The Lauberhorn and its downhill course with the Tschuggen (right)
|Elevation||2,472 m (8,110 ft)|
|Prominence||122 m (400 ft)|
The Lauberhorn is a mountain in the Bernese Alps of Switzerland, located between Wengen and Grindelwald, north of the Kleine Scheidegg. Its summit is at an elevation of 2,472 m (8,110 ft) above sea level.
The mountain is best known as the site of the Lauberhorn alpine ski races (German: Lauberhornrennen), held annually above Wengen in the Bernese Oberland. The downhill course is the longest in the world; its enormous length of 4.455 km (2.768 mi) results in run times of two and a half minutes (about 30–45 seconds longer than standard downhill races); top speeds approach 160 km/h (100 mph) on its Haneggschuss, the highest speeds on the FIS World Cup circuit. The Lauberhorn downhill run is said to be the most picturesque in the world, surrounded by the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau above the Lauterbrunnen valley, and usually held under brilliant blue skies in mid-January. It is also known for its spectacular run arrangements as the Hundschopf, a signature 40 m (130 ft) jump over a rock nose, the Kernen-S (passing over a bridge at around 80 km/h (50 mph) and the Wasserstation tunnel (underpassing the viaduct of the local railroad Wengernalpbahn).
Lauberhorn ski races
The Lauberhorn ski races (downhill, slalom, and combined) are among the highest-attended winter sports events in the world, attracting around 30,000 spectators each year. An established attraction is the airshow by the Patrouille Suisse, the aerobatic demonstration team of the Swiss Air Force. The 2012 races were held January 13–15 (super-combined, downhill, and slalom).
Many of the named portions of the course are due to historic falls or crashes by racers. The best known sections of the Lauberhorn downhill race are the following (in descending order):
- Russisprung (Russi jump), named after Swiss Olympic champion Bernhard Russi, in the upper treeless part of the course
- Hundschopf (dog's head), the Lauberhorn's signature jump over the rock nose, about a third of the way down the course
- Minsch-Kante and the long fall-away curve
- Canadian Corner
- Alpweg trail, very narrow and only 3 m (10 ft) in width
- Kernen-S (formerly the Brüggli-S), consecutive right-left 90° curves separated by a small bridge), which reduces speed considerably
- Wasserstation (water station), a small tunnel underpassing the local railroad Wengernalpbahn
- Langentrajen where the slope becomes significantly flatter
- Haneggschuss, a pitch after the flats where top speeds approach 160 km/h (100 mph)
- Silberhornsprung (Silberhorn jump)
- Österreicherloch (Austrian hole)
- Ziel-S (finish-S) which is endurance challenging and finally a finish jump (reduced in recent seasons)
The Lauberhorn downhill race has taken place since 1930 and is one of the oldest ski races in the world. The Russisprung was originally built in the spring for a television show and was incorporated into the course by organizers the following year. The Minsch-Kante is where Josef Minsch fell in 1965 and was hospitalized for weeks. The Canadian Corner is named after two of the Crazy Canucks, Dave Irwin and Ken Read, who aggressively attacked this part of the course in 1976 and subsequently fell during the race. The Kernen-S was renamed for 2003 winner Bruno Kernen after his crash in 2006 at the former Brüggli-S. The Silberhornsprung was introduced in 2003 with the pyramid-shaped Silberhorn mountain in the background for television viewers. The Österreicherloch (Austrian hole) got its name in 1954 when almost all participating Austrian skiers (including Toni Sailer) fell there; 1960s Austrian great Karl Schranz later fell there as well.
In 1991, a tragic death occurred during training for the race at the Ziel-S (Finish-S). The young Austrian skier Gernot Reinstadler was not able to finish the S-curve properly and therefore jumped into the slope boundary (because he was too far to the right), where he hooked one ski in the security net and suffered severe injuries to the lower body. He died shortly after the accident from internal bleeding. The race was not held that year. In reaction to this tragic event, the slope boundary at that place was also equipped with rejection canvas and the gates were moved upwards and more to the left.
Snowmaking was added in the mid-1990s, and the combined race has been a run as a "super combined" since the World Cup debut of the format at Wengen in 2005. The super-combi is two runs (one shortened downhill and one slalom) run on the same day, rather than three runs (one downhill and two slalom) of the traditional combined. On the World Cup circuit, the traditional combined is usually not run as separate races, but determined "on paper" from the results of the primary downhill and slalom races, which are run on separate days. (The Olympics and world championships are the exceptions, holding entirely separate races for the combined.) At the Winter Olympics, the super-combined format replaced the traditional combined in 2010.
