The FIS Alpine World Cup has been coming to Soelden, Austria since 1993. It is now the traditional season opener and attracts fans read y to say good bye to the summer and bring on a winter of ski racing. The excitement in Soelden is growing and with the village covered in snow, the picture postcard image is great. This is the image that the ski industry wants the world to see so that it encourages people to start buying kit for the winter. If the industry is happy and selling kit, then this all helps the racing community as well! …

For the two days before the racing starts, Soelden is full of press conferences and media interviews. The opening press conference was by Head and with a stellar line up available for the interview, this was the standard others now have to reach. Head like being the number one brand on the World Cup: With a roster that includes Ted Ligety, Beat Feuz, Bode Miller, Kjetil Jansrud and newbies Alexis Pinturault, Andre Myhrer and newly announced signing Erik Guay, the fact that Aksel Lund Svindal is out definitely for the opening part of the season means the chances for others in the speed events are there. The Head girls team sees the return of Lindsey Vonn plus the likes of rising Italian racer Elena Curtoni joining Anna Fenninger (GS and Overall Champion from last season), Liz Goergl, Julia Mancuso, Wendy Holdener and many more. This year Head have great opportunities to win across the board – not something that could be said in past years.

While Head played the music at the press conference and attracted a full house of media, Audi, main sponsors to the World Cup, had to contend with the weather for their media event. With a snow storm having passed through Soelden in the previous 48 hours, the tail end of the storm did not help the racers as they stood posing for photos!

With Vail Beaver Creak announcing how the World Championships will look and the facilities for the media, the anticipation is rising with the Championships exactly 100 days away from starting when the World Cup starts on Saturday.

Day one of the media frenzy ended with Milka, another major supporter of the world cup, with races and athletes all being supported. In conjunction with the AIJS (Association of International Skiing Journalists), the award of the racer of last year was made to Anna Fenninger with this being broadcast live over the internet as FIS tries to bring the sport up to date with modern media. A welcome advancement.

A week ago Ted Ligety tweeted a picture of the state of the Rettenbach Glacier, high above the village of Soelden and where the race is held, and it looked a sorry state: Half of the slope that the race comes down was snowfree and while many worried if the race would take place, the abundance of snow that has arrived as far down as the village, the fear of the race being cancelled as happened in 2006, rapidly disappeared. The race was given the go ahead by FIS with a week to go after 70,000 cubic meters of water was pumped out of the ten snow cannons covering the course! Technology to the rescue again!

To protect the racers there are 3.5 kilometres of safety net, seven kilometres of fencing, 260 meters of Barriers and 180 meters of air-filled safety barriers installed. There is also 11.5 km cable to provide the timing and allow  journalists and 15 live broadcast booths in the press centre to report quickly. A logistic masterpiece it is as roughly 15,000 supporters and fans go each day from the valley to watch the race. Many of the fans head up the hill by shuttles on race days, a whole fleet of them located at Giggijoch lift in Soelden and then taken by the glacier road to the glacier at an altitude of 2,670 meters.

With the picture postcard scene outside, FIS announce this afternoon more details for the new season!

 

Picture: Anna Fenninher receiving the Skieur d’Or from the votes by the AIJS Members Photo: GEPA pictures/ Mitchell Gunn