The organizers of the World Cup races on the Chuenisbärgli and Lauberhorn are confident that the classics can take place despite the mild temperatures.
The dense fog swallows up the dreary picture. A narrow white band meanders across the green slope. It is the infamous finish slope of the giant slalom on the Chuenisbärgli in Adelboden. While other ski areas have to close due to the lack of snow, the Bernese Oberland is preparing for two weekends of World Cup races.
The International Ski Federation (FIS) inspected the snow conditions shortly before New Year’s Eve and gave the go-ahead for both the races in Adelboden and Wengen. After two turbulent years shaped by Corona, a normal race should finally take place again.
But not much is normal these days. Several cantons have registered record temperatures since the New Year, and January has never been warmer than it is now. The weather has replaced Corona as a constant topic of conversation, especially in the ski areas.
The mild temperatures increase the time pressure
“The current situation is a challenge and gives us more work,” says Christian Haueter, “but we’re all still sleeping well.” The managing director of the Adelboden World Cup is optimistic that a raceable slope can be prepared by Saturday. His confidence is based on the many years of experience of the piste team and the current weather forecast. Spring-like mildness is still the order of the day, but by Thursday at the latest there should be clear nights – “and that’s what we need,” says Haueter.
The organizers of the legendary Lauberhorn races in Wengen, which take place from January 13th to 15th, are also confident. “There are certainly more ideal conditions than the current ones, but we are on course,” says race director Robert “Bob” Lehmann. At 2315 meters above sea level, the start of the longest downhill run in the world is in a snow-sure area, unlike the finish around 1000 meters below.
The spring-like weather does not endanger the execution of the three races – downhill, super-G and slalom – but it generates more work, says Lehmann. “The high humidity and mild temperatures make the slopes soft down to the depths.”
Normally, the winter sports guests in the ski area are asked to ski the racing slopes frequently so that the surface can be compacted. That was also the case over this year’s festive season, but this Tuesday the slopes were closed to the public. “Now as little movement as possible on the racetrack is announced. We have to conserve what we have,” says Lehmann.
His wishes for the next few days: lower temperatures, no rain and clear nights. That would help the nearly 4.5-kilometer runway to harden. Whether they are met or not, race director Robert Lehmann has learned to accept the weather. “It comes as it comes. We can complain when it’s over.”
World Cup and mass sport: Two pairs of shoes
This confidence may come as a surprise to non-professionals given that in many ski areas below 2000 meters the ski lifts and chairlifts are idle. But racing at the highest level and amateur skiing are two different things. The slopes for the pros are more like a layer of ice than the rolled snow for popular sports. “World Cup races have been held on technical snow for years,” says Christian Haueter. Preparations begin several weeks before launch. At this point, the conditions this season were ideal, so that you now have a solid basis.
The giant slalom in Adelboden was last canceled in 2016, when rain and high temperatures made it impossible to start. In Wengen, it was not the weather that led to the short-term cancellation of the races in 2021, but a corona hotspot in the village.
Even if the last word will not be spoken until Saturday, Haueter considers the risk of cancellation to be low.
Farewell to Beat Feuz in Wengen
The entire region should be happy about that: With a budget of five and six million francs respectively, the two World Cup races in the Bernese Oberland are also of economic importance.
Normally, tens of thousands of fans visit the classics on the Chuenisbärgli and Lauberhorn. The euphoria seems unbroken. “We have experienced very strong pre-sales so far,” says Christian Haueter from the Adelboden Ski World Cup. However, he blames less the weather than the performance of the Swiss ski racers. “There are real chances of Swiss podium finishes or even victories – and that always works.”
In Wengen, too, the organizers are confident that downhill skier Beat Feuz will find “a worthy backdrop” at his last race on the Lauberhorn.