Ski race fans always look forward to the Wengen race weekend on the World Cup calendar. Kitzbuehel and Wengen are the blue ribbon events of the World Cup tour and fans from across the world flock in their thousands to get a glimpse of the sport’s speed gladiators. There are many iconic features to the course of Wengen and the atmosphere is electric whatever the weather is.
Arriving on the first day for the Alpine Combined there’s an air of enthusiasm for racing. The crowds aren’t as big as they are for downhill day but the passion and spirit is still there. Swiss flags were held aloft throughout the slalom and downhill legs with such pride. It’s a national celebration of a great race and all the Swiss athletes have that extra motivation.
The Alpine Combined was a Swiss dream. After the slalom leg Justin Murisier was first and you could sense a real optimism about his chances finishing on the podium after the downhill leg. Murisier had an impeccable slalom run beating some of the world’s best slalom skiers in the process. The vibe between runs was a carnival atmosphere that was enhanced by Murisier’s morning performance.
On the downhill leg the weather turned but that didn’t dampen the spirits of the crowd. Fan club bands, families and fans from across the world were enjoying a small taste of the Lauberhorn downhill. Niels Hintermann is a relative unknown to most ski fans but he certainly made a name for himself on the downhill leg. Early on Hintermann took the lead which the crowd went crazy for. Nobody would have predicted that he would hold his lead till the race’s conclusion.
Hintermann must have thought he was dreaming! The weather played a big factor but this was a huge moment for the Swiss skier. Thousands of fans showed up to the award ceremony in the centre of the village. Wengen was already rocking with enthusiasm after just one race. The big day was yet to come though!
On downhill day there was a noticeable upping of the anti. The queues for public transport stretched forever even at the very early hours of the morning. Fans are very dedicated and want to get a good viewing spot to see their favourite winter sport heroes. The noise travelling to the race had a football fan feel! Many songs were sang and the fan clubs joined in with their instruments. All the fan clubs really make a real effort with costumes, instruments and banners. It’s one of the most important days of the year for them!
A combination of the Swiss army and many volunteer course workers tried their hardest to prepare the downhill course despite the relentless snowfall in Wengen. In the end the race had to be cancelled much to the disappointment of the die hard race fan. A few fans on the way back from the finish area could be heard singing “always look on the bright side of life” in their best broken English. It was bad news that the race was cancelled but it didn’t totally change the vibe of the village.
Instead of watching the racing it was time to drink, sing and enjoy the wonderful alpine setting. Yes, the race was cancelled but there was still a slalom the next day. In the main fan zone the Beat Feuz fan club put on their own makeshift show to passers by. They looked like extras from the Lord of the Rings but were more than friendly to the public. The main focus was to have fun!
The World Cup in Europe has a great atmosphere in most places you go but Wengen has that special magic that can’t be beaten. You see the wonderment of people realising they’re watching what they’ve seen on TV before and that their favourite stars are right before their eyes. It’s a huge part of Swiss culture and is definitely worth experiencing for any sporting fan.