Soelden is now the traditional start of the World Cup. You can feel the atmosphere rise from Wednesday as the press conferences start, the promotional tents start appearing and now, on the Saturday, all that is done and the trek up to the Rettenbach Glacier, where the race happens is on. Clear blue sky and smiling faces (and the odd walk of shame accompanied by the bottle of the local beer, Zipfer, in hand!) For some it is not just about the racing, the party is just as important. As I stood by the stage that hosts the start number presentation last night, I had to feel for the French team living just by the stage with the euro pop band going through their repertoire of chart hits!
Soelden is a great village but struggles with the huge influx of people for this start of the World Cup. This is the 20th anniversary of the World Cup starting here. 1993 was the first time and while it shared the opening with Tignes in France for a few years, since 1996 the races have been held here. The village is a mix of typical Tyrolean quaintness and 21st Century lifestyle creeping up from the Inntal valley. Â The cows may be still out further down the valley and the weather may have been warm in Soelden but when you turn up the mountain road to Soelden fro the 12km (8 mile) drive up the road, you leave this all behind you.
The road to the Rettenbach Glacier, and its neighbour the Tiefenbach Glacier, 2km further on, twists and turns up the hill. In many ways it typifies the different journeys all the racers have taken to get to the opening of the races for the season. Driving into Soelden at 07.30 this morning, the convoy of traffic going up to the Glacier was already nose to tail. Racing would not start for another two hours but already the vast army of workers, fans, racers, servicemen, photographers, course crew and a multitude of other workers were making their way up.
Talking of the photographers, they have to be on the hill for 07.30 and in place on the course for 08.30 so that their position can be safety checked by FIS before the first racer heads out the gate