On the first day, the super-talented Swiss fought an exciting battle with the Croatian Filip Zubčič. He pushed hard on him in the second lap and the difference was only 0.19 seconds. Spectators at the finish alternated moments of complete silence with absolute storm.
On the second day, Marco already dominated with a lead of more than a second over the second Austrian, Marc Schwarz. He has won all three “giants” so far this season and leads the overall standings.
Let’s take a closer look behind the scenes of the double race this time.
Many competitors, including Odermatt, moved to the town of La Villa in Alta Badia from nearby Val Gardena, where they had previously raced the downhill. Although both places are in northern Italy, they are also in the autonomous province of South Tyrol, and in both they have ancient Ladin as their first language.
Hundreds of fans already filled the square near the House of Culture in La Ville on the eve of Sunday’s race. An important event was taking place outside the Ladinia Hotel.
Anyone who thinks that World Cup competitors will come to the races in peace and “race away” is grossly mistaken. After arriving the day before the start of the first “fireball”, for example, they had to participate in a public drawing of numbers. A great show that entertains the fans.
The skiers walked to the podium through a narrow fence between hundreds of spectators to be introduced, collect their race number and answer questions.
Show with drawing numbers
The elite group was started by Andorran Joan Verdu, who shocked with an unexpected 3rd place in the last race in Val d’Isere. He was taking thirteen. The German Alexander Schmidt – ten, the Norwegian Rasmus Windingstad – eleven, the Swiss Loic Meillard – seven, the Italian Filippo Della Vite – nine followed in quick succession. He was accompanied by a huge round of applause, everyone was delighted with the victory of home Dominik Paris in the downhill in neighboring Val Gardena.
Then Croatian Filip Zubčič – fifth. He was already one of the main favorites, which he absolutely confirmed the next day. He was followed by the Austrian handsome Manuel Feller with a ponytail on his head. He took the figure eight, but mainly he stopped at almost everyone on the way from the stage, signed helmets for children, took selfies. The fans already know him, they love his immediacy. He got a huge round of applause. He was immediately followed by the Norwegian star Henrik Kristoffersen – he had a number one and danced through the railings of the corridor, while slapping the fans. After him, the Austrian all-rounder Marco Schwarz – took second place.
Finally, the Swiss winner of the last World Cup and giant slalom champion Marco Odermatt. He has already won here twice. “You think you can do it a third time, Marcel Hirscher celebrated eight times before you and Alberto Tomba four times. If you managed to do it twice, you would equal the famous Italian,” the moderator told him. “I’ll definitely want to win, it’s a great track, but I have strong rivals here,” laughed the immediate Odermatt, who, by the way, is the main contender for the next big globe.
For two days, the biggest stars of the giant slalom raced on the Gran Risa slope, one of the most difficult and spectacular in the Ski World Cup. The race track measures 1255 m and runs almost entirely through the forest. The start is at a height of 1868 m, the finish is 1420 m, and the difference in height is a dizzying 448 m. The maximum slope is 69% (that place is right after the start), the average is 36%. From this you can see that this is a black slope, violent and sharp as thunder, which most ski touring skiers prefer to skip.
For the first time, in 1985, the famous Ingemar Stenmark won here, when he was 28 years old. The already mentioned Tomba won as the youngest, he was not even 21 years old.
The day before the race, everything was ready, but the mammoth work behind everything was hard to see. Challenging modification of the track to make it almost an ice sheet, easy to ride for all competitors. A large starting box, safety barriers and fences, a tribune at the finish line, a double timer, posts for cameramen and photographers.
The organizing committee, headed by Andy Varallo, director of the world’s largest ski area Dolomiti Superski (1,250 km of pistes), worked with the team practically all year to ensure flawless races. During the spring and summer, they modified the starting area in particular to make it bigger, so that athletes and teams could have more comfort.
The pride of the race is always a perfectly groomed track, traditionally one of the best in the entire series. It’s not by chance, they use a special snowmaking model. By the way, South Tyroleans are the absolute world leaders in this. Their TechnoAlpin technology, which also equipped the Olympic slopes in Beijing, is not only the best in the world, but is also built on maximum harmony with nature. Snowmaking is always done using rainwater, which turns into artificial snow. It then dissolves in the spring and returns to the ground.
The main gadgets here are called “SnowMan” or Snow Management. The system receives important data, such as the amount of snow produced by the guns, through a satellite link, and links everything with data on the snow layer on the slopes. In real time, it will allow to work optimally and efficiently with the snow that is available when preparing the slope.
The “SnowMan” thus decides where and which snowmaking systems will be switched on and for how long until the desired amount of snow cover is reached.
During the final adjustment of the slope, the rollers have clear data and know where and how deep they can go with the plow. Nothing runs by guesswork anymore, and no one can afford to build up giant reserves of snow. All this facilitates the adjustment of the track, which is then used by tourists until the end of the season, but also leads to significant savings in water, electricity and human resources.
By the way, Alta Badia, a small part of the giant Dolomiti Superski ski area in northern Italy, does not have this system only for high-end races. In addition to the Gran Risa race track, it is active on three quarters of the tracks – i.e. 100 km.
How artificial snow is made
Artificial snow is made in a process that mimics natural snow. It looks like this – the snow cannon pumps and sprays the supplied water, which almost freezes in the form of tiny droplets. Immediately upon contact with cold ambient air (normally below -4°C, -6°C) ice crystals form. Evaporated water is added to this mixture again. This creates snow crystals that fall to the ground. The snow cannon thus simply repeats what nature itself creates, but faster. The temperature and humidity of the air must be ideal. The lower the humidity, the greater the efficiency of turning water into snow. At the same time, the structure of artificial snow is more compact than that of natural snow, so artificial snow has slightly better physical properties for running a race.
Especially for the World Cup race, the organizers also use an application that allows you to monitor the condition of the slope during the competition in sensitive places, the weight, height and density of the snow, internal and surface humidity, air temperature and many other parameters. Among other things, it will help the competitors from the second half of the starting field to have regular conditions.
Despite all the oversight of the sustainability of the entire process, the numbers are impressive. The area of the Gran Risa slope is 8.5 hectares. The minimum snow cover must be 40 cm, the snow volume 34,000 m3 and a snow density of 450 kg/m3. The water consumption is then 15,300 m3.
Eight days before the World Cup competition, the FIS makes a final check that the slope has a compact and homogeneous snow cover with a density of more than 450 kg/m3 with the mentioned minimum height of 40 cm during the competition. The snow density must then increase to a value of approx. 550 kg/m shortly before the race3to make the track as compact as possible and withstand the onslaught of competitors.
On Monday, when the coaches and team members packed up the training poles after the race and hauled all the material to their cars, the competitors were already heading to other stations – the slalom riders to Madonna di Campiglio, 2.5 hours away, and the downhill riders to Bormio, which is four hours away.