Fan clubs arrive early, stay late and
attempt to out-shout each other in
the stands at Soelden.
SOELDEN, AUSTRIA — In Soelden, even the strippers show up for
the bib draw.
Night had just fallen on this picturesque village wedged into a valley be-
low the Rettenbach Glacier. The signs outside guesthouses had been
flipped from “frei” to “besetzt.” Cacophony was in the works: honking
horns of cars rolling into town from every corner of Europe were com-
peting with random hoots, a cover band belting out Lionel Ritchie’s “All
Night Long” and the clanging of church bells from Maria Heimsuchung
Parish Church. And there the showgirls were, decked out in down jack-
ets from the Rodelhütte club just up the road and clutching steaming
cups of gluhwein as the people poured into Postplatz square.
It was Oct. 22, and this public drawing of start numbers for the women’s
giant slalom the following day was the first official event of the Audi FIS
2010-2011 Alpine World Cup — 21 resorts and 39 competitions for the
men; 20 resorts and 39 competitions for the women. At Soelden, as it
has traditionally for many years now, the chase was about to begin.
Women’s Giant Slalom, Oct. 23.
Race day for the women dawned windy and cold, with high clouds
above the Rettenbach Glacier — not exactly the Windex-blue, sunny
and warm weather that helps make Soelden such a popular event, but
it would do for the 12,000 spectators who flocked to the women’s GS.
All week, the town of Soelden had been rushing to get ready for the
event, drilling in new letters at the Raiffeisenbank, setting up Goesser
beer tents and inflating the purple Milka cow. Mother Nature did her bit,
too, covering the bare cliffs and green meadows with fresh snow on
Tuesday. By Saturday, the only snow that remained was well up on the
glacier, a 7.5-mile drive from town on a road that climbs some 4,000
feet, hairpin turn after hairpin turn.
One glance at the steep GS course revealed an even trickier turn
about halfway down on a pitch that would determine the fate of many a
Viktoria Rebensburg wins Soelden opener to kick off World Cup
season; fog cancels act two, the men’s GS. By Sarah Tuff