23/1/11 – Inferno ski race 2011: downhill day

9.30am-ish, racers queue for the Birg cable car

After three days of cloud, fog and snow, race day dawned clear and cold, fresh snow shimmering and the sun blinding and bright. Teresa and I headed up the Schilthorn at 9.15am for our 10.45-ish start – my number was 459, Teresa’s 495. We made a trip up the escalator to the loo, bagged up our jackets and extra layers and dropped them in a village-bound trolley, then skied to the start (the run down, sometimes tricky on long skis, was in the best condition it has been all week).

Our early start numbers – thanks to reasonable past results – meant we set off among fast male racers. Go to the official site (see links, right) to have a look at the breakdown of nationalities, gender, age and so on. Racers set off every 12 seconds, so there are plenty of people on course at once, but this early the ruts are tame, and it’s easy to follow the smooth lines carved into the 7.5km route.

At the finish, in front of the Hotel Jungfrau

Five big guys on long planks passed me by the end of the second schuss and then I had the run to myself, following my overtakers down Plattwang and into the hairpins (passing one racer who had fallen off an edge) before swinging left at the Hog’s Back.

Action at the Hog's Back corner

I tucked with all my might to get as high up the hill as possible, and minimise the skate-and-push up the wooded track, then it was downhill all the way into Muerren, via more hairpins and a final schuss and rutted corner into the finish.

Picnic fondue at the race-side

After watching the next 100 or so fly through the finish I handed my catsuit to a friend who was racing later and headed up to the Hog’s Back to watch more racers. Among spectators was a happy group of local ladies enjoying a cheese fondue in the sunshine, complete with a bottle of Fendant.

Down in the village there was a great party atmosphere, and later on we celebrated surviving the week at our favourite apres-ski spots, then at the Kandahar drinks party in the Jungfrau Hotel and at the wild and messy Bierfest in the sports hall.

You can read my article about the Inferno published in Country Life, issue of Wed 9 February, by clicking on the next sentence. This article appeared in Country Life magazine on 9 February

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