What makes Wengen special
January is the month of the big classics on the FIS alpine World Cup tour. And this weekend its race time in Wengen. Next to Kitzbühel Wengen is the biggest race weekend during the winter. These downhills have a history unmatched by any other destination. And thanks to exciting races, amazing TV production and big crowds of spectators they continue to stand out as legendary downhill races.
The Swiss team is having a very tough year. Normally one of the dominating forces in the ski world. But with their two best athletes gone(Feuz injured and Cuche retired) the rest of the team has not been able to step it up and deliver good results. But in these times the Swiss fans have really showed what good supporters they are. Last weekend we raced the legendary Adelboden Giant slalom. And even thought the Swiss are struggling and were not expected to perform very well, the stands were packed. 30.000 Swiss fans supporting not only the Swiss team, but every athlete. They are ski fans and show a true love for the sport and the racing. So even thought the Swiss are not amongst the favorites next weekend in Wengen I´m confident the crowds and the atmosphere will be just as good as last year.
4.56 km (2.77miles) long Wengen is by far the longest racecourse we have. About 25% longer than typical downhills with the winning time usually around two and a half minute. The first minute is very smooth. Long high speed turns where its important to be aerodynamic and smooth on the snow. The course is above the tree line and its wide and open. When you reach the Hundschopf jump that changes. The jump it self is more like a cliff and a jump, and the 40 meters you jump feels like they are mostly vertical. From being wide and open the course here tightens as you maneuver between cliffs and tight turns. The tightest section is the brükli S. A chicane that kills some speed before we ski under the rails for the Wengen train. The next section is turny, as the name indicates; the Super G section. But after that it gets real fast. This is where the top speed on the worldcup is measured. 158km/h (98moh). Ans this is also where you´re starting to feel the legs getting very tired. On the average course you would already have crossed the finish line. But here its important to keep it together. The race can both be won and lost in the last few turns, The Ziel S(Finish S). Two of the toughest turns with the most G forces, right at the end of the course. If you still have some power left, and maybe more important, the metal strength, you can make up a lot of time. But its risky, as this is also the turns in the course that takes out most people.
Wengen is one of the oldest known tourist ski destinations in the world. With the train being used for skiing long before building skilifts was an industry. With its spectacular nature, history and special course it is one of the biggest wintersport events in the world. I don’t think we will ever see courses like Wengen again. As modern lift systems transport thousands of people up to the mountains there is a need for much wider more open slopes. The difference between a modern ski slope and the old is like comparing the highway to tight mountain road. And when we race the speed is the same if its highway or mountain road. As gravity is our only motor and no one wants to tap the brakes.