From left: Werner Heel flying over a jump on the Streif in 2010;
Streif winner Daron Rahlves at the prize ceremony (Rahlves was
the first American to win since Buddy Werner in 1959.); Fireworks
at the downhill prize-giving ceremony; A bar patron anoints 2003
Hahnenkamm stars by dumping beer on Rahlves (right) and Norwegian Kjetil Aamodt (left). Rahlves took first and Aamodt took
3rd; 2010 downhill & super G winner Didier Cuche at the Streif finish line; The Londoner is the epicenter of the post-race action.
ments of downhill — jumping, gliding, feel, tight
turns, light turns, and setting the edge very hard.
There’s no other downhill like it.” Klammer even
calls his 1984 victory at Kitzbuehel, after a seven
year absence from its podium, his sweetest vic-
tory; sweeter, in fact, than his 1976 gold at Inns-
The Americans also hold the Hahnenkamm in
high regard. Back in the days when the rookie
rock was still making the World Cup rounds in the
suitcase of one promising young American racer,
and not sitting as it now is in Marco Sullivan’s
Truckee garden, racing Kitzbuehel on race day
— and making it down safely — was the only way
a downhiller could lose his “rookie” status on the
team — and the chore of toting the rookie rock
across the globe.
The course features some of the most difficult
sections on the World Cup circuit. Klammer calls
the right-hand turn at the bottom of Steilhang
into the Bruckenschuss the hardest turn in all of
downhill racing. U.S. downhiller Steven Nyman
says: “There’s sections and turns where you can
become a ski god or a hospital patient. That’s
got to weigh
in your mind,
are you willing to risk it?”
In 1991 two Americans, Eric Keck and Bill Hud-
son, each carried too much speed off the Mause-
falle, a monster jump near the top of the track, and
sailed over the safety fence and off the course.
Hudson was in the hospital for months. In 2008
Scott Macartney launched off the final jump and
crashed upon landing, sliding unconscious and
convulsing in seizures, across the finish line. The
following year, a Swiss racer, Daniel Albrecht,
nearly died after wrecking off the same jump. At
Kitzbuehel, life or death hangs on every bump,
jump, and turn.
Tradition and history run deep at Kitzbuehel.
The name “Hahnenkamm,” translated from Ger-
man as “rooster’s comb,” first appears in written
documents in 1572. Experts speculate that the
name was inspired by a sheer rock face in the
upper part of the mountain which is lined with
shimmering red stone and feather-like pine trees.
The Kitzbuehel Ski Club, Austria’s oldest ski or-
ganization, held the first Hahnenkamm race
in 1931 as a way to generate publicity for
what was then Kitzbuehel’s new tram.
Fast forward to 1996, when the resort
unveiled a series of new gondolas and
launched one of the race’s trademark tradi-
tions: winners receive their very own gondo-
la, their name painted onto the front of one
of 98 cabins. There are only a few name-
less gondolas left, so in the future, each
will carry the four names of the weekend’s
winners from the super G, downhill, slalom,
and super combined competitions.
The World Cup circuit was even born along-
side the slopes of the Streif in 1966 when
Serge Lang, Honore Bonnet, and Bob Be-
attie cooked up the idea for a series of ski
races with a point system. And, to add the
race’s mystique, Rahlves claims the exis-
tence of a secret tunnel that ferries downhill