The DHO at the Amateur Inter=Club Championship in Zermatt – no glory but loads of fun
‘This is the place to invest’, Martin Gertsch told the group of keen DHO wannabe-racers half-way down inspecting the Super-G course in Zermatt. Well, we were in Switzerland, after all…. But no, his advice had nothing to do with financial investment and everything to do with speed. ‘ Invest’ on a steep slope by getting those flailing skis back in control, so as to push off again like billy-o half way down for the flat section.
We all nodded wisely; it sounded very sensible – just impossible. Some of us had never raced before, and even those who had were brooding on the little joke created by the organizers – a jump, no less, which if not quite of Hundschopf fearsomeness was still a worry. But after a 20 minute crash course (no pun intended) in reading the gates, at least we knew where we would go wrong. The Amateur Inter Club Championship loomed and the honour of the DHO was at stake, against such clubs as the Kandahar from Murren, the Eagles from Gstaad, and the stylish Italians from Cortina, not to mention the Zermatt Yacht Club (surely we could beat them?).
The Wengen team were a motley crew, broken down by age and sex (well, some of us were), all charmed into competing by our ever-enthusiastic Captain, Liz Moore. Competitors race in separate teams of four, grouped in 3 bands of seniority (young, middle, and definitely past-it). Everyone has to be ‘amateur’, but the definition of an amateur is not whether you are paid to ski; it’s anyone who hasn’t raced in the Olympics or World Cup for 15 years. Most of us found it easy to pass this test, as our only acquaintance with ski racing was on a sofa humming along to the Ski Sunday theme tune. But also in the DHO team we had some very nifty skiers – professional mountaineers like Martin; a former French slalom champion , and dark horses who had been successful DHO junior racers in their youth (not always very long ago).
The group had travelled to Zermatt after a preliminary 3 days (optional) of training in Wengen. On the home slopes, the superb team of Vroni Famiglietti and Tony Wyss worked us through the basic techniques of racing turns – wide stance (Wider! Wider!), angulation (Make your bottom see the pole!), and energy (Push! Spring!). In retrospect, rather like childbirth. It seemed relatively easy on the first day without gates, but somehow became more difficult when brushes and poles got in the way. The good skiers slipped along like bouncy eels; the less good struggled down in a maelstrom of planks and poles. But we all improved and gained confidence, so that talk even turned to cat suits.
But once transported to Zermatt, there was less chest beating. Snow conditions were good, but visibility was foul on the first day, with snow falling and the Mattterhorn lurking in the clouds.
But all the DHO stayed on their feet till the finish line, and spurred on by a fulsomely cheery commentary over the tannoy, hopes remained high for the second day. Visibility was better for the SuperG, but this was the race with the jump and though in actuality, it was all pretty tame once you got to it, there were nervous mumblings on the starting line. Alas, not everyone made it to the finish that day, but what the heck, it was all amazing fun, and some of the debutant(e)s declared that they now had the bug and, given that they weren’t allowed to re-run that day’s race, would be back next year in Klosters.
And what of the results – did the DHO team come home, laden with booty? Not exactly. Perhaps no one who skis in Wengen will be totally surprised to hear that the older groups did better. The Old Gentlemen’s Team A came third in their group, as did the Old Ladies (though the latter only had two other teams against them, so not too many hoorahs there). And none of the other DHO teams even made the podium despite some superb individual efforts. But we had a great time: champagne flowed, as did the raclette; we heard each and every contestant congratulated by name in 5 different languages at prizegiving; and above all, we all came home knowing how to invest on a ski slope.
See you all at Klosters AICC in 2014 – March 13-16th. All ages and competencies welcome and cat suits definitely not compulsory.
Report by Linda Fairbrother (member of the – very - senior DHO team)