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Lauberhorn Downhill

Rainer Sturm  /
Switzerland is a skiing nation. Most people learn to ski at a young age and then keep on skiing for a few days every winter for pretty much all their lives. For many people (including myself) a perfect winter day involves snow covered slopes, sunshine and blue skies, an amazing panoramic view of the alps and a pair of skies or a snowboard. Especially people like me who live in the Mittelland (the area between Zurich and Basel) and suffer from fog for many days in winter, being outside in the sun is a welcome change. A visit to the hot springs in the evening adds the perfect conclusion to a skiing day.

Skiing is indeed a sport for the masses here in Switzerland. Every winter, in addition to the two week Christmas break, Swiss students will get a two week skiing break in February. This vacation is called "Sports Vacation" and it's purpose is simply to allow Swiss children to go skiing or snowboarding with their families! Many schools also offer snow camps during those weeks or organize a special snow day where the whole school hits the slopes. As a working member of the community, I prefer not to go snowboarding during those two weeks since places are usually packed. Best days to go skiing are midweek in January; I haven't managed to hit the slopes yet this year though...

As you would expect it of a skiing nation, Switzerland also regularly produces some excellent skiers. Just to mention a few names, think of Bernhard Russi, Vreni Schneider or Pirmin Zurbriggen. Also this year Switzerland has some top notch ski cracks racing down the slopes. Didier Cuche or Didier Defago are pretty solid also this year. However, the surprise high flyer of this season is young skiier Beat Feuz. In Super-G and downhill races he's been able to reach the top 10 regularly this season. However, he achieved his biggest success so far only yesterday: He won the famous Lauberhorn downhill race!

The Lauberhorn races probably are Switzerland's biggest skiing event of the year. Thousands of spectators line the longest downhill course of the world. Over 4 kilometers long and a race time of about 2.5 minutes turn the Lauberhorn downhill into one of the hardest and most interesting races in the alpine ski world cup!  It is also quite dangerous with top speeds of up to 150 km/h at certain points. Big amounts of safety nets and paddings provide the much needed safety for the skiing cracks. Yet, even with the nets a fall during the race can be painful I've heard.

Over a million of people watched the Lauberhorn downhill last year on tv. In fact, it was the most viewed tv production of the year in Switzerland. I assume that this year there was a similar number of people watching (including myself). And it was totally worth it to see Beat Feuz ski the perfect downhill race. Unbelievable! If you didn't see it, I recommend you check out his race and get an impression of this difficult slope and the skills of Beat Feuz:



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