Kitzbuehel a definite bucket list item | Skiing | CBC Sports

SkiingKitzbuehel a definite bucket list item

Posted: Thursday, January 24, 2013 | 11:21 PM

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Atmosphere during the men's downhill training on January 24, 2013 in Kitzbuehel, Austria. (Christohpe Pallot/Agence Zoom/Getty Images) Atmosphere during the men's downhill training on January 24, 2013 in Kitzbuehel, Austria. (Christohpe Pallot/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)

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Whether it's unspoken, written, or shared, we all have things we'd like to do and experience. For many professional athletes, that bucket list includes sporting events like the Masters or Stanley Cup finals. For Canadian skier Kelly VanderBeek, the famous race in Kitzbuehel, Austria is a must.

Whether it's unspoken, written, or shared, we all have a bucket list. 

Things we'd like to do, see, and experience. For many professional athletes, that list includes sporting events like the Masters or the Stanley Cup final, and for others this list includes the famous downhill race at Kitzbuehel, Austria.

Why is this a bucket list event? Sure, the racing has a lot to do with it, as spectators marvel in watching men reach speeds of up to 140km/h while hurtling down the Zielschuss hoping not only to survive the final compression and jump, but to be the fastest while doing it. 

The event also happens to hand out the biggest prize money, with a total of 550,000 Euros awarded over the weekend.

Besides the racing, which is truly incredible to behold, the people-watching is nearly as interesting. Thousands of spectators flock to this little mountain village each year for the event. The hoards of people make this weekend that much better. 

If you happened to be on the streets in Vancouver when Sidney Crosby scored the winning  goal in overtime to take Olympic gold from the U.S. in 2010, then you may have a sense of what it feels like to be among this crowd. The free-flowing schnapps adds a fair bit of colour as well!

The drive

Have you ever driven up a European small mountain road? If not, you can probably still imagine these picturesque roads that are narrow and winding as they beautifully direct drivers from one remote village to another (I use the term remote loosely since this is Europe and people are everywhere!).

As you make your way to the village, the Audi passing you is likely one of the greatest skiers ever... or a coach who's late for a team meeting.

Come race weekend, you may want to hire a driver or hop on a bus. The lines in and out of the valley rival Toronto traffic at rush hour, however the view is significantly better. Parking once you reach Kitzbuehel is another challenge, so if you can fit your skis into a smart car you'll have an edge.


Do you like plain boiled potatoes? Good! Then you'll love the cuisine at Kitzbuehel, as almost everything comes with a side of these yellow treats. You'll be there for the beer anyhow, so who really cares?


Jon Olsson described Kitzbuehel as "the most intense thing you can do on a pair of skis."

However, off the Hahnenkamm, there are many nice runs to challenge you that won't require you to check your drawers at the bottom. These runs are mostly fast, rolling groomed trails that will keep you smiling.  

(Note: The average Austrian can ski pretty well and many fancy themselves to have been just shy of the World Cup circuit (like every hockey player in Canada). That being said, be warned of high speed, long arches, and people attacking that bunny hill as if it's their own personal Streif.)

Since this resort is quite large, be sure to go down the way you came at the end of the day. If you don't, you'll be riding the bus to find your way back to the village you're staying in.

The locals tend to roll their eyes at tourists who make this mistake... not that it's happened to me or anything!

The party

Jan Hudec, one of Canada's best skiers, tweeted: "Kitzbuehel quote of the week: 'Kitz is too expensive to sleep'. #Londoner."

The Londoner is the most most famous/infamous of the Kitzbuehel party bars. Apparently the tradition of the top athletes going there to party/serve drinks after a top performance was started by Canadians in the 1980s. Somehow, this doesn't surprise me, and many from our men's team have, with often too much gusto, continued this tradition.  

Bib draw is a draw

A normal World Cup event hosts a bib draw the evening before the competition. The top 15 athletes in the world for the next day's race arrive to draw for their start positions. 

This is often a big draw for tourists and fans, since they get to see the athletes in a different element. Short interviews go along with the handing out of the race bibs.

In Kitzbuehel, bib draws are known to attract crowds of nearly 50,000 people. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that is more than double the number of people that fit into any of our NHL hockey arenas.  

World Cup 1, NHL 0.

Rich history

Besides being known for their infamous partying at the Londoner, Canadians are also known for some pretty historic results.

In 1980, Ken Read won the downhill, in '81 & '82 was Steve Pdborski's turn, and in '83 Todd Brooker kept that streak going

We haven't seen anyone atop the podium since then. Rob Boyd came close with a third-place finish in '91. 

This weekend our Canadian Cowboys have the talent to make some magic happen on the Streif, and I'll be sure to tune in to watch it unfold.

(Tip: As you're riding the gondola in Kitzbuehel, be sure to see whose car you're riding in. Gondolas are given the honor of being named after Kitzbuehel winners. Look for the Canadians among the list I referenced above.)

The hangover

Returning to regular life after taking in a bucket list event may be a little rough. Notes to remember as you nurture your Kitzbuehel hangover:  

  • You are no longer in the Londoner and clothing will be required in the office.
  • Cowbells and horns are generally frowned upon as a method to encourage your taxi driver to go faster.
  • Schnapps in anything and everything at all hours of the morning may make the conference meeting go by faster, but it might make it your last.
Otherwise, have fun, take it in, and be sure to avoid cameras. As amazing as the stories are coming out of "Kitz," the images never quite live up to the story. (Yeah, we know, we skiers need to get some sun!)

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