Facts and figures
|Lauberhorn - Downhill|
|Vertical||1,025 m (3,363 ft)|
|Top elevation||2,315 m (7,595 ft)|
|Base elevation||1,290 m (4,232 ft)|
- Longest downhill race in the World Cup circuit, with a length of 2.768 miles (4.455 km);
typical World Cup downhill courses for men are 2.0 miles (3.2 km) or less.
- The course's starting elevation is 7,595 feet (2,315 m) above sea level;
it descends 3363 vertical feet (1,025 m) to the finish at 4,232 feet (1,290 m) in Wengen.
- The course record of 2:24.23 is held by the Kristian Ghedina of Italy, who won in 1997 with an average speed of 66.07 mph (106.33 km/h) ,an average vertical descent rate of 23.3 ft/sec (7.1 m/s).
- Top speeds approach 100 mph (160 km/h) on the Haneggschuss, a straightaway 25–30 seconds from the finish. The highest speed ever measured in a FIS World Cup race was reached at this section in 2013 by Johan Clarey of France at 100.6 mph (161.9 km/h). Top speeds vary from year to year, depending upon snow conditions.
- The average grade of the downhill race course is 33 percent (14.7 degrees).
- The maximum grade is 93 percent (42 degrees) at the Hundschopf jump, one-third of the way down the course.
- The largest crowd was recorded in 2009, when 30,000 observed the Lauberhorn downhill race.
- Ten miles (16 km) of security nets are set up at the border of the downhill run, surrounded by around 1,000 m (3,300 ft) of high security nets and 800 m (2,600 ft) of rejection canvas.
- The course was one of several featured in the 1969 movie Downhill Racer, starring Robert Redford and Gene Hackman.
Redford's character challenges his rival teammate to a dual race at the end of practice on the Lauberhorn downhill course.
- The record holders for the most wins are Karl Molitor of Switzerland, who won six times between 1939 and 1947, and Ivica Kostelić of Croatia, who won the slalom race 4 times between 2002 and 2012, and the combined event twice, in 2011 and 2012. Unlike most of the other major ski races, the Lauberhorn in neutral Switzerland was held during World War II; all of the events were won by Swiss racers. In the post-war era, the most notable multiple winners are three Austrians: Toni Sailer with four straight (1955–58),
Karl Schranz with four (1959, 1963, 1966, 1969), and Franz Klammer with three consecutive (1975-77).
- Austrians have won 29 times; Swiss racers have captured 26 victories (although 14 of these came before 1946).
- The first non-European to win the race was Ken Read in 1980, the sole Canadian, followed by four other North Americans (all U.S.). Lasse Kjus of Norway is the only Scandinavian champion, winning in 1999.
- The first American winner in the downhill was Bill Johnson, in 1984 on a shortened course; other U.S. winners include Kyle Rasmussen (1995), Daron Rahlves (2006), and Bode Miller (2007 & 2008). Miller and Marco Sullivan made the podium in 2009, taking second and third. Miller won the combined event in 2010, the second American to win the combined at Wengen and first in 52 years (Buddy Werner in 1958). Phil Mahre is the only U.S. racer to take the slalom event at Wengen, in 1982.
Videos of race course
- BBC Video (UK Only) - retired UK skier Graham Bell with POV camera - January 2011
- YouTube video - recently retired Bruno Kernen with POV camera - January 2009
- YouTube video - Scott Macartney of U.S. narrates the Lauberhorn course in Wengen (footage from his 2007 race)
- YouTube video - Josef "Pepi" Strobl at the Lauberhorn - 3rd place - 12-Jan-2002 
- YouTube video - Peter Müller - victory - January 1980
- YouTube video - Roland Collombin - victory - January 1974 - final half-minute
Notes and references
- Retrieved from the Swisstopo topographic maps and Google Earth. The key col is located north of the summit at 2,350 metres.
- "Lauberhornrennen 2009: Course map". Verein Internationale Lauberhornrennen. Retrieved 2008-12-03.
- FIS-ski.com - World Cup podium results - Wengen - (1967-present)
- A super combination was held (short downhill and a slalom).
- The slalom took place in Veysonnaz.
- Instead of a slalom a Super G was held.
- FIS-ski.com Jan 2002 race
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