Graham and Ed’s latest hair raising blog

It’s two weeks since my last post and it’s been pretty busy, with Ski Sunday back in full swing we don’t have any days off. I know that’s an oxymoron for most of you reading this because how can being up a mountain ever be called work? I’m not going to try and defend myself because I managed to score some epic powder runs in Kitzbhuel over the last couple of days.
Graham on the other hand has had it much harder, for a start he has had to commit another course run down the Hannenkahm to film a prospect which gets him visibly worked up in the days before hand. You can check his track on Garmin Connect here:



The heart rate especially makes for very interesting viewing, the peak in the start gate speaks volumes about Graham’s nerves.
Personally it was my first experience of the Kitzbhuel downhill and it’s something that will never translate on screen. If you watch the race on TV you can hear how icy the course is, but until you’ve ridden down the piste you can’t fully appreciate just how committed those skiers are. I pride myself on being able to get down almost anything with a modicum of style, it was the corner stone of my professional career and yet the Hannenkahm will happily strip the most skilled of their dignity.

Having been privileged enough to inspect a few of the downhill courses I can say that the Streif is in a league of it’s own. There are no half measures, no hesitation or hedge your bets just foot flat to the floor or hard on the brakes and as was proved in training and in three of the last four years if you’re on the brakes it almost certainly won’t end happily.
This year it was the turn of Hans Gruger who lost his balance and landed sideways snapping his left ski off in front of and behind the binding! Take a moment to think of the forces involved in that. His condition is still critical and marks the third serious head injury sustained here in four years.

I asked Graham about the ethics of running a race like this and he explained that the Hannenkahm is an independent race that has been absorbed into the World Cup but the organizers have retained control and their values are very much in the old school category, they believe in the traditional merits of a downhill, man against the wrath of the mountain gladiator style. If skiing is the bible Kitzbhuel is the Old Testament.
I respect this but also you have to take into account the increases in speed that new technology has allowed. Graham said that a lot of the jumps have been mellowed now and that is the one concession. But the off camber compressions and blind drops expose the racers to such huge risks that even the best are tested to their limits. The fact that the racers return year after year though is all the proof you need to know that even the best have to be pushed beyond their limits.

Graham was in his element here, the highlight of his week? Being served a beer by eventual winner Didier Cuche in the pub. For me the legendary nightlife was entertaining but with the first real dump of my winter arriving it was nothing more than a distraction. The snow depth was only just over misery blanket levels, but in places I had some bottomless turns and some nice drops. I laid down a track the length and breadth of the resort system which you can check here:


There is some great freeriding to be had, but for snowboarders I would warn that plenty of flat spots and featureless wide flat motorway pistes can get monotonous. But with good snow I would make an exception. Graham loved it though, with a day off he went piste blasting and came back looking revitalized having blown away the nerves of the course run with some master blasting down what he referred to as perfect pistes.
It’s snowing now, no wait not snowing dumping! I have already dusted off the hovercraft and should be checking in two weeks with some very interesting freeriding stories. See you then.