It never looked this icy on TV. And it certainly never looked this steep. But then cameras have a way of warping reality: they make people look ever so slightly bigger; and they make downhill-skiing runs look a lot, lot tamer.
And Kitzbühel’s “Streif” is far from tame. A legendary downhill course that makes up one third of the Hahnenkammrennen, the most popular series of races on the skiing World Cup circuit, Streif is a challenging run in the same way that Everest is a difficult climb.
Buoyed by the bravado of a late-night gluwein, you have somehow talked yourself into giving it a crack. But now your legs are gone, and you can’t seem to shake the image of an alpine rescue team scraping you off the slopes. 3, 2, 1. And you plunge down the slope, scooping up powder in the widest snowplough the course has ever seen. The Mausefalle (Mousetrap) is swiftly negotiated – too swiftly for your liking – and you’re on your way, the rushing wind making your eyes stream as you whizz through Steilhang and down Alte Schneise. Perfect edging and exact timing is the key to success here. Most amateurs have neither, and sure enough you skitter across an icy patch, your trailing ski almost catching an edge. There isn’t time to think of the mess you’d have made if it had done.
Building up sufficient speed to carry you through Brückenschuß and Gschößwiese, a section of the course most commentators maliciously describe as “flat”, you descend on the Hausbergkante – a jump, followed by a difficult left-hand turn over a large rise in the terrain – and then its down the Rasmusleitn, to the finish line. You punch the air and wave to the imaginary crowd. Piece of cake.
The Streif run is in the resort of Kitzbühel (http://www.kitzbuhel.com); the most convenient airport is Munich.