Sunday, January 17, 2010

Kitzbühel Then...And Now

One of the coolest things about Kitzbühel and about the Hahnenkamm-Rennen is the town's, and the race's, amazing history. The Kitzbüheler Ski Club was formed in 1907, the Hahnenkamm race was first run in 1911, and it has existed in its present form and on its present course since about 1930. Kitzbühel is The Grand Dame of ski resorts; Vail, for example, is a fake scale model of Kitzbühel, right down to its Bridge Street Clock Tower, which is a scale model of Kitzbühel's church clock tower.

In 1969, the definitive ski racing movie Downhill Racer was released. Starring a young Robert Redford, Downhill Racer was the ski racing version of Le Mans, which starred Steve McQueen in a similar verite version of its namesake race, and Grand Prix, which starred James Garner and a whole bunch of real drivers that anybody into motor racing would recognize (Phil Hill, Bob Bondurant, Graham Hill). A lot of the action sequences in Downhill Racer, including the climactic race, were filmed in Kitzbühel.

Downhill Racer was recently released on DVD, and Amazon had this photo the Kitzbühel Hahnenkamm - Rennen on its page selling the DVD:

I showed this photo to Hermann S, who is 64 years old and is the head of teknik for the race. He was born in Kitzbühel, his family has lived in this valley for over 500 years, and he remembers HKR races and HKR racers going back to the early 50's. He identified two of the red-clad skiers in this photo as his relatives.

I walked outside to where KSC members and a couple of Austrian Army troops were erecting the finish corral and snapped a photo from approximately the same spot.

I had some fun with Hermann and Ted identifying what has changed and what has stayed the same since 1969. The latter overwhelmingly outnumbers the former.

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