t usually compete in the European Cup, will be stopping off in Obereggen, en route for Val d’Isere and the World Cup giant slalom in Alta Badia (22-23 December).
There will be more European Cup slalom events at the start of this season: Obereggen will be the third stage after Funesdalen (Sweden, two slaloms on 29 and 30 November) and Fassa (16 December).
Hirscher, Kristoffersen and the others
After eight triumphs in the general rankings of the World Cup, seven world titles and two Olympic medals, Marcel Hirscher has decided to retire. In 2007, 18-year-old Hirscher came in third at Obereggen.
Hirscher therefore is at the top of a very long list of world and Olympic champions, as well as World Cup winners, who have taken their place on the Obereggen podium. These include Andre Myhrer, current Olympic slalom champion and also “Mister Obereggen” with four triumphs in 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2010 to his name. Others on the list include Giuliano Razzoli, Reinfried Herbst, Manfred Pranger, the unforgettable Alberto Tomba, Benjamin Raich, Stephan Eberharter, Kristian Ghedina, Luc Alphand, Tomas Fogdoe, Rudi Nierlich, Armin Bittner, Peter Müller and others.
German Egon Hirt obviously could not imagine that he’d be competing with other prestigious names when, in 1983, he won the very first European Cup in Obereggen.
Henrik Kristoffersen has never been placed on the podium of Obereggen. The Norwegian skier, current world giant slalom champion and always in the top 3 of the rankings during the last four seasons of the World Cup. He came 11th, aged 18, in Obereggen in 2012. Another top-class athlete, Alexis Pinturault, has never seen the finish at Obereggen, in spite of trying three times, in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
Third place in 2017, Clement Noel, came second in last season’s slalom championship behind the “extra-terrestrial” Hirscher.
The winner of Obereggen 2018, Istok Rodes, won the European Cup slalom in the last season, as did his fellow Croatian, Matej Vidovic, winner at Obereggen in 2017. Winning at Obereggen seems to bring good luck.
The fact that Obereggen enjoys exceptional fame on the skiing circuit is due to the painstaking hard work of its organisers. The team, formed by ASE Catinaccio, SC Ega, Obereggen Ski School and Obereggen Spa has always carried out an excellent, meticulous job.
The race director and president of the organising committee is Eduard Pichler, who replaced historic “chief, Siegfried Gallmetzer in 2014, when Marco Zendron replaced Luciano Pezzin as vice president.
Both Gallmetzer and Pezzin are members of the organising committee and place their experience at the service of event success. Gallmetzer and Pezzin have been part of the committee since the start of the European Cup in 1983. Siegfried Pichler has always played an important part, as Director of Obereggen Spa, which supports the organising committee.
Karl and Peter Pichler, and Bruno Fusmini: not forgotten
The Obereggen European Cup would like to mention the brothers KARL and PETER PICHLER. Both lived for skiing and both were tragically killed while travelling for their sport. Karl died in a road accident in New Zealand in 1982, where he was training the Italian national skiing team, and Peter died in an avalanche at Passo Oclini in 1977.
The Obereggen European Cup is also closely tied to another name, that of Bruno Fusmini, founder and co-director of the race until 1999.
That was European Cup Obereggen 2018
Croatian celebrations in Obereggen: Croatian skier Istok Rodes repeated the success of his fellow countryman, Matej Vidovic, who triumphed in 2017. The Croatian team placed three skiers in the top five – as well as Rodes, Elias Kolega (third) and Vidovic (fifth). And like Vidovic, Rodes also came top of the European Cup slalom rankings after his triumph in Obereggen.
Although he celebrated his 34th birthday the day before, ex-Olympic champion, Giuliano Razzoli was denied this extra gift by Rodes’ win. Razzoli, first after the first heats, had to make do with second place. In the second heats, Rodes took 1.19 seconds off his time, and with the second-best time, he went from sixth place to first.
Russian Alexander Khoroshilov, who triumphed at the prestigious World Cup night slalom in Schladming in 2015, was placed seventh.
Local skiers, Alex Vinatzer and Fabian Bacher were both unlucky. Although both placed in the top 10 after the first heats, they were out of the competition in the second, after an exceptional intermediate time.