50 YEARS OF THE WORLD CUP, 40 OF THEM IN CRANS-MONTANA
The Alpine Skiing FIS World Cup is celebrating its 50th anniversary throughout the 2016/17 season. It’s also one to mark in Crans-Montana, as the Haut-Plateau hosted its first FIS World Cup races 40 years ago. The Valais resort, which also wants to host the new World Championships after hosting the event back in 1987, is today an unmissable stop on the calendar, and a classic on the ladie’s circuit.
Crans-Montana joined the FIS World Cup scene on the weekend of 25 and 26 January 1977, when the circuit was just 10 years old. The years have passed, but the Valais resort has continued to organise prestigious sporting events, including World Cup skiing in winter and also the Omega European Masters in summer, one of the most popular tournaments in Europe. The FIS World Cup will once again take centre stage on 24, 25 and 26 February, for what will be a « rematch » of the St-Moritz World Cup. A Super-G and Alpine Combined are programmed on the demanding « Mont Lachaux », piste where the crème de la crème will battle it out, in both speed and technical disciplines.
AN ORIGINAL IDEA FROM SERGE LANG
The idea of a World Cup was developed over five decades ago by one of the best-known journalists at the time, the Frenchman Serge Lang. Inspired by what was being done notably in cycling, he created a circuit of several races, which would designate the best male and female skiers that winter. Who can imagine what competition Alpine Skiing would have become without Serge Lang’s idea, although he sadly died of a heart attack in 1999. His project, developed by French and American team leaders (Honoré Bonnet and Bob Beattie)and then later by the Austrian Sepp Sulzberger, has in any case become one of the most successful in the history of sport. Presented at the 1966 Worlds in Portillo, Chile, the World Cup was at first organised independently by Serge Lang and his partners, before the FIS became involved at their congress in May 1967.
The World Cup experienced a few snags at the beginning, in particular concerning overlapping races, and the many changes to the rules. The women’s circuit was not really considered at the time, the ladies often had to race in the week, whilst the men lined up to race at the weekends. Much has changed since then, and the FIS World Cup has become a very well structured product. Crans-Montana has of course enjoyed this, and the Valais resort can today take great pride in hosting a classic on the ladies’ circuit. Races have already been programmed until 2020 : from 2 to 4 March 2018 ( Alpine Combined, Downhill and Super-G), from 23 to 24 February 2019 (Downhill and Alpine Combined), from 22 to 23 February 2020 (Downhill and Super-G).
MARIE-THERES NADIG TO ALBERTO TOMBA
Since its arrival on the FIS World Cup scene in January 1977, and during subsequent editions in 1979, 1981 and 1986, Crans-Montana has been the scene of victories by esteemed skiers. Pretty much all of the stars of the time made their mark in Crans-Montana, from Marie-Theres „Maite“ Nadig, Perrine Pelen, Lise-Marie Morerod, Erika Hess, Christian Neureuther, Phil Mahre, Marc Girardelli to Peter Müller. After the FIS World Championships in 1987, Crans-Montana returned to the World Cup for a second period between 1992 and 1998, hosting the finals of the World Cup twice. It was in 1992 that Carole Merle and Alberto Tomba topped the table, winning two races each. However this still wasn’t enough for Tomba to take first place overall, so the overall win fell to multi-skilled Paul Accola from the Grisons. As for the 1998 finals, the Slovenian Urska Hrovat and the Austrian Alexandra Meissnitzer outperformed the other women, whilst it was the Austrians who were successful in the men’s event : Josef Strobl won the Downhill just ahead of a young Didier Cuche, and Stephan Eberharter was awarded the Giant. The last word however was still Alberto Tomba’s, as he ended the finals, and his wonderful career, by winning the slalom one last time.
Crans-Montana then disappeared from the World Cup for a decade. It returned in 2008 whilst organising other competitions, such as the finals of the European Cup in 2009, and the Junior FIS World Championships in 2011. This new era bears the mark of the president of the Organisation Committee, brigadier Marius Robyr, who was previously commander of the Patrouille des Glaciers for 18 years. The two Vice Presidents have also played a key role, Markus Murmann (Race Director) and Hugo Steinegger (Head of Promotion/Communication/Media). Their work and their motivation have paid off in the end, and Crans-Montana is now aiming to organise the 2025 World Championships. The application has to be submitted in 2019, with Marius Robyr as project manager, working on behalf of the local Haut-Plateau councils.
STAR SKIERS AS THE WEATHER PUTS A DAMPER ON PROCEEDINGS
The last chapter in Crans-Montana’s World Cup history commenced in March 2008. From this date onwards, the ladies have visited Valais four times, whilst the men stopped off in 2012, first of all racing on the « Nationale » piste, then on the « Mont Lachaux » piste. As far as the ladies are concerned, stars have always been present, starting with Lindsey Vonn, Downhill winner on two occasions in 2008 and 2010. Anja Pärson (Combined winner in 2008), Dominique Gisin (first in the Super-G in 2010 ahead of Lindsey Vonn) and Andrea Fischbacher (crowned Downhill winner in 2014 ahead of Anna Fenninger and Tina Maze) also graced the top of the podium in Crans-Montana. At the most recent edition, in 2016, it was Mikaela Shiffrin, who just after returning after injury, triumphed in the Slalom ahead of Nastasia Noëns and Marie-Michèle Gagnon. Besides the winning come-back by Shiffrin, the 2016 edition was marked by very wintry conditions, with three metres (!) of fresh snow during the week, which led to the cancellation of the Downhill and Alpine Combined.However this was not the first time that the weather put a damper on proceedings, as the programme was also disrupted in 2010 (too much wind) and in 2014 (fog).
ONE LAST RACE AT HOME FOR DIDIER CUCHE
Although the ladies have often been the headliners in Crans-Montana in recent years, the men were also also honoured in 2012, in an unforgettable edition which was watched by some 50,000 spectators over three days. Didier Cuche made the most of it to dispute his last races in Switzerland, celebrating for his farewell a victory and a 3rd place in the two Super-G races on the programme. Shortly after being voted « Swiss of the Year 2011 », the skier from Neuchâtel received a triumphal welcome from the public in Valais. A Giant ended the 2012 edition, which was won by the Italian Massimiliano Blardone, ahead of the Austrians Marcel Hirscher and Hannes Reichelt. - Original text in German by Beat Caspar. Translation into English by Sarah Dunn.
DEPREZphoto SA, Crans-Montana