20/1/11 – Inferno 2011: ruts and the Riggli

Chilly and snowy, today, for the Inferno giant slalom on the Kandahar lift. Teresa and I inspected the course twice, nudging each other at the amusing sight of contenders memorising its twists and turns through visualisation, pretending their gloved hands were pairs of skis. The course-setters appeared to have gone to great lengths to set crucial turns on adverse camber, and had made full use of the hill’s undulations – in particular a mean compression two-thirds of the way down.

After a hot chocolate in the basic and racer-packed Schilthorn Huette – miles from the peak itself, incidentally – we watched early racers fly down. After seeing Teresa skate out of the start gate at number 169 I made a final visit to the tropically heated loo at the top of the lift, mainly to warm up. A loo is a rare luxury at race starts.

A Kandahar racer tackles the Inferno giant slalom

Into the start gate in a 1980s slalom jumper, navy stretch salopettes and bib number 216 – looking the part makes you go faster, I think – and I was off. The light was fading – but this was in my favour as officials had scattered grainy stuff to mark the route, as well as the usual blue spray. Apart from a bone-shaking two-foot-deep rut a few gates in, my run was smooth and exhilarating.

Two cups of post-finish-line ‘Kraftbruhe’-style soup later and we were off to eat our picnic on the Riggli chairlift and hit the accessible and little-skied powder between the paths that criss-cross its slopes. We’re lucky that a tiny block of snow-laden cloud has settled over this corner of the Bernese Oberland: slopes just a few summits away have had zero snowfall, and as usual in Muerren – even during Inferno week – we have the soft stuff virtually to ourselves.

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Filed under Off-piste, Racing, Switzerland

